Have you noticed your reflection lately?
February 11, 2014
That smile Darrell gives me from the office in the morning! As if to say, “You’re kidding. Another day with this woman? Sign me up!”
It’s the same smile Katie gave me every morning for eighteen years. Well except for the dozens of mornings she was coming off way too little sleep for the brutal day she had ahead of her. But you know what I mean.
When Katie was a baby I thought she’d levitate out of her crib she was so excited to see us. That isn’t unusual, I realize. What’s unusual is that after eighteen years of life -- or twenty years of marriage -- we’re still looking at each other that way.
I heard myself admit on the show recently that there really wasn’t much in it for me to marry Darrell, except for this: I could imagine talking with him for the rest of my life and never getting bored.
“I might be making another mistake,” I told a friend. “But at least it’s a different one.” That’s how Darrell got the nickname Mr. Step in the Right Direction.
It wasn’t a mistake.
Before I met Darrell all my dreams were on a to-do list somewhere -- and I often think that without his encouragement, that’s where they might have stayed.
Find someone who believes in you. Marry him, and don’t take him for granted -- not for one minute.
Dream of the best friend you could ever imagine, and make sure she knows how much you appreciate her from the moment she’s born.
The conductor Benjamin Zander says his job is to awaken possibility in other people. If their eyes are shining, he’s doing it.
I’ve had way more than my share of shining eyes in my orbit. Every day is another attempt to be worthy of those.
Have you set your life to music?
February 10, 2014
A summer breeze floats into an auditorium on a college campus in Omaha. I’m old enough to have driven myself there, but young enough to be in awe of the setting. I’m wearing an orange cotton dress. I feel beautiful, even though orange isn’t really my color and feeling beautiful isn’t really my style.
There’s a grand piano on the stage, and someone’s practicing for the big event. I descend the stairs to my seat as a few other early arrivals do the same. I’m breathless with anticipation.
That’s it. That’s the extent of my memory.
It lingers because all of life spread out before me then. It felt sacred. Classical music dancing on a summer breeze? It became the soundtrack for the work of art I hoped my life would be.
Many years later I was at the library when a woman who lives a couple of houses down from ours told me how much she’d enjoyed hearing Katie practicing piano the night before.
Really? The sound carried that far?
Uncharacteristically I felt no urge to apologize. All I could think of was that summer evening I just told you about, long before I knew there’d be a Katie.
Someone once described a child as a love letter to a future we cannot see.
Something tells me that future’s going to be pretty cool.
What do you do when you encounter a setback?
February 5, 2014
Having a bad day, are you? Go ahead and feel bad about it. That’s not wallowing, that’s processing.
Then dig into something within your control. Nothing feels quite as empowering as getting back to work.
It’s fun when things are sailing along according to plan. You need that sometimes. You need the rest.
But if you’re building something substantial -- your character, a business -- pain is part of the deal.
Fighting that will only make it more painful.
Do you give thanks, daily, for your life?
February 4, 2014
You’re good at things you love to do. You’re surrounded by people you love to hang out with. You even have challenges that -- while not as easy to appreciate for all the obvious reasons -- keep life interesting.
And still you complain?
I don’t know what you’d call the person in charge -- the Universe, God, infinite intelligence -- but I know how I’d feel if I were that and you were complaining. I’d feel like a parent who couldn’t be more generous, and you were a spoiled brat.
The next time you wonder why you don’t have more of what you want, ask yourself how long it’s been since you’ve bowed your head in thanks for what’s surely an embarrassment of riches.
“It’s such a miracle to be alive,” Darrell told me only recently as we curled up with our coffees and another great chat. “It’s such a miracle to have found someone,” I thought, “who realizes that.” Wanting anything else out of life seems greedy.
But I’m going for it anyway!
At the same time I’m, you know, giving thanks for the privilege.
Are you charming?
February 3, 2014
Once upon a time Katie presented our local librarians with a box of candy to thank them for how much fun she had during the summer reading program. The head librarian thanked her right back and told her it happened to be her birthday -- so this present was especially sweet. “Did you know I’m 29?” she teased Katie. Kate looked at her. Her eyes got wide. And then she said, “Wow. You look way older than you are.”
I’ll give you a moment to take that in, the way an uncomfortable silence filled the air at the time -- until we all started laughing so hard I thought we’d never stop.
The truth, if told by someone young enough, is charming.
As you get older it becomes more challenging to tell the truth and still be charming. It’s possible, though. Answering a question with a question often works.
Like this one!
Do you celebrate your victories?
February 2, 2014
What’s the first thing you do when something good happens? Besides tell the people closest to you, who will be as excited if not more than you are?
That’s what you’re saving the bottle of bubbly for, right? Open the champagne or even the club soda. Spread out that blanket, kick back, and make a toast to just how magnificent the view is from this vantage point.
How fulfilling will it be to reach the summit -- wherever that is and whatever it means to you -- if you haven’t enjoyed getting there?
You have to celebrate the little victories. You have to. They’ll sustain you.
They’ll also teach you what you thought were insignificant moments were always anything but.
Life is one moment. This one. Whether you realize that and appreciate it is up to you.
What if you’re wrong about yourself?
January 29, 2014
You know that voice inside your head? The one who doesn’t think you’re up to the latest challenge, and berates you for that?
What if the voice is wrong?
Respect is something you earn, granted. If you want to feel better about yourself, do more good in the world. But then -- and this is important -- give yourself credit for it.
Do more good. Give yourself credit. Repeat.
Sooner or later that voice inside will either (1) shut up, or (2) start cheering you on.
Do you have a reliable way to recharge?
January 28, 2014
Few people have enough credibility with me to make me want to do something just because they do.
Jerry Seinfeld’s one of them.
Not for any number of reasons you might guess -- though of course that’s only a guess.
I admire him for what I’ve heard is an apparent lack of interest in approval. It’s never been a project for him. And I think, “Really? What would it be like to live that way, without feeling like you’re forever disappointing one person or another?”
I do that, too -- but as of this article I intend to be more focused about it.
Counterproductive as that sounds!