The Blog

Darrell and I had dinner with a friend the other night. He’s in his early sixties, and he’s scaling back on some of his work.

He said it as if, you know, it’s time.

Of anyone we don’t know very well, this gentleman has the world by the tail. Work he loves, a wife he’s still crazy about, that sort of thing. I don’t think he’ll do retirement any less creatively than he’s sailed through other passages, and it will be fun to see where that takes him.

It also made me realize the older I get the younger I feel. Part of it's the diet, part of it’s the exercise, and part of it’s my vision for the future. When I’m in my early sixties I doubt I’ll be scaling back. More likely? I’ll just be ramping up.

If you love what you do, why would you want to stop?

Overworked and Overwhelmed author Scott Eblin graced the show recently and one story he told was worth the whole hour, I think.

A woman had to pass through the laundry room on her way from the garage to the kitchen when she got home from work. One day she decided to keep the charger for her phone in the laundry room. Now when she gets home she plugs the phone into the charger. Then she closes the door to the laundry room and doesn’t retrieve her phone until the kids are in bed.

The first couple of weeks were difficult, so difficult she says it was as if she was missing an arm.

But now? She’s closer to her kids because instead of checking her phone she’s paying attention to them. She’s closer to her husband for the same reason.

She attributes her happy family to a phone that’s out of sight for those few hours in the evening.

Genius.

Berkeley squirrelMy favorite sweatshirt is from the University of California, Berkeley, and it’s on loan from Katie. I love it for a lot of reasons. It reminds me of Tour Guide Stephanie, for one thing, and the delightful few hours we spent on that campus a couple of years ago. The photo you see here is of a Berkeley squirrel -- and we keep a copy of it handy to remind us of one of the dreamiest days we’ve ever spent as a family.

The Berkeley sweatshirt reminds me how important it is to have something to look forward to.

It starts early, doesn’t it? “Where are you going to go to college? What are you going to major in? What do you want to do for a living?” Not having an answer to those questions is unnerving, if only because people don’t let up.

I’ll never forget talking with Kate about that after she’d set her sights on Berkeley. It was such a relief, she admitted, to start her senior year of high school with a target. Not just to get people off her back -- though that was indeed wonderful -- but to imagine the future. An abyss, by definition, is difficult to focus on.

Katie sailed through her last year of high school dreaming of California. Well, until she decided to go to NYU.

But that’s another story!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

I’ll never forget it. My little sister playing the piano in a recital, whipping through a song so quickly I didn’t think it was possible for her to nail it -- but she did.

I was in awe.

I still am. It was good practice, so to speak, for the life she’d one day have as the mother of five children and all that comes with them -- a husband and a house and a few full-time jobs and, well, you can just imagine.

Actually I can’t. I can’t imagine pulling off what she or another sister -- the mother of seven children -- does. They do it so beautifully and with so much grace I feel like a little bit of a sloth by comparison.

Except it isn’t a contest, is it? Even if it was, I took myself out of the running a long time ago. I was only a ninth grader when I realized, “I am really tired.” I was forever staying up late doing extra credit homework or whatever it was -- and by the time I graduated from high school and wrapped up an assortment of after-school jobs I was exhausted.

I skated through my first year of college on what I’d learned in grade school and high school. It didn’t prepare me for the core engineering classes in my sophomore year, but I got some much-needed rest.

Somewhere along the way I heard what I think is great advice: “There’s more to life than speeding it up.” I decided immediately I was going to live, as the saying goes, deep -- not wide. I’d rather do a few things -- or one thing -- really well than just be okay at many more things. I don’t aspire to the most possessions or the most friends or the busiest schedule. To the contrary. I’m always looking for space.

Was it Barbara Walters who said she doesn’t remember the thrill of many of her interviews, that’s how focused she was on the next one? Whoever it was gave me the impression her career, amazing as it’s been, has also been a blur.

“Get a life in which you pay attention,” the writer Anna Quindlen suggests, “to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.” I love that sentiment!

Life is whooshing by.

I don’t want to miss it.

DC“Do you have any idea how much I appreciate you?”

I’m forever asking Darrell that question, but he never seems bored!

It reminds me of comparing notes with a girlfriend about the old “how many positive to negative interactions” you have in your marriage. Something to the effect it has a lot to do with your odds of staying together.

Darrell and I are constantly telling each other way to go, I admitted. Katie, too. All three of us are fountains of encouragement and appreciation for the other two.

“You’re kidding,” my friend said. “I can go a whole month without telling my husband something good.”

Is that because there was nothing to report, or was there nothing to report because it wouldn’t have been acknowledged?

I chewed on that question for years. I never posed it to her, of course -- and besides, I felt like I’d already crossed a line by admitting I was happy when I knew she wasn’t.

Now she isn’t married anymore.

We are, but I’m not smug. I’ll never be smug! Then again, I’ve learned to trust Darrell about the whole “you make a vow, you keep it” thing.

This post is proof I believe you, honey.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

“I don’t think you have any more flaws than the next person,” I’m often told. “You’re just more honest about them.”

It feels like the right way to be.

I’ve never approached the talk show, for example, from the standpoint of someone who has all the answers. I’m not sure I have any of the answers. My job, best I can tell, is to pose good questions.

I’m just as eager as I hope you are to hear what my guests have to say. I experiment with my life based on what I learn, and I share what works -- and what doesn’t -- with you.

The best part of my job is when you reciprocate. My heart leaps when I see someone’s contacted me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through that form on our web site. More of you have been writing to let me know we’re helping, which only makes me want to do more of that.

Thanks!

Is your empty nest filled with regret?

Mine isn’t, and here’s why.

When people I knew told me how much they regretted not appreciating their kids when they were little, I listened. I listened, and I took action. From the moment I knew there’d be a Katie I designed my life in a way she and I -- Darrell, too! -- would be proud to look back on.

And we are. How many times can you take a chunk of your life -- in this case, twenty years -- and say there isn’t a single thing you’d do differently? Even the so-called difficult times added only texture to what is one amazing story of friendship.

Pay attention when people tell you how much they’re hurting. Listen hard, give them a hug, and make them glad they bothered to share. There’s a lot of pain in the world. Not all of it has to be passed down, or around.

You can honor someone who trusts you with his story by changing yours.

What impresses you?
November 10, 2014

Twitter photoYou know how when you have a headache that’s all you think about, how much better your life will be once it subsides? Then it starts to, and eventually it disappears. But it takes you a while to realize it.

“Wait a second!” you suddenly remember. “I don’t have a headache!”

Life is good. You’re happy again. But it kind of snuck up on you.

Some self esteem snuck up on me recently, which I realized after I read a lengthy post by someone whose success used to intimidate me. He’d written about his latest project and how many people had signed on. He was delighted. I was fascinated. Not by what he’d created -- though that, truly, was impressive -- but by my reaction to it.

I no longer take the size of someone’s following as a measure of his worth relative to me. I used to. But not anymore.

There was a time when Darrell would get on me for fawning over a guest or a potential guest -- as if I stood more to gain from a conversation than that person did. I wrote it off (sorry, honey!) as him not realizing just how much I appreciate people.

I appreciate them as much as ever, but Darrell hasn’t gotten on me about fawning because I’ve stopped. It isn’t that I’m less impressed with the people I interview -- to the contrary -- but because I can acknowledge my contribution to the conversation.

Self respect is something you earn.