The Blog

Is there room to grow?
February 7, 2019

Groundhog DayIn celebration of a holiday not-so-raucously celebrated, we gave our radio audience a behind-the-scenes look at Groundhog Day recently. Why have as your co-host someone who was a casting director on that movie if you don’t ask her to spill, that’s what I always say.

It was fun. You might enjoy knowing Bill Murray was chosen over actors like Steve Martin and Tom Hanks because they were “too nice.” The film needed someone who had a believable cranky side to balance out what could’ve been too much sweetness. You might find it interesting the groundhog bit Murray during filming and he (the actor, not the groundhog) had to go to the hospital. And you might find it as touching as one of the older actresses did, the gesture Murray extended that actress and two others in the flat tire scene. He sent a limo to pick them up and take them for massages and later to a fancy dinner.

What I found fascinating was more about casting itself. “You don’t want someone who’s perfect for the role,” Jane says. Huh? “No. You want someone who’s close.” But there has to be room for growth for both the character and the actor…and the story.

Never thought of that! But it rings true, doesn’t it? It works in film, and it works in life.

I’m folding Darrell’s shirts, still warm from the dryer. But something’s different. I’m not in a hurry to finish the laundry so I can move on to something else. I’m kind of getting into…the laundry.

Didn’t see that coming!

But then, I hadn’t seen the previous almost two weeks coming. We’d just gotten back from the Christmas holiday with Katie, and it was as low-key and refreshing as any time with her yet. All we did for days on end was snack and chat and read and nap and watch movies. We ventured out to see still another movie, take in the holiday lights, and stock up on provisions. Otherwise? Nothing. We idled down.

The grind was waiting for us after the break, as grinds will do. But we didn’t mind so much.

That’s how I found myself admiring a stack of Darrell’s shirts so neatly folded it would’ve impressed the fussiest manager at the fanciest department store. Did he notice? Of course not! Did I care? Of course not! I was in it for the joy. The life-changing magic of doing one thing at a time.

There’s more to life than increasing its speed. I forget where I heard that, but I vow to remember it more often.

There’s a gentleman I know who follows me on Twitter. We met once or twice many years ago, but it’s been decades. I know more about our mail carrier than I do this man, and I don’t know the first thing about our mail carrier.

He got in touch with me a while back to ask about some other people we have in common. It wasn’t a breezy suggestion to say hello to them the next time I saw them. It was an essay question. You either answered it in detail, or risked looking like you had no interest in engaging. Which I did not.

I have zero against this person, mind you. I’m sure he’s a sweetheart. It’s just that I have a long list of sweethearts -- really, truly, good friends -- I haven’t found time with lately and if I’m going to start catching up they’re the people I’d start with.

Now what? Explain myself? No. I’m sure there would be a way to do that, but it would be a project -- and it isn’t how I want to spend my free time.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for setting boundaries. Do it consistently, and you might find yourself with plenty of time for the things that matter most to you.

Ever had the urge to stop everything you’ve been doing, things that only a week ago you’d have sworn filled your life with joy and meaning?

Before you dismantle your life and start over, consider the possibility you’re just exhausted. For those of us who rarely get sick, it’s disorienting. All that energy. Gone! The will to live. Gone! Imagining feeling better, ever again? No!

The blahs are sneaky, but they’re a symptom. Go back to bed and stay there for as long as it takes to feel better. The people you won’t be infecting will thank you, and the projects will keep.

Give yourself the grace of knowing that even the best of us get tired.

new F for the blogTo court failure is to court life itself. You can’t learn without making mistakes, after all. It’s just part of the deal.

Which is…not news. What I’ve been wondering is how to remember it as things go straight to hell and appear to be staying that way. How do you remember it’s probably all for the best, eventually?

My friend Jane Brody, the acting teacher, has an idea. It’s one she uses all the time. When a student fails in a scene she makes the entire class jump up and down and applaud the failure. She has them yell, “Yeah! Yeah! Fail! Fail bigger! Fail more! Fail more!”

She doesn’t stop there. She has her students take a vow. They put their hands over their hearts and say, “I am homely, talent-free, and probably stupid. But I’m not going to stop.”


Is it time to give up?
January 30, 2019

When does persistence become stupidity? Heck if I know, but my friend Jane Brody says giving up is a great idea -- sometimes.

“Some dreams will never happen,” she points out.

I bet you can think of a few. You’ll never look the same way you did when you were twenty, you probably won’t perform at Carnegie Hall if you have no musical talent whatsoever, and your odds of making the college basketball team disappeared when you graduated.

The wrong thing to give up on, though? Yourself. Decide you’re going to have fun, learn a lot, and matter to someone -- or a lot of people. Begin. Keep going.

Just don’t get too hung up on how that will unfold. Make a plan, head on down the road, and remember what another friend once told me -- that everything interesting happens on the sidestreets.

The other day I fielded a suggestion that didn’t enchant. I knew immediately I hated it. But I also knew immediately that some of the best ideas I’ve embraced, like cutting out sugar altogether, sounded crazy to begin with. So I wasn’t about to dismiss this idea without more thought.

That’s what I was thinking. As to what I said? Nothing. I took one of those pauses I’ve claimed to be such a fan of.

The suggestion dispenser took my silence as proof she’d served up a clunker.

“That’s not it,” I promised. And then, “Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize a great idea.”

“Learn to pause,” the poet Doug King suggested, “or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.”

Like the right response!

Are you remarkable?
January 28, 2019

Darrell had made dozens of pitches to people a while back, and a couple of weeks before Christmas it was time to check in with them. Instead of making “just checking in” the subject line -- lame! -- he wrote, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to follow up with you on (the pitch I just mentioned).” Not bad, eh?

It gets better. He started the body of the message by telling them he’s new to this particular game, and hopes they’ll forgive him if he’s erred in the timing or execution of that followup.

Wait. There’s more. After reminding them what he’d sent he said, “Naturally, I’m hoping you’ve recovered from the shock of receiving such an impressive marketing tool and opportunity.” Then he made a quick suggestion about where they might go from here.

And that was it. Poetry, no? I couldn’t stop gushing about how impressed I was.

The response was immediate. We could barely keep up with the inquiries. It was like hitting the jackpot on a slot machine.

Maybe you don’t need a miracle. Maybe you just need a really good letter.