The Blog

Darrell and Katie are good at puzzles. I mean, really good. They could probably win awards for being good at puzzles, if winning awards for puzzles was their thing.

Me? I suck at puzzles. They don’t call to me, and for good reason.

Which mattered not one bit until recently, when I had to unscramble a couple of words during an adventure Katie took us on in New York -- an adventure so breathtaking it’ll be a while before I have the emotional distance to tell you about it.

For now I’ll share how embarrassing it felt to need more than a few minutes to unscramble those two words. We were part of the way through the adventure and what stood between us and the “grand reveal,” as Katie put it, was that.

I stared at the scrambled words for what felt like forever, and it started to hurt -- the not getting it. How much fun is it to suck at something and have the two people you love most in all the world watch you suck? Not much!

But it was going to take as long as it took. Had Darrell or Katie broken down and told me the answer, we’d remember it forever -- that I gave up. So I sat there until I started tearing up, my sweethearts told me that was not only okay but adorable, and still I couldn’t get it. Until finally, finally I did. Almost immediately I realized those words were printed in big letters on a bag I looked at back home two or three dozens of times a day for years. They couldn’t have been more familiar if they were my own name! Now do you understand how bad I am at puzzles?

Cue the laughter. Cue the teasing until the end of time about this. Which is fine. What I’ll be chewing on? How much I hated being the reason for a long pause in the adventure. Darrell and Katie didn’t mind, not even a little -- but still. I don’t want to disappoint them, not once, not even a little. Which is sweet. Impossible, granted.

But sweet!

NemoIt never gets old, watching kid movies with the kid. Like Finding Dory. When Nemo’s dad asks him how his lucky fin is I thought, “There you go. That’s everything you need to know about being a parent.”

Nemo’s dad didn’t pretend the fin isn’t a challenge. By calling it “lucky” he shared one secret to life. Challenges are gifts. They keep things interesting, they show you who your friends are, and they show your children they can have a very happy life with even so-called flaws.

Katie put a lot of pressure on herself as she grew up. She knew where she was going, she didn’t know how to get there, and she powered through the insanity that anyone who’s applying to college this year probably feels.

But she didn’t feel any pressure from her parents. She certainly didn’t feel any pressure to be perfect. Darrell and I have never operated under the illusion we’re perfect, so what would’ve been the point? The older Katie got, the more comfortable I felt letting her see the messy parts of life. “You can’t be learning and looking cool at the same time,” as the saying goes. Katie’s had a front-row seat to the story of all three of us, and the more Darrell and I get to know her the better we feel about it.

I once heard “home” described as “a soft place to fall,” and I’d have difficulty improving on that. You know the cheerleading that ensues when a child learns to walk? We’ve never not been that for each other. We sport lots of lucky fins, the three of us, and it’s been interesting -- to say the least.

But fun? It’s been so much fun, too. I’ll say it again: “You could fill a restaurant in heaven with the most interesting people ever to have lived, and I’d still want to be at our table. That’s how much fun it is.”

Without those lucky fins? Not so much!

“None of us ever fakes it.”

That’s Gayle King, who thinks the morning show on CBS can win the ratings race. Ratings races don’t interest me, but Gayle’s observation did.

She once teased Charlie Rose on the air there should be a Real Housewives marathon at his house. “I think not,” Charlie said. And that was it. He kept reading.

Good for him. Good for the show, really. “Never at any time do we have a phony moment,” Gayle says.

It reminds me of a couple of friends early in my corporate career, who told me how much fun it was to sit in a meeting and watch me watch other people. Every emotion read like a news ticker on my forehead. It still does.

I used to hate that about myself. Now I love it. It saves me the trouble of pretending someone is interesting or funny or not a problem when she is. I can keep the conversation polite and civil, friendly even. But she knows.

And that’s okay. The older you get, the more okay it becomes. Your time is finite. No sense squandering it on people who make your stomach hurt.

As a young woman I couldn’t imagine marrying someone who’d been married before. I thought “divorced” meant “damaged goods.” How arrogant.

After I got divorced I couldn’t imagine marrying someone who hadn’t been. I didn’t think I could relate to someone who hadn’t known that kind of pain. But here’s the rub. Just as it sometimes takes your first car crash to convince you accidents really do happen, once you’re divorced it’s forever on the list of things that could happen again. You’re only half the equation, after all. Which makes you afraid, and jaded. How romantic!

When I fell in love with Darrell I banked on one thing, how much I loved talking with him. “I may be making another mistake,” I told a friend, “but at least it’s a different one.” Which is how Darrell came to be known not as Mr. Right, but as Mr. Step in the Right Direction.

It’s been twenty-two years, and we’re still in step. Did we have a bit of a learning curve, a few hundred pounds of baggage? You bet. But after twenty-two years our biggest problem is toning down the happiness so as not to annoy people or embarrass the child.

It makes us want to pull aside the youngsters who’ve only been married a decade or two and say, “Hang in there. It gets easier!”

I’m not used to things getting easier, but they are. I can’t tell you how many times Darrell and I look at each other in the course of one day and wonder how we got so lucky.

Maybe the honeymoon is only beginning!

The next time you put a social obligation on your calendar you might want to consider a couple of things. If you’re calling it an “obligation,” maybe it doesn’t belong on your calendar. If you were looking forward to it, after all, you’d call it “fun.” But if you can’t get out of it without suffering more in consequences than you suffer during, I hope you remember the true cost and plan accordingly.

You know what they say about interruptions. It isn’t the interruption itself that slows you down so much. It’s the ramping out of whatever you were doing before, and ramping back into it after you’re finished. Total time? A lot.

You’ll likely spend more time dreading the social obligation than you spend with the people who put it in that category. That doesn’t even count the time you spend getting back to normal after it’s over.

It isn’t a personality flaw you don’t return to your sunny self right away. You’re stressed. It’s only natural to need time to shake things off.

Puppies do!

Are you bold?
July 14, 2016

sculpture in red“I promise.”

That’s what I told someone who makes a living coaching billionaires and wants to help me with a project. He doesn’t even know what I’m working on, he isn’t asking for a dollar in return, but something in my voice told him it was worth his time. Do I accept?

Sure.

Since making that promise I’ve stood up straighter and daydreamed with more exuberance and been more fun to be around. It makes me think whatever I learn from him will be a bonus!

There’s just something about being accountable to more than Darrell. I’ve been collecting people like that, as a matter of fact. I don’t see a downside. If there was, I could find it. It’s a gift.

Research shows if you talk about something too much, you trick your brain into thinking you’ve already accomplished it -- so you’re less likely to achieve it. Talk about it too little and you won’t attract the help you need.

It’s a fine line.

But so much fun to walk!

Do the people who have the most going on talk the least? Listening as a Martial Art author Cash Nickerson chuckled at that question when he joined us on the show recently. “Doing What Works isn’t a talk show,” I told him, “as much as a listening show.” Would it surprise you Darrell was able to chime in more than usual during this hour? I teased Cash I was on my best behavior.
 
“I’m verbal, not visual,” I told Cash. “Darrell loses me the minute he reaches for a pen to make a sketch.” What a gift Darrell’s bestowed, Cash pointed out. He’s shown me how he likes to learn. Interesting! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Guess I’d better brush up my art skills.

Cash and I talked about what makes a piece of music sing, the pauses between the notes. Which makes me want to notice more often when people pause in conversation. Do they? What makes one person’s contribution so appealing, and another’s so…not?

Cash and I talked about brutal honesty. Why brutal? Is it impossible to tell the truth and be kind? It might be impossible to tell the truth quickly and be kind, but what’s the rush? Which reminds me of an observation someone else shared -- on Twitter, if memory serves -- about people who say, “I don’t know what it is. I’m just always late.” That person said, “I know what it is. You’re an asshole.”

Cash reminded me what being nice means. No interruptions or criticism, ever. Be gentle with the truth. And if you’re talking with someone who inspires you to change your mind -- right there on the spot! because you were listening to her instead of stealing glances at your phone! -- make sure you share that with her. She’ll get a little puffy every time she thinks of it.

Promise.

“Don’t give me that shit!”

That’s what Darrell told someone on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk a couple of years ago, before Katie and I had finished training him on the ways of that world. We looked at each other, and we both said it at once: “You take your eyes off of him for one minute…”

But seriously.

He’d been trailing Katie and me, but not by much. We stick close together -- as close as you can without earning the dreaded and most dismissive label Kate’s ever bestowed, “unaware of your surroundings” -- but not so close we impede the flow of traffic. I love walking through New York. It’s like being in a game of Tetris. You have to stay three moves ahead -- and once in a while, everything unravels.

Like it did when Darrell accepted a “free” CD of some music! It wasn’t really free, of course. The dispenser wanted a tip, but he got his CD back instead. His buddy wanted Darrell to shake his hand -- this is where things got interesting -- and Darrell was so busy offloading the CD he didn’t, shall we say, take that guy up on his offer.

“What’s the matter?” the hand extender scolded him. “You don’t want to shake hands with a black guy?”

That’s when he said it: “Don’t give me that shit!”

I mean, on the one hand (so to speak), go Darrell! On the other? Katie and I are fairly sure he’ll be looking elsewhere for samples of new music!