Do you clean up after yourself?
November 28, 2014
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.
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?
Can a friend lighten your load?
November 27, 2014
I 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!
photo of Katie Anderson's toes courtesy of Katie Anderson
Do you feel guilty for resting?
November 26, 2014
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?
Can you reframe the boring?
November 25, 2014
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.
Can you be stopped in your tracks?
November 23, 2014
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!
Does retirement sound fun?
November 20, 2014
Darrell and I had dinner with a friend the other night. He’s in his early sixties, and he’s scaling back on some of his work.
He said it as if, you know, it’s time.
Of anyone we don’t know very well, this gentleman has the world by the tail. Work he loves, a wife he’s still crazy about, that sort of thing. I don’t think he’ll do retirement any less creatively than he’s sailed through other passages, and it will be fun to see where that takes him.
It also made me realize the older I get the younger I feel. Part of it's the diet, part of it’s the exercise, and part of it’s my vision for the future. When I’m in my early sixties I doubt I’ll be scaling back. More likely? I’ll just be ramping up.
If you love what you do, why would you want to stop?
How do you stay plugged in?
November 19, 2014
Overworked and Overwhelmed author Scott Eblin graced the show recently and one story he told was worth the whole hour, I think.
A woman had to pass through the laundry room on her way from the garage to the kitchen when she got home from work. One day she decided to keep the charger for her phone in the laundry room. Now when she gets home she plugs the phone into the charger. Then she closes the door to the laundry room and doesn’t retrieve her phone until the kids are in bed.
The first couple of weeks were difficult, so difficult she says it was as if she was missing an arm.
But now? She’s closer to her kids because instead of checking her phone she’s paying attention to them. She’s closer to her husband for the same reason.
She attributes her happy family to a phone that’s out of sight for those few hours in the evening.