Want to take a pop quiz?
October 12, 2015
Have you ever wondered what you did to deserve what you have?
That isn’t the exact wording of a question someone posed online, but it’s close. I was tempted to reply to it with, “All the time! I always wonder how I got so lucky.” I was about to hit “publish” when I suddenly realized this person probably wasn’t feeling that way herself. She was almost certainly feeling the opposite of blessed.
Let’s dissect that two ways.
The first is that some of the best gifts are wrapped in pain. When you look back on your life, the end of a job or a relationship was often the start of something else really special. It’s difficult to see that as it’s happening, granted -- but this person might enjoy life a little more if she allowed for the possibility.
The second thing that hit me after I decided not to hit “publish” was this. Even at life’s worst -- when faced with something I wouldn’t wish on anyone -- I never once thought, “Why me?” Bad things happen to good people all the time. Those starving children your parents told you about when you balked at your dinner? Were they born deserving less? No.
Why shouldn’t bad things happen to me? When I get a rest between those, I thank my lucky stars for the break and do something nice for someone else.
This isn’t to bash the person who posed the question, by the way. But I think it’s okay to notice how other people live, to sharpen your vision of who you want -- and don’t want -- to be.
What do you focus on?
October 8, 2015
As hobbies go I think our family has a great one -- deciding where best to watch the sunset. We didn’t know it at the time, but Darrell was about to win the prize for “best suggestion ever” -- the waterfront in Burlington, Vermont. And no, this photo doesn’t do the moment justice.
The dreamy couple of days we spent away from an even dreamier time in Manhattan had been in jeopardy. It was only while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables in a crowded little grocery store when it hit all three of us at once, that the folks at NYU weren’t kidding when they give summer residents twenty-four hours to move into their autumn digs. The reservations in Vermont weren’t refundable. Now what?
Katie and I stayed as calm as Darrell wasn’t. He was ready to get to work, begging forgiveness from the Vermont contingent and staying in New York City for the duration. No way, Katie and I said. We had plenty of reasons for staying the course. It doesn’t matter what they were. What matters is that calmer heads prevailed.
The afternoon before we were supposed to leave Katie got word her room was ready. Score! We settled into her new suite -- with floor-to-ceiling windows covering two walls and a view of the city so sweet I still ache, thinking about it -- in plenty of time to get enough sleep and set off for Vermont in great spirits.
And yes, that’s when Katie and I could admit how not sure we’d been things would work out. She’d used her training in statistics to reassure herself the odds were in our favor. My approach was less scientific. I just imagined the three of us at lunch with a good friend on Church Street in Burlington, exactly as planned.
Did it help, to keep my focus on our plan unfolding with nary a hitch?
But we’re pretty sure it didn’t hurt!
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson
How did you sleep last night?
October 7, 2015
The comic Steven Wright was once asked, “Did you sleep well?” To which he replied: “No, I made a couple of mistakes.”
I can relate. I eschewed a sleep mask for just the longest time. I thought it would look, shall we say, not alluring. As if Darrell would even notice I was wearing it in the (relative) darkness. When study after study confirmed even the tiniest amount of light messes with your sleep but good -- not to mention the moonlight and sunlight streaming in through our big, beautiful windows -- I relented. I tried one. And the results were amazing.
I almost didn’t give a sleep mask a chance, thinking it would look silly.
That was silly!
What do you daydream about?
October 6, 2015
Are you a fan of affirmations? “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…” They always feel silly to me, and not just because they invoke an image of Al Franken playing a character on Saturday Night Live. I’m not a fake-it-’til-you-make-it kind of gal. I’d rather make it, and not have to fake it.
Pretending I already have what I want feels silly. But imagining that, really imagining what it would feel like to have what I want, doesn’t feel silly at all.
So I’ve replaced “I’m this or that” with a question: “What would it feel like to be this or that?”
I let my imagination run wild. I inhabit the persona of a person living out her wildest dreams. Sometimes I’m so caught up in the reverie, an acorn hitting the roof sounds like a gunshot -- that’s how thoroughly I lose myself in the character.
Darned if I don’t come out of the meditation feeling more competent. It’s a seemingly tiny tweak on affirmations, but it works!
How good are your editors?
October 5, 2015
A recent post ended with this: “You can’t phone in a dance. Can you?”
But that’s the version you saw after Katie, who edits this blog, had at it. My version had “Can you?” on a new line in its own paragraph.
Katie thought that was too aggressive. When “Can you?” quickly follows the first line it’s just a question. In its own paragraph it sounds more like an attack.
I’m not in the business of attacking people. I want to tickle your imagination, and give you hope you can not only find what works -- but do it. Without Katie’s help -- Darrell’s, too -- I wouldn’t trust myself to keep showing up here and on the show.
That’s not a criticism of myself, by the way. The late, great Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown said everyone needs an editor. Katie helps me be more of myself, an even better version of myself. She keeps me sharp.
Who polishes you?
What’s the best present?
October 1, 2015
When Katie was little she was forever assigning us roles in the latest drama. When she was four, for example, she made this announcement: “You’re a cricket.” And I thought, “Here we go.” I played along the way I always did. “Who are you?” I asked. To which she replied, “The spirit of the mountain.”
Let me give you a moment to take that in.
Okay. Shall I continue?
When I was nine my mother gave me a blank journal. It was the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive. I got into the habit of saving my life, and I got into it early. That’s why I could report what I just did.
There’s so much I would’ve forgotten. I wouldn’t have remembered our preschooler deciding she was the spirit of the mountain, apparently, because when I stumbled on that reference as I scoured my notes for more of #TheKaOfKatie I laughed so hard it hurt.
I don’t know what to make of all these notes. But I can report that with just this one hobby, mining them for Katie’s one-liners to share on Twitter, we’ve probably already exceeded our lifetime quota for laughs. I crack up when I discover another one, I crack up again when Darrell reads it and does the same, we watch Katie crack up over it the way we did -- and the three of us quote it to each other for months. One line!
Taking notes and spinning #TheKaOfKatie from them has made us appreciate in a way we didn’t see coming the magic of family and of life.
That’s why my gift to new moms is always a blank journal. Something small, something beautiful, something to keep handy but offline -- at least for now. I suggest they jot down the sweet and the silly and the seemingly insignificant. They can thank me in twenty or thirty years when they have a collection that doesn’t need to be insured or dusted, only treasured.
Take notes. Save your story. Otherwise you’ll forget, and that might sting. I’m not a “do this, do that” kind of gal -- but this sentiment is worth stepping out on a self-righteous limb, in my opinion. And Darrell’s. And Katie’s!
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson