The Blog

Can you lighten up?
November 30, 2014

When the local newspaper ran a story about a presentation I was about to give at the library, I cringed at the headline. “Radio personality to talk about how she shed pounds,” it read in part.

“Shed pounds?” I thought. Really? That seemed…trivial.

It’s been so long since I worried about my weight I forgot it had anything to do with giving up junk food. Taking in only good, after all, has come to mean being careful about what I ingest -- whether that’s media or criticism or a stray passing thought.

But the reporter was right. This started with the scale. I was tired of measuring something as mundane as twenty extra pounds. They were weighing me down in more ways than one. They were a big reason my life was starting to bore me.

I cringed at the headline because I didn’t want to be reduced to the person who found a way to lose weight. I mean, people do that. So what?

So they do it, but after a while the weight comes right back on -- like it used to, with me. I found a way around that, and it might help you.

I accidentally discovered something that might make your life easier.

Call it whatever you want!

donut border

The Container Store amuses Darrell and Katie to no end. They love to watch me bounce through the aisles. I’m like a kid in a candy store or a dad in a hardware store.

Packaging matters. It doesn’t matter more than what’s inside, though I’m not completely sold on that point. I have a few boxes and bags that are empty at the moment, but they’re so beautiful they give me a lift every time I look at them. They represent possibility, after all. Sacred space. Emphasis on space.

Little things like packaging might matter more than you think. A gal at my bank reminded me of that recently when she practically gobbled up the notice I’d given her to post on their bulletin board about a presentation I was about to give. “Oh my God. These are donuts!” she exclaimed. “The borders are donuts! That’s so cute!”

The delight I felt at her reaction was out of proportion to the sentiment.

Or was it?

As questions go wait until you entertain this one from a child: “What day will I die?” I’ll never forget Katie posing that one. I was in an okay position to field it, I think, because I’ve never forgotten the grief I felt when my mother told me none of us are spared.

I’ve always been conscious of how quickly time passes. “How can I be in the third grade?” I remember wondering. Which I bet was quickly followed by a bit of a flogfest for not having more to show for myself.

I know. What a fun little kid I was!

One thing I didn’t want to leave behind? A mess. When my number’s up I don’t want anyone to be burdened with piles of piles. Stories? You bet. Souvenirs? If they’re in the form of stories…

Otherwise? I think it would be cruel to make someone else sort through my clutter.

I didn’t trust that feeling until recently.

Oh, sure. Wipe down the counter after you finish using the kitchen you share with your colleagues. Keep the leaves raked and the lawn mowed. But don’t forget one day you won’t be here anymore -- and someone else will be stuck with the remains. Do you think it’s fair to ask that person to deal with what you didn’t?

toesI have two baby toes on my right foot. It looks like that, anyway. My fourth toe’s so much smaller than it “should” be it looks like another baby toe.

I worried about this when I was little. I couldn’t imagine finding a husband who’d sign up for someone with a deformed foot. I’d have to wear socks until my wedding night -- at which point he’d be stuck with me.

Which is worse? Being humiliated by something that benign, or the plot to deceive my would-be husband?

I was in my forties before I confided in a girlfriend about this. “Toes,” she said with ceremony, “are not the most beautiful part of our bodies.”

Her observation inspired both relief and curiosity -- and for a while I stole glances at the toes of anyone wearing flip-flops. Soon I was giving thanks for my somewhat normal feet.

My friend was right. Toes are mostly ugly!

Mine?

They’re fine.

-

photo of Katie Anderson's toes courtesy of Katie Anderson

I can still hear us whispering next to the orange juice in the grocery store. Me and another mother of an only, admitting in ever-so-tentative tones, our kids weren’t (gasp) working that summer. It was the summer between Katie’s junior and senior years of high school, and she’d worked so hard during school it still exhausts me to call up those memories. She wasn’t goofing off. She was recovering.

Katie took more time off this last summer -- which is to say, all of it -- and Darrell and I were all for it. She’d torn into life at NYU with so much abandon it was all I could do to brace myself for the latest update. To live it? I couldn’t imagine the pace, or the pressure.

She’ll be in the rat race for good soon enough. All indications are it’ll keep.

When my life imploded a few years before Katie came along, I did almost nothing for seven months besides sit on the couch and cry. I took some grief from a girlfriend, who thought I should get a job in retail to get out of the house. “No way,” I decided. I knew what was best for myself at one level -- but I wasn’t so sure of myself on another I could resist asking another friend what he thought. “It takes as long as it takes,” he offered. From then on when I started feeling bad I wasn’t feeling better, I stopped.

Is the time required for healing proportional to the guilt you feel for taking it?

If someone would’ve told me I’d one day live and work from a house in a small town and eat mostly the same things every day -- as I plowed through mostly the same routine of housework and work and working out -- I wouldn’t have looked forward to growing up. Take Katie out of the previous equation and life can get, shall we say, boring as hell.

One day recently I realized I’d been wishing for time to catch up between career chapters. I have one to replace “mom” but there’s some ramping up involved, and little to distract me from the void. Except! Some projects. I have time for them now. They only add to the boring, granted -- but they’re a great test of focus.

Like all of life, eh?

Are your secrets safe?
November 24, 2014

It used to be you told a stranger a little something about yourself, waited for that person to do the same, and shared confidences until your friendship deepened -- or not. It was a dance. You unwrapped each other slowly.

Facebook changed that, one reason it never called to me. Thanks to Facebook and its ilk you can go online, learn more than you wanted to know about almost anyone -- and avoid the messiness of dealing with a real person right in front of you.

You won’t find the most interesting things about me here, just as the most interesting part of the conversations with my talk show guests happens after we stop recording. That’s when we swap secrets.

If I think there’s a possibility I’m going to be good friends with someone I’m not stingy with my secrets. I’d known Darrell for about three hours when I told him the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to me. I’d done that before, and while the consequence -- while not disastrous -- would’ve kept a normal person from doing it again.

I’m not normal, though -- that much is probably obvious, here -- and it paid off. That I felt safe enough with Darrell to tell him the worst about me immediately told me (1) I was willing to get hurt again, which is great and (2) there were still guys in the world worth risking humiliation for.

Little kids aren’t conflicted about what they want, judging from how many meltdowns you see in the checkout line. Grownups, I think, would get more out of life if they gave themselves permission to want what they want -- even though they’ve had many more years of not always getting it.

Some dreams don’t come true, granted. But some do. Your dreams are safe with me.

The question is whether they’re safe with you.

The other night at dinner with a friend I admitted to him in front of Darrell I didn’t know if I was up to the challenge of a new job. “I know what to do,” I offered. “I just don’t know if I believe I can do it.” Pause. “I’m not sure I consider myself a winner where this is concerned.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

I don’t know what to say now, the same way I didn’t know what to say then. Everything I thought I knew about positive thinking had just evaporated.

It didn’t occur to me it didn’t matter if I believed I was a winner.

But what a lift. It turns out what they say is true. Doesn’t matter what you say. It matters what you do.

Back to work!