The Blog

My friend Rich Gallagher says we’re born with two fears: heights, and loud noises.

That’s it? Apparently. Everything else is learned. Like the fear of appearing silly for being afraid of heights and loud noises!

Seriously. Which is worse? Being afraid of something, or being embarrassed because you are?

The people who try to shame you for what you’re afraid of -- or love, for that matter -- should be ashamed of themselves.

I wish I was as passionate about anything as this guy is about driving the exact same speed as me when I’m trying to merge.”

That, my friends, is why I love the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. The passion! Oh, God. You can’t believe it. Nothing against the women, by the way. I just never got started watching women play basketball. I got started in elementary school -- watching the Creighton men from my most excellent seat, close to the bench and next to my dad. Is it any wonder I’m hooked? Can you imagine how tickled I was when Darrell -- and then Katie -- got hooked? Kate’s no slouch when it comes to filling out a bracket, by the way. Husker jerseyShe picked Villanova to win it all last year, and got a very cool Husker jersey for her trouble.

It’s been five weeks, and I still pull up the “One Shining Moment” video from this year’s tournament. This was probably my favorite -- which is saying a lot -- because we caught so many games, and most of them were with Kate. One day we spent ten hours watching with her. I don’t know when I’ve watched that much television in my life. But fun? God we had fun.

I’ve never been one to hit the bars or the mall when I need a pick-me-up. But basketball? Nothing makes me want to up my game like watching other people at the top of theirs.

Ever notice how the people who spend the most time criticizing you are the least likely to have a life you aspire to? Remembering that helps me keep from visibly bristling at their not-so-well-meaning suggestions. I swap lives with them in my head, and it helps me understand -- or at least imagine -- how tearing someone down would be a welcome distraction.

I still run for cover, though. I’m not that evolved.

I always want to say, “Mind your own business!” And I always stop myself. Instead I think, “No. Do whatever you want.”

Nothing says “I’m not minding my own business” like noticing when others aren’t minding theirs.

In my ongoing quest to get rid of physical clutter I’ve noticed some mental clutter clamoring to be set free, too. It’s that low-grade, constant chatter running in the background -- which is rarely upbeat and encouraging.

What is that, by the way? It seems like everyone I’ve ever talked with on the show, for example, shares it. We beat ourselves up, all day every day, and then wonder why we don’t have more to show for ourselves.

The other day it hit me. No matter what I’m doing, a little voice inside tells me I should be doing something else. Even if I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. So you know what I did this time? I told that voice to shut up!

The voice was reciting a list of people I hadn’t volunteered to help. The people who run the food pantry, the homeless, the staff at the suicide prevention center. “You no longer have the excuse of being a full-time mom,” the voice offered. “Yeah?” I countered. “Well, if I follow through on some projects I have the potential to help many more people than by putting in even several hours a week on those other, admittedly worthy, pursuits.”

Then I got back to work.

We all know people for whom our best will never be good enough. Sometimes, in the interest of not making a scene, you smile at their latest admonition and get the heck out of there. But if that person is you? Stop it. Just stop it!

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed since the election? Everyone, it seems, is an expert on foreign policy. The other night, scrolling through Twitter, I saw a gal weighing in on Syria with such confidence it caught me by surprise.

“What can she possibly know about Syria?” I wondered. “How did she go from being an expert on (omitting a clue to her identity, here) to being an expert on that? Seemingly overnight?”

I almost mentioned it to Darrell. Then I caught myself. Which is worse? Weighing in on Syria when you don’t have a degree in foreign policy? Or spending time questioning how someone spends hers?

Maybe this person is more accomplished than I realized.

It’s possible.

sunset photoI’ve never been a fan of horror movies. Why are they considered entertainment? I suppose I could ask the millions of people who would classify them that way. But no. That’s how not interested I am. I won’t even watch trailers for scary movies.

Funny thing about deciding what you’ll let in. It becomes a habit. I don’t get together with other people on Friday evenings, for example, to complain about our bosses during a supposed happy hour. I’m busy prepping for two hours of conversation the next day -- with fascinating people who might make you mighty glad you tuned in, too.

No wonder I never crave “small talk.” The point is what, exactly?

But silly? I’ll take a steady diet, please. After I check the weather in the morning I head over to The Onion. After that I stay current on news and so on by scrolling through Twitter once in a while -- but that’s mostly for the silly, too.

I remember being in elementary school and feeling so lucky I had a seat in back, close to a couple of guys who were hilarious.

You need that. And these days, you’re never more than a few clicks away.

You could set a clock to it. If I’m not forging ahead with what I’ve set out to do, some silly little drama appears out of nowhere and threatens to hijack my brain. But if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing? It’s as if the heavens keep those dramas at bay: “Leave her alone. She’s working.”

“If you aren’t playing a big enough game, you’ll mess up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do.” Ever heard that? Does it ring as true for you as it does me?

I’m working on such interesting problems at the moment, and I’d forgotten how much I love those. They’re changing how I feel about life. I used to get depressed at still another workout with weights, for example. I’ve been doing them since I was fourteen, and I’m bored. But lately I’ve found meaning in them, too. They’re soothing. I show up, do the reps, let my mind wander -- and play. I solve problems during my workouts, many more than I solve in front of my screens. Maybe you’ve noticed that yourself. You have to put in the screen time, granted -- but your brain keeps going after you give the screens a rest. It’s magic.

Really, it is.

When I’m having breakfast at a hotel, you won’t find me blocking the area in front of the toaster while I wait for whatever it is to pop out. If I bump into you I’ll apologize, and I’m not going to hog what’s left of the fruit.

But if I’m struggling to peel a hard-boiled egg, don’t feel like you have to engage me about it. Yes, I’ll acknowledge you said something. No, I won’t suggest you keep going.

I used to feel guilty for not being more, quote, sociable -- but Katie fixed that. She pointed out what I hadn’t thought to articulate about a guy who weighed in on the eggs during breakfast recently: “It begs a response.”

Good point!

I wasn’t sitting there by myself, after all, looking forlorn and in need of company. Darrell and Katie and I were having our usual sparkling conversation, and this guy just barged in. As infractions go, this wouldn’t count no matter how you define the term. I just find it interesting I was bashing myself for not being more friendly, only to have Kate suggest I consider the opposite. No wonder people love being around her. She helps them go easier on themselves.

Katie reminded me I’m as likely as anyone to compliment a server, crack a joke in the elevator, or ask a question when the speaker’s clearly hoping someone will.

I’m friendly. Too friendly? Not if you ask Egg Man, granted.

But friendly!