The Blog

Have you grown up?
September 1, 2016

160901 for the blog“Step on it, Mom. You’re holding up the show.”

That was Darrell, my traveling companion (read: backseat driver). I was caught up in our conversation, as usual -- and I’d drifted a bit under the speed limit.

Holding up the show, indeed. We had ourselves a convoy! So I stepped on it, tapped the cruise, and got back to whatever it was we were talking about.

So what? As blogworthy moments go, this hardly qualifies. Or does it? Maybe! Because as recently as five years ago I would’ve been embarrassed by what had happened. I would’ve been red-faced with shame at being caught…not being perfect.

Darrell’s come a long way on that front, too. Once in a while he’ll tail someone and I’ll interrupt the conversation to tell him he’s scaring me. As recently as five years ago he would’ve bristled. He would’ve launched into quite the scientific explanation of how he wasn’t technically tailing and besides -- even if he was -- he hasn’t had an accident in the past however many lifetimes. He would’ve made me regret the noticing, for sure.

I’m struck by how much we’ve grown up. I hadn’t noticed! Now we read exactly zero malice into each other’s suggestions. We’ve suffered through the postgame enough times to remember we have the same goal when we climb into a vehicle together -- to steer clear of texters!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

It’s almost a running joke with Darrell and me. “I don’t get it,” I’ll say, reflecting on people who misbehave. “We’ve explained the situation. Why isn’t that the end of it?” He’ll shrug. And then he’ll say, “They’re just being ornery.” Then he thinks about something else.

Not me. I keep chewing on it. Not sure why. I’m still chewing on that.

I aspire to be more like Darrell, though. If there’s anything worse than people who live to stir up trouble, it’s wasting a single moment registering that.

The other morning I caught myself. I almost said it out loud: “You’re thinking about that again! Is that really how you want to spend these first few minutes of the day?” The room filled with sunlight as the coffee worked its magic -- and there I was, wasting brain cells on the stupid. But instead of beating myself up about it I afforded myself the same courtesy I’d extend anyone else. “That’s so interesting!” I thought. And then, “Are you sure that’s how you want to spend this sweet time? You wouldn’t have to, you know.” Then I thought about something else.

Progress!

What lights you up?
August 30, 2016

You’ve seen them. The people who never catch a sunset they don’t share on Instagram. But you know what they say about photographers and writers -- when you’re a journalist, it’s your job to notice things and share them. Maybe the sunset sharers never noticed that brilliance before a phone made it easy to capture. In which case, go Instagram!

Katie’s had an amazing summer, and we’ve shared much of it with her. It was even more of an adventure than usual, because she gave herself the assignment to go on a certain number of adventures. That number was daunting at first, but it quickly became more a matter of paring down than scrounging up. She trained herself to notice opportunities. Suddenly they’re everywhere! Life is an adventure.

Which reminds me what happened when I took the advice of a literary agent -- and Darrell and a smattering of friends -- and started blogging. At first I wondered what I’d have to say. Now I wonder what I would’ve done without an outlet for saying it. I collect ideas. Keeping them to myself feels selfish.

You get more of what you focus on. You light the world by sharing it.

What’s your story?
August 29, 2016

I’ve been listening to some interviews Tim Ferriss has done, and he’s fond of asking people what they’d put on a billboard. What’s their call to action?

You can guess mine: “Do what works.” Not what feels good, necessarily -- but what works. Working out, for example, probably feels good only in the past tense. Having a difficult conversation, the same. But they work.

Would it surprise you I’m doing what works more often since we christened the talk show with that sentiment? It’s aspirational. Not everything is working. But we’re getting there. One reason? In an attempt to live up to our billing, we spend much less time pretending something’s working when it isn’t.

And then we turn the page.

What’s your problem?
August 27, 2016

highwayI love Barbara Sher. If you watch this video you’ll understand why. She’s a teacher in the best sense of the word. She reminds us what we’ve always known, or shows us what we know but haven’t thought to articulate.

Specifically? The magic of being specific. Let’s say you tell her, “I want to be X, but I don’t know if I’m (fill in the blank) enough.” Not good. Barbara would probably roll her eyes at that. Then she’d say, “What’s your obstacle?” You know, specifically. What, exactly, is standing between you and what you want?

What? You don’t know? You’re not lost. You haven’t started the trip! You haven’t even left your house. How can you expect people to help you around a barricade if they don’t know where it is and what it looks like? You can’t.

Once you know, tell us. Give us the update. Regale us with stories of the seemingly insurmountable. Maybe we can help you scale it. Maybe we can’t.

But someone can! We’re sure of it.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

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

sign for Detroit LakeWhen 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.”

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.

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photo of Manhattan courtesy of Danielle LaPorte