Know When It’s Time to Give Up

When you’re struggling to finish something you’ve been obsessing over for a while, sometimes the best thing to do is to give up.

I often discover the thing I’m looking for, on the way to the shower, sitting on the toilet, in the midst of sweeping the sidewalk, in a sense, after I’ve given up looking for it.

Sometimes the thing I need pops into my head the very minute let go of the quest. I’ll decide to go outside and take a walk and then go to jot down one more thing and all of a sudden – boom – I’m discovering the content that was hiding from me.

It’s just like when you had something to say in a conversation and then lost it. often, the best way to get it back is to stop trying to remember what it was.

The catch with all this is, there’s no faking. You really have to give up, and walk away from the problem, if only for a few seconds.

So, give up. And move ahead.

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The Cost of Being Special

Sometimes I feel lonely, not the loneliness that comes with accrued time in solitude but the deeper singularity of realizing that, mathematically speaking, there’s no one like me out there.

This is not meant to be sad.

With the complexity and randomness of genetics, combined with the irreplicable influence of our ever-evolving community constellations, and the wildcard of free will, there’s just no way anyone, anywhere, will view the world exactly as I do.

That makes me a category of one, as unique and unrepeatable as stardust or a child’s doodle.

With specialness comes loneliness. You can pretend it’s not there but if you follow the scribble in your shadow as you lay in bed with your eyes closed, you’ll eventually come to this (both the good news and the bad) – there’s no one like you.

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Standing in the Light with You

For whatever reason, the sky has cracked open and the Gods have chosen you. A column of light is shining down on the earth, brighter and hotter than the sun and it’s all on you.

It doesn’t take long to realize this is not the kind of thing you want to be chosen for.

You are strong and I see more strength in you than ever before, but none of us know what the light will do.

So, I stand in the light, at first by your side and then crouched over you, even though my bones burn and my muscles ache, even though I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.

The pain is at times unbearable. We can’t see much, but at least we can hear each other. In fact, we can hear each other with more clarity than ever before. Our conversations are divine and well-earned. Our words are big and thick in our throats like chunks of ice; they hurt a little, but cool us down as we work through them.

At times, we get glimpses of the source of the light, we get let in on the secret, but we’d give anything – WE ARE GIVING EVERYTHING – to close the crack in the sky and make the hot, harsh, heavenly light go away so we can walk back over our glorious paths and see all the things we missed.

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Back-Up Hearts

I’m so absent-minded this morning, I put on my reading glasses and then started looking for them on my desk.

Hard news does that. It takes you out of life and puts you in a stupor, in a murky haze with no walls and no exit.

I’ve been lucky. Not much hardship for me but, as is inevitable with age, hardship is circling me and the ones I love. With a single email or a text from a friend, my life changes course.

The challenges seem to get harder and heavier. They take longer to get out from under. Some just stay there and you have to adjust to the new coolness of the shadow.

Our hearts are tender. No one person is strong enough.

Fortunately for us, we have back-up hearts, which we’ve been collecting since childhood. Hearts we found on so many ‘first days,’ and chose to keep in our lives. Hearts that saw our beauty and chose us.

These hearts, without hesitation nor concern for their own delicate structure, will fan out and surround us when our own heart is failing.

As one heart fills with blood and screams louder than an earthquake, so loud it might explode, the others emerge, stand guard around it, align their cadence, and slowly, gently, as if righting a mighty vessel, turn the noise into a rhythm again.

With this call, the pain that has been nesting within us has no choice but to go into these other hearts, to expand itself and thin out. That’s just how pain works. And what hearts do.

As the pain distributes and the hearts accept, the pain weakens, and although a piece of it may live forever in a corner of that one very special heart, it’s never going to be strong enough to break it.

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More Tragedy at the Grocery Store

Six people, including me, in a matter of minutes, disintegrate into selfish pettiness…

The woman in the “15 Items or Less” checkout lane with well over 20 items piles her tower of cans onto the tiny conveyor belt, careful not to look back at us.

The checkout clerk announces the 15-Item limit loudly and bitterly without making eye contact with the violator, thereby not solving anything, just being publicly pissed off.

A customer who, when an adjacent checkout line opens up, saunters past our entire line with 2 bags of ice and deftly takes the first spot.

The woman behind me runs over to the customer with the ice bags and argues that she was next line when, indeed, I was (though my dexterity is stymied by a cumbersome shopping cart and a 13-year old).

The 20-something man behind her starts commentating on the whole scene under his breath and at one point physically pokes the woman with the ice bags to get her to respond.

And then there’s me, passive-aggressively laughing at the man’s comments, because I’m pissed off and tired.

It got ugly.

I was jetlagged: in reentry mode after a fabulous vacation and a delayed flight that placed me back in my hometown at the lousy hour of 3 am.

That’s my excuse. I’m sure the others had theirs. And I’m sure they rationalized them after the incident in their own blog or to their spouse or cousin or whatever.

A curious thing happens with us humans: when someone points out something we did wrong in public, instead of apologizing and explaining our situation, we tend to dig in and lash out. This is nearly inevitable if the forced engagement between parties is short-lived, such as in a grocery store or on the freeway (hence my recurring analyses in these posts).

Had we been on a boat with just the 6 of us, this would have played out completely differently.

I believe it’s these little cuts that are killing us, particularly because, in a world where we’re steadily losing decision-making power and spending less time in our physical spaces, these few engagements are all we have left.

Although we’re millions of people, we are, in fact, on a boat. And we are in trouble.

As we slash at each other with our tiny little knives, we cut into the delicate light wood of the boat too and we’re so busy tending to our superficial wounds, we don’t notice the water seeping in at our feet.

Not yet, anyway.

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Let Someone Else Store it for You

I have a tendency, particularly when in the hardware store, to buy up things just in case I’ll need them. More times than not, I do not need them.

I’ve tried to stop this behavior since my basement is getting full and my pockets are getting empty, with no real win at the end.

It’s something my daughter said to me once in her nonchalant way that helps me to stop doing these “just in case” buys.

She said: “Might as well let the store store it for you,” and then she picked up a cane and started using it like a lightsaber.

Sage advice, my child. (Her Jedi training is nearly complete.)

Why stockpile when there are tons of stores all over the city willing to hold on to this incredible stuff for me, just in case I need it?

Besides, I have to leave room in my basement for karaoke parties.

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Running Around in Our Heads

Deep down we all want to be around people that tell us things we don’t want to hear.

Think about it. We’re running around in our own heads all the time, jogging by the same landmarks, getting tired in the same places. The stories we tell ourselves get old, even the ones that serve us.

It’s great to have our experience validated. Friends and fans are necessary to keep us moving, but if we want to leave the gravel loop, hop the curb, and find new ground, it’s the heckler we need, that loudmouth who tells us our shoes are ugly and our stride is off. Doesn’t matter if the asshole is accurate.

That’s the voice that sticks, because it sticks out, and whether you get angry or doubtful or distracted, you get something, something new, and, after so many laps where you can’t feel your legs anymore, that’s what makes you come free from your rhythm and look down at your feet.

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The Key To Interviewing Well

When preparing for an interview, the tendency is to look at what the employer wants (i.e. the job description) and figure out how to fit into that. Well, you should, indeed, know what the employer wants, but that’s not the place to start…

Instead, go back to the basics: think about why you want the job, beyond just money and location. Think about the people, the mission, the milestones, the product, the hype. Think about the things you’ll get to do, create, fix, and discover. Think about what you want to learn and what you can teach.

Lock onto the things that fire you up the most. Write them down and circle them. That’s what’s going to carry you through. Allow yourself to get excited, to burn bright from the inside out. You’ll reveal your confidence and ambition. You’ll reach into the corners of your skill sets and find the things you want to grow, embers waiting to be stoked.

Besides, it’s the fire that employers and colleagues want to see, not the song and dance, not the well-prepared, articulate speech using their own language.

When interviewing, always find the fire first.

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Too Good To Be True

I was searching for a dining room table on Craig’s List and came across a beauty that fit all of our criteria. AND it was new. AND it was priced at 75% of the retail price, which was still a hefty chunk of change.

When I inquired, the seller came back with an enthusiastic email filled with salesy gratitude and an offer to deliver the table for free. He told me he was a former furniture dealer who got things through liquidations and sold them for cheap “in order to stay busy and to give people some happiness.”

Naturally, I thought it was a scam.

Another scenario… this time, a vacation rental. We’d found our spot, exchanged the money and then the owner wanted to refund us because he could no longer rent the place due to legislative changes. He offered to help us find another rental and sent us a link in an email to a friend with a rental in the exact same layout in a different unit in the same building. This “friend” offered a hugely discounted rate “because I was in a tough situation and he wanted to help.” He suggested I make my payment in full immediately through a private portal, unaffiliated with any of those apps we all know.

Under the stress of scrambling to find a place, I complied and sent in my credit card info. (I’m sure some of you are gasping right now!). A few days later, I came to my senses and spent the better part of the morning searching for evidence that this wasn’t a scam.

Two scenarios where goodwill is offered willingly and without request for reciprocation and my reaction is that it’s too good to be true.

This greatly saddens me and points at how our hearts have darkened, how we live in fear of losing what we have instead of living in the joy of giving what others need. In this globally connected online world of faceless identities and email aliases, every piece of communication can be a lie, and, as we’re learning, these lies are dangerous as hell.

So we protect ourselves and our valuables, even if it means pushing away the goodwill of others. Better safe than sorry.

I followed suit and questioned everything. Rather than basking in the glow a good act between strangers, I tore them apart to see if I could find the blackness inside.

Well, the Craig’s List guy arrived with the table and gave me another discount on the spot. The vacation rental person checked out too.

So I can take down my walls now and hug the sweaty Craig’s List guy. And send gushy emails to the generous couple renting their home to me as well as the original renter who found them for me in a pinch.

I just wish that first step wasn’t necessary. The distrust, the double-checking, the web scam searches… It seems imperative these days as the world gets more digitally connected and less physically connected, that we surround our festivals with metal detectors and scan our love letters for biochemical warfare.

It’s all about keeping us safe.

But we lose something in that holding tank of safety, in that moment before acceptance, when Love is held hostage and Goodwill is strip-searched.

It’s a violation like no other, a trampling of sacred ground, the destruction of a harvest, carried out by the ones who are starving.

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Helping People Rocks

Man, I like helping people.

“Help” is supposedly a weak word; it’s a no-no for resumes. One should never say “Helped with account…” One should always say “co-administered account…” or “Supported account…” or something similar…

Those golden rules aside, “Help” is one of the most important words in my lexicon. I’ve built a career around it — Counseling is formally categorized as a “Helping Profession.”

I can remember far back into my childhood, finding ways to support my friends and girlfriends. That’s what gave me the most satisfaction. Still does.

But us Helping Professionals have to be careful. Helping is often a one-way trip to being burned out and broke. The “helping” experience is so good and yummy, it’s often considered compensation enough, which means it becomes the end goal in itself, which means you do too much of it and you run out of gas.

It’s hard to put the brakes on something that feels so good, but there’s plenty of reason to do so, namely to protect that very thing you love doing so much, so you can keep doing it.

In a sense, if you really value something, you have to have the discipline to put it away, lest it will wear out and weaken from being in your hands all the time.

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