What do you have to show for yourself?
November 4, 2013
“Where does time go?”
How many times have you heard that question?
I’ve heard it enough over the years to inspire a determination to be able to answer it. That’s a big reason I started taking notes. You take notes in chemistry classes so you can remember things you’ll probably never use again in your entire life. Why not take notes on things that matter, so you can go back and review them once in a while -- and remember the fun you had learning those lessons?
Maybe I’m typical in that I tend to remember things about myself in an unfavorable light. As time goes by I wonder if I tried all that hard in a job I got laid off from, or really spent hours a day playing with Katie to the exclusion of even daydreaming about something else.
A quick check of my notes, and there it is. The evidence.
It’s such a bonus, to ask myself where that time went -- and to know the answer.
Why is that little screen more important than your kid?
November 3, 2013
When Katie was little we didn’t always have meals together as a family. We spent most of every day together. I worked while Darrell and Katie bonded. Then Darrell worked while Katie and I had fun. Sometimes we kept working late into the evening -- and continued our sweet little tennis match of kid fun. More often we’d call it good for work, and spend time together -- as Kate used to put it -- "with no one working." We'd go on a walk at the middle school, then come home to dinner and a movie.
But breakfast and lunch? It’s what I’ve heard called parallel play. Katie watched cartoons, Darrell did a crossword, and I transcribed another interview.
If you happened to look through our dining room window at lunchtime you might think, “Why are they not eating together? Don’t they realize how fleeting this time together is?”
I bring it up only to admit I know exactly nothing about what goes on in the homes of a couple of people I want to tell you about. But I’m going to do it anyway.
A young woman walked by our house the other day, pushing a little girl in a stroller. The child -- all blond, blue-eyed, and bouncy -- turned around to look at Mom, ready to engage. Maybe she’d spotted a puppy. Maybe a butterfly. Mom will never know, because she was on her phone and hadn’t noticed.
A career consultant friend doesn’t count this as going on a walk with your kid. He calls it “doing the walking thing.”
We stopped at a Wendy’s on our way to New York this summer, where a little boy attempted to get his mother’s attention. He’d squished a hamburger wrapper into what looked like a miniature baseball, and he was lobbing it at his mother. Over and over he tossed it at her face.
She didn’t look up. Not once. She growled at him a few times, but she never made eye contact with him -- at least not while we were there.
So I indulged one of my favorite hobbies. I watched Katie taking this in. She ached for the little boy, you could just tell.
When I was growing up I had to compete with seven brothers and sisters for the attention of my parents. No big, I suddenly realize. Because not once did I have to compete with a phone.
I know there are people texting right this very minute about matters that are life or death.
Do you have a good reason for talking smack?
October 30, 2013
If I have a problem with someone I generally talk it out with that person. Not right away, necessarily. Not until I have some emotional distance and can listen to the other side of the story.
If you aren’t willing to discuss a problem with the person who can help fix it, are you really that motivated to fix it? And if you’re willing to discuss it with other people instead, aren’t you just spreading yuck?
There are exceptions. Everyone everybody’s related to, for example! (Just kidding.) (Sort of.) Then you probably stumble along as best you can, make nice with people as best you can -- and limit your exposure if it hurts. Unless your hand is forced. Then you might have to be honest. Gentle and caring, but honest.
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. Serenity is accepting the things you can’t change, changing the things you can, and having the wisdom to know the difference.
Wisdom can come from other sources -- and this is where I’d like to explain the word “generally” in the first sentence of this post. I hope you have people you trust, like Darrell and I do, who can point out things you don’t know about people -- and help you put them in the “accepting the things you can’t change” category.
I always check my motivation before comparing notes with one person about another. Is this gossip? Or a genuine attempt to understand something that baffles?
Trying to learn something isn’t talking smack. It’s getting help.
Which is either wisdom -- or rationalizing!
What helps you withstand the cranky?
October 29, 2013
A former wife of a friend of mine had a great saying about troublemakers: “Oh, well. They get the life that goes with it.”
That helps, but it still bugs me when the bullies win a round.
Darrell stands up to them. I once watched him go after some teenagers who were taunting an old man in a wheelchair. I think they outran Darrell. Lucky for them.
Here’s a scene from one of our favorite family memories. Another youngster was using his squirt gun to spray water in the faces of everyone in the wave pool. Now granted, you don’t get into a pool thinking you’re going to stay dry. But judging by the number of people shielding their eyes from the pain of water squirted at them, this was another matter entirely.
Glaring at the kid didn’t work. So Darrell made his way over to him and said quietly, “Unless you want that thing shoved up your rear end, you’d better stop squirting other people with it.” Can you imagine the look on the kid’s face? He said, “Okay.” And we didn’t see him or the squirt gun for the rest of the afternoon!
What if you can’t intervene? Then what?
I can’t tell you how often I’ve taken comfort in what another friend, Tim Sanders, had to say about the bullies who seem to be gaining on you…
“It’s the middle of the movie.”
Are you pampering your ride?
October 28, 2013
“Your body is the coolest thing you’ll ever own. It’s your ride.”
Darrell interrupted brunch preparations many years ago to share that with me. He’d just heard it on our favorite Sunday morning television show. Ironic because at the time I was making donuts from scratch -- yeah, me -- and scrambled eggs (with Katie’s help) and bacon (piles and piles of bacon).
I couldn’t get that quote out of my mind. It tickled my imagination. I was already working out consistently, but I rewarded -- I mean punished -- myself with donuts and greasy scrambled eggs and lots of bacon.
I remember standing at the microwave one day about four years ago and thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” I was already a fan of experimenting with life. “Why not,” I wonder, “run an experiment that might actually mean something? Why not take in only good for a year and see what happens?”
After a month of the experiment I was already planning the party I’d have at the one-year point. I could see the buffet table, piled high with (among other things) (you guessed it) donuts.
After two months I thought, “I am never going back to my old ways.”
After four years, I’m more aware of how other not-so-savory choices (besides food) (like people) make me feel.
I’m much more willing to eschew them now.
How do you bribe yourself?
October 27, 2013
We do it all the time with kids. Dinner before dessert, homework before play, bath before bedtime story. Get through something you’re not crazy about before digging into something you love.
Grownups could take a lesson, I think.
There’s a good reason bribery will probably always be part of our culture. It works.
If I’ve had enough sleep and coffee, I can’t wait to start writing. If I do that right away, though, I put off weights for hours. It’s difficult to tear myself away from the thrill of a blank screen to do reps, reps, and more reps -- in the same boring routine I’m so devoted to because it works.
Now I do weights before I write. The boredom isn’t boredom for my brain. My brain goes out to play -- and outlines a show, a post, maybe even a book. I eat the most disgusting frog of the day first, and enjoy the dessert -- which you’re looking at -- so much more.
For someone else, he’d wrangle that blank screen into submission and then do weights -- because seeing how much muscle he can build is a game he’ll never tire of.
There are probably as many varieties of figurative carrots as there are people. But if I were you, I’d make them a steady part of my diet.
How do you know you’re concentrating?
October 26, 2013
Here’s what tells me I’m into the moment. This one. Not something in the past that bugs me, or something in the future that worries me.
When I’m working at my computer in the office -- on a post like this, for example -- Darrell is almost always at his computer right behind me, not even six inches away. He’ll turn around to tell me something and it feels like I’m having a heart attack, I’m that startled.
When I’m doing dishes in the bathtub (long story) (you’ve heard it before) my mind is on one thing, believe it or not -- the dishes. I’d make the Zen masters proud, I’m so into the task. Darrell rounds the corner on his way back into the office, and I about hit the ceiling in the bathroom I’m that surprised to see him.
It happens all the time.
It’s hilarious. It’s as if an intruder -- a bear, perhaps, or even a Chihuahua -- just pounced. “Who did you think it was going to be?” Darrell asks, every time.
There are two people in this house and we’re constantly scaring the (you know) out of each other. It’s fear-inducing and reassuring at once, that focus.
Kind of like how you feel when you’re going after a dream. Scared out of your mind, and reassured you’re alive!
How do you keep your balance?
October 25, 2013
One thing people need to do more of as they age, I’ve heard, is practice keeping their balance.
I do that instinctively after we run -- when that last long surge is over and we're headed for home. I walk the curb like a little kid. I feel like a little kid, too. I’m just so happy to be finished with the hard part of the workout.
A while back I heard something else you can do to strengthen your balance. When you’re brushing your teeth, stand on one leg. I’ve rarely met a rule I didn’t follow -- eventually. So now when I brush my bottom teeth I lift my right leg and balance on the left. When I brush my top teeth, the opposite.
I’m getting pretty good at it, too.
Though I’ll probably fall and break something if anyone walks in on me. More on that in my next post.