The Blog

bite the bullet
September 12, 2013

Once upon a time I worked with a gentleman who had body odor. I didn’t have to work with him often, mind you--or for very long. But when you’re cooped up in a radio studio barely bigger than a broom closet, thirty minutes once a month can feel like a whole lot longer than that.

So when it was his turn to be on the talk show--he was one of my regulars--I got teased by the rest of the staff as we waited for his arrival.

“I’m going to talk with him about it,” I announced one day. The reaction was unanimous: “Don’t. Just don’t.”

The people who insisted I let the man be weren’t in that studio with me. They only caught whiffs in passing, or imagined my discomfort with a pane of glass between them and us. Wasn’t it more fun to complain about something, I wondered, than to talk with the person who had the power to change it? For them, maybe. Not for me.

So that morning I closed the door of our little studio, took a breath, and let it out: “I’m really sorry for what I’m about to say,” I told him. “And I’m not doing it to make you feel bad. I think you’re the sweetest guy and I don’t want you to wonder why I’m practically hugging the wall to create more space between us when we’re doing a show. It’s just that, well, you have…” I lowered my voice to a whisper, then. “Body odor.”

No,” he said. “That’s impossible…”

I don’t remember what happened next. I do remember the discomfort, the sudden quiet, and how much I ached for the guy. It hurt to tell him the truth. I’m sure it hurt a lot more to hear it.

But you know what? The next time he came in to do a show, he smelled great. The time after that, the same. I never again caught the slightest hint of anything unpleasant, and that wasn’t the best part.

The best part was how much fun we had during his monthly appearances from that point forward. When Katie and I would see him around town--this was back when she was a toddler, “helping” me gather news reports on my morning rounds--he lit up as if I was his favorite person in the world.

We never spoke about what had happened, but I doubt if I was the only person who suddenly found working with him a genuine pleasure. Maybe deep down he knew I’d done him a favor. It hadn’t been easy. But it was a whole lot easier than avoiding him, or wondering if he was wondering why I was.

He did me a big favor right back, though he probably doesn’t realize it. Every time I hear something that stings--constructive criticism, that is, as opposed to whatever you call what you get from anonymous haters--I think of how difficult it had been to share it. Then I thank the person for having the courage to tell me the truth, and respecting me enough to know I deserve it.

I can’t always fix whatever’s bothering someone, but I’m always glad for the insight--and the opportunity to see myself more clearly.

share your grief
September 11, 2013

Are you grieving? I can relate. I can’t share much yet--I don’t have the emotional distance. But I can tell you what’s helped, a lot.

Knowing that grief is reciprocated.

I’m surprised. Not that the grief is reciprocated--but that it helps. I didn’t think anything would help.

We’re going through quite a transition, and I’m clinging to what’s familiar in hopes of steadying myself. I’m trying to remember some important lessons from earlier transitions. Perhaps the most important one comes from the writer Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

Here’s hoping!

September 11, 2013

“Without coffee I would have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

Can you guess the celeb?

Yep. David Letterman, though I seem to remember him switching to decaf after his heart troubles.

I’ve tried giving up coffee a couple of times. There was a nasty withdrawal, followed by a noticeable calm, chased by a rapid decrease in my will to live. I’m not kidding.

You can debate the benefits of coffee all you want. I’ll leave it to the scientists. But it would take some kind of ironclad evidence of harm to get me to give it up. Especially after switching to the kind of coffee they serve in Europe.

All these years, and something I love most about my life just got better.

Makes me wonder what other delights might be just around the corner. Here’s hoping you feel that way about your life, too.

Bottoms up!

snap back
September 10, 2013

When I was leaving my job in Kansas City for what felt like an exciting new chapter in my life, I plopped down on the floor of my apartment to assemble a box of souvenirs. My knee objected to that plop, and gave me a little souvenir I still have. It’s an ache that’s usually just a twinge, not severe enough to ask a doctor about--but nothing that disappears, either.

Then we stopped running for more than five weeks. The pain disappeared completely.

On our first run after the break the knee twinged in protest as we got going, and a little more as we wound down. I can feel it now--only because my attention’s on it. But it still falls squarely in the twinge--as opposed to problem--category.

Working out with weights was equally uneventful after the long break. It took me a few minutes to remember how long I held a certain pose to strengthen my stomach muscles, but other than that the routine with weights was just that--routine.

Mostly what I felt like was myself. On coffee. More on that, tomorrow.

September 10, 2013

You know how when you move, you pack everything into sturdy cardboard boxes--and then after you arrive at your destination you put off the unpacking? Gradually you realize you don’t need that much of it. It’s stuck in a box somewhere, and you don’t miss it.

We took five weeks off from most of our routines, and when it was time to return to them we added back in only those things that serve us.

First up, workouts. I didn’t look forward to that one!

But I missed how I felt afterward.

say goodbye
August 22, 2013

What were the odds? We were fifteen hundred miles from home, among millions of people crammed into twenty square miles--and we ran into someone we know not once but five different times in the course of two days.

He was one of Katie’s favorite tennis camp counselors, and it was great to catch up. Kate credits much of who she is to that annual summer sojourn.

Now “Closing Time” is stuck in my head. The counselors would sway back and forth as they sang that to the campers--with lyrics adjusted for game, set, and match--after presenting awards and congratulating everyone for making it through a rigorous few days.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Yes, indeed.

The question is, “Now what?”

I hope you’ll watch this video and look forward to a new beginning.

Care to pass notes back and forth during class?

just look
August 20, 2013

“Wow. I hope I enjoy this!”

Have you ever paid so much for an evening of entertainment you started calculating the price per minute?

Darrell and Katie and I did last week, and the men behind us threatened to ruin it. The cell phones were silenced, the lights dimmed, the performance began--and the chatter, loud and obnoxious, ramped up.

I looked at Katie. She’d noticed.

Now what?

There wasn’t time to deliberate. I thought, “That takes a lot of nerve, to do what these men are doing in such a classy setting.”

And then, “I know! I’ll summon some nerve myself.”

I turned around and looked at them.

The chatter stopped.

We started enjoying the performance, all three of us, when the chatter started up again. I turned around and looked again.

It stopped.

It took a few exchanges like that--but thanks to summoning some reciprocal nerve, we have memories of the sweetest evening being treated to the hottest tickets in quite the town.

turn questions around
August 19, 2013

“What did you pay for such and such?”

If someone poses a question you don’t want to answer, there’s a way out of it that--in my experience--is not only effective, but instructive.

Ask, “Why do you ask?”

It works every time!

Next up, something you can try when the person behind you at the theater turns his cell phone off--but not his mouth.