On learning a basic equation

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Now that I’m a certain age, I get surprised less and less. Fewer things stop me in my tracks and cause me to take stock of what’s around me and appreciate all that I have…and the saddest truth is that the older I get the things that tend to stop me all too often are tragic.

Sounds like getting old is a real bummer.

Only it isn’t. If you keep your mind and heart open to new possibilities.

This morning, an Aha! Moment happened to me, and it was when I was doing a morning scan of social media no less. So the first lesson here is to always be paying attention, because you never know when you might find something.

Anyway my epiphany came thanks to a Facebook post by “Becoming Minimalist,” a health and wellness website that I follow for the occasional feel-good nudge. I’ll read something pithy, something that makes me go hmmm… and whatever it is serves to provide a gentle, necessary, and all-too-often short-term attitude adjustment about whatever it illuminates. Today was different. The post (which was not of great interest) included this quote by Brennan Manning* (which made my morning):

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

Let that sink in for a second—there is no neutral exchange—and then think of the implications.  100% of the time, this “rule” applies to us. And 100% of the time it gives us the power to choose.

That’s huge.

This mindset isn’t limited to either our professional lives or our personal lives. It presents an unbounded challenge to each of us, to be aware of our role in every interaction, and to acknowledge that every one of those interactions has consequences—both seen and felt by us and seen and felt by others. And often times our actions have consequences that are entirely unbeknownst to us.

So while I get (kind of) the ongoing debate about whether one can choose to be happy or not, this is a little bit of a twist on what and how we choose. As a rule, I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume negative intent…yet they still seem to drain my battery or suck the life out of me. However, reflecting on that quote reminded me that while there’s nothing I can do about them, I can do everything and anything about me. And maybe, someday, it will influence them. Maybe. Maybe?

I urge you to consider this emotional equation when you have your next encounter, be it conducting a big deal at work, facing a personal conflict, or undertaking an innocuous everyday event like buying a coffee…and remember that there is no neutral exchange. Challenge yourself to step up and to give life in whatever form it takes for you. Whether you give extra energy, a smile, a hug, a thank you…whatever it is…you’re giving life…and everyone who is part of the exchange will come put on the other side with a fuller tank…no matter what.

*Brennan Manning, American author, is best known for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. To find out more, a Google search is a good way to go.

 

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25 for 50

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: We are all living on borrowed time; make sure you repay a fraction of the loan back every day.
Today I am 50. I remember when my dad turned 50 and we had a surprise party for him at my aunt and uncle’s house. I thought I was so funny unfurling a spray-painted sheet from their second-floor windows as he arrived. “50 isn’t old if you’re a tree,” it said. Joke’s on me now. Here I am reflecting on a half century, what I’ve learned, and what it all means. Because when you’re 50, you should know, right?
I take a 360° gander at my life, I look at the decades gone by, and I think about what I know now and when I imagine that I learned it or–in some cases and thanks to hindsight–when I wish I had. So when I think about 50 years, here’s what I think about.

Decade One (0-10)

1) Sisters are the best.

2) Love is the most valuable currency.

3) Strong family roots provide support you can always count on.

4) Being a good speller only matters if you’re too lazy to do spell check. (Even so, I like being a good speller.)

5) Be nice. I still remember some mean things some mean kids did in elementary school. Actions that might not matter to you might matter to someone else. So think about other people’s feelings–don’t be selfish.
Decade Two (10-20)

6) If you spend half as much time worrying about yourself as you do worrying about other people, you’ll come out way ahead.
7) You’ll meet a ton of people now who–expectedly or otherwise–will have a massive influence on the rest of your life and shape who you are or aren’t and what you do or don’t do. Pay attention to them.

8) It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

9) Music that you listen to now will remind you of things that you wouldn’t remember later in life otherwise, so pay attention to the music! And be prepared to, in 10 or 30 or 30 years, time-travel when you hear an old song and remember every sensory detail of some long-forgotten experience or feeling. So listen to good music!

10) Try new things. Don’t wonder. Know. The more you stretch yourself when you’re young the better trained you’ll be when you’re old, minimizing the likelihood you’ll suffer any twinges of regret. Put yourself out there. Say yes.
Decade Three (20-30)

11) Work hard, be dedicated, be accountable, be respectful, and pay attention to the details.

12) Be authentic, be bold, and take chances. Don’t let the potential negative consequences paralyze you, but heed them–if you’re not willing to accept the consequences of your actions, think twice. Because only you are responsible for your actions–no one else.

13) You can’t unsay things. Choose your words carefully. And just in case you find yourself in a situation where you say something you wish you could take back, get comfortable with saying and living the words “I’m sorry.”

14) Always bring a pen and paper (physical pen and paper or digital equivalent) to a meeting.

15) Remember people you meet. You don’t have to remember everyone’s name. If you’re not sure you’ve met someone before, reintroduce yourself and say, for example “Nicole Comeau; good to see you.” There’s nothing worse than when someone you remember meeting multiple times looks as if they have never seen you before and says “nice to meet you” (as you mentally scowl and think “for the fourth time”).

Decade Four (30-40)

16) Stay open to new people and new things. Contary to what you think ou still don’t know everything (never will) and you never know what seemingly insignificant choice will start a chain reaction that changes your life.

17) Slow down and enjoy it. It goes by faster and faster.

18) Set a good example. You never know who is watching, but you know someone always is…don’t worry about who may or may not see or who may or may not find out…just do the right thing.

19) You can’t change anything you did but you can change everything you do.

20) Life’s not fair. You may experience this sooner rather than later, but by this point you should at least know that it’s not about equity…and you need to sharpen your coping skills because all you can control is your reaction, not the thing that you are reacting to.

Decade Five (40-50)

21) Everything worth having is worth waiting for.

22) Find peace in managing the only thing you can manage–yourself. Don’t waste a moment worrying about things you can’t control.

23) Love and hope can be found in the darkest corners. Use your light and shine it on them.

24) You do only live once and you can’t take it with you–enjoy it responsibly, and consider your legacy. Who do you want to be remembered as? What do you want to be remembered for? Focus on what matters.

25) Trust that your best years are the ones in front of you.

In summary, it’s all about the balance. You get what you give. What goes around comes around. And all that cliched jazz. Karma’s only a bitch if you cross her, so keep it karmically correct.
Eyes on the road, foot on the gas. Tunes cranked up in a car full of love. It really is all about the journey, so enjoy every mile. [Even the ones when you realize you have to pee two minutes after you see the “Next Rest Stop in 60 Miles” sign.]

Over and out. I got me some good living to do.

P.S. The rearview mirror is something that should only be used as a double-check while driving, not as a measuring tool for life. If you spend too much time looking in the rearview or focusing on the horizon, you’ll miss all of the great stuff that’s right in front of and next to you.

Post-Election, Morning Musings

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1. The people have spoken. (See picture.) When I woke up and Trump was talking over a banner reading that Clinton had called to concede, I got out of bed and re-read it from two feet away to make sure that a) I was not dreaming and 2) that I was reading it right. 

2. NBC actually lets Brian Williams back on air–at 3:30am following the election.

3. Speaking of NBC, I noticed that they didn’t let Matt Lauer anywhere near the election coverage. (Savannah Guthrie gets props for stamina.)

4. Does Trump winning mean that we still have to deal with Kellyanne Conway? Because right now she’s trying to explain what he meant by rigged. It was only rigged when it erroneously showed he wasn’t winning, she says. (???)

5. The world is still spinning and we’re still on it–proof is in the rising sun. See picture.

6. You didn’t run much of a campaign if you can’t beat someone who has never held political office (especially if you end up winning the popular vote). In MA, use Martha Coakley (Chokely) as your “unelectable” reference point.

7. Speaking of the popular vote, if you win that and don’t win the office, do we rethink the electoral college?

8. Speaking of election “rules”, I think congressional term limits that are off cycle with the presidential elections will bring us a decent national payoff.

9. I’m in FL now and there’s big news about the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress–(ironically?) her name is Stephanie Murphy.

10. I recently watched the documentary “Weiner.” I’ll probably watch the sequel when it comes out; rumored working title is “Hillary & Huma.” Can’t imagine what that hotel room scene was like last night. And I wonder what she’ll say when she breaks her silence.

11. There’s no more or less hate or hope in the world today than there was yesterday, and we all need to take more responsibility for reducing the former and increasing the latter. We all have a choice about whether we want to be bad hombres, nasty women, or good people.

12.  Now I have an idea how the residents of Cleveland felt waking up after Game 7.

13.  The Hillary supporters vomiting hate all over social media this morning are idiotic hypocrites.  Not to mention sore losers.  (See #11.)

14.  I wish the so-called “silent majority” and “forgotten men and women” had had the courage to raise their voices and be part of the dialogue during the campaign.  The end result is me feeling more sandbagged than surprised this morning.

15. If Trump’s campaign demeanor and tone had been remotely like his acceptance speech, he would have won by a landslide, and we’d have known it months ago.

16.  For anyone feeling less human, valid, or valued this morning for whatever reason, you’re making a big mistake.  You still matter.  We all do.

17.  Winners or losers, we all need to bite our tongues like young Barron Trump (see picture) and learn the huge lesson in all of this. If we don’t, that will be the bigger national disgrace.

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today. America is great and we’re all on the same team–so let’s get out there and win this Wednesday.

Airport Associations

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Random stuff I think while sitting in the airport:

  1. I don’t mind business travel once I get to my destination but damn does it ruin my day.  Especially when it’s a weekend.
  2. Super-happy that it’s a bye week for the Pats.  
  3. This woman at the bar must be really hungry.  Or a kidnapee.  She’s commenting about every food she sees and every smell she smells but she seems not allowed to talk to the bartender.
  4. I’m not down with the whole Bucket List concept.  I’m pretty much about “f-ck it; who needs a list?”
  5. First day with no DST makes the airport lounge that much more depressing.
  6. I spend a shit-ton of money supporting my business travel.  I can’t get reimbursed for my beers but what the hell else am I supposed to do once I get through security?  Work?  Then I’m on a crash course to third-world wages.
  7. Yesterday I golfed with one friend and two strangers and had one of the best days of my life.

I’ll wrap up there, because lucky #7 teaches a ginormous lesson.  Be open.  Be surprised. Be happy.  Never miss a chance to do one of the three, and when you get the trifecta, relish it.

Remember Where You Came From

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So…not sure if this is a rant or a lecture or a PSA or something else but it’s definitely not a normal blog post. Read all of it or some of it or none of it. I don’t care. Look at all or some or none of the pictures. Still don’t care.

I’ve had a bit of free time and some surprise peeks of sunshine yesterday so I set about on foot, on what I expected would be a very Griswoldian tour of DC’s highlights.Before I knew it it had converted into a fairly maniacal patriotic quest, fueled by a strange combination of frustration and possibility.  

It started at the Newseum where I counted 6 newspapers that featured headlines other than the debate. Inside the news museum I saw artifacts of terror, headlines through the years, and an eye-popping gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.  

I had stops at the brand-new National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the National Holocaust Museum, where I saw tear-jerking and painful recollections of barbarism and oppression and horror…and of triumph and victory.

I passed by monuments of great people, of Washington and Jefferson and FDR and MLK. And I passed by memorials of nation-shaping events, like WWII and Korea and Vietnam.  

I read inspirational quotes, saw people moved to sobs, and all the while felt the sun on my face. In it all I thought, “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” And I started pretty much to dry heave when I realize that I see us repeating it now. I see a presidential candidate wanting to make America great again when it never stopped being great. I see anger and blame and selective amnesia when it comes to the countless sacrifices that have given us a license to bitch. But enough already.

Stop the complaining and the rhetoric and the bullshit. Be kind. Be happy. Take care of each other. And God bless America.






I See him There, in the Birds…

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So I see my dad in the birds, especially in the hawks…for whatever reason I believe they are part of our collective story.  From the time they swam in my pool right before he died…and looking at the pictures was one of the last things we did together…to the ones soaring intermittently overhead…to the occasional times when one has swooped toward the windshield, gliding up and over, as if it dropped in to say hi.

That’s how I take it, and that’s all that matters.  He was all about nature, and I indulged him his bird talk, maybe because I actually enjoyed it.  It’s different now that he’s gone (what isn’t?), but I find comfort in the birds…as if he’s someone still managing to be here, with me.

This weekend we did our almost-annual trip to Ogunquit, our first without dad…in our favorite little shop I saw this small stone bird, which I bought as a reminder of him and all of our good times and if all that he was and is to me.

Before our walk along the Marginal Way to Perkins Cove, we put all our food in the car lest the seagulls be tempted…and returned to our beach site a few hours later to find that the seagulls had gotten into our garbage, and our other bags…so those of us who had undergarments in their beach bags (not me) were greeted by bras on beach chairs.  When we were driving home and a hawk swooped the windshield, we were sure that my dad had ordered the seagull attack, and that he was close by, laughing.

Too Long, No Excuses, Millions of Reasons…

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…been too long.  Work.  Life.  Running.  Maintaining a relationship.  Taking care of mom.  

Trying to stay focused on living in the moment.  Being mindful.  Kindful.  Trying to be politically aware and politically ignorant all at once.

Great weekend in Chicago last weekend with old friends.  Big house party.  Bulls game.  Belly laughs.  Tequila.  And so it goes.

Be in it,  be all in it.  Because it is all there is.