What do you care?
August 26, 2016
Darrell and I had lunch with a good friend recently. We hadn’t seen her in almost four years. When we asked how things were going she said, “Terrible! I hate my life.”
This was going to be interesting. And it was. For almost two hours she regaled us with stories of friends, family, finances -- you name it -- that made us sick to ponder. She was going through a difficult time, all right. And it promised to get worse.
But there’s a twist. After every update, after each report of people who are as unhappy with her as she is with them, our friend smiled. Then she said, “And I don’t care!” Every time. It was almost a slapstick routine. The next time she said it we laughed a little louder. The time after that? Louder, still.
There’s a reason you hear the same radio ads over and over. Repetition works.
When our friend said “I don’t care!” the first time we wanted to believe her. By the time she said it the tenth time, we did. Her smile had convinced us. She also radiated peace. She’d clearly changed. She was, as they say, a new woman. Instead of forever striving and scheming in an attempt to fix this relationship or that one, she’d given up. If letting go is a prescription for living, she could be the spokeswoman.
Her life sucked in a myriad of ways she couldn’t change. The one thing she could change was her attitude -- and considering how thoroughly she had, we were in awe.
Can you imagine how often Darrell and I invoke “I don’t care!” now? You don’t like me? That’s okay! I don’t care. Think I’m spending my time the wrong way? That’s okay, too. I don’t care!
We care about people, don’t get me wrong. But when they give us the impression their mission in life is to change ours, we respectfully disagree.
Then we get back to whatever it was we were doing, that we do care about.
Can you be still?
August 25, 2016
Do you ever feel panic at how quickly time whooshes by? I used to. When I confided in a friend about it he said, “The remedy for that is sitting still, no matter how much work you have to do. Take time alone to meditate. Make that an absolute priority.”
I was skeptical. It felt like still another thing to cram into already overcrowded days.
I tried it anyway.
Now I’m hooked. I start the day with quiet time, I don’t play music or watch TV when I do weights, I run to music -- and I never work in the car. I have so much time for reflection I’ve considered cutting back! But I know how to sit still, baby.
One thing I’ve realized is I have all the time in the world for what matters. Another thing I’ve realized? Doing nothing isn’t nothing! It’s one of the most productive things I do.
Darrell laughed when I told him I have a rich inner life. He knows. I’m a party of one, all right.
When Katie was little we used to call her “marmot” sometimes. “Why even have a marmot,” we’d tease her, “if you aren’t going to play with her?” So we did.
I chose this particular friend for advice because he radiates peace. Why ask for advice if you aren’t going to take it? So I did.
It’s made all the difference.
What’s your sign?
August 24, 2016
When Katie was little we took her to the Inn of the Seventh Mountain in Bend, Oregon. We spent a glorious few days horseback riding and whitewater rafting and inhaling the scenery. I’d stayed at the Inn many years earlier, attending a What Color Is Your Parachute? workshop and dreaming up the life we have now.
It was only after visiting Bend with my sweethearts that I saw it. The big green highway sign you see in this photo.
Detroit Lake is across the street from where I’m typing! It’s not the one in the sign, obviously. But you knew that.
Still, eerie. Makes you wonder if some things were predestined.
When Katie decided to go to UC Berkeley we were upgrading the web site in anticipation of changing the talk show from The Career Clinic to Doing What Works. I knew I wanted to include a photo on the home page of “my favorite place in the world, Manhattan.”
“Is that still true?” I wondered. “Will New York City still be my favorite place when Katie moves to Berkeley?”
I decided it would be.
Which is another reason -- one of so many -- nobody was surprised when Kate moved to New York after all. It had, as the saying goes, an air of inevitability to it.
I’ve always been fascinated by how many things I love about my life that first came to me in a dream. I’ve also been determined to honor life’s mysteries by paying attention to daydreams, too -- or signs of any kind. So what if your jaded friends think it’s silly? I bet deep down, in the less-jaded recesses (so to speak) of their minds, they’re glad you occasionally tickle their imaginations with whimsy.
photo of Manhattan courtesy of Danielle LaPorte
What makes you come alive?
August 8, 2016
One reason Gretchen Rubin knew it was time to switch careers -- from law to writing -- was that she hated talking shop when she was a lawyer. Now? She loves talking shop.
If you love what you do, you’ll probably find it difficult to stop talking about it. But that’s okay. What’s more fun to listen to than someone bursting with enthusiasm?
The intellectual property attorney who gave us the all clear on a few projects we’re about to launch knew one of them was “it” the minute I started talking about it. She interrupted me in the middle of a sentence to play the “I want to describe you in one word” game. My word was “sparkle.” I would’ve felt pretty good about that, had my word for her not been “distracted.” She’d admitted as much, because we hadn’t answered a few questions on her form for new clients. We hadn’t given her an emergency contact, for example -- but she still wanted one. Given how few intellectual property emergencies I’d heard of (read: zero) I was annoyed. And distracted!
But I digress.
When Katie set off for NYU I thought the odds of her pursuing the career path that got her there was zero. I thought the specific job she’d set her sights on would use approximately one percent of her gifts. “It’s your life,” I told her. I meant it. I had my doubts, and she knew it. We don’t fake things with each other. But I was one-hundred percent behind whatever she decided to do.
You can guess where this is going. As a sophomore she started getting invitations to meetings of the professional society of said career and she couldn’t bring herself to attend a single one. They sounded boring. Even the subject lines of those messages were boring! I was amused. Because I’d told her how boring someone I knew had told me I’d find that career -- yep, I considered that very job for a few minutes in high school -- and given how boring I found the career path he’d chosen, I took him seriously.
Mostly I kept it zipped. I said just enough to remind Katie once a year or so there’s a great big world out there, and she’s allowed to change her mind.
Which she has. When she speaks of other paths she’s entertaining -- an interesting choice of words, isn’t it? -- her eyes light up and she sometimes tears up.
Now we’re getting somewhere. She is, that is!
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson
Do you give up before you start?
August 7, 2016
I love talking with people about how they got the lives they have. The people who join me on the show, whose lives look pretty sweet from the outside -- and fun but challenging on the inside -- are quick to admit they didn’t know how to do what they set out to do, but they figured it out.
The people whose lives suck? I don’t have them on the show, but I’ve found myself in conversation with them sometimes. The reasons for not getting what they want usually boil down to some variation of, “I didn’t know how.” What they don’t say: “And I didn’t bother to find out.”
Find out, figure it out, sleep on it, phone a friend. But don’t leave it at not knowing! Not if you care about yourself at all.
Most problems aren’t that difficult. Most mountains can be scaled. If a single person in the whole world has pulled off what you contemplate, the “it’s impossible” excuse does not apply.
When your time is waning, when your friends and family have gathered around to say goodbye, do you really want to admit you didn’t go after your dreams because -- cue the angels scratching their heads -- you didn’t bother to Google them?
Time is relentless. When it’s over, that’s it.
So what if you’re scared? That just means you’re alive. You aren’t boring yourself…to death!
Can you imagine a better future?
August 6, 2016
A better future starts with imagining it. You don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it -- but if you’re looking for an authority on the subject, may I submit Brian David Johnson? He’s a futurist -- yep, that’s a job title -- and says his job isn’t to predict the future. It’s to imagine it.
For better or worse, we’re all living into our visions of what life can be. If we can’t imagine something better, we don’t go for it -- and when we don’t go for it, we guarantee we won’t get it.
That’s why it’s important to stop hanging out with crabby people! They’re spirit killers.
Everything I love about my life started with believing I could have it. Polishing a book manuscript while my husband and baby were asleep. Pulling up to the microphone to host another installment of my nationally-syndicated radio talk show. Even having more reasons to be in New York! I used to take regular breaks on the couch to gaze out the window at the trees and pretend they were in Central Park.
Darrell thought it was cute, my vision of what marriage could be. Cute, and impossible. No one gets along as well as I knew we could. But you know what? I was right. He was wrong. He usually hates being wrong. Not this time!
I often attribute my spunk to plenty of sleep, great food, and consistent workouts. In this case I need to salute the author of The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks, who inspired me to stop thinking there’s an upper limit to happiness. There isn’t. Or more accurately, there doesn’t have to be.
Things can get better and they can keep getting better. If you believe it!
Are you a fun sucker?
August 5, 2016
“What did I ever do to them?” I’ve asked Darrell that question a lot over the years. To his credit, he never seems annoyed. Even though his answer’s always the same: “Nothing.”
It turns out you can spoil a party just by showing up.
And by “party” I mean, for example, the café where we have lunch. There’s an older gal who has lunch there, too. Our visits almost always overlap, to her apparent dismay. Instead of making eye contact with anyone at her table she spends the entire time glaring at us. I find that unnerving, so I make sure I sit with my back to her.
And, sure. I once ran through a checklist with Darrell to make sure the wrath was unearned. We pay for our lunch. We eat it quietly. I mean, we’re talking -- but you’d have to be at our table to understand what we’re saying.
We do seem happy to be alive and happy to be with each other, granted. “That’s it!” Darrell says. “That’s what we’re doing wrong!” Pause. “Nothing annoys an unhappy person more than the proof the opposite is possible.”
I’m not sure what Ms. I Hate the World and Especially You has come to teach. Maybe nothing. Is it a personality flaw that I notice her? Maybe. I aspire to be the person who blows her a few air kisses as we pack up and leave the café. Not there yet. But I’m proud my daydreams have taken such a playful turn!
Do you give people too much credit?
August 4, 2016
Picture this. You set out on a road trip, and your route’s peppered with lots of busy highways. You think everyone’s going to behave like you do at the wheel. Attentive and considerate.
Sound reasonable? Of course not.
Better, I think, to plan for lots of misbehavior. You don’t have to like it, but it’ll make you a better driver -- and it’ll keep your blood pressure in check.
I’m as intent on believing the best about people as the next guy. I think! But I also think there are times it’s better to brace yourself for the worst.
If you plan for a certain amount of sniping at Thanksgiving dinner, for example, it won’t necessarily be more pleasant -- but you’ll be more prepared, so you can be more pleasant. Walk through the scenarios in advance. “If she says this, I’ll say this.” Or whatever.
The more “worst case” I am before an engagement, the more likely the “best case” scenario happens. Is that because I’m more confident? Not an easy target? Disengaged?
Doesn’t matter. But it helps!