Just now, I was pushing little stickpins of cloves into the ham for Easter dinner, and a very old memory came back. It’s funny how an aroma can trigger your brain and suddenly you are back in time – about 60 years this time.
Just a little Easter story:
When I was about six, my mother was preparing Easter dinner, and she was getting the ham ready to go into the oven, just like I am doing now.
She went into the pantry for the cloves and the jar was empty. She had forgotten to see if she had had any – which is easy to do with a product that lasts about 17 years.
We lived in a three-family house. My Grandma lived in a little apartment up on the third floor, and my Aunt Evelyn and her family lived on the first floor. We lived in the middle – just like the three bears I thought, because the middle is “just right.”
So my mother said to my sister Claudia:
“Run downstairs and ask Aunt Evelyn if she has any whole cloves.”
And Claudia took off, her thick ponytail bouncing down the stairs.
Three minutes later Claudia returned – with Aunt Evelyn.
“I just had to come up and see for myself,” said Evelyn. “Why you would be asking for such a weird thing on Easter Sunday.”
“What weird thing?” asked my mother.
“Tell your mother what you asked for, honey,” said Aunt Evelyn to Claudia.
“Do you have any old clothes?”
On Sunday, we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant. This used to be our favorite dive – literally a cellar with a raucous bar and tables that wobbled and peanut shells on the floor. But the owner built a new nicer facility, and so now the food is stll good and there are still peanut shells on the floor, but it just isn’t quite as cosy as when it was a dump.
But oh well, things change, and the owner has worked hard and I hope he’s a huge success.
Anyhow, at the table next to us was a young couple. They were very affectionate – especially her. She kept leaning over to caress the boy, and plant kisses on his mouth and cheeks and nose and ears. When people use the cliche, “to shower with kisses” – this girl exemplified that phrase.
I found myself slightly annoyed. And this surprised me, because I have actually extolled the virtues of Public Displays of Affection. We seem to be okay with people staring at their phones in a restaurant, but not with kissing each other. So I reminded myself that these lovers were actually communicating in ways that didn’t involve emojis, and I relaxed and began to enjoy my role as Witness to Ardor.
And then I witnessed something entirely different. Or no… now that I reflect on it… maybe it wasn’t really different at all.
The young woman spilled something.
And with a smile not of embarrassment but of complete composure, she simply got up from the table and took a roll of paper towels from a nearby shelf. And she cleaned up. She moved aside all the dishes and glasses, the silverware and condiments, and wiped down the whole table. She never called over the busy waitress. She just fixed the mess herself.
And she wasn’t done. She tore off more paper towels and wiped the chair, and the table leg. (I didn’t even see what she was wiping, so it could not have been an enormous mess.) And while she was cleaning up, she got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the floor beneath the table.
Then she sat back down and smiled and kissed her boyfriend once again, and finished her meal.
That’s when I knew that this girl did not just possess affection for the boy she loved. She possessed affection for the world. Her sweetness extended to everything. Her PDAs are all-encompassing. And I was not only a witness to young love; I was the fortunate witness to a loving soul.
When the couple got up to leave, the girl picked up from an empty chair at her table an enormous backpack.
This girl could have been off to Mt. Everest.
I didn’t see whether her boyfriend also had such a big backpack. I like to think that he did not. That he traveled light and she took care of everything like she took care of the floor.
And I started to contemplate what might be in that overstuffed huge bag.
There is a beloved (deservedly so) book called “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. It is a collection of related short stories that reveal the souls of the soldiers by the things they carry into war.
I was reminded of this book as I pondered what this amazing young woman brought into the restaurant in her big backpack.
Here’s what I imagined she carried:
A first-aid kit. She would always be prepared with antiseptic and a band-aid. And probably a small vial with antacids and antihistamine and toothache drops. “I have just what you need,” she would say to a woman in the parking lot, as she pulled out the baby aspirin and a fresh diaper.
Dog biscuits. She doesn’t have a dog right now, but she’s always ready in case she meets one on the road. Just to say hello. It’s good to have a treat on hand for a friendly mutt. She goes through a lot of dog biscuits.
Photos of her family. Not on her phone. In a manila envelope with the catch broken off because it has been open and reopened so many times. She has baby pictures of her brother, now in college. She has a photo of her mother in a bathing suit, squinting against the sun. She has a creased and faded wedding photograph of her grandparents, staring seriously at the camera.
And a list of birthdays. She wouldn’t travel anywhere without a list of all her friends’ and family’s birthdays. And a few birthday cards she could pop in the mail. My father kept a list of birthdays. I found it in his wallet after he died.
A smooth pebble from a long ago trip to the beach. She holds it when she feels anxious, and as it warms in her hand, it calms her.
Socks. Specifically, new men’s socks. Three pairs. Whenever she sees socks on sale she stocks up. When she encounters a homeless person, she gives him a pair of socks. Good clean socks are her contribution to making someone’s life just a little better.
Books. You never know when there will be a few moments to read. Waiting in line. Traffic jams. Your companion tied up on a long phone call. Right now she has “Huckleberry Finn” – because she never tires of it; “The Double Helix” by James Watson – because she wants to learn and wants to learn about how you learn; and the Edward Gorey’s “The Ghastlycrumb Tinies” – because…well, why not?
A notebook with a pretty cover and the pages mostly full of doodles. Expanding spirals flowing from a purple pen. Every so often, a page with the beginnings of a song.
And at the very bottom of her big backpack, folded in tissue: an ivory lace dress. A wedding dress. Because her lover asked her, and she said maybe. And when they get to where they are going, she might.
Lately I have been bombarded on Instagram with ads for apps to photoshop my selfies.
I love selfies. I admit it.
Although I will also admit that I like them much much better when I look nice.
One day late last summer we took the dog to the beach, and he was so adorable. I was snapping pics with my phone like crazy. Of course, in the bright sunlight I couldn’t see what I was shooting. When we went back to the car and I got a look at my photos, I was appalled to find that I had inadvertently flipped the camera around, and I had 47 shots of me, not the dog. And although I was laughing and delighted at the dog’s antics, happiness and delight was not what I looked liked. No. Nope. Sorry. What I looked like was:
I was mugging and grinning like an idiot as I encouraged my pooch. I suppose I should have saved at least one of them so I could illustrate my complete goofiness. No. Nope. Sorry. I couldn’t delete those 47 photos fast enough.
I recognize that sometimes I look good and sometimes I look awful. And that people looking at me see both. But I have convinced myself that, since I am my own worst critic, my friends and family mostly see me as I am in my best photos. And if I destroy the evidence that sometimes I look unstellar, I can be content with my looks.
Which brings me back to photoshop apps.
The latest technology is incredibly robust. We are no longer talking about retouching. More like re-mauling.
We are not talking about blurring out a blemish. We are talking about turning your skin into glowing alabaster. You can change your hair both color and style and thickness. You can change your eye color and add liner and lashes. You can plump up you lips and lengthen your neck.
But even though I am desperate to look beautiful in photographs, what I really want is not to look beautiful, but to BE beautiful.
By this I mean – I want to look like myself.
I want to look as beautiful as possible, but I want to be considered beautiful for what I actually look like. Not for some superimposed technology.
We already have impossible standards of beauty. Idealized versions that are getting more unobtainable every day.
We are never enough.
Even a woman as amazingly beautiful as Scarlett Johansson. Her photos get retouched because in this world her amazing beauty is not quite amazingly beautiful enough.
Which Scarlett should a teenage girl aspire to look like?
How about this one?
Impossible standards are just that – impossible. Trying to look like a movie star – who doesn’t even really look like the photo you are looking at – well, that is as self-destructive as whacking yourself with a pretty stick.
So photoshopping my selfies?
If it is depressing to compare myself to unrealistic Hollywood standards, I can just imagine how depressing it would be if the unrealistic standard was a phony picture of myself. I may understand why I can’t look as good as a movie star, but when I can’t even look as good as ME??? Why, every time I looked in the mirror I would cry.
Not measuring up to myself? WTF?
I don’t want to be a picture of myself to be better than the real thing.
I have no problem with fixing a stray hair. Or wearing a little (or more) makeup. Or taking pictures when the lighting is flattering.
But artificially making myself more beautiful than I am?
Well. I think I am beautiful enough.
This morning a nice friend I’m just getting to know was discussing her mother. It seems her mother was a tennis instructor for many years. She’s now retired and neither teaches tennis nor even plays any longer.
However, she still wears her tennis outfits. Not once in a while – but extremely often. Like all the time often. She wears her little tennis skirts and sneakers to the grocery store and the library.
It’s who she is.
And I love that.
I love that we can send messages about who we are on the inside by what we wear and look like on the outside.
Some people do that with designer labels. I confess, I love the Coach bag my husband gave me for my birthday a few years ago.
Some people do that with slogan t-shirts. (and once in a while, I am even one of those people)
Some people do that with ethnic clothing that represents their heritage or religion. Like kilts or saris or hijabs.
Some people do that with the uniforms of their professions or hobbies – like nurses or cable tv repairmen – or tennis players.
Some people do that by wearing a costume once in while to break out of their own stereotype and make a freer statement. I think the fact that my all-time favorite Halloween costume is Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz says a whole lot about me.
Some people do that with crazy hairstyles or eccentric makeup – to signal that they are not about to conform.
Some people – currently a lot of people – do that with tattoos.
I personally don’t like tattoos. (although I am not condemning those who do.)
But I’ll admit that I’m impressed by those peoples’ commitment and by their complete confidence that their identities will never change. To use permanent ink to make a permanent statement about who you are takes a level of faith that I do not have.
I believe what I believe with my whole heart.
But what if my heart should change?
I was born a brunette. I used to wear frilly anklets with sandals. In 1962, I wanted to be a cheerleader. In 1968, I wanted to be a nurse. In 1974, I wanted to be a writer. In 1981, I got an MBA. In 1997, I was a Vice President of Finance. In 2001, I became a writer.
I want to show the world what I am – but I want flexibility to change what I am if I want to. My Statement is fluid.
Right now I am telling the world about myself:
I love a nice rosy blush, because it presents my rosy outlook.
I love soft clothes. Even when I wear black or grey, I like a fabric that is soft. That feels warm to the touch. That gives comfort. Soft clothes represents my accessibility.
I love to wear my leopard print raincoat, because it is practical and funky at the same time – and so am I.
I love my blond hair – I want to tell the world that 66 is not old.
I love good jewelry. I am the real thing. I am valuable.
But I could change.
I could want grey hair (which would be pretty easy for me right now) and present the image of a kindly grandmother – which would also be nice. Or I could decide I wanted to show the world that I am earthy and practical, and swap my designer purse for a burlap bag – (a cool one, though.)
I think most people would benefit by keeping an open mind about their own mind.
Suppose someone gave you a GREAT hat. But months later you realized that the person who gave you the hat was not so GREAT.
Why, you could just take it off.
When I was in college, I had a 40% rule.
I was in college for a very long time. I liked school. I changed my major a few times both because I was interested in everything and also to make it last longer. I took extra courses. When my parents finally told me they had educated me quite enough (which they had), I reluctantly graduated.
Anyway, with my many years of experience with college studies, I learned that mostly you have one great course in a five-course semester. If you have two, you are going to have a spectacular semester. If you are really interested for 2 of your five classes, you are happy 40% of the time. And that’s good enough. Very good, as a matter of fact.
(I also used to advise my younger co-students – which was almost everybody, I stayed in school so long – that if possible, take the professor and not the course. A good teacher makes everything more interesting. A bad teacher can make the most fascinating subject into a big sleepy yawnfest.)
A while back I read Dan Harris’ 10% Happier, a book about meditation. It’s excellent. His premise is that if a small change could make even you even a little happier, wouldn’t you try it? Why not be a little happier?
And I was thinking about that book and about my 40% rule in college, and I realized how I could put them together right now. If “40% Happy” is sufficient when you are young, imagine how great it is when you are older.
And when you think about it, you only need to be 10% happier to get to your 40%. Because you already sleep 30% of the day, and that’s a really happy time.
Here are some suggestions to add 10% more happiness to your day:
– Find a really beautiful tree in your neighborhood, and any time you go out, make sure you drive by that tree and let its awesomeness envelop you.
– Put a dollar bill and a wrapped candy in the pocket of every coat you own. When you put on your coat, you will find some money and something sweet.
– Wash your bed linens in the evening. When you take them from the dryer, put then back on the bed while they are still warm, and get right in.
– Say “I love you so much and I’m so glad you called” when you answer the phone. Say this to the recorded voice in the next robocall you receive. It will make you feel a lot better than swearing at the recording.
– On the subject of phone calls, keep silly putty on your desk – I guarantee this will improve your phone calls.
– Did you ever notice how your pets will know what time the sun comes in what window? Sit by that window too for a moment.
– Get yourself a really nice pen and a notebook with a soft leather cover than you love to touch. This will make business meetings 10% better.
– Make breakfast special. In nice weather, sit outside in your bathrobe with your coffee. In bad weather, wrap up in a blanket at the table. Use a wine glass for your orange juice. Use real napkins.
– Bring a pair of slippers to work. Put them in your file cabinet. If you have to work late, take your shoes off and wear your slippers.
– Relax in a nice hot bath. Use some fragrant bath salts like lavender or eucalyptus. Bring an orange with you and eat it slowly in the tub.
– When you get up in the morning, flex your muscles. Feel your biceps, Be impressed.
– Leave a book of poetry by your bed. Read a poem before you go to sleep.
– Watch an old favorite movie. Make popcorn.
Would you really pooh-pooh a few minutes of fun because it doesn’t last longer?
Which reminds me of a story.
Thirty years ago I was in a relationship with a nice, but melancholy, man. One day we kept his 10-year-old son out of school, and we all played hookey together. We went skiing. We had a fantastic time. The weather was perfect We all skiied till we were exhausted – which for me was about seventeen minutes – but father and son skiied on and on joyously for hours. On the drive home, the young boy unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned forward and put his head on my shoulder. I never felt closer to a kid. I was so happy. When we returned home, we had hot dogs and hot chocolate, and the kid went right to bed. As I was getting my things together to return to my own place, I turned to see that my boyfriend was in tears.
“What in the world is wrong?” I asked.
‘It really kills me,” he said, “that we can’t have fun like this every day.”
The fun made you miserable because it wasn’t eternal?
Anyway…. enough of sad, ridiculous immature men…
Let’s not devalue a few minutes of sheer happiness.
And I know just the place you can get it.
The Pet Supply Store
There’s probably one in your town. PetSmart, PetcCo…. you know – those collosal kibble castles.
Whether you have pets or not, you need to stop by on a busy Saturday.
At the pet supplies superstore, their motto is: “Well-behaved pets on leashes are always welcome.”
That’s such a trip.
First, you’ve got folks who have these sweet little dogs who are trying on sweaters. Dogs who all look like someone’s grandma. They really should be wearing pearls.
And then there’s the other group.
Pet parents who think maybe – just maybe – this time their dog will be well-behaved. The ultimate optimists. Whose dogs are peeing in the aisles and sniffing butts and dragging their owners down the hamster aisle.
I’m in the latter group.
I end up spending a lot of money there, because my Theo is a shoplifter. And once the chew toy is already in his mouth, it’s a little awkward to put it back all wet. And with a corner torn off.
If you are really lucky, they’ll be an obedience class going on. You will get to see a whole bunch of puppies with the attention span of the fleas their collars are supposed to repel. Puppies so wiggly they can’t possibly ‘Sit’. They excel at getting tangled in their leashes and at knocking each other over. They excel at adorable.
And then there’s cats. Occasionally you will see a cat on a leash, which is quite wonderfully weird. Mostly though, you will see the cats in the adoption center. The best moment is if you get to see one going home. Maybe with you.
The grooming salon is all windows so you can watch the dogs get their cute or unfortunate hairdos. Last week when I was walking by, there was a big tough guy watching the dogs grooming from outside on the sidewalk. He grinned when he noticed me, and said, “I can just watch these pups all day!” I agree. This is better than “Survivor.”
Spend a few minutes, too, with the fish, the iguanas, the hamsters and mice and gerbils, and the huge and tiny birds. If you take your well-behaved pet, though, you may want to wait for another time, as you really don’t want tragedy to ensue.
Years ago, a coworker told me that when she was broke she took her two-year-old to the pet store, and told her it was the zoo.
And you know what? Why not think of it as a little free zoo? Why not spend an hour being entertained by screeching parrots and dogs in tutus?
Every day does not have to be the perfect ski vacation. Sometimes an hour smiling at shy cats and berserck puppies is fine too.
PS – You can still buy the kindle edition of my novel JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED for just 99 cents until March 30. Here’s the link: JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED.
I overheard the most ordinary – yet extraordinary – conversation yesterday.
Two friends were catching up after our Yoga class. One had just returned from visiting her son and grandchildren.
“I see my grandchildren so much more than I ever thought I would,” the woman said. “It’s such an easy trip. Bradley [our Connecticut airport] is so fantastic.”
“I know!” said her friend. “Convenient parking, easy walks to the gates… we are so lucky!”
When was the last time you heard someone say something nice about AN AIRPORT????
But it’s true. We have a nice airport. And there are great airports all over the world. We can go anywhere. I did not travel the ocean in steerage to go to my business meeting in France.
I’m not saying we don’t have lots of problems with flying. But my God, we are flying.
And there are so many things that we complain about that are really such first-world problems.
And again, I’m not saying that first-world problems are never serious – holy crap, there are many things on this planet that are a mess, including this planet.
I’m just saying let’s focus please on the important concerns of our life and our world, and not bitch quite so much about the remarkable and wonderful things in our life.
Like cell phones.
- “My phone battery drains like a sink.”
- “I never have any bars.”
- “The memory sucks.”
- “This app takes forever to load.”
Well how about this:
- “I don’t have to look for a pay phone.”
- “I just showed my Mom new pictures of the grandkids.”
- “Honey, pick up bread on your way home.”
- “I was about to buy this new toothpaste, but it says here that it makes your gums bleed.”
- “In one quarter of a mile, turn right.”
And television. “Oh there’s nothing but crap on TV.” Well, it’s true that most of your 200 channels aren’t exactly Hamlet, but what did you turn the TV on for anyway? Mostly for mindless entertainment, and a way to unwind – am I right? And you have 200 choices. Remember when we had 3 channels and the picture rolled and you needed tin foil on the rabbit ears? And we LOVED TV anyway. And be honest, we weren’t watching Hamlet back then either. Am I right, Gilligan?
And restaurants. “There’s nowhere good to eat out. Overpriced or junk food – that’s all you get.” Well, I know that some of you may live out where there are only soybean fields, but for most of us, we just need to Google ‘restaurants near me’ and pick something. I added ‘within 10 miles’ on my Google search, so I only got 101 choices. And you know what? – I don’t have to cook the food myself or do the dishes in any of those 101 places.
And supermarkets. While we are talking food, someone I know recently said, “The supermarket in my town is horrid.” That’s so strange. I walked into my supermarket yesterday which is in a much smaller town, and there were two aisles of apples – ordinary, organic, loose, bagged. And it isn’t even apple season. And oh my God, THE CHEESE!
And costs. Yes. Stuff is expensive. Yes, I remember when gas prices were 40 cents a gallon. But I also made $1.60 an hour.
And by the way, your pen is not shit, your clothes do not fall apart in the wash, your bank is online, the hospital will stitch up your kid’s knee, and your car has seatbelts.
You want to complain?
How about complaining that some people are hungry and some people do not have homes?
PS: If you’d like to read my novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED – you can download the Kindle version from March 24 – 30 for just 99 Cents! That’s like 3/10ths of a cent per page. Or, since it took me three years to write the book, you are just paying me 33 cents a year! Well below minimum wage! Just click here: JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED
Yesterday, when I was driving home from the supermarket, ahead of me was one of those big, fancy pickup trucks. As the light turned red, I came up close on his tail, and I saw that he had a decal on the back window of his cab. This was no normal decal – no Praise The Lord or even a Castrol Motor Oil. Nope. For one thing the decal was HUMONGOUS – it took up the whole back window.
And its message?
Yes, that’s what it said:
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get that decal out of my mind. I kept wondering what it meant. I thought perhaps it was the name of a rock band. It seemed like it would be a good name for a heavy metal group, and since I am not very knowledgeable in the metal genre (meaning: I like James Taylor and I’m on Medicare), I figured that must be the answer. This trucker must be a big fan – or maybe the sound guy.
I finally googled it.
There is no band called Locally Hated.
But there are dozens of web sites where you can buy these decals, bumper stickers, and even clothing. It seems that Locally Hated is a popular slogan with certain people.
I visited half a dozen or so of those online Locally Hated shops. Not one of them gave me an explanation of that it meant. And I googled Locally Hated Meaning and Locally Hated Origin. Nothing.
So it must mean just what it says.
But if Locally Hated is a popular slogan with certain people, that leaves me with an even bigger question. Who ARE these certain people who want to advertise that they are Locally Hated?
For the life of me … (that’s one of my mother’s favorite expressions by the way)…For the life of me, I cannot understand WHY anyone would be proud that his neighbors can’t stand him. Happy that people you’ve lived next to, for years perhaps, are praying that you’ll move away?
They must be like the other people I cannot comprehend: like those who brag that they cheat on their taxes – or on their spouse – yet still condemn others’ beliefs and lifestyles. Proud of their tempers. Proud of their hate. Never forgive; Never forget. The person on Twitter who hoped I would die because I expressed a different political opinion.
And of course, now that I googled it and browsed those sites, I am now getting ads on Facebook offering me all kinds of Locally Hated merchandise.
But, please. No thank you.
Although some people boast about not caring what other people think, and I do agree that we shouldn’t be held hostage to other people’s opinions, I have no wish (not even way down my wishlist) to be locally hated.
My goal is to be a good person. My happiness may not be dependent on whether I am liked, but I do hope – as a good person – that I am not hated by my neighbors.
I think there may be a market for a nicer, kinder, decal.
I’d like mine to say:
Maybe I can even find the kind of vinyl decal that I can put on and peel off at will, so I can change my message as needed.
Here’s what I hope to represent to my neighbors:
Maybe I can start a little business. I can offer decals and bumper stickers that brag about how nice we all are.
I can do all these little sayings with lawn signs too. It could be very effective. Our neighbors would know as they walk or drive by that we are sweet and considerate.
I wonder if this country would change if we all advertised our kindness.
You! I mean You!
In my obsession with Kindness this year, I have written about the many kindnesses we should extend to others, and the many kindnesses that others extend to us.
But Kindness starts in the mirror.
Why do you have to be so hard on yourself? Can’t you see how wonderful you are? How much you deserve good things?
When I was a kid, I knew a marvelous, intelligent old woman, Rachel, who had been a widow for a long time. As I grew older, and had to spend more time by myself, I asked her the secret to living alone. She said, “I treat myself like company every day.”
Rachel prepared nice meals. Used the good china. Dressed up even when she didn’t leave the house.
She was kind. She was kind to everyone, and she was especially kind to herself.
So to be nicer to yourself, why not start with Rachel’s habits?
Make nice meals for yourself. Good food, not junk food. Even my mother, who is 93, will broil some salmon, with a side of nice broccoli. She can do that for herself, and you can too.
And use nice dishes. Have a glass of wine in a beautiful glass. I didn’t learn this only from Rachel. My husband believes in enjoying your good china and crystal. And our everyday stoneware is lovely – he found it as we strolled by a shop window, and fell in love. Even a man can enjoy a beautiful table. Enjoy it every day.
And no cheap coffee mugs either – although they certainly don’t have to be too pricey. I am myself a bit hard on cups. But I bought a reasonably priced pretty set of six recently – (to replace the previous broken and chipped cups). They are polka-dotted – each a different color, and I find myself finding pleasure in picking which cup I will use each morning. Blue? Yellow? – how nice to enjoy this little ritual.
Back to the subject of food. If you ARE going to indulge in something not quite so healthy – as you should once in a while – choose the really good stuff. My motto is: If I am going to eat empty calories, I am going to make them the absolute best empty calories in the world. No cheap chocolates for me. No bland cookies. No gritty ice cream. And I find that a small portion of something amazing is much more satisfying that a lot of something crappy.
But you should have an inexpensive indulgence too. An indulgence that is: Not Food. I think you are being kind to yourself if you can find an inexpensive pleasure or hobby to indulge in. I like makeup – I don’t need a new outfit when I want some retail therapy. A new lipstick will do. Maybe for you it’s music. Or a pedicure. Or going to the movies. Or maybe coloring books.
Speaking of coloring books. Be kind to youself by allowing yourself to like what you like. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – probably worth repeating a thousand times: Do not be ashamed of what you like. Criticizing your own taste is so unkind. Don’t hide what gives you pleasure. It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s a pleasure. Period. So what if you like coloring books or word-search puzzles or kitten memes or “The Bachelor”? (Although you may want to re-think “The Bachelor.”)
Or even – and I realize I am contradicting myself here in both talking about food and talking about cheap food – sometimes low-brow food is exactly what you need. Take comfort when you need it from comfort food. There’s a special delight in tastes from your childhood. I still love peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and often took one to work even when I was a big-shot corporate vice president.
Here’s something that everyone can do to be kind to oneself. Be clean. No grungy clothes or grungy hair. That’s only permitted if you have the flu, and even then, you will feel a little better if you clean yourself up. Iron your clothes. I love to iron right before I wear something – it’s so fresh and neat and warm. And it smells good. And so should you. Whether if it’s just a nice lavender moisturizing lotion or a luxury perfume, take those few extra seconds to smell nice. It’s a bonus to anyone near you, but do it for you. I’m smelling myself right now, and I’m super nice-smelling and it cheers me right up.
If you need to get stinky, do it with pleasure. Find a sport you like. I like Yoga and Zumba. And I’ve just discovered “Pound” classes, and I am drumming my ass off (literally). But even more than strenuous exercise, by all means: Take A Walk. Walking is so lovely. It really clears your mind. I bring my phone along, for safety’s sake because I walk in the woods and because I see so many beautiful sights I want to save them in photos. But please, don’t check your mail or Facebook or Twitter. Don’t look at the internet. That is not being kind to yourself. Looking at trees is ever so much kinder.
And if you can, bring a dog on your walk. Dogs notice everything, and will help you notice too. The other day Theo found an antler that had been shed by a neighbor-deer. And he finds acorns and frogs – and sometimes carcasses of dead things, but we won’t talk about that. Dogs are so happy when they are out for a walk. They like it so much, you have to spell the word W-A-L-K, if you are not prepared to leave right that minute. Their joy will bring you joy too. But if you can’t find a dog, walk with a friend. Try to do it quietly. It’s so nice to just enjoy each other company (and each other’s smell) – you can leave the chatting for another time. And there’s always the possibility of a walk by yourself. Your own company is very peaceful and kind.
(By the way, lots of shelters would love you to volunteer to walk a lonely dog.)
Be kind to yourself in your environment too. It has always been my strong belief that a clean house is a gift you give yourself. You deserve to live in a neat, orderly fresh home. So just do it. Put on some music (I like cleaning house to Paul Simon’s Graceland) and vacuum and dust and clean the bathroom. Wipe the kitchen counters. Put away your laundry. You will feel calmer. And you will be healthier.
And to be extra, extra kind to yourself – once in a while (or all the time if you can), put a bouquet of fresh flowers on your table. Give yourself that beauty. You deserve it.
There’s an old joke: The definition of a split second is the interval between when the light turns green and when the guy behind you honks his horn.
We all know we’ve been there too….both as the honker and the honkee.
But I’d like to suggest – as part of my Year Of Kindness – that we give it a rest.
Let’s try to give everyone just a second or two more of our patience.
I’m not asking you to wait until you’ve missed the green light completely. Just give the poor schmuck a second.
And here are a few other moments of patience we should consider:
– When you ask your spouse to do something, and he says “Sure,” but remains on the couch. Give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Maybe ten seconds’ worth. Or if you love the person, maybe even 20. He might get up and do as you asked, and you won’t have to yell obscenities at your alleged loved one.
– When the old person in the supermarket stops her cart in the middle of the aisle while she peruses the canned goods. Are you really in such a hurry that you have to move her cart aside while she picks up the green beans? Wait a second, please. If you move her cart, most likely she will apologize, when maybe it should have been you doing the apologizing.
– When you are out walking your dog, and he wants to go back to get another whiff of that tree. Go back and let him sniff. Sure he is supposed to be obedient. But you are walking the dog for his benefit; it should be fun for him too. Smelling pee is the dog equivalent of window shopping.
– When the sales clerks are talking to each other instead of waiting on you. Yes, that is rude as well as bad customer service. But I was recently waiting for the deli clerk to cut me some bologna, and she was chatting with her fellow bologna-cutting co-worker. It probably took her an extra twelve seconds to give me my cold cuts because she was chatting. But it occurred to me that I used to like to talk to my friends at work too. And I could spare the 12 seconds.
– When the guy ahead of you finishes pumping his gas, and then gets in his car, and you wait for what seems like a century for him to drive away so you can pull up. He’s putting his credit card away. You are not going to run out of gas while he buckles his seat belt. And on that subject, if you are ready to take out your paintball gun because you are waiting for my parking place, just remember that you are watching me pull out. I am not a good parker or un-parker, so I am being extra careful. I’m slow BECAUSE you are watching me.
– When your pre-schooler – or your oldest relative – is telling a story, and OMG, it is the most meandering route to the point ever. Please. You love this happy wanderer. Let him tell the story. Avoid suggesting he wrap it up. Try to limit the eye-rolls. (You can roll them if you are on the phone.)
– When your waiter disappears. Talk to your dinner companion. You can do it. Eating alone? Talk to the people near you. Don’t know what to say? I’ve started asking folks to name their favorite Beatles song. Interesting conversation guaranteed.
– When the sermon is long. Let your mind wander. The service will be over eventually.
– When the traffic is backed up. Let you mind wander. You’ll get there eventually.
– When you’ve already been in the waiting room for forty minutes, and you’re finally in the examining room and you’ve been shivering in your paper nightgown for another 15 minutes, and the doctor still hasn’t come in. Let your mind wander. Pretend that the guy in the next room has cancer and the doctor is holding his hand while he cries. There, now. Don’t you feel a lot better?
What I am saying is: Just Try. Just try to give people a few more seconds of your time.
I am not saying there is not a place for righteous indignation. For demanding change. For not tolerating things to remain as they are.
But that place is for when people – or their rights – are in jeopardy. Be impatient for justice.
Not when you wish little annoying stuff would move along more to your liking.
Let me put it this way:
Patience = Good: When your loved one, neighbor – or the poor schmuck behind
the counter- slightly inconviences you.
Patience = Bad: When people, nature – or the world – is suffering.