The Blog

Once upon a time the pain in my lower back bothered me a lot. I remember sitting on a bench at a Disney park as I watched people walk by. They were smiling. Big. “They don’t look as if their backs hurt,” I thought. “What would that be like?”

Some months later I read this: “Runners have tight lower backs.” I was a runner. Could that be all there was to it? I doubted it, but I couldn’t rule it out.

So several times a day from then on, like clockwork, I stretched out. I touched my toes and held that pose to the count of ten. One thousand, two thousand…

It’s been three years, and my back rarely hurts. When it does, it’s almost always because I haven’t been stretching enough. When I do, the pain subsides.

I don’t know if stretching will help your back.

But I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt!

Why do you do anything?
September 30, 2014

My friend Nick Morgan says the only reason to give a speech is to change the world. My friend Al Pittampalli says the only reason to attend a meeting is if you’re willing to change your mind.

How you do anything, as that saying goes, is how you do everything.

How do you go about your day? With an intention, for example, to have fun -- and learn a lot?

Think of it. The next time you’re talking with someone, ask yourself why. Why are you talking? If you aren’t willing to learn something, why are you wasting time in conversation?

You prove you’re learning by changing.

Bit by bit, you’re getting a little better at this thing called life.

What keeps you running?
September 29, 2014

Detroit Lake for the blog

One of the best observations I’ve ever heard about working out was, “You don’t have to like it.”

The implication being, “You still have to do it.”

And just like that, I made it a nonnegotiable part of the routine. I have a running buddy in Darrell, who’s glad to get away from the screens. Running doesn’t bother him. “It’s more of a nuisance than anything,” he says.

Which helped me realize what I don’t like about working out with weights. It’s boring. They’re called reps for a reason, I guess. Repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.

I feel great when that’s over because I've already finished what I dreaded most.

A few hours later, after our run, I feel great because that’s how you feel after a run.

Afterward. Not so much during.

Unless…

On the first Friday in September we ran early because we had a lunch meeting. It was cool but not cold. Glorious, actually. We run next to the lake, and except for not having a backdrop of mountains, I wonder if there’s a prettier spot in the world.

The sunlight looked like liquid crystal dancing on the water, and I doubted all over again if the Pacific Coast Highway has anything on this route.

Okay, so maybe the actual running is okay.

What a privilege it is to be alive, to be healthy, to have interesting problems to solve.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Once upon a time someone told me she had no problem with certain people, as long as they didn’t hold certain positions in her church.

So she did have a problem with them, but she wanted to pass herself off as someone who didn’t.

I asked her to clarify what she’d said, and she happily obliged.

I mention it only because I’ve found it helpful to make sure I’ve heard someone correctly before I decide meaningful conversation is over!

When Katie was little she got interested in the concept of lucid dreaming. A spiral notebook was involved -- and for a few nights, at least, much excitement.

That’s one reason I was surprised when she recently teased me about looking up the meaning of a symbol in one of my dreams. I promised her I don’t take those dictionaries too seriously, but dreams are fascinating. I’m with Callings author Gregg Levoy on this one: “Why sleep through them?”

So many things have come to me in a dream -- like Katie! -- before they appeared I can’t write them off as silly. And I’ve always found it helpful to admit what my wide-awake self couldn’t -- that I really do want something, or really don’t want something else.

I don’t know where dreams come from or how they work. But what could be the harm in staying open to them? The mystery! The romance! It feels like a sweeter way to live, the dance with the unconscious and all.

Sweet dreams.

The first exercise we did at a What Color Is Your Parachute? workshop given by Dick Bolles many years ago was to make a list of people we disliked working for. That’s what we put in the left column of a page. In the right column we translated each item into its opposite -- which became a list of people we’d like to work with. We were creating a vision for our ideal life.

We started with the negative, Dick told us, because that’s how the brain stores information.

Pain teaches you lessons you never forget.

If you keep learning, you may find yourself walking in “more beautiful meadows” -- another term I first heard at the workshop.

What do you do when you get to that sunny meadow? Do you give thanks, daily, for the scenery?

And if not, how could you possibly think you’ll be blessed with more?

When I needed a photo of a donut for a Huff Post piece earlier this year, we stopped in for a Krispy Kreme near Madison Square Garden in New York. There was a bench just outside the shop, and across the little hallway or whatever it was a man was dozing on another bench. His phone was apparently in his pocket, because there was a cord running from that pocket to a nearby outlet.

I hadn’t noticed the guy until Katie pointed him out. “Look!” she said. “That man’s charging!”

It was such a cute observation, and several months later it still makes me smile. It inspired quite the reverie, as a matter of fact. I mean, how amazing is it our bodies operate without having to be plugged in?

Seriously.

When our energy runs low, we eat or sleep or take a vacation. But we don’t have to find a charger and an outlet.

It really is quite amazing.

“Your body is the coolest thing you’ll ever own. It’s your ride.”

I don’t know who said that, but I’m glad I listened. It changed how I feel about myself.

I started treating myself as carefully as we do our Honda. Thirteen years in, more than a quarter of a million miles, a mechanic told us only this summer that is “one well-maintained car.” It is. It looks almost brand-new, inside and out.

Don’t you love it when the time you invest in something pays you back immediately? I don’t know how long the body or the Honda will hold out. Doesn’t matter. Eating right and working out and getting enough sleep make me feel better today.

They also increase the odds I’ll be able to say that tomorrow, and the day after that.

That matters.

With school back in session, a lot of work-from-home parents suddenly find themselves with time to start something -- and finish it.

Darrell and I spent so much time with Katie this summer I put the day in the win column if all I accomplished was working out.

Now that she’s back at NYU I have time to work. There’s so much time it’s unnerving. The other day I realized, with more time to listen to my own voice, I almost feel guilty about that.

Is this my brain, not on drama?

It doesn’t matter.

All that matters is having something to show for it.

Back to work!