Sunday, May 21, 2017

Every single day

Person who is running away from
 "okay" and toward "enough"
Last week, I spent a couple of hours at the salon where, if things go well, I leave with an inspired mind and not just a barely changed haircut and a nail color which is always some shade of cranberry. 
My stylist/pedicurist is a quiet, sweet person with a good sense of humor and an excellent sense of when to talk and when not to. 
As she worked, I noticed that she looked different – healthy, rested, etc. But then I noticed that she looked, actually, radiant, a word I use very, very sparingly because like others you get from the word choice drive-thru – it might fill up your sentence but there are better choices. She shined like many women do when they're a few weeks pregnant and have not started to get sick and miserable yet. 
I know she went through a sad and unexpected break-up a few months ago. She had not updated me, nor had I asked about it, but I suspected there was some connection to that upheaval and so I said, "You look really, really good. Is something going on?" 
She shared that she'd spontaneously decided to run a 5K. 
"All of a sudden, I just wanted to," she said.  
She described the obstacles that she had to face down.  It was more exercise than she'd ever had and it was harder than she expected. But she'd been surprised at the determination that seemed to come from nowhere. She changed her diet. She drank no alcohol outside of the weekend. She started drinking a lot of water and went to bed early every night. She started planning her meals and cooking for herself. She lost weight. She went to the gym every day. 
"Every single day?" I asked 
Because, there are people who do go to the gym every single day and never say they do because they don't want to seem freakish to the rest of us, which they are. 
She stopped painting and looked at me. "Every. Single Day." 

She said she's never felt better.
I told her I was proud of her, and she thanked me for knowing what a big deal it was and I got misty and that's as close as I want to come to crying at the salon. 
The timing was interesting because I have been wanting to drop a few lines here about perseverance, resilience and determination for two reasons. First, because I love writing about those things so much I have to stop myself. And second, because I know a handful of people who right now, are facing times of change that aren't going to be easy. 
However much I paid for some lesson I can offer, anything is worth more if it's used more than once.  
Here we go. 
Changing your life
Any change is possible – big or small – if you pick a tiny thing that takes you toward it and do it every single day.
Just one tiny thing.
Every single day.
When you've made it part of how you live, pick another.
Don't do anything else. 
Standing up to disapproval
When you hear disapproval in someone's remark or question or see it in a facial expression, or when someone makes a joke that is meant to actually make a point, and says "I was just kidding," here is what you should do: 
Look straight at them and say, as if you are asking them if they need something at the store, "What are you actually trying to say to me?" 
It's non-threatening, it's calm, but mostly it's you taking care of yourself.  
Tough times
When your worst, most painful times end, and you are left feeling not defeated but strong, and feel not relief but joy, you are something a million times better than lucky which is - resilient. 
Regrets
Some of us look back with guilt, shame, or embarrassment over something we said or did, but that is the direct result of growing and changing for the better. Every time you groan over a thing you said - and I've said some doozies - understand that if you were the same person, you wouldn't have any problem at all with the way you acted . 
Fulfillment
In my twenties, there were two kinds of pressure: 
1) Find a good job and claw your way to the top 
2) Be yourself. 
I'm sure it left a good part of my cohort conflicted. Many who were successful but not fulfilled began to behave like they'd been lied to. 
Would that we could just wake up and go get fulfilled because it's what everyone tells us to do. In reality, of course,  fulfillment is like confidence in that it results from something else. 
Confidence comes from doing a hard thing well.
Fulfillment comes from proximity to a thing or place or relationship that so connects you with the best parts of yourself, you have no interest in looking for something better. 
Enough
My stylist's success in customizing her own makeover, pushing through the old to get to the new, reminded me again of how we can, at all times, every single day, learn to be ourselves in full. 
But it takes some honest time in front of the mirror. It takes courage to face an "okay" life and know that more is needed to make it enough. When we're brave enough to face that, it takes faith to believe we're more equipped than we think to act on it. 

And then, take the chance that we're right..


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why introverts can't be extroverts but really like to sit near them

I don't know this
person but I like her plan. 
A while back, when I was not an extrovert like my brother (seat-me-next-to) Tom, but wished I was, we moved into a new town and our kids started grades 0 through 5. If you've done this, you know these are prime friend-making years because you have an instant ice-breaker.
A year or so later, still an introvert in hiding, I organized a New Year's party for one-hundred and fifty people in the community. They all came. 
There is a photo of me standing with my true nature by the window that night as the cars approached. We don't look relaxed. 

One night a few years ago over a glass of wine, one of my favorite extrovert-friends, Maureen, asked me if I was going to some wine tasting event for a cause I don't remember.  
"No," I said.
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because I don't want to," I said.
"Ha!" she laughed. 
By now, I knew that the kind of gathering that energizes Maureen, makes me tired and cranky. Where I might have once slogged through it to be socially in the loop, now I wondered why I ever needed a loop at all. 

Part of this evolution occurred as I was learning about Meyers-Briggs and the study of their sixteen personality types. There is more to it than that, but tests can determine whether people are more or less intuitive or observant, judging or perceptive, feeling or thinking. 
According to Meyers-Briggs, I am an INFJ: Introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. When I first learned that, I took the test again, because who wants to be classified as an awkward, humorless recluse? In time, I realized that we introverts aren't awkward and humorless people at all. We just feel that way when we're around extroverts who can start conversations with a phone book.  

Some things about introverts:
Introverts don't dislike people. We just want to know what makes them real. Oprah Winfrey is an INFJ and Oprah loves people but she loves their authentic stories more. Remember "A Million Little Pieces?

And we don't hate parties, we just don't feel comfortable launching conversation for the sake of talking, because while we are saying "I was really surprised at how much parking was available for this event," we're thinking, "How did you wind up here and where did you live before and why did you move and what kind of person were you in high school and how many times did you change careers?" 

We aren't anti-social, we're very social, but we have the most fun around people we trust, especially if those people are extroverts like my brother Tom or my friend Maureen. 
Introverts may be envious of extroverts. I have no data. But I do think some introverts don't like their own label. I think some of us make an effort to be more outgoing at large events because it's "what people do," even though we're at risk of saying something to a total stranger like, "You look tan, have you been away?" 

Some of us will stay in a conversation with a too-loud, self-absorbed, close-talker for too long, because we lack the knack for exiting without feeling impolite. And I know some of us sabotage our own success at small talk because we eavesdrop and often get caught doing it.

Introverts mix in an interesting way with extroverts. Nobody is more fun to observe than extroverts and we're actually similar in how we react to counter-intuitive opportunities. The introvert reaction to large surprise parties, large gatherings of unacquainted people (new co-workers, parents at a classroom coffee) or large public events is the same one my brother Tom would have if he were forced to spend six weeks in a tree house by himself with no electronics, a thing I would actually like a lot if I had bug spray. 
In that party picture of me at the window trying to be an extrovert, or less of an introvert, I can see how much it exhausted me to be out of step with my nature and later, I wondered what else I had expected. 

That is exactly the kind of problem introverts like to ponder in traffic jams while other people are giving strangers dirty looks, because we think all the time. Too much, too deeply maybe, but all the time. We are never bored. We daydream a lot. And like dogs and babies, we know when people are real and when they aren't. 
A few years after the New Year's party,  I gave myself a far tinier party for a milestone birthday.  I got an outfit and a new haircut and invited my favorite people. They all came and it was really fun. 
Maureen was unhappy that I hadn't given anyone a chance to surprise me. Then she told me she couldn't make it. Then she drove up the driveway to surprise me.  
Introverts and extroverts do things like that for one reason and it is because we need each other more than we want to be each other.  








Monday, May 8, 2017

A comment thread walks into a bar.

Disclaimer:  Some people who leave comments in a thread, myself included, are perfectly gracious, thoughtful people. 

To my writer-friends who have been mauled by the others, have you ever wondered what would happen if people talked to each other in real life like they do on a comment thread? 




Let's! Let's imagine.

Let's say, you are new in town and you've just been invited by some co-workers to a bar-party. You will not know anyone there, you don't even really know your co-workers, and you don't know what to talk about. 

But earlier today you saw something that could be worth mentioning.
A man was standing on the median holding a sign in one hand while he used the other to talk on a cell phone. He yelled angrily into his phone and waved the sign around so you couldn't really tell if he wanted to work for food, or needed a few dollars, or what. 
What are the public and private views we could have of this scene, you wondered at the time? Your natural response might be sympathy but here is this person screaming at someone and now, your compassion is fighting with your fear.  
Good. You'll bring this up.
You arrive at the party. You're at the bar, and so is everyone else. You start talking about this man and his behavior. What do you do when you feel both compassionate and skeptical, you ask?

The person closest to you says, "I don't know. I figure they have enough problems. I usually hand them a five." He takes his drink and walks away.   
Two persons who have overheard this come over. 
Person 1 says, "I heard what you were saying and I see this all the time and my opinion is, GET A JOB. Then talk to me."
"That's so insensitive," Person 2 replies. "You have no idea why he's not working." 
"Really! Insensitive?" Person 1 replies. "Are you also the type who'd like to raise taxes to help him buy beer too? And go back to school for a college degree that I never even went? Snowflake." 
"That's not what a 'snowflake' is and name-calling is a sign of low intellect, my friend," says Person 2.

"I believe," says Person 3 who is nearby, "the question was how to resolve the cognitive dissonance. It is false to say that we don't have mixed emotions when we see an unusual display of mixed behaviors. But I would say to our guest, that you are more likely to regret acting on fear, than on compassion. " 
"We're not friends," says Person 1 to Person 2.
You notice that two new people are looking at you.  
"That's stupid, what you said," says Person 4.
"He reminds me of people who didn't like me in school because I had bad skin," says Person 5 to Person 4.
Person 4 agrees with person 5 and says, "I had to stay in the classroom because of bullies who made fun of my birthmark." 
"People like you who trash-talk other people who don't have money disgust me. Maybe you don't have their toughness," says Person 5 to you. 
"Despikabel," says person 4.
"That's not how you say 'despicable'," says person 2. 
"This is so first world," person 6 says to you, "how you sound sympathetic, but really don't like people if they aren't like you. I see it all the time." 
"Yeah," person 7 says to you, "Cry me a river, I can tell from your shoes that you never had to work a day in your life." 
"The man on the median is why Trump got elected," says person 8 from the edge of the crowd where there isn't much light. 
"Trump is an ass****" person 9 shoots back. 
"Trump knows our country has forced people to stand on the median. And he's going to fix that. You watch," says person 1, who is drunk. 
"You people who think Trump even knows who you are," says person 2, "are the problem." 
"There is no unity in proving another wrong so that you can be right," says person 3. "Let's stop talking fault, and start talking solutions!" 
"You're an idiot," says person 9. 
"You're all missing the point," person 10 says, "did you even listen to what our new friend was saying?" 
"Trump," says person 1, "we're talking about Trump." 
"I had really bad skin in high school, but I took medication for it and it was fine!" says person 11 to person 5. 
"That's really irresponsible," says person 2 to person 11. "The side effects include insanity." 
"You're insane," says person 1 
"You're all in a dark basement. In the dark," says person 6
Everyone looks at Person 6 with expressions of WTF.  

"Ass**** Trump supporter," says Person 9 to Person 1.
"Snowflake," slurs Person 1. 
"That's not what 'snowflake' means," says Person 2.
The conversation is now taking place without you. It's as if you're already home in bed while persons 1 -11 are becoming Lord of the Flies.   
The next day, you mention this to your co-worker, the hostile nature of the conversation, the name-calling and attacks, the off-topic departures, and the absence of real discussion after you launched such a great ice breaker.
"That's how they are," says your co-worker. "They're always there but they're not there for the conversation. They just want to be somewhere at all. And even when they pick on each other, they're still engaged in the same activity."

You know you'll come back to this bar. You'll take a seat, throw out a topic and enjoy your adult beverage while the crowd devours it. You'll understand that commenters are looking for one thing more than anything else which is another person that appears to be listening. 


You may or may not elect to be that person. But you'll know that what's most important is that you didn't elect to go home and stay there. 

The end.





Monday, May 1, 2017

How Trump made me a better person

My old sign.
Worse than not knowing what to post on the blog on Sunday, was not posting anything. 
It happened or didn't happen because I had so many topics, I didn't know which one to develop. On my Word doc where I leave posts in progress until they are finished, I have six – SIX – half-written posts. 
I opened the news yesterday to read about Trump's rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend. "Orgiastic" is the way Frank Bruni of the Times describes any gathering of Trump and his supporters and this one was no different. He swayed and bellowed and bathed in the glow of glory days.
There was President Trump and his followers, trashing the "elites" who, Trump has convinced his fans, are any people who shine a truth light on him. There was President Trump railing against the "liars," who report what they see in that light. 
It reminded me of bully-cops I've known who leave their small town, only to be seen and treated for who they are in bigger towns of bigger people, and can't wait to come home and tell smaller people how much better smaller is for everyone, because of how it's served him. 
That was the subject of my post of choice, but it was too big. 
I decided to no-show instead of half-post.
But that was yesterday. 
Back when Donald Trump was running for President, as much as his bawdy appearances on the trail offended me, I never feared he'd be elected. His lack of experience and demonstrated lapses in character and humanity, I was sure, would be answered with a loss. I did my part. I posted things about him on Facebook and didn't vote for him.  
I should have done more. 
But I didn't.  
"But" is an important word. 
I decided to give him a chance, but however appealing his reforms are to the population that overlooks "the rest," his flaws fight with my core values and I wind up just feeling depressed when I listen to him.
He is unkind.
He is cruel.
He is hedonistic.
He is narcissistic.
He is immature. 
He may have sober-thinking, cool-headed people to plant him in front of cartoons where he can't be too destructive, but in the ways I can't abide, he is a flawed human being. 
Supporters, or even non-Trump supporters but optimistic non-Hillary people, are tempted to believe that "well, yes" he is all of those bad things, but... 
He isn't Hillary
He is standing up to North Korea
He punched Syria in the face after Ivanka showed him pictures of what was going on over there.
He...tax reform
He...immigration
He...health care 
But.
Trump is dishonest. If we wished once to give him a chance, how is that possible when you feel you either have to fact-check everything he says, or stick your fingers in your ears and sing to deal with the toads that leave that man's mouth.  
Here is the rest of the post.
I've considered that I'm predisposed at this point to reject anything that Trump says or does. But he could be Mister Rogers and he still would have carried out an act that I've come to see in my burgeoning political view as a "last straw." 
Nobody was surprised, but on April 13, Donald Trump closed the door and signed legislation, allowing states to refuse Medicaid reimbursement to Planned Parenthood or any organization which provides abortion services, regardless of whether they provide other essential health care, and regardless of the fact that abortion is never funded by Medicaid anyway unless in cases of rape or incest or threat to a mother's life. 
Planned Parenthood  serves millions of women, men and children, mostly the poor, who will have no other access to health care in states where Planned Parenthood can't survive.   
Here are the services they will lose:

  • STI/STD Testing & Treatment for women and men
  • Contraception 
  • Female and male  sterilization procedures
  • Cancer Screening and Prevention Pap Tests
  • HPV Vaccinations
  • Breast Exams/ Breast Care
  • Pregnancy Tests
  • Prenatal Services
  • Adoption Referrals to Other Agencies
But. 
They can just go to another state, right?
They can just go to the community health centers that will continue to be funded, right?
They can just go to a private doctor, right?
Private donors will make up the lost funding, right? 
No, 2.5 million women, men and children won't be absorbed into existing, already over-burdened community centers. And no, private donors will not make up the 40% of Planned Parenthood's budget that comes from state and federal funding. And no, poor women in rural areas where Planned Parenthood is the only provider of family health care will not find the funding and transportation to just go elsewhere, and many private OB/Gyn clinics don't accept Medicaid. 
What will happen is that the number of unwanted pregnancies and children will rise.What will happen is that the tax burden to fund Medicare will grow heavy with maternal, prenatal and pediatric services, not to mention the way poverty alone will further warp these lives with crime, drugs, violence. 
I've never been an activist, in a march-joining, megaphone-seizing, in-your-face way, not even at a dinner party after wine. It's been enough to exercise my right to vote, maybe pen a letter, place a call to my congressperson. 
It's not enough, anymore. 
Sooner or later, you have to write the post. You have to get your supporting data, and crystallize your ideas, and figure out what you need to say, even if you don't know how. 
I've never been that political. 
But President Trump has convinced me to change that.
I don't know how or what I will do to raise my voice.
But.
I know I am a pro-choice woman with sons and daughters and grandchildren in my future. 
I know that at this moment, federal funding for Planned Parenthood will remain in place through September and that beyond that, families trying hard to prevent the worst things from happening to their lives will face new obstacles and risks.
I know if I don't loan my talents, spend my time, research and educate myself and others about what this could mean to them, and to us all, and how I can make some difference, I will be guilty of this: 
I should have. 
But.
I didn't. 
And that's as no-show as it gets.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Pet Peeves #9, featuring hot dogs, the food I hate to love.

Hot dog, I will always love you.
The other day, I was kind of anxious about something and then I was more anxious, and finally I was on the brink of going to to McDonald's for a drive-thru cheeseburger. 
I persevered and chose a healthier stress-food option with half the calories, which was a hot dog, Fritos and a Tab. 
Half is half. 
I don't do this often. But I do it when I need to, and I don't feel bad about it until I see a catastrophic headline in my newsfeed which says something  like, "Why you still eat the foods that are killing you RIGHT NOW." 
It brings me to the first of this month's Pet Peeves, which is clickbait, a thing that can break your happy, and even make you anxious if you are careless.
Herewith: 
1. Clickbait. Whether it's a tragic headline or a "Why people don't like you," survey, clickbait, meant to generate advertiser revenue, is only after your eyes. Likely, it will lead you to a story you don't need to read, and probably shouldn't because, like an accident scene, it will only make you sorry you looked. Clickbait is a guy in the alley with a trench coat saying, "Pssst, look. Here's why you aren't married yet."  
And, as any hot dog fan knows, it doesn't make you want a hot dog less to read that they're killing you RIGHT NOW, it just makes you enjoy it less after you go and make yourself one. 
2. Self-imposed, yes, but this one is rabbit holes, or, looking up kind of interesting things while you avoid work that you're not in the mood for. Like Fritos are a good idea before you eat them, some things you want to know are only interesting before you know them.  
This week, I learned that:
  • Harrison Ford is twenty-two years older than his wife, Calista Flockhart.
  • Cats like running water because they don't trust non-moving water because they know you don't change it in a timely fashion.
  • Introverted people aren't unhappy people. I already knew that, but I did not know that they include: Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks and Steve Spielberg.
  • Hotdogs are not as bad for you as everyone thinks they are.
3. The near over-use of the term "sweet spot." I know we like bringing sports terms into the vernacular, but I liked it when "sweet spot"  meant "the point or area on a bat, club, or racket at which it makes most effective contact with the ball,"  and wasn't the new way to refer to achieving balance.

4. The current over-use of the term "spot-on." Did England ever really say we could use that?

5. Vitalyrulesgoogle.com, the Trump blog hacker from Russia. If you have a blog, know about this. If not, skip to Reader Peeves, below.
From his slimy little hacker site in Russia  Vitaly Popov uses bots that hit, but don't actually view your blog. It is enough to register the hit as a visitor however, and because it happens over and over again, it keeps raising visitor stats, making you believe that your mother was right about your little stories, because look at those 900 people who have come by just since Sunday!
Eventually your inner realist says, "I don't know about this. Look a little further," and when you do, you see that reptile-Vitaly's site has been referring the fake visitors. When you click on it, because you're a real person, it does open his  page which says this:  TRUMP! YOU DID IT! 

Reader Peeves
6. From Reader Gina, the expression "love-on," as in loving-on your kids, spouse, cat, friends. I agree, Gina. It just makes me think of people who hug too hard. 
7. From Reader Jan: people who leave shopping carts wherever they feel like it, often in the middle of a space, requiring you to leave your car and  roll it out of the way, or, make a game of outsmarting the carriage by edging into the space without making contact. 
8. From Reader Larry: people in expedited, VIP or priority lines who arrive at the head of the line, hand their drink to someone and stark frisking themselves, looking for the I.D. they knew they'd have to present since, well, before that moment.    
You'll notice people like this never, ever glance at people behind them, which is good because I've seen those faces and they aren't friendly.
 9. Last but not least, from Reader Mark, a peeve over the issue of cashiers who can't actually make change. 
I'm going to allow this guest peeve, but I'm a little in both worlds here. I agree that there are some basic transactions we should understand without having to consult a machine. On the other hand, my first job was cashiering and it took an uncomfortably long time to understand change-making. I think I cried.
And, the moment I did learn, a cranky asshat came in and gave me something like $5.02 for a $3.42 bill, and said to my panicked expression, something like, "I'm out of singles and I don't want pennies." 
Some of you out there know exactly how I felt, and what I said which was, "Oh, okay," before I did the math in my head and then went home to practice the crap out of change-making. 
And that concludes Pet Peeves #9.  I'm probably not the only one who would like a hot dog and some Fritos now, but I'm not nearly anxious enough for that. 
See how that works? Stay happy, stay healthy.
Love, 
Susan


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kids off the street

This is not a picture of my old
boss Frank's hand. It's a picture
of  writers getting their
"kids off the street."
My first serious boss, Frank, used to say, when he was getting ready to shake up management for some reason, "Okay, kids off the street." 

Maybe he meant it was time to get those hooligans back in line. But I prefer to think he was getting ready to duel in front of the executive management saloon. 

"Kids off the street. This is going to get serious."
I don't get enough opportunities to use that fantastic expression. I search for them. 
It's challenging for me to write some perspective pieces and not feel I'm oversharing. As much as I love to write "worked for me" or "what I learned" stories, I hate oversharing. However, I know that insight you want to share often comes from experience you'd rather forget. You have to find the "sweet spot" (a term that will be featured in next week's pet peeves post). 

It doesn't always mean discussing the underwear of your life (parents, kids, husband, friends or anyone who done you wrong), but what you do choose, you have to write in full if you don't want your followers to be only blog hackers in India and family members who have loved you since your teeth were too big for your face.  
I see some writers do this as easily as they breathe. Not me. Mwriting leans toward the anodyne, a word I'm pretty sure I also learned from Frank.

Still. As life shows you more about what really affects people, and as you gain confidence in your skills to write about it, you can grow tired of being so close to the vest. 
Write real, or stay home, right?

You want those kids off the street so you can duel it out with the person in the way, which is writer-you.
I faced this recently when I wrote about the empty-nest marriage, which, in my opinion, rivals new parenthood and retirement in terms of shared events that can affect two participants differently. The empty nest marriage, for better or worse, is not the one you started with.  
Ask me how I know. 
For twenty-five percent of couples, the empty-nest marriage doesn't even occur at all. The kids leave Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad leave each other.    
For the other seventy-five percent,  the empty-nest marriage is a new town. It can change everything from the way you eat and entertain yourselves, to the type of conversations you'll have, to the friends you see more of because your kids no longer have to be in the same math class for you to find common ground. 
This topic is close to my heart because one of the finest things my husband and I have accomplished was to make our lives into a story of us again. But I appreciate it most because it didn't happen without our share of, as my daughter would say,  "honest moments." 

Those moments did not urge us back to the center of our old relationship, but to the middle of a new one. 
The new one  is better. We have more fun. We laugh more. We have new jokes. We go to Lowes together to buy plants. He talks to the dog to entertain me, and I do small things to make his life nicer. We both look younger. 

It's lovely.

But the happy ending wasn't what readers wanted to know about who contacted me after I wrote that piece. They wanted to know about those "honest moments."

What's my point? 

I have two.

Balance is everything. I mind my own business the way I don't let my undergarments show. But once in a while, someone will need to know you understand their discomfort because you've talked about your own. 
  

Someone will make you remember you have good reason for the thing or two you have to say. 

Someone will need you to get the kids off the street. 

You know who you are. Thank you, and you're welcome.

And second, if you really want to, you can find a way to use the expression: "Kids off the street," and you really will feel a little like a badass.

Ask me how I know.



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Write like nobody's going to read it.

I love this book more
every time I write it and
my book knows it
.
Recently, I was talking to my husband about the novel I began submitting a couple of years ago, and then put on hold pending I don't know what; maybe one of those epiphanies I have when I'm applying mascara.   
I just stopped sending it out. 

It didn't seem worth the trouble.

But, it didn't seem right to desert it, either.
"Why don't you take out everything that wasn't fun to write and start over?" asked my husband. 
As many of you know, I have been writing this novel for – I'm not kidding – ten years. 
It is my third. It has been the most difficult to write. It is the most well written. It was the least fun to write and rewrite and rewrite again. 
The first novel was squeaky clean. There was not a single F-word, not the hint of a sex scene. The plot, a stretch to begin with, was layered with so many contrived, improbable twists it was like one of those houses with too many additions that sprawl in all directions.  
The second novel was better but had "pacing" issues which, for a reader, is like a non-reader watching a moderately interesting two-hour movie for eight hours.   
But book 3, this is the one that has been there all along saying, "Hot! Warm, no, no, COLD! COLD! Here! I'm RIGHT HERE!"
I dance with it, I fight with it, I yell at it, I ask it what it wants from me, I stare at it, and then I say  "Maybe we need to take a break,"  and I put it away and think about non-fiction. 
I tell everyone I've-stopped-writing-fiction-and-this-time-I mean-it, and they look at me the way you look at someone who's finally broken up with an asshat and say,  "It's probably just as well." 
Then I write it some more. 
Why can't I stop?  
I took my husband's advice. I dumped a third of the book including characters that even I started to dislike as I wrote them. I started over, writing it like I was creating a movie one scene at a time. The process seemed too easy. It seemed novice. It seemed unsophisticated. 
But mostly, it was fun. 
It was fun to play with an idea, and not develop it, and then delete it. 
It was fun not to wonder who else would like this story. 

It was fun to write like nobody would read it. 
It was fun the way skiing or driving with the top down is. It doesn't make you richer or more attractive, it's just easy. You don't do it because you hope to be famous or competitive. You do it because it's fun.
It's fun. 
I've been having more fun than I expected to since that chat. I'm happier, I look better and have been laughing more. This made me think of people who don't have enough fun. Is that you?

If it is, consider this:
If you were told that a person you love needed to have more fun for their mental health, would you not do everything to be sure they did? You'd be creative. But you'd try. Because it was important.
Be the person you love, have fun before you forget what it feels like.

But mostly, have fun before it becomes not worth the trouble.


Love,
Susan 




Sunday, April 2, 2017

What's happening to us?

"Really?"
                   ---Gus Bonifant

"The final straw was a little girl using an iPad with the volume on high, a device her parents refused to turn down despite repeated requests from the staff at Caruso’s, an upscale Italian restaurant in Mooresville, N.C."
---The Washington Post, reporting on a restaurant that banned children under five, and doubled its business.

There are people, many of them, who feel the restaurant's position is anti-child. There are, or will be others who will feel this is a violation of a child's rights. 

There are others, like me,  who know small children should be allowed to be small children, and see this as a ban on inconsiderate parents who don't care if you planned your expensive date night two weeks ago and hired a sitter. 

What happened to the rights of people who are just minding their own business, or maybe just trying to steer clear of the ones who demand their rights and some of everyone else's?

Not long ago, I sat down on a plane next to a man who had already taken off his shoes, opened a fragrant stir-fry meal of steak and peppers, propped open his tablet and tuned into an episode of Orange is the New Black which featured a protracted scene of prison you-know-what, right there for me and the small children across the aisle to behold.

Last week, I ate lunch with my father in a bar, a nice one with windows and landscaping. A man was at the bar with friends telling a loud story so laced with the f-word, I started to think I wouldn't mind being punched if I could just go over and say,  "Excuse me, every woman here would like to meet your wife who 'makes a big f****** case out of everything,' and fix her up with a guy who at least knows how to act in public."

What's happening to us?

Everyone – male, female, child, adult, gay, straight, big or little, of all colors – deserves the right to be who they are in peace. But too many assert their right to do what they wish, irrespective of the needs and comfort of others who share their space. It's always been that way, but now we have the opportunity to sound off from the stands, whether we understand the whole story or not.  

Last week, the United Airlines leggings issue hit the internet because of a bystander's swift and incendiary tweet which reported, falsely, that two passengers were refused passage because of their wardrobe choices. Quickly, we learned that these were family members of an employee who are, like the employee is, expected to represent the airline in behavior and dress while traveling (for free) on an employee pass. They had violated the dress code.

This went on for days. Delta made fun of them, celebrities weighed in. There was abundant talk of body-shaming, and discrimination, and unfair this, and unfair that, and rights, rights, rights. 

I wondered, why are we still on this?  I have no doubt that this confrontation at the gate happened between an unknowing traveler and the kind of recalcitrant gate employee so many of us have had the misfortune to observe, but it's still beside the point. 

It is the airline's "right" to project what the airline considers a professional image. Employees or family of employees traveling (for free) are not told what to wear, but what not to wear. Have a problem with the gate agent for not seeking an exception if it was called for, but don't have a problem with an airline's stated expectations that their professional image be upheld by anyone acting as a representative. 

I sat next to a pilot once who was traveling to see family.  He had a few days off, he was looking forward to seeing his old neighborhood. He was dressed in his uniform, and he was unfailingly sweet to his seatmate, man who talked for several years (in a monotone) about how to make maple syrup. 

Shouldn't he have been able to wear jeans and an every day shirt, have a few pops, talk too loud on his cell phone, and let his hair down on this first day of his vacation? His airline-employer says no.

How is it different from banks who want their male employees to wear ties, or doctor's offices that don't want their employees to have facial piercings, or restaurants who don't want their employees to come to work unwashed with dirty hair?

We have become so preoccupied with self-centered living, so concerned that our own needs are met first and foremost, and so willing to believe we've been discriminated against when we've simply not been given our way. We are becoming a nation of spoiled, entitled, pajama-wearing, stir-fry-eating plane people. And, I'm not just saying that because the power went out this morning.

It isn't that examples of genuine consideration for others aren't everywhere. If you look, they are. What's happening to us, is that you have to look past so many other me-first behaviors to see them.