When I was a kid, I used to play this game when I watched TV. Sometimes I played with my sisters, but mostly I just played it alone.
The game was: How Much.
How Much was played during commercials. Bad commercials.
Example: A commercial with a woman with huge armpit stains. She gets in an elevator, and the other folks crinkle up their noses in the the look that says Peee-Yoo.
So – How much money would it take for you to play the part of the B.O. Lady in the commercial? Knowing all your friends will see it (and your enemies) and will tease you for the period known as Forever.
Now, this was back in the early sixties, and I was a kid, and money was different, so basically the game was
C) Not For Any Money.
I figured I would be the B.O. Lady for $100.
I’d be the extreme dandruff lady or have the heartbreak of psoriasis for only $10, though. Because in those commercials, the victims get cured and a boyfriend too.
But no money in the world (or a boyfriend at the end) would get me in a diarrhea commercial.
I still play this game during really bad commercials. But my financial requirements have gone way up. It’s:
A) Ten Thousand Dollars
B) One Million Dollars
C) Not For Any Money.
But the interesting thing is – my threshold for humiliation is much higher – meaning I would be willing to play almost any role for $10,000. I could be constipated or phlegmy or have bad breath or even bad children for a decent paycheck. Embarrassed? As Liberace used to say about the ridicule he endured – “I cry all the way to the bank.”
And the reason is simple. I can separate myself from a character in a commercial. My self-esteem is not based on what others see. Adult diapers? No problem.
What is a problem, however, is what I promote. Not For Any Money is my answer to products that are dangerous or politicians or causes that I would never support.
And the How Much game came in handy several years ago. A headhunter called me with a very lucrative offer to work for a big tobacco company.
Adult diapers and stool softeners can actually help people. Tobacco cannot.
Money is nice. Money is necessary. But Ethics are also necessary.
Although the benefits (or at least lack of harm) for lots of products can be debated, endorsing an idea or person is a much more substantial question for me. How Much is enough to even appear to lend support to policies that would hurt someone or limit someone’s rights? That espouse Hate?
Of course, I have the luxury of being in a position to say no.
If I were starving, would I endorse a product or person or idea I hated? Maybe.
I hope not.
Once in a while, I still ask myself,
I’ve been terrible with my blogging lately.
I want to say I’ve been busy – and that’s true enough. But moreover, I think I just needed to take a break.
I didn’t want to focus on something else. I wanted to UNfocus.
The end of winter is always my least energetic time. I am tired of being cold. I am tired of being housebound. I am tired of boots.
As Goldie Hawn said in “Private Benjamin” – “I want to wear my sandals.”
But I’ve tried to stay engaged. I’ve done lots and lots of watercolors. Two or three every week. Mostly dogs and cats, which it seems I have a feel for. Here’s one of my recent favorites.
I’ve also continued to tweet Theo’s pup tip of the day. A bit of wisdom from my dog. I’ve been writing one little snippet of advice (with an accompanying photo) for almost a year now. Someone asked me recently how I can think of all those little lessons. I answered that I didn’t have to come up with all of them – only one a day. If you break your projects down into the smallest piece, it really is achievable.
Here’s a recent Theo tip:
But I’ve also been ruminating (and vegging).
I’ve been working up to a decision. Something that I’ve gone back and forth about wanting.
Sometimes you want something very badly one minute, and the next minute you absolutely abhor the idea.
Or you know you really do want it but you also know it will be really hard work.
Or you think about how much joy this action might bring to your life. But on the other hand – your life is pretty good right now, and what if this makes it worse, not better.
Or you want it very badly, but not everyone in your family is quite on board. How much does what you want take precedence over what someone else wants? Do your wants ever come first?
And so back and forth I went. While the weather stayed shitty and my energy level was just as bad.
And now it’s officially Spring. I see the tiny sprouts of daffodils peeking up through the snowy ground. They are ready for Spring, despite the continued cold. And I am more than ready.
And I was finally ready to take a chance.
To go for my crazy idea.
And here’s that crazy idea.
Welcome to my crazy life, Henry.
May you learn to love me and Tom and Theo and Lillian and Thor and Niko and Athena and Moonlight.
May they all learn to love you.
I already do.
Every day on Twitter, my dog Theo posts a tidbit of advice for a happier life. I will admit that I help him because he doesn’t type or spell well.
But Theo also helps me because he definitely provides me with a happier life every day.
Someone asked me recently how I (or Theo) come up with all those bits of wisdom. I answered that I didn’t have to come up with ALL of them… only one. One each day. I have broken down my project into just one sentence a day. One good sentence. And looking at it that way, it doesn’t seem so difficult.
Of course, some of my/our sentences are better than others. Theo has his mediocre advice days. But there’s always something. Maybe a mediocre line of encouragement may resonate with one person who is looking for just that tiny snippet of support.
Most of our inspiration comes from love. From understanding. From the trust and affection that my friends and my family (and dog) and even strangers reveal to me constantly.
But once in a while, Theo is inspired not by the goodness of our souls but by some display of unkindness.
Today, for example, he wrote (and I transcribed)
The idea for this tweet came from the comment I received on my birthday blog. (What You Can Learn)
I had tons of sweet and supportive comments on this post, in which I wrote that twenty years -perhaps how much time I have left in this world – is still plenty of time to learn and do a great amount of wonderful stuff.
But to my astonishment, I also got this:
OMG! Evil? Psychopath? Drop dead?
No one has ever said that to me. Ever. In my whole life. Even my great enemy, whose name I am not sure of but it might have been Joyce, who, when I was thirteen, called me “Stupid” – and that hurt a lot. But evil?
After my heart stopped pounding and the flames stopped coming out of my every orifice, I thought about what part I really do play in this apparently-young person’s anger.
Have I played a part in destroying children’s future? Yes, I think I have. My generation has certainly significant guilt in ignoring climate change. And it is mostly people my age who are still denying our environmental crisis because that is so much easier than trying to do something about it. We are definitely leaving our children a horrifying prospect. So if that is what she means (and I am assuming it is a woman, since most of my readers are women, not for any other reason), yes, I am guilty. I’m sorry that I have been as careless as most people with the trail of waste I have made my whole life. I promise to try not to add any further burden in my remaining years.
As for my part in destroying the economy – Sorry, no. Only rich people have had the power to do that. Us regular people have just tried to get the bills paid. I have no responsibility for whatever it is she may mean – and I am unsure what that may be. I’m not sure the economy is even that bad – although I am sure that wealth is unfairly distributed. I have used the only power I have – my wallet and my vote – to support a fairer allocation of wealth, health care, and education.
Laughing smugly? I laugh a lot. I love to laugh. I also cry a lot. But smug? No, I honestly am not smug. I truly believe I have empathy and respect. And you can’t be smug unless you have neither. (I do admit to a kind of smugness when folks use the wrong ‘its’. But that may not qualify me as evil.)
I could have deleted that comment. Some of my friends thought I should. But I thought about all the sadness and anger that must have precipitated that response. Something hurt that child badly. Even if it was not me. And that makes me sad.
So I wrote:
I wish I had been more eloquent. But it will do.
As Theo said, I hope she feels better soon.
And as far as my dropping dead – that will come soon enough.
About a year ago, I wrote about kindness and friendship, and how I helped but ultimately failed a dear friend.
I discovered yesterday that at the time I wrote that essay, my friend had already been dead for two years.
Someone I loved – someone who had helped me and hurt me and I had helped and hurt in return – had died and I didn’t know it. This has added to my guilt and all my other mixed emotions I hold for this woman.
But in the end, I think the conclusions I drew last year concerning our friendship are still true.
Here is that essay:
Terms Of Endearment
I can easily come up with dozens of little kindnesses that I’ve experienced lately. If I go back further, I can come up with hundreds. Maybe thousands in my whole lifetime, which is about 2/3 of a century now. I’m grateful for those kindnesses and also grateful that I remember them. I’d hate to let a kindness be forgotten.
But I am now thinking of kindnesses that I myself have offered, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I seem to have forgotten most of them.
Maybe it is a virtue to pay a kindness and let it go.
But what if it is because I have been stingy with my own kindnesses?
I really hope not. I know I pay a lot of compliments. And not just lip service – I try to recognize excellence – to notice and call it out.
I tell people when I like their shoes, or when they have a great idea, or when their kids are fun to be around. I tell loved ones I like how they smell when I hug them – because I do.
I try to be considerate. I hold the door for people. I let people cut in line at the checkout – or change lanes on the road. I pick up trash.
And when I observe someone being nice to other people, I tell them that they made my day better too. Yesterday I was in the drug store and an old lady (probably my age) was shopping with a teenager. And the kid said, “I’ll put it back. It’s too much money for eye shadow, Grandma.” The lady said, “I don’t think it’s expensive if you like it.”So I went up to them and said to the woman, “That’s a really nice thing to say.”
So I guess I do a little to contribute to the kindness in the world.
But I think I could do better.
I need to be a little bigger in my kindness.
I’m trying. I joined my community’s preservation and beautification organization – and I helped with their website, and I planted daffodils this fall, and sorted returnables for their recycling program. Not much really, but it’s a start.
I think maybe I am a little cautious because the biggest favor I ever did someone backfired. And I was hurt.
Years ago I had a very dear friend, who I will call Anna. We met at work, and after both of us moved on to other jobs, we stayed close. We went to the movies together, and out dancing, and shopping. We had dinner once a week. We used to call our dinners, “My Dinner With Andre” dinners, since we had long, crazy, wonderful conversations. Anna drove over to my place late one night when my boyfriend broke up with me so I would have someone to cry with. And I took her to the hospital when she needed outpatient surgery.
We had been friends for about ten years when Anna called me early one Saturday and asked me to meet her for breakfast. Over coffee, she told me that she had gotten herself into serious financial difficulties, including pressure from the IRS. I loved this woman. So I bailed her out. I loaned her enough money to pay off her tax debt, her other past due bills, and the next month’s rent.
But then the worst thing happened. And it wasn’t that Anna didn’t pay me back. It was that she dropped out of my life. She made excuses why she couldn’t meet for dinner, or see a movie. After a while she didn’t even answer my phone calls.
I felt horrible. I thought at the time – and still do – that she couldn’t pay me back and that was embarrassing for her. And so she couldn’t face me.
I did finally hear from her years later. Out of the blue, she phoned me. Said she was sorry she had stayed away and wanted to see me. I met her at a diner for lunch. She was the same sweet woman I had cared so much about. She was also broke again and asked me for money. I gave her everything I had in my wallet and went home. I never saw her again.
It broke my heart.
I have been reflecting on this whole experience lately, as I have been thinking so much about Kindness and being a good human being.
But the moral of this story is not ‘Don’t lend money to a friend.’
For I would give Anna the money again.
The loss of money was not meaningful, and besides, I didn’t lose it. I used it to give respite – however short that respite may have been – to a friend when she needed it. It wasn’t the loss of money. It was the loss of friendship.
There are lots of good reasons why friendships end, but money should not be one of those reasons.
And I don’t blame Anna either. Whatever hardships – whatever demons – she was experiencing – who am I to judge?
My mistake – and it was MINE – was that I did not discuss the terms.
Not the terms of the loan.
The terms of our friendship.
The Terms of Endearment.
For here is what I should have said:
“Anna, this money is a gift to you because you are my friend and I want to help you. If someday you can return this gift to me, I would accept it with love. We will always be friends, regardless. I’ll call you and you’ll call me, and we will have breakfast and go to the movies and have great intriguing conversations. Our friendship is a gift. It is not on loan.”
Well, here it is again.
I’m now 68.
How in the world did that happen?
In some ways, being 68 is scary. But overall, it’s not so bad.
My father lived to 88. My mother is still gracing this world with her lovely presence at 95. So I figure I probably still have at least 20 years left.
My life is more than 75% done. I want to make the most of that last 25%.
But the years go by so fast as you get older. Remember how long the summers were when you were a kid? Now in June, you say, “I need to get to the beach,” and before you know it, it’s September and you didn’t make it.
So I know that a season can escape before you can catch it. And so can a year. And so can 20 years.
And that’s frightening. When you retire, you tend to do less. I remember the years I worked full time and attended graduate school at night. I don’t think I ever had more productive years. Because time was so precious, I never wasted it.
But when you are retired, there can be a devaluation of your precious time. There is always tomorrow, you think, as you sit with a second cup of coffee and a third cookie.
But my tomorrows are limited. And each day I will have less of them. I need to fill them up with things I love. I want to learn everything I don’t know.
And how much can I learn in twenty years?
Why just think of what I learned in my first twenty years!
I learned to:
Talk – Walk – Use the toilet – Handle a spoon, fork and knife – Dress myself – Open doors – Run – Take a bath – Use a toothbrush – Read and Write – Sing – Dance – Pray – Jump – Sit still – Drink through a straw – Say No – Add, subtract, multiply, divide – Ride a bike – Lace sneakers – Make friends – Tell time- Tell a lie – Borrow books from the Library – Play cards – Skip rope – Turn a somersault – Use scissors – Dig in the sand – Swim – Take a test – Fight – Throw a ball – Believe in Santa Claus – Not believe in Santa Claus – Climb stairs – Climb a ladder – Climb a tree -Vacuum – Learn history, geography, and science – Ice skate – Get on the right bus – Bowl – Swear – Play the piano – Play dumb – Draw – Write a story – Write a poem – Shoot an arrow – Grow tomatoes – Sew – Type -Speak French – Like boys – Kiss – Apply makeup – Mow the lawn – Read a map – Knit – Crochet- Solve a crossword puzzle – Solve for x – Insert a tampon – Drive a car – Cook – Get a job – Use a slide rule – Pay bills – Play tennis – Camp out – Understand football – Pretend to play chess – Apply to college – Travel alone – Make love – Survive a broken heart
Oh, and two gazillion other things: There were coloring books and cap guns and monkey bars and lincoln logs and hair spray and fountain pens and skate keys and protractors and monopoly and toboggans and chemistry labs and the hokey pokey and Shakespeare and laundry and carbon paper and gas pumps and eyelash curlers and ferris wheels and combination locks and protest marches and square roots and square dances.
If that’s only scratching the surface of what I can learn in twenty years –
Bring it on, Old Age!
I’ve got plenty of time!
As always, I am posting an unretouched, non-photoshopped birthday selfie. My purpose is always twofold – to say to you, It’s not so bad getting old, and to say to Mother Nature, Screw you, I’m Not Quite Old!
I wrote last week about my
pathological sweet need to be liked. (Validation).
I have thought about it a lot since. I’ve decided to take some very small baby steps towards coping with my insecurities.
For me – (and it could be different for you, but perhaps there is some universal truth here) – I see my constant worry about whether others like me showing up in three insecurity-based habits:
- External validation
I figure that if I can make a few tiny changes in all three habits, I might find myself moving just a little further along the continuum that runs from narcissistic insecurity to confident self-worth.
The People-Pleasing Challenge.
There’s nothing really wrong with trying to please others. I want to make the people around me happy. For the most part, I think it is kind and healthy. The challenge is not to subjugate my own needs in the process.
I have a good friend who deals with interpersonal skills on a professional level, and she recently gave me some very good advice:
Your needs do not have to be more important other people’s. They should just be ‘at least’.
At least as important.
My dislike of scary movies is at least as important as a friend’s love for horror films.
My desire to be on time is at least as important as a loved one’s chronic lateness.
My political opinions are at least as important as those of my relatives.
So how do I know when to politely insist on what I want and when to let someone else do the choosing?
I think I need to determine the most likely outcome – FOR ME.
Will I be happy that I let someone else’s desires take precedence? Or will I be resentful?
Will I enjoy making that complicated casserole because my husband likes it so much, or will I be fuming through all the dirty dishes? Will I be glad to see my friend’s pleasure attending yet another craft show, or will I be dragging my feet in barely-concealed boredom?
Most of the time, I am happy to be pleasing someone else. But once in a while, just once in a while, I need to politely say, “This is what I want.”
The Perfectionism Challenge.
Perfectionism is a little weird for me.
Because I am very easy on myself privately. I accept that I’m not good at everything. When I make a mistake, I just try again. I’m satisfied that I’m good enough.
But my public self is different.
I don’t want to show any weakness. I want my house to look perfect, my makeup and my clothes to be perfect. My pets. My marriage. My life.
Otherwise, what? That no one will like me if I fail? Well, that’s nonsense, and I know it. Friends and strangers need to see that you are human. But still. I have always hated anyone to see any part of my life being even a little bit of a mess.
I’m great. I’m fine. I’m happy. All the time. In public.
And I come from a long line of stiff upper lips. So it’s difficult for me to drop the smile. To ever let my guard down.
I have a new Yoga instructor. My beginning Yoga class (in which I have managed to remain for eighteen years) is now an intermediate class. For me, intermediate means HARD. I take easy classes because I want to look good in public, of course.
So today in class, I didn’t look so good in public. I struggled. Several times, I stopped. I rested. And guess what? It didn’t matter one bit. It was still Yoga. I didn’t get expelled. No one made fun of me. I didn’t die – even of shame. I’m going back to try and fail a little better next time.
OMG, how I love Praise.
Of course, everyone does.
But it seems that – let’s blame social media – we have increasingly become a world where we need everyone to see and approve everything we do.
As I wrote in my last post, Do you like my salad? Do you like my writing? Do you like my paintings? Do you like my hair? Do you like my dog? My cat? How about this cat? How about this cat?
It’s almost as though my experiences do not exist unless I share them.
This little facet of my personality confounds me. Because I am basically an introvert. I spend most of my day alone, and I like it. My energy does not derive from outside contact. My force is internal.
So why is my need for approval so external?
Today was a beautiful day, and I took a walk with the dog. Without taking any photos to share to prove how lovely the day was and how cute the dog and how pretty my yard. And without anyone else included – with just me – the day was still lovely, the yard was still pretty, and the dog was still cute.
Who needs to know?
My Twitter account (Theo-sophy) got controversial a week ago.
Let’s blame him, okay? Just like you can blame the dog when someone in the room farts.
Theo took over my Twitter feed a few months ago, and he has gotten himself into a bit of hot water. Specifically, an argument with one of the most popular accounts – Thoughts of Dog. (@dog_feelings)
I love Thoughts of Dog. Like Theo, Zoey the dog runs this account through a young man who also posts as WeRateDogs. Thoughts of Dog is hugely popular. WeRateDogs is astronomically popular. And both sites are successful for a really good reason. They are adorable. (and by the way, Matt, who runs both sites, raises lots of money for sick dogs through WeRateDogs.)
Theo responds to Thoughts of Dog’s tweets.
All the time.
And this was the issue.
Matt apparently became more and more annoyed with Theo’s responses. He felt that poor Theo was “hijacking” his dog account in order to build Theo’s own dog account.
And he – that is, I – was.
But as I understand Twitter, that is how it works. You find people, accounts, (and dogs) who like what you do by finding similar accounts and commenting. If folks like what you write, then maybe they check you out. And perhaps follow you.
That is how it works.
It’s how social media works. “If you like A, then you might also like B.” (I often tell folks just starting a blog and asking me for my advice to do this … find similar blogs and post thoughtful comments.)
But I guess I overdid it.
I tried it at first for the very reason above. To see if people liked what I wrote and if they did, maybe I would increase my base. And the reason why I wanted to increase my base is right here in this blog and in my novels. If people like what I write, maybe they will also check out my blog. Maybe if they really love what I write, they might even read my books.
I am a writer. I write to be read. I want people to read what I write. I think that is normal (for a writer.)
But I guess I overdid it.
Because I did it pretty well. And this was also my reason. Because it was fun. It was fun to come up with silly, ungrammatical sweet responses to Thoughts of Dog. I looked forward to it.
And so did many others, I guess. Many people started commenting that they loved seeing what I would write to Thoughts of Dog. They, like me, looked forward to it. “The best part of my day is reading Thoughts of Dog and then seeing what Theo will say,” they wrote.
My own Tweets are not only responses to Thoughts of Dog. I tweet daily on Theo-sophy with Theo’s Pup Tip of the Day – a little snippet of advice and philosophy. I work hard on those tips. They are positive and life-affirming.
Like this one:
But, unbeknownst to me, Matt was increasingly annoyed, as hundreds of folks every day “liked” my comments on his sites.
So 10 days ago, Thoughts of Dog blocked me.
If you are not familiar with Twitter, when you are blocked by someone, you can no longer see their posts. You can’t access their site. You certainly can’t comment.
I was stunned.
I thought it must be some kind of mistake.
But it was not. When I tweeted that Thoughts of Dog had blocked me, there was in the Twitterverse, a little bit of outrage.
Not a lot though. I have 5 thousand followers; Thoughts of Dog has 2 million. His average tweet gets about 150,000 “likes”, My comments on his tweets average about 800 “likes”. That is about one-half of one-percent of his response. On a really good day, I can get to one percent. Not exactly hijacking. Thoughts of Dog has nothing to fear from Theo.
But still, the tiny, though vociferous, outcry was enough to compel Matt to actually have a private discussion with me.
He was mad. I was hurt. I don’t like not being liked.
But we worked it out.
He unblocked me. I promised not to overdo it.
I truly didn’t mean to compete with him. I was not trying to be better than his sweet site. It was just plain fun.
I did, however, want people to notice me. And his audience was a great place to get noticed.
And I am sorry and a little ashamed if I was not being fair.
This social media business can be tricky, I guess.
Theo will be walking on tippy toes for a while.
What do you do when people you admire disappoint you?
In your personal life, when someone disappoints you, you either forgive them and love them despite their failings, or you say goodbye and leave them behind you.
But what about those other people you admire? Famous people – celebrities, politicians, artists.
Maybe ‘hero’ is too strong a word. But you don’t have to be starstruck, only human, to connect in some strong, personal way with someone you only know through their fame.
They write, they sing, they act – they are truly larger than life up there on the big screen. Or they are ubiquitous and cease to be strangers but instead are somehow part of your life.
And you begin to to consider them friends. Important, influential friends.
And they aren’t of course.
You don’t know them.
You know a persona that they present to the world. Sometimes this is an admirable persona whose words really do make a difference to the world and to you.
But sometimes your admiration is suddenly interrupted by reality.
They are not heroes. They are just human beings. And maybe not even particularly good human beings.
It hurts to be disillusioned by your former heroes.
It’s happened to me. And on top of being disillusioned and ashamed of my prior admiration, I also had a practical decision to make.
Because I have written two different essays on this blog that include a couple of my fallen heroes.
One is Louis CK. I truly thought he was one of the most honest comedians of the past twenty years. And I thought he showed real consonance with women. One of his monologues, for instance, was about the bravery of women, who continue take a risk every time they date – every time they get in a car with a man. And yet they do. Eternally trusting in the goodness of people.
But then. Well, you know. Not trustworthy. Not safe for women.
So what do I do with that essay?
I could delete it. I could take out the reference to Louis C.K. I could leave it.
I wondered if deleting it or taking out the reference is dishonest. Is it like saying that I was never a fan? That I always saw through the bullshit?
But on the other hand, I don’t want it to look like I still support the man.
I feel like it is important to recognize that you were duped. Too many people are ashamed to admit they were conned. I need to admit it. Believing in someone long after you should because you can’t admit you were ever wrong is rather a big problem in the world right now.
And the other issue: I think it is a relevant, maybe even important, essay. I want it to be read. I have posted it twice (once in 2016, and once in 2018) because I thought it was important.
So in the end, I have removed the reference to Louis C.K. It is still a good piece. Just as good. Here is the link if you want to read it: Vulnerable.
And the other fallen “hero”? Well it is just a rather silly dilemma.
It’s Dustin Hoffman. Who I always thought was one of the best actors ever, but now, as I understand it – he’s not such a hot person. A lot of people who are great actors are pretty lousy people, I guess.
And my dilemma is that I had a very funny dream about Hoffman. And I wrote about it. I don’t quote him as a marvelous person. It’s not like the Louis C.K. post, where I think the message was too important to erase. If I were to delete the story, it won’t make one bit of difference to the world. It’s just funny. And I love to be funny.
So I guess it is just my own vanity that wants to keep the post. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s trivial. But I like it. I want it. Is that horrible?
So maybe I will keep it around. I’m just not sure. Here’s the link: Tootsie.
Does it make you laugh? Is it just plain dumb? Is it harmful or disrespectful to allow it to exist?
What do you think?
Just a quick message –
I have a freebie for you!
The Kindle version of my first novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED, is
On Amazon for the next 24 hours! (Ends on January 3rd)
Happy New Year, everyone.
PS. I hope if you enjoy it, you will consider writing a kind review on Amazon! (Authors love reviews!)