What is your default reaction?
February 15, 2017
Many years ago I was swapping stories with a woman I didn’t know very well, and she started talking about a couple of her grandchildren. They hadn’t outgrown something she thought they should’ve outgrown. She said they were predisposed to the problem because it ran in her husband’s family.
There was something so swift and so pointed about the deflection of blame I couldn’t help but wonder about it. No one was “at fault,” after all -- unless you count this woman, bashing her in-laws.
It reminded me all over again how great I feel when I’m not up on the latest gossip. There’s always a tendency to want to reciprocate. Has anything good ever come from that?
What do you inspire in your kids?
February 14, 2017
Who can resist a store closing sale? Well, me. I can! But Darrell? Not usually. So there we were, in line at a checkout counter with dozens of other people who apparently had the same weakness. That’s when it happened. Two adults not-so-subtly encouraging their little girl to take a spot at the front of the line.
They joined her a moment or two later and paid for their purchases ahead of the rest of us.
We paused our knee-jerk “you have to be kidding” reactions long enough to realize that little girl’s going to pay for what happened for a long time.
No one said a word about it, including us. Minding our own business the way we did may or may not have been the right thing to do, but I still ache for that kid.
What constitutes a safe distance?
February 13, 2017
A sheet of ice flies off the top of a semi and shatters the windshield of another vehicle. Ever heard of anything like that? Neither had we.
Darrell and I have more than eighty years of driving between us, and much of it’s been on icy midwestern highways. On our way to the airport to fetch Katie for the latest adventure I mentioned to him what I just shared with you. I’d seen it online only earlier that day.
The next day, only hours into a four-day trek to our destination, can you guess what happened?
A sheet of ice that appeared to be about a foot square flew off a semi as Darrell passed it on the interstate, and he barely had time to register that as we all took in the sickening sound of something really bad happening. Or so we thought. The ice bounced off our windshield and broke into smaller chunks. One of those did a number on our rearview mirror on the passenger side, but there wasn’t so much as a dimple on the windshield. We were shaken but unhurt.
I mention it in case you have the same reaction a friend did when we told him about it. That the possibility of something like it is really, really good to know.
Why are changes of scenery so important?
February 9, 2017
“There’s the trip you plan, and the trip you take.” Ever heard that one? I can’t tell you how many times we’ve set out on an adventure, only to return with this report: “Well, that was interesting.”
That’s the best part about traveling with your sweethearts, isn’t it? Getting to know each other. There’s a reason marriage counselors often suggest you take a trip before you tie the knot. With fewer escape routes -- the workshop, the garage, the mall -- you’re forced to deal.
Darrell and Katie and I could win awards for how well we get along. But that knowledge has been forged over many, many miles.
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson
Do you dabble in the diabolical?
February 8, 2017
That’s Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who doesn’t apologize for it. Isn’t that interesting?
Scott says he floods his mind with fascinating mental puzzles and challenges -- usually work-related -- so there isn’t space for negative thoughts. “The brain likes to focus on one thing at a time,” Scott says. “So I make sure it is focusing where I want it. I never let my mind wander to bad territory. When I feel it happening I either change what I am doing or I flood my brain with stronger thoughts that have more emotional firepower.”
Scott suggests you inventory your well-adjusted friends. Chances are they take really good care of themselves. They’re careful about even the seemingly insignificant bursts of ugly.
I used to apologize for being relentlessly upbeat, which makes me think I should apologize for that.
When is it good to argue?
February 7, 2017
Warren Buffett is my role model, but not for the reason you might think. While he’s a fine person to emulate when it comes to investing, the advice I’m most determined to follow religiously is this: “You can always tell a man to go to hell tomorrow.”
I don’t use the time between today and tomorrow thinking of how I’m going to express that sentiment, by the way. I use it to argue with myself: “Can I make myself not care about this? Will I even remember it happened by tomorrow? And is there any other explanation for what happened besides the knee-jerk ‘how could anyone be that (whatever)?’”
Yep. I argue in favor of the person I’ll supposedly be arguing with. It’s a sweet thing to do when I remember to do it. Which isn’t always. But more often.
The bonus of waiting is that nothing suffers for having given it more thought, and expressing my feelings more thoughtfully.
How do you decide what to do next?
February 6, 2017
All other things being equal, do the most difficult thing first. Repeat. Then repeat again. The day will get easier as it wanes, and when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep it won’t be such a shock to your system.
Our bedroom is sparse by design. Our pillow talk, the same. Darrell and I will have a quick exchange about something silly or thank each other again for whatever it was. But discuss the latest strategy for health insurance shopping? I don’t think so!
Do you try to do too much?
February 2, 2017
As a youngster my New Year’s Resolutions were ambitious. If you caught a glimpse of them you’d be left with one impression: “This person’s trying to be perfect.”
Would it surprise you that by about two o’clock in the afternoon on New Year’s Day something had thrown me off? I was trying to change too much at once. Obviously.
I pared my lists down as I got older, and by the time I vowed to give up junk food for a year I had one goal in mind: to not eat junk food for a year. I was tired of losing and gaining back the same twenty pounds, but the extra weight was almost beside the point. I wanted to experiment with keeping a promise to myself. For a year! It didn’t matter so much what the goal was. What mattered was the promise, kept. That was going to be the title of the book, too: The Year I Didn’t Cheat.
Seven years later that book became The Willpower Workaround. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. I mention it now because in solving just that one thing, an addiction to sugar, I solved so many other problems. It was unbelievable.
Try to do everything perfectly or even better, and you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. Fix one thing about your life and don’t be surprised if several others fall into place.
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson