Trouble No More

Broken_HeartThis post is for super sensitive people like me who’s feelings get hurt. It’s another story about rejection and it may be yours too.

*****

I’m a drummer. I joined a blues/country band eight months ago with Aaron, Rich and Robby the bass guitarist. By rehearsing once a week we’ve slowly built three sets and perfected our sound, which is astounding for reasons I’ll soon explain. At this point, we’re way beyond average, also surprising. So two months ago we started talking about recording a five-song YouTube demo. It didn’t have to be great, just adequate.

I didn’t agree with that just adequate plan, but since we’re not yet a play-for-pay band and we don’t have recording studio cash, our project would be self-produced. This was doable. We already had the means to lay down eight tracks at a time. Before I retired, I worked for the Hollywood studios, directing voice re-recording and then editing dialogue and sound effects for feature films. As part of the job, I had acquired the computers, interface hardware and Protools software to work at home. All this could be applied to recording and mixing music. And Aaron had the rest of the gear.Digi 002

We set up our sound space in Aaron’s house. It was my idea to separate the three amplifiers into the office, bedroom and bathroom to eliminate what we call “bleed-through” and then later re-record the vocal tracks while listening to the rough instrumental mixes through headphones. Professional sessions are laid down this way and our home project approached that grade. With a bunch of bad starts and takes we eventually recorded the five tunes with enough clarity and low background noise to proceed to step two – the mix down into a stereo two-track master at my house.

*****

Now to be frank, I do not fit in with this band. (I rarely fit in with any band I join. Or any club for that matter.) As is usually the case with my bands, I tend to be the only college-degree, management-type musician in the group. There are lots of garage bands where all the players are business pros but I’ve never been dealt that hand. So with this latest music incarnation, once again I’m consorting with men who would never be my friends had it not been for the music connection. It’s not about income or values. It’s about interests. They never ask me anything about my life, my opinions, my history, nada. We don’t talk about family, politics, world events, personal stuff or feelings. We (or they) talk about music, past, present and future. Nothing else. I’ve tried opening up some worldly topics. A comment or two comes back and then it’s over. And this is okay I guess. We’re a blues band, not a therapy session.

So I’m not complaining. Really. But as usual I feel like I’m in an intellectual and emotional vacuum, which is odd because the blues and county is all about feelings and getting hurt, which I am…or was. I wonder if you would feel the same way.

In my last post I talked about a plumber with the attitude: It’s good enough. I explained that’s not ME. I don’t have too much wiggle room when it comes to my disposition. Between my parent’s past demands for all A’s and perfect-son behavior, plus my natural nature, I got locked into It’s-never-good-enough by the forth grade.

It’s-good-enough and It’s-NEVER-good-enough people don’t mingle easily. I’m playing in a It’s-Good-Enough band.

play_Bass_CUIf I had that attitude in my job, I would have lasted exactly one month. When it comes to movie directors, NOTHING is ever good enough. Twenty takes is not uncommon. With my band, recording anything more than three re-do’s was a heavy lift. When it came to re-recording the vocals, nothing went past two takes. With Robby, our bass player, one pass was it. I think he was so insecure about getting his only singing song laid down right, he didn’t want to take another change that may have turned out wrong. He didn’t want to make more mistakes even thought I explained that in record recording, there are no miss-takes, only variations, some better than others.

Nope, Robby’s first voice take for Trouble No More was good enough. I had no choice but to work with within narrow limits, as I had hundreds of times when I digitally fixed actor’s dialogue in films.

*****

Glen is a close friend, and like me, he came of age in the sixties and seventies. Glen is also an A-List movie re-recording mixer with a ton of hit movie credits. Before he segued into the film business he had mixed records for The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Hall & Oats, Bruce Springsteen, Little Stephen, The Disciples of Soul and Bob Dylan – lots of Bob Dylan. THIS is the guy who recently taught me how to mix my band’s songs! This is the man who arranged the final sweetening session in a professional studio. This is the maestro who, when listening to my mix of Trouble No More, laughed and said, “Brave choices!” And then he turned to me and said again, “Really good work. I’m hardly making any changes to your songs,” which I knew because I was watching this expert focus his attention on the tiniest of audio details.CU_Faders

Nothing is ever quite Good Enough for Glen but he always tries to get incredibly close. He said I did too. He made four minor tweaks to Trouble No More, a song I spent eight hour mixing for Robby because I knew how much it meant to him. I knew how insecure he felt about his playing and especially his singing. I knew he had yet to own a fully realized recording featuring his voice and Trouble No More was going to be IT. My goal was to take a simple, standard tune and turn it into an inventive, stylized, ethereal experience. I was proud of that approach and I knew Robby would be too.

*****

At our rehearsal last night, in front of the band and an invited sit-in second guitarist, Robby said to me, “I know this is kinda sensitive, but can I have your mix session? I need to have Trouble done professionally.”

I cringed. What could he have possibly disliked so much that it wasn’t even good enough? I had sent him my two beta mixes, he made three suggestions about the reverb and delays on the choruses and I made those vocal changes in the final. Aaron and Rich told me they loved the mix, which was miles past the band’s expectations. How could Robby so coldly reject my gift?

And so we started playing. For the first three songs I drummed on remote, keeping the beats simple while I considered the face-to-face words I would say to Robby as we walked outside to our cars. He already knew I would only give him the unmixed start session without my work, which meant that whoever remixed the song would have to start from scratch. He had to realize I was offended. But did he understand WHY?

I don’t think so. He said it was a sensitive issue. Still, his social skills sucked. His timing sucked. His choice of words sucked. And as far as I’m concerned, his taste sucked. I can’t imagine why he didn’t like the dreamy quality I injected into Trouble No More…unless he felt the song drew more attention to itself than to his singing.

But that’s conjecture. It really didn’t matter why he rejected my mix. What mattered to me was how he told me that…and when…and where. And that’s what I was thinking about while playing the back beats to Guru Man, Folsom Prison and Stormy Monday. I was wondering if lecturing Robby about sensitive social demeanor would be a positive change in his life. And I came to the conclusion that Robby is a grown man and that I couldn’t reshape his character, nor should I try. In those time holes between two and four, two and four, two and four, I realized the change had to be in ME and my feelings about my disappointment. I was not going to let it make me unhappy.

CharmsWhat DOES make me happy? Playing music in a band. And Robby is part of that. So in the big picture, this was nothing. Sure, his dismissal was another nick at the heart, another let-down, another reminder that you can’t predict anything with any certainty. But more importantly, it brought me back to the bottom line:

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Writing this post got me back to Small Stuff appreciation. It helped me to reset my priorities and mature a little more. I hope reading it helped you too. As always, thanks for visiting.

Irv

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If the Trust in Broken, Can You Ever Get it Back?

My wife said, “Give him another chance, Irv. Everyone deserves a second chance to get it right.”

“Okay,” I said. “He’ll get a second chance. But he shouldn’t need one.”

under sink plumberNate came to us recommended. He should have known it was bad and his It’s-good-enough attitude bothers me. It bothers me because I like him. I hoped he would work out. I hoped my wife and I had found another plumber. But Nate installed our replacement dishwasher leaving an inch gap under our counter top and he took another two hours to swap out a hot water dispenser with the heating tank and filter already in place. So how do I know Nate can properly stop a gas or water leak? I wish I could trust him. I don’t.

Sure, it’s only a plumbing job. Why am I blogging about it? I’m writing because this minor event mirrors bigger ones about trust and the breakdown of friendships. Our kitchen project was Nate’s first job for us – our first “date”. He called ahead, showed up on time, was polite, courteous, friendly and he seemed like the right guy, except he didn’t do his job very well. He’s coming back within the hour to correct the problem. I hope it works out.

*****

Dating and jobs…we all know the news. It’s your first meeting, the guy, gal or boss seems really nice and open. Then day by day, date by date, the person you thought you could trust turns into someone you can’t. He’s lying. You know he’s lying. He knows you know he’s lying. It’s business as usual.

If we can break away early from the BS, little harm is done. But many times we really need that job, even with its abusive boss. Or the bad stuff is outweighed by more of the good stuff, so we keep the romance going. Or we just strolled down the aisle and promised love and devotion forever, sealed with a kiss. We trusted the decision. We trusted ourselves to keep it. We trusted him or her to be nice, kind and supportive.

Or maybe we didn’t.B&W wedding

Maybe before that whispered, “I do,” we already felt something wasn’t quite right. We knew things had to be tweaked into place and we assumed they would. Or we hoped they would. We hoped our partner would change just enough to calm our qualms and make the marriage play out.

Did it happen? No, it didn’t. How could it? The union was on trial from the get-go.

*****

But not all relationships begin with second thoughts. Most start with trust because we know what we’d get without it, the world where we live, and it’s NOT a happy place. So when we find someone or something we can trust, we must cherish and protect that connection. To build a sacred sanctuary where armor is dropped and hearts open to love, we must tell the truth and honor promises. That’s what a working marriage is all about, and best-friends-forever, and devotion from parents and family. That’s what living in a caring world is all about.

We do not live in a caring world.

Rules are broken everyday. Sometimes, even the people we love break the rules, and with that goes the trust. Sometimes WE break the trust, begging the question:

Once the trust is broken, can we ever get it back?

Most of the time, no. Sometimes yes. But we’ve got just one more time to get it right, and ONLY when that lie or broken promise or misjudgment isn’t that bid a deal. And then we really, really have to be honest about our apologies and remorse. And then we have to promise to never, EVER do it again. And then, if we’re humble and grateful, we get forgiven and that second chance.

In a perfect world, the trust is never broken again and everyone lives happily ever after. We do not live in a perfect world.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, once the trust is broken, we never get it back, or we never give it back. We live in a world devoid of trust. We live in marriages and families without trust. We work in jobs with no trust. Suspicion and doubt is the norm.

POSSIBLE_divorceWithout trust, there is no rest. Without trust, there is no peace. So why do WE, a race of intelligent beings, constantly break the trust?

 

We break the trust because we don’t TRUST trust. We don’t believe it’s obtainable and sustainable. We don’t believe trust lasts because we see so few examples of it enduring.

 

We break the trust because we feel we can’t compete with people who break the rules. So we join the crowd where no one trusts anyone and promises mean nothing. Trust is not part of the game.

 

Then there’s the occasional cheating: They won’t find out. I can break the rules just this one time. I’ll get what I want and no one gets hurt. Then I won’t do it again. Just this one time…

And maybe we do get away with it. So the next time, breaking the rules is easier. We have more confidence that the short-cut will work – all gain and no loss. The third time is even easier. But the forth time we get caught and everyone gets scorched. Then there’s no going back, no rebuilding the trust.

For those of you who break the rules and consequently, trust, you have put yourself on probation. The people you wronged will either throw you out of their world or deal with you in a constant state of defense while pretending it’s all okay. When trust gets blown away, so does truth. With trust and truth gone, LOVE is next. You cannot have love without trust and truth. Ask any divorce lawyer.

You would think Love = Truth would be a basic human understanding. It’s not, even with religious guidance. Most people don’t believe any of it is real for the reasons I’ve listed here.

But if you’re one of those idealistic, ex-hippy outsiders like me, you haven’t given up. You’re still hoping trust and truth and playing-by-the-rules mean something and if we can just keep the faith, we’ll find others like us and grow a garden of goodwill. We can make the world a caring place. Okay, the entire world is a bit much. How about friends, family and plumbers?

*****dishwasher

Nate showed up on time to correct the height of our new dishwasher. I didn’t want to be a mean, scolding type boss/client so I told him how happy I was with everything else he had done and then I showed him the gap and pictures of what the installation should look like. “Mr. Podolsky,” he said, “all I want to do is make you happy and I won’t leave until I do.”

I puddled into a blob of love-putty. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Would he do it, though? Would he get the unit into alignment with the cabinets and counter? I left him to do his work. He called me back in five minutes. He had it pretty close. I asked for further adjustments. He made them. He also made me happy. I was ready to write a check for whatever he said, like four hundred or four-fifty. Nate worked half a day with a helper, plus extra parts, plus this call back. Time means money.

“So what’s it gonna be?” I asked.

“What I quoted you,” he said.

“I can’t remember exactly. Somewhere around one-fifty, one sixty.”

Nate corrected me. He said, “It was one forty-five.”

“But that was only for the dishwasher. You replaced the water dispenser and changed out all the copper for flex tubing.”

“Okay,” he said. “Make it another forty-five.”

“One hundred and ninety for four hours?”

“You win some, you lose some,” he said. “That’s what I quoted you.”

I paid him $225. He deserved it. I trusted him again.

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Seeking Older Man with Powerful Connections

Business_mentorI don’t know about you, but like millions of other Americans (and the rest of the world) I chased the American Dream for many years. I wanted to have enough cash and enough control or security so I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of anything. And of course, being the super nice-guy progressive saint that I am, I always assumed I’d share most of my wealth with deserving others once I had so much stuff, advanced math couldn’t count it all.

That didn’t happen, even though I had read seven How-To-Be-Successful best sellers. Do you know what all seven books said about getting rich and powerful? They all said, that to swiftly move up the ranks, you need someone already on top to pull you up. You need a MENTOR!

There are very few self-made anybody’s in business that made it without mentors. There are lots of self-made drunks and homeless souls everywhere. You don’t need help to fail, although you can certainly be encouraged.

I was prodded to succeed. “Son,” Dad said, “someday you’ll make it big and take care of your pop.” Pop didn’t know any mentors and he wasn’t one either. But I was open for help, any help, anywhere. I looked and looked. I even considered an ad in the Wall Street Journal: “Seeking older man with powerful connections”. But I chickened out. Consequently no career portals opened without me knocking first. And when they did, I had to convince the gate-keepers I was worthy enough to stay in the room and get paychecks.

I was not an entrepreneur or a self-made anything. I needed a mentor. Maybe you do too.

*****

Now that I’m retired with no grand ambitions of buying a casino, NOW I have a mentor! But he’s passive. He’s a guide-by-example guru. (It could have been a woman. My wife has been insisting she’s my mentor for 39 years.) Anyway, my passive mentor shows me how to be happy and successful when I hang out with him. Or rather when he hangs out with my wife. He loves her. And she loves him. (More on that later.)

So what important things does Mr. Mentor show by example? Everything about being relaxed and brave. How can I get that way? By being just like him, which I am not. I’ve tried. I read seven books and I know for sure, as my wife points out when frustration raises my voice three octaves, that my makeup doesn’t have near enough ingredients for a perfect personality.

Maybe yours does. Here’s the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1          Old Soul (preferably 200 life-times or more)

1          Young, lean and strong body – not intimidating or too tall

1          Attractive face, but not too handsome or beautiful

1          Warm, happy smile (must be authentic)

2          Ears for serious listening to others

1          Mouth for soft, encouraging words

1          Brain that sees the future before directions are given (must be self-motivating)

1          Skin packaging (any color)

MIX ALL INGREDIENTS, adding liberal amounts of generosity, gratitude, humor, humility, curiosity, confidence, compassion, fearlessness, affection, politeness, responsibility and faith. Pre-heat human life to 98.6, insert mixture into skin packaging and maintain constant temperature until fully matured for eventual termination.

There you have it, your enlightened personal prototype. Maybe this is you.nanak-devji

*****

But you’re thinking: There IS no perfect persona like that. Maybe not, but I know this guy who’s close to it. The man who works for my wife. And yeah, he loves me too. After knowing him twelve years he’s family, along with his wife and two kids. If I ever wanted a son or another father, he’d be it, Spanish-speaking, dark-skinned and all.

Armando is thirty-two and he came to Los Angeles from Mexico. And yeah, where I live, they call him “undocumented”. But that’s the way this system set it up. Armando wants to fit in just like you and me. And he does fit it. He’s working hard for it, which wasn’t the case for me.

It was for my wife. In another post I mentioned she’s European. Yep. I married an Alien with an German accent from outside our boarders. She came here for the craziest reason. She actually liked Americans. She thought living here for a year or two would be interesting. Imagine that?

So forty-one years ago my wife applied for a Green Card and got one four weeks later. She’s a nurse. The USA needs nurses. Limited skilled labor gets fast-tracked into our country.

Armando, from Mexico, got slow-tracked, if he’s moving towards citizenship at all anymore. And he’s limited skilled labor too. So skilled, he built a thriving business. Money is no issue and he doesn’t think about it much. You see, he’s not ambitious. He’s just happy with life, and with people, and with each day as it comes. Armando is not a worrier, which is why he’s my mentor.

I honestly can’t believe he is who is he is. The dude doesn’t fret about anything. He’s not obsessed with having to know all the Why’s and How’s like me. He probably figured it all out fifty life-times ago. He just knows (whereas I’m trying to believe) that everything IS, what it is, and if we just let it do what it does naturally, without forcing stuff, things will eventually work out.

Anyway, they do for him. He has faith that they will. I do not have faith. I am not in love with each day as it comes. That’s why I need more of Armando.

I once asked him, “When you were working in that Coca Cola bottle plant in Cuernavaca, did you dream about coming to America and making a life here?”

He shook his head. “Uh uh…”

“No? You didn’t want to escape poverty and oppression?”

“It wasn’t like that,” he said.

“But you risked your life to cross the boarder! You told me you almost drown in the Rio Grande. You nearly froze to death in the dessert waiting for the coyote to drive you to Arizona. What made you put everything on the line to come here?”

“My sister wanted to be with our cousins in San Francisco,” he said. “My parents asked me to go with her.”

That’s what mentors do – they help people. He risked jail, deportation, robbery, even death for a family favor. And now he’s been here for thirteen years still waiting for official residency. After 9/ll, when the towers fell, all regular immigration processing shut down, including his.

Is he pissed off? Nope. He’s too busy helping out his friends, family, clients, me and my wife. Many times we’ve called him for a quick fix-it before shipping, a drive here or there, his truck for a delivery. In five minutes he’s ringing our doorbell, no questions asked. So it goes both ways. My wife pays him more than his other clients do (she’s an antique dealer, he restores and rebuilds anything), she gives him flexible hours, we give his kids birthday presents and we invite his family over for parties. (And no, he’s not serving drinks behind the bar.)

Another impressive thing about Armando, besides his humility, is that he never considers failure. I mean he’s not a big guy but he’ll lift anything no matter how big or heavy. I have no idea how he does it, except maybe the power of positive thinking.

Hand_RubbingWhen I’m expecting an answer like, “Probably not,” I’ll still ask him, “Can you match this grain and stain?”

He’ll look at it for two seconds and nod.

Or I’ll scan a trashed table my wife brought home and write it off as a costly mistake. Then I’ll ask him, “That water damage is really bad. You can’t get it out, can you?”

“Sure, Irv.” And he does.

The guy’s a genius. He repaints wood grain with artist’s oil paints and brushes. And he’s self-taught. He last job was a line operator in a Mexican bottling plant. Now he’s an artist. How did he get that way? Well, his first employer, another antique dealer, was looking for cheap labor and asked him to glue a chair leg. A thousand chairs later he owns two homes, both in Cuernavaca. He built a house for his parents and another for himself, if he ever returns. In the meantime, he’s gave it to his younger brothers.

That’s what mentors do – they help others get ahead.

I know I’m gushing but think about what more he could do if the United States Immigration Services allowed him to grow his business in the open and pay taxes. He’d gladly do it. And so would his sister in San Francisco who now manages a two-hundred unit apartment complex.

Me? I’m just trying to manage tolerance and staying nice.

 

 

 

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Are You Prejudice? No? You Sure?

Teenager&FatherI’m hurt and disappointed. I’m not disappointed about me. I’m disappointed about them. Four important people in my life are blowing me off. Apparently I have little value for them and they’re not thinking about what that means. Yet two of the four tell me they love me and I get hugs and kisses when we meet. The other two have no interest in me whatsoever and exchange the minimal words needed to keep up the pretense of a family relationship.

These four young adults range in age from 16 to 25. The older two are my sister’s kids, my one niece and one nephew. When Mom dies, my immediate family will be my sister and her two children. We’re not talking. That’s sad.

The other two young people are the children of my oldest nephew in Berlin. My wife is German so I have a European family and I’m much closer to them than I am to my own. So getting forgotten again is an unwelcomed occurrence. I had hoped these two young people would be different than their American generation. I have an assumption about that age group. I’m probably prejudice. It’s probably natural for me to feel that way too. And it’s probably natural for young people to disregard the Old Ones.

Did I feel the same way about age differences when I was twenty? For the most part, yes. But mainly because I can’t remember any adult my parent’s age (except for a few teachers and one special aunt) really caring about my ideas. I’m still friends with that aunt. She’s 83 and we have lots to talk about over shots of Putinka Russian vodka.

Maybe I’m deluding myself. Maybe being friends with certain young family members has little to do with the difference in years. Maybe I’m not tight with them because we wouldn’t be friends even if our age matched. Still, a casual connection doesn’t call for downgrading each other’s significance. We should still reach out. In four cases, I am, they’re not. And yes, this matters to me.

*****

Are we pulling apart because they KNOW me and don’t like what they know? Or are we distant because they DON’T know me and they think they do?

My dictionary gives a definition of prejudice as: “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”

Humm… What exactly is reason? The same dictionary says: (reason is) “the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments by a process of logic”

Okay, a reasonable personal is a logical person. So a non-prejudiced person comes to logical conclusions about people based on ENOUGH personal experiences to actually UNDERSTAND that person (or group). Only then can one make accurate assumptions.

*****

Does anyone really know anyone else? We think we do, like our spouse, until we find out he/she has been cheating on us or that early alcohol non-issue before marriage was really a serious problem going way back. And our kids, we think they’re predictable until we find the pot, condoms and birth-control pills hidden in the back of their drawers. And our parents? How much did they really tell us? Were those snatches of history reshaped? What did they do when we weren’t around?

As for cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, aunts, uncles, work buddies, teachers, grandparents, ministers, our doctors…what we know about these people comes from what they tell us and the observational time we spend with them. We don’t know everything so we fill in the blanks. Then we make assumptions based on filtered and limited information. We hope all those assumptions are positive but when they’re not, we hold back final judgment until we’re disappointed and hurt for the last time. Then it’s time to resolve it. If we don’t, we pretend to get along with excuses like: she’s just sixteen, or he’s going through some lousy shit at work, or that’s how wives are, or that’s what men do.

Everyday we subconsciously rationalize cuts of betrayal and disappointments by telling ourselves nobody is perfect, we’re not perfect or that we never know what’s going on inside the private lives of our friends, family and associates. We don’t want to be prejudice. We don’t want to have preconceived opinions based on a smidgen of reason or direct experience. But we carry those resentments anyway, especially when people we love don’t return it the way we need it. Silence hurts. Getting ignored takes us down. Still, we don’t want to be demanding and judgmental, so we just deal with the bruises until we can’t anymore. Then explosions go wild and people get burned.

*****SmilingGhandi

I don’t want anyone I care about to get emotionally scorched by my retaliations. I want information about Uncle Irv and Aunt Janni sinking into my young German family so they’ll stop assuming people our age don’t care about call backs and returned emails. I want them to realize that someday they’ll be older and hoping their grand kids care about them too. I want my young family to expand out of their All-About-Me universe and get past the rush of immediate sparkling discoveries.

I know life is rich when you’re young. So is introspection. I’d like to see more of that. I’d like to help with that, but it’s unrealistic.

If you’re moving on in years like me, you already know that the generations behind us don’t believe our world is especially awesome, nor do they want to take our advice or share our experiences. If they listen at all, it’s because they work for us, they’re students in our classrooms, it’s a family directive or they need something from us. Otherwise, like I do, they hold a Generation Prejudice. They figure the older bunch just doesn’t “get it” and we Oldies feel the same about them.

Sure, there are exceptions. Younger people do find older mentors. And up to the age of twelve, Grandpa and Grandma can be really fun and both young and old look forward to each other’s company. But once teenagers discover sex and cigarettes, the young/old party is over. Then it’s Us and Them.

I wish that weren’t so. There is so much to learn from the co-mingled perspectives of naive but fearless enthusiasm contrasted with seasoned and cautious wisdom. I wrote a past blog about this.

Mohawk*****

Frankly, I didn’t care about the generation gap until a few years ago when I hit sixty and started writing novels and this blog. I just tootled along, comfortably nestled in my own age group and now and then spent summer weeks with my wife’s sibling’s kids as they grew up to become adults and have kids of their own. Back in the day, before the internet and instant photo sharing, letters took ten days to cross the Atlantic and by then, any news was history. So family communication was far less than it can be today. And consequently less important. What we didn’t have, we didn’t miss.

Today, reaching out IS important because we can do it effortlessly, in seconds, with one finger on a touch screen. Eleven days ago I texted my German grand niece (20) and her brother (16). The young man had just spent three weeks with my wife and me and he brought his best friend too. We entertained the boys like nobody’s business. As they left we got Thank-you’s and I-love-you’s. Once back home, nothing. I wrote this text to Alex and his sister, who has also stayed with us many times.

Did you get this text? Checking connection. Please reply. Irv.

No response. Zip. I called the boy’s father, my nephew. An hour later I got this text from his son:

Hey Irv, Sorry for my late reply, i had a awful busy week. i miss you both so much. Thanks again for everything. Love You. Alex.

When Alex and his friend were camped out in our family room for three weeks I watched them both text their friends back in Germany every ten minutes. Busy is no longer an excuse. His sister didn’t even try using one. My wife sent her a present. No texted or emailed acknowledgement. We feel taken for granted.

Should I let them get away with this? Or should I just carry a lingering resentment that chips away the respect I once had for them.

How would you deal with this? If you’re thirty and you texted your favorite aunt or uncle and got nothing back, would you care? Would you follow up? Or would you decide you couldn’t trust that old lady anymore and let her drift out of your life?

*****

Three years ago I got a first-time email from my sister’s son. It simply said: Hi Uncle Irv. What’s happening?

I wrote back: What’s happening? So much is happening and I’d like to share it with you. But this is a conversation, not a five sentence letter. I want to get to know you and I want you to know me. You may learn some things you won’t want to hear but you’ll also discover new and surprising thoughts. How about a call when you get some time.

I never got a call.70'sAlanWatts

 

When I was twenty-two in 1970, I had a one-time deep conversation Aunt Alice. We talked about Eastern philosophy and a week later I mailed her a book by Alan Watts, The Way of Zen. (Here’s what Alan looked like then) Aunt Alice didn’t read his book but she never stopped talking about my gift. Through the years I never understood why that paperback meant so much to her. Now I do.

Her nephew cared about her and showed it beyond just saying it. It seems I mattered to Aunt Alice.

I never knew it.

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I’m not that nice. How about you?

On the one-to-ten Scale of NICENESS, where do you live? Are you nice to some people and not nice to others? Are you nice to yourself? What IS being nice?

 

B&W_arguing_coupleI’ll admit it. I’m not that nice of a guy. A lot of people think I’m nice and many times I am. But too many times I fall short. It’s bad when my wife’s in the room while I’m angry at everything, having fallen again into a mood swing. I try to hide them. I’m not good at it. They creep up and snatch me down. Then I bark. And worse, I even wake up feeling down, like dirty, damp, stinky laundry. Even when it’s sunny and my adoring wife is smiling at me, I’ll feel like stinky laundry.

Crazy, isn’t it! I’m not happy when there’s nothing to worry about. I’m retired for God’s sake! I plan my days. NO pressure! And I still find things to get upset about, which turns Nice into NOT nice – to myself and to others. Why?

Could it be I’m frustrated? Sure, lots of times. But why is that? Why am I rarely happy with myself? Do you ask yourself that same question?

I’m not sure what starts what. Do spontaneous feelings about failing bring me down? Or do real and tangible missteps happen first, which dumps me into downer feelings? To complicate it further, it doesn’t take much for me to re-label a GAIN into a LOSS. Whatever I do, I’m always left feeling I coulda done it better! I’m glad I’m not always thinking this way. It’s exhausting.

Are you like me? Do you get those not-good-enough thoughts too?Disapproval

I’m glad when they pass. I then work really hard to be nice again. I do nice things, like become the morning waiter for my wife’s coffee-in-bed service. But even when I’m volunteering to do nice things, I’m still intolerant and impatient inside, about everything, targeting myself first.

My inability to accept anything less than excellence, all the time – THAT is what sucks the NICE out of me. And sure, I do settle for less, but I’m not happy about it.

*****

With more free time I’ve been wondering lately, am I a depression case? Am I bi-polar? I don’t think so. But I AM hungry for those occasional moments when happiness drifts into my heart. It mostly happens when I’m close to reaching my goals, all ultimately unobtainable. I set the bar really high. And once I reach it, I raise it again.

As I said, I want to excel. I want to be the smartest guy in the room. I want to be the dude who solves the problems first and makes it better for everyone else. And I suppose that’s okay. Over-achievers, or potential over-achievers like me, push ourselves to improve and hopefully contribute a little more “good” to the world.

But my frustrations get in the way of that. I loose hope too soon if things don’t happen fast enough. I’m not an optimist. I wish I were. But I am persistent. I keep pushing ahead. Have to. Every disappointment needs a win to balance my self-esteem.

If I’m painting a picture of Really Messed Up, I don’t come off that way. People think I’m confident ‘cause I try really hard to be. My quirks are subtle to all but my wife. And for her sake, I’ve managed to stay nice enough and kind enough to make her happy. And that makes me happy.

*****

Controlling_TeacherSo why and how did I turn out to be a perfectionist? I probably came into the world that way. Actually I DID, and now I have to manage it. It’s difficult for me to deal with disorganized minds. I want to barrel past the bullshit and get to core truths. I want to be efficient and clear about my ideas and intentions. And I want everyone else to be that way too. Why? Because I’ve had this lingering notion that the world would be a better place if we all communicated better and TOLD THE TRUTH! How naive.

I’m sixty-six and it took me all these years to figure out that telling-the-truth doesn’t help that much. Actually, debating “truth” is a sizzling spark for a fiery argument. MY truth is not YOUR truth…or my wife’s truth…especially my wife’s truth. And trying to convince her that MY truth is better than HER truth does not bring me hugs and kisses.

What gets my wife and me hugging again is finally letting go of trying to reshape each other. Damn! Why do I always have to relearn that? Why can’t I relax and be nicer? Why am I still trying to retrain my wife as she struggles to retrain me? Sometimes we both succeed. Little changes happen. Most of the time we hold our ground, staying exactly who we are. I’m glad those fights for “improvement” aren’t necessary for our love and marriage. I’m glad I’m still nice enough to keep her close to me. And I’m glad I haven’t given up trying to grow. I don’t want to make my best friend feel sad and alone.

 *****

I want to stop judging too, but I don’t think that’s possible. Actually it isn’t. I’m constantly tracking my actions against everyone else’s. That’s who I am – a processor of what’s fair according to the rules which I feel everyone should follow. And yes, I know that rules are relative and that everything is shades-of-gray and constantly changing. Maybe I should stop taking score moment to moment while using myself as a benchmark to judge others.

Do you do that too? Of course you do. We all compare ourselves to everyone else.

And here’s why, at least my why. If there’s something I don’t like in myself, it’s hard to accept that same negative quality in someone I care about. It’s really about avoiding conceited double standards. If I’m trying to be fair and compromise, shouldn’t you too? If you’re reaching for excellence and we’re working together, shouldn’t I try just as hard? Shouldn’t we all strive to be better?

The big flaw in that argument is this: my BETTER is not necessarily your BETTER. We’re all different, as we should be. Evolution grows out of diversification. If everything were the same, if we all were alike, if there was no mixing and matching, nothing would improve. A given, right? No. There’s a large population that wants everyone to be just like them and kept that way.

But that is not how this Universe works. Nothing IS the same and nothing STAYS the same. Ever.

But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to feelings. Here’s the upside: When I’m feeling good about myself, I’m also feeling good about everyone else. And I bet that’s the way it is for you too.

Aren’t you more patient and tolerant when you’re feeling in charge, when you’re winning? Isn’t it easier to be nice to others when you’re not punishing yourself first? Ya know, it’s true what they say: “To love another, you must love yourself.”

*****

WomanInFGI don’t know how one learns to love and accept oneself but we have to give it a shot. I think we should start by realizing we all make mistakes and it’s okay to fall down. If we don’t begin there, life will get really lonely fast. Mean frustrations will repel what’s left of our friends.

So if you’ve got a BFF or spouse who loves you in spite of yourself, don’t ever, EVER, take that loving soul for granted. And don’t stop trying to be nice to yourself, either. If you can make that happen, you’ll spread a lot of NICENESS around everywhere!

Now…if I’ll just take my own advice!

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Sexual Privacy – Is that Hip Anymore?

The world can be divided into two groups:

  1. Group A wants their sex life private, behind closed doors.
  2. Group B wants their sex romps open, at least some of them, in front of other eyes or cameras.

I belong to the private Group A and I’m assuming we’re the majority. Establishing that, our planet can be divided again:

  1. Group #1 likes to watch Group B’s public sex.
  2. Group#2 does not.

I’m a member of Group #1, and I KNOW we’re the majority, whether we all get to see the shows or not.

NoKissing*****

Why do people like to watch other people have sex? The same reason they like to have sex themselves. It feels good…if you really want it. “Virtual Sex” tricks our brains into thinking somebody else’s intercourse is our own, and it sure can be. But that’s not what this post is about. I’m trying to figure out just why some people, of all ages and origins, like to be watched having sex. I don’t condone child porn or forced sex acts. These practices are as close to evil and people can get.

I’m looking at consenting, sane adults like me and you. I’d like to understand why some of us want to be viewed doing the most personal things we do. What is the advantage of exposing our animal-natural behavior to strangers? Why is giving up physical privacy a turn-on?

These questions are full of mystery and I have no answers. Maybe you do. Maybe you’re a Group B and know I’m over-thinking this. I asked a few Group B’s why they want to do porn or ARE doing it and I got these answers:

  • Her: I love sex and I always wanted to try this.      Me: Why?
  • Him: It’s an easy way to make money.                    Me: But why THIS way to make money?
  • Her: It’s exciting to do naughty things.                   Me: But why THIS kind of naughty thing?
  • Him: Having people watch me is a turn on.            Me: Again, why?

When I asked those B Groups my Why? follow-up’s, here’s what I heard: “I don’t know. It just is that way.”ShootingPorn

Humm… How many people really know why they do things?

*****

Now that the internet delivers free “Adult” movies to the world and Group B adults are uploading their private sex tapes for all of us Group #1’s to watch, it seems to me that money is no longer the primary motivation for public exposure. Wannabe sex-star couples, triples and groups don’t have to be pros on film sets anymore. It’s anyone’s game and those happy folks down the street, well they’re goin’ for that watch-me thing too.

But why? For fame buried in a pool of thousands and thousands of porn flicks? THAT kind of measly fame? THAT kind of minimal relevance?

To be fair, I do know why some movie sex workers stay in the business. They are famous. They do make money there and they have a sense of family, of belonging to an exclusive group – a club membership with benefits. And those benefits are not just about paid sex. They are about friendships with really nice people. Yes, caring people, and kind and loyal. I know this from first-hand experience.

After graduating USC Film School as a potential movie director, but actually a desperate need-rent-&-food-money movie director, I finally landed my first job in 1970 directing three films – “Adult” films; my fragile exposure to public sex and the young guys and gals doing it. None of them were addicts or crazy or ever mentioned sexual abuse. Performers like that probably existed but not in my circle of friends.

So as I said, I’m not analyzing professional porn personalities. I’m writing about everyone else who screws in front of an audience, real or remote. I writing about the last smidgen of privacy we have left – what we do in bed and how those instincts are enthusiastically offered as entertainment.

*****

StrippersWhy is having open sex exciting for some and embarrassing for others? It can’t be just about a broadcasted watch me movie because there are swing clubs and salacious pre-wedding bachelor and bachelorette parties and the oral-sex-audience-participation strip clubs where no cameras are allowed. Is party bonking so mainstream now that it’s just another kick or intoxicated rite-of-passage?

I don’t know. Maybe it always was. I don’t think Group B’s think about it that much.

I met a younger woman a few years ago who told me she wanted to jump into porn but was afraid her thirteen year-old son would find her on the internet. She had good cause for concern. What amazed me was that she wasn’t worried about anyone else discovering her bouncing butt; like her parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, workplace friends or her book club ladies.

Humm… Must be everybody’s doin’ it so it’s okay now. Like getting tattoos and divorces. Still, not everybody’s doin’ it and I’m in the group that’s still clinging to privacy. But if someone asked me why I don’t want to be seen in the shower, I’d probably say, “I don’t know. I’m just like that.”

But that’s not good enough. I should know why I need to keep my sex drives closed to others when it’s not the trend anymore. Privacy, and the desire to maintain it, is diminishing everywhere, especially in the younger generations. Am out-of-step with the modern and courageous Free-World? Am I an old-fashioned, overly modest guy?

To find out, I typed some questions into my Google search window. First query: Why do people upload their sex tapes?

I found a bunch of How-to-Upload-Your-Sex Video instructional sites but only one place that gave any commentary about it. City-Data, a public forum, published a thread of uploaded reasons. Here they are. People do get paid something for their amateur uploads, it’s another way for narcissists to get attention, or exhibitionists, or to break taboos, or monkey see-monkey do, or it’s hip now. But no one had any follow up explanations as to the Why’s of all that.

So I tried another search question: Why is sex tape sharing popular? Got nothing there, except more how-to-share-your-sex video links.

Then I tried: Psychological studies of the pornography business.

Okay, some info, but almost all articles were written about the effects of pornography or the pornography business itself. Live Science told me that porn models don’t want to be studied and there’s a lack of funding for it.  I figured that.

An article in Psychology Today (12/24/12) said that porn performers are generally not “damaged goods” and that they like sex more than the control group, presumable Group A. Porn people have more “sociosexuality” it said. Well yeah! But mating studies has nothing to do with desires for watch-me arousals.

“So I read the follow up Psychology Today article written a year later. Again it said:

…male and female performers reported higher self-esteem, earlier age of first sexual experience, greater enjoyment of sex, and a far greater number of sex partners (outside their profession).

The essay continued to talk more about high sociosexuality and personality types. Translation: What kind of person likes lots of sex with lots of people? My answer: (without laws, religion and potential pregnancy…) EVERYBODY does. We all want sex but not all of us want to be watched doing it.

On to the next article: Pornography actors: a qualitative analysis of motivations and dislikes. This was such a dry and boring research paper I couldn’t read it.

Porn Studies and the English On-line newspaper, Independent (11/25/12) reported more of the same conclusions.

So I advance my search and typed: The Truth about Amateur Porn. Again, I found tons of sites devoted to uploading videos but only one that discussed it – The Huffington Post (2/12/14) and it said,

Amateur porn site Homegrown Video cataloged all video submissions they received over a six-month period. They found that almost one-third of homemade sex tapes submitted between July and December 2013 were created not in sexually liberal coastal cities, as one might imagine, but in the Bible Belt. Furthermore, 56.9 percent of videos were submitted by women.

So what? Who’s surprised? Not me. But where am I going with this? Psychological research about sexual privacy did NOT hit my eyes. Could it be that I’m the only dude who wants to know about it? Maybe I’m not supposed to. But maybe YOU are.

*****eyebehindkeyhole

Do you care about your privacy? Do you know about the data brokers who don’t ask your permission as they profile your history. Do you know those companies sell your identity to anyone who wants to visit your computers and phones with advertising and solicitations?

Is Homegrown Video watching us? Of course not. But companies like Axiom, Epsilon and Experian are, and they’re not letting us watch them back. Homegrown does not care about my sexual orientation, health issues, religion, bank account, traffic tickets, age, gender or my driving locations and shopping habits. Homegrown and the people who show their naked butts on that site will not be pricing my purchasing preferences. And they’re not forcing me to watch fornication either.

So in that regard, porn sites are those neighbors down the street offering me whatever they have which I might want to take. On the other hand, I AM getting fucked by privacy thieves who spy on my internet clicks, use my smart phone to track me, dive into my credit and school grades and then log my life. Why are there no laws or religious morals that makes those practices downright wrong?

As we lose more and more isolation, I ask you to reconsider which group will be your home. Group A, who wants their lives totally self-controlled, closed and private? Or Group B who reveals it all and assumes they’re safe from predators?

I’m looking for an informed and practical Group C somewhere in the middle.

 

 

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The Big Secret Grandma and Grandpa Don’t Want You to Know

man_reflectionsThe secret? Here it is: Not everyone grows old but all bodies do.

So what. You knew that.

So if we all know it, why won’t we admit it? Reason: Either we’re young enough to worry about it sometime in the future, or we’re old enough to LIVE in that future and we’re pretending we’re not. Nobody wants to grow old.

But you knew that too, unless you’re ten. And if you’re twenty, here’s something else you still don’t know. If you’re lucky enough to get really old and think like forty, you’re probably feeling like eighty from the neck down. That’s when you know life is not fair. But long before that, as you trudge into your fifties, you’ll deny those first joint pains and queasy stomachs, telling yourself you’re still young until some body part stops working.

But wait! Good news! There’s “after-market” organ replacements and surgery. Yea! All is well again! With added plastic surgery, youth forever…until we can’t get out of bed anymore. Damn! Life sucks.

Lately I’ve been watching lots of old people growing older. Why? Because I’m getting old too and so I’m noticing the most important issue in every old person’s life. It’s INDEPENDENCE, the number one priority. We have to do stuff alone as long as we can because when we can’t, physical freedom goes bye-bye. Super bummer! Getting from point A to point B is THE most precious and yet taken for granted human need we have…after sex and Ben & Jerry’s.

Yep. We grow up believing what makes us go will work for a long, long time. Old people know that myth exists solely in the minds of the young. We Oldies also know that you Younglings insist you’re invulnerable. That’s what makes you YOUNG…until your first wake up call, like a serious debilitation.

*****oldyoungGetty

But again, GOOD NEWS! As long as you DO have independence, as long as your brain connects the dots and you’re making good choices, life is very much a precious treat. As you age, you come to understand you have much to give back. You are a living history full of answers, assuming you remember them.

And now the bad news: Once you’re an Old One, you find that very few Young Ones want to learn from you. And then you remember what you were like at sixteen and it hits you: Whoa! This is age discrimination! Was I like that?

But more good news: After years of getting in and out of bed, as long as you’re acting young and thinking current, lots of people want to hear what you have to say. Well, maybe not sixteen year-old’s, but perhaps twenty-something’s.

Are you a twenty-something? A thirty-something? Watch out. Someday you’ll be a sixty-something.

*****

More bad news: If you’re a parent, your children still think you’re just Mom and Dad. In their minds you were never their age and you’ll never understand.

But Parents, you know you’re actually people and your friends think your words are important. And if you’re hip, happy and interested in developing minds, your friends can be younger than your kids.

But some more bad news: The moment you get that first body pain and it doesn’t go away, you know you’ve crossed the line into SENIOR WORLD! (Kids, remember that.)

Good news: Crossing-the-line is being pushed back further and further into aging.

Bad news: Pushing it back means taking care of yourself when you don’t have to, when you’re still young and not thinking about growing old. (Kids, remember that.)

Good news: We now have access to the truth about what we take into our bodies and what that stuff does to us and how we should help our body instead of harming it.

Bad news: The youth (if that’s you) don’t care about recent science news. Smoking is cool, like driving fast.

Hey! Young Adult! Yeah, that’s you! Are ya hearing your grandpa’s advice? Or Uncle Jimmy with his emphysema and oxygen bottle?

Good news…for me. (Maybe it’s good for you too.) I don’t have aches and pains that don’t go away. And I’m sixty-six.

The bitter truth: Pain make you feel and be old.

PicketFenceBad news: Since I still reside on the pain-free side of the fence, I don’t want to hang out with all those old people. I don’t want to be in the bowling, Bingo and early brunch club. I don’t want to be reminded that we’re all ticking clocks and face mortality. I don’t want the Young Ones to think I’m old.

But there’s better news about this: I’m starting to realize how dumb it is to deny aging. I’m figuring out that it’s unwise to disrespect the rewards that come from living more years. It will backfire on me. When that day comes and I get pushed over the fence into Senior World, I’ll be the wrinkled, saggy-skin guy I’m afraid to be now. If I don’t respect the Older Irv, who else will?

*****

So, with a change of attitude, maybe there’s still hope for me. A few years ago I discovered my mother as she appears to everyone else – a super groovy lady with wrinkled, saggy skin.

More good news: I’m starting to befriend more “old” people, the ones who still think youngish. They have interesting things to say and they’re not that much different than me.

More good news: Having gently drifted into the Twilight Zone of not Young and not Old, I can look at both groups and find mentors in each – lessons about the fearlessness of youth, insights about wise caution evolving out of experience. Every time I look at an “Old One” I imagine how he played when he was six. When I watch an eight year-old romp with delight, I imagine how she’ll be slowing down when she’s eighty.

Early years gifts us the armor of perceived immortality. Later years teach the truth about transience. Living richly and wisely opens our eyes to live in both worlds at once, taking youthful risks with matured mellowed caution.

If you’re past forty, can you still feel the excitement of discovery? Can you still marvel in the wonder of All-There-Is?

If you’re past sixty, can you still look forward to new adventures, even if those journeys exist solely in your mind and come from thinking new thoughts?

If you’re thirty, can you find a six year-old interesting, or a seventy year-old?

If you’re eighty, can you still find the courage to leave the security of the known?

*****

Yes, we all want to stay young. So let’s do it! Let’s commit to fresh-faced joy with the wisdom of age. Let’s prove that over-used saying false: Youth is wasted on the young. If you’re twenty, ponder your future. If your eighty, reflect on your past. Realize we all come together in the eternal NOW as we move towards the end…if there is an end.

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How to be Happy with 80-20 when Your Part is 20

woman_in_tears“Why do you always feel diminished?”

That’s what my mother said to me over the phone yesterday as she collapsed into sobs. The conversation was not supposed to be about me. We were talking again about my sister Rachel and her shattered life. Now suddenly I was the problem.

My mother will be ninety-four this coming September eleventh – a date everyone else remembers for an entirely different reason. We lost Dad last June, which culminated Mom’s 71 years of a somewhat okay marriage. My mother is now free of my father’s dominance and dependence, and she’s also free to focus more on my sister’s dismal state of affairs.

Rachel and I are not teens anymore and Mom isn’t fifty. Yet we’re still dealing with the same toxic issues. I wish there were bad guys in this drama. Bad people make it easier to figure out right and wrong. Instead I’m now part of an aging threesome where we’re just trying to cope and do the right thing. But the right thing for Mom and Rachel may not be right for me. I’m trying to see the big picture. I’m trying to make Mom’s decision feel appropriate. But my wife insists I’m being treated unfairly while my mother tells me she’s torn up about her decision and I should accept it. So I’m squeezed between how my wife wants me to feel and how my mother thinks I should feel.

Here’s the question: Should parents treat their children equally, or should they give more of everything to the child who needs it the most?

I’m glad I’m not a parent. I would not want to make that decision. But I am one of two children, and I am not the one who needs it the most.

You may be wondering why I’m describing such private matters in a public blog. I’m writing about personal dilemmas because we all have them and maybe the expression of mine will shed some light on yours. Beyond that, my family doesn’t know I’m a writer or about Irv Podolsky, my wife doesn’t read my website and her family doesn’t either. Finally, I change names to protect real identities, starting with mine.

*****

So here it goes…the unfolding.

I haven’t liked my sister for a long time – as a sibling, as a person. I consider her dishonest and disloyal. But up until last night I never considered her especially needy. Demanding, yes. Manipulative, sure. But not a special-needs case, not handicapped in any way.

Last night, after my mother told me I was psychologically deficient, that I’m supposedly feeling like a victim, diminished in her words, I had to rethink my entire life again and come to some honest conclusions. Am I making myself a victim?

No. I’m not. But I do feel betrayed…by my mother, my father, and in the last ten years, deliberately by my sister.

I don’t want this post to be a trash-my-sister essay, so I won’t go into all the details. But I can tell you this, Rachel was one of those high-maintenance babies you could never leave alone. She turned into an angry teenager who turned into an high-achieving super-star adult destined for greatness but couldn’t stop making bad choices. Those bad choices left her with a first-marriage divorce and a second-marriage in shambles. She made terrible monetary and business decisions which drained all, and I mean ALL of her reserves to the point where her two kids, both prep-school graduates, couldn’t finish college because she ran out of money and they couldn’t pay their school loans. Her husband has an on-again, off-again low income career. So at the age of sixty, my sister is a bankrupt attorney working out of her house with a cell phone and two clients.

Yes, a sad story. But what makes it worse, is that Rachel alienated almost every person who could help her. Who knows why she refuses to take my calls and answer my emails, AND my mother’s, but she does. And then she lies about it with feeble excuses, as she does to every family member who she ignores for reasons no one understands.

Since our father died, Rachel has been better about calling Mom and she’s taking care of the legal stuff, all admirable. But my sister also manages to drop a hint or two about another mortgage crisis which prompts Mom to write a check, as I have.

The last words my sister said to my mother, according to Mom, went something like this: “When you go, I won’t be able to handle it. I just won’t.”

“Well Mom,” I said in yesterday’s call, “No pressure you understand, but for Rachel’s sake, you are not allowed to die.”

We both feigned laughter and then I said. “But Mom, if Rachel loves you to pieces, even though she admits she won’t call you back, why did she blast you two years ago about you failing her?”

“Irv…” Oh, I could hear it coming – You never know what’s happening in a person’s life. “We don’t know what’s going on in Rachel’s mind,” Mom continued. “Whatever she said…”

I finished it. “…it wasn’t about you. She was dealing with some overwhelming crisis and transferred that frustration into a wash of babble, just to vent.”

“That’s right,” my mother confirmed. “Rachel’s lost.” (Translation: emotionally crippled) “She’s struggling, Irv. She’s trying the best she can, but it’s the business.”

Yes, the Business. My sister is an entertainment lawyer. And sure, it’s really tight now. But it’s been crunching tighter for fifteen years. We all saw it coming. Most of us made corrections to keep afloat. My sister didn’t, and I feel sorry about that. I also wish she hadn’t told us how great she was doing until she couldn’t hide her crash anymore and then pretend we didn’t warn her.

So now she’s desperate and Mom wants to help her by re-balancing our inheritance from 50-50 to 80-20 with eighty percent going to Rachel. last_will

*****

“I’m only trying to do the right thing!” Mom wept yesterday over the phone. “You have no idea what I’m going through! I’m so torn!”

“I do know what you’re going through. You’re a mother and you will never stop being a mother and Rachel will never stop being your daughter. I get it.”

“Then why won’t you accept the twenty percent? Why does it have to be half or nothing?”

“Because twenty percent is insulting, Mom. If Rachel needs your inheritance so much, give it all to her. I don’t need a token donation. I never expected anything from you.”

Mom broke down again. “I wanted to give you that money so maybe you could go on a nice cruise and think of me.”

“Mom, I think of you everyday. I call three times a week. I was there when Dad died. I don’t need to be paid for doing what sons are supposed to do.”

“It’s not a salary! Why do you always feel diminished?”

“Well Mom, truth is, from the time I was two, YOU made me feel diminished with your constant working and dealing with Rachel. And Dad, he had his own thing going all the time too; and then my only-sister decided one day I wasn’t important enough for a call back. Now her kids think that way. So yeah, I definitely grew up feeling alone and less valued. And I’ve been trying to forget it ever since.”

That’s what I thought. What I said was, “Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. If you want to leave me something, I’ll accept whatever it is. I know you’re just trying to do the right thing.”

holding-hands*****

 

Sometimes you can’t always tell the truth. Sometimes doing the right thing hurts others. Sometimes the world is not fair. Sometimes you just have to suck it up, grow up and be grateful for 20 percent. Some people have zero.

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How to Take Out the Garbage and Feel Good About It

angry_bossThis post is mostly about men, motivated men, men that are scared to fail.

I can write about this because I’m one of those men, a guy who does his best because he doesn’t want to fuck up in public and have people think he’s less than what he wants to be. I feel good when people like what I do and I feel terrible when they don’t. Validation has been the driving force behind my ability to make a living. Still, it hasn’t helped me to achieve my biggest dreams. I realize now that super status and fame was never meant for me. I never had the personality to be a high achiever. Many people think I am and I suppose, when compared to the rest of the world, I’ve gotten some place. I’m not rich but I don’t have to worry about money. Having finished the game, that’s been taken care of.

Did I write, finish the game? Yes I did. I’ve retired.

How do I feel about that? How do all of my retired friends feel about that? The same way I do. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be retired.

This commentary is also about the workplace and how it can make grown men cry. Sure, it makes us happy to feel appreciated and score personal victories and get rewarded. But for most of us, that doesn’t happen very often. I worked with the silent majority where, in the last years, our jobs depleted us instead of building us. Now I’m out of the competition and off the game board. How is it? Let me put it this way.

Remember how we’ve always been told that a man needs a purpose to feel good about himself, that without meaningful goals and successes, life becomes empty and worthless?

Guess what? NOT TRUE!

That’s right! Most people don’t need a big purpose to be happy. Who made that up? Our bosses?

If we need any purpose at all, it’s about survival. I arranged that and now I have no problem dumping those impossible, constant deadlines for another person’s agenda. After a life of having to be a good baby, a good boy, a good student and a good worker, I’m thrilled to move past those demands. I’m relieved that failing in a job is no longer a possibility even though winning isn’t either. The only kind of winning I ever wanted is the personal-best kind where I’m improving and growing for myself, where mistakes are not embarrassing because they’re needed to find the best choice, and no one’s keeping score about that except ME.

*****Gladiators

I’m not drawn to competition. I never felt any satisfaction when I won the contract and my competitor didn’t. I only felt relief that I was again working in a freelance market that had turned us craft people into gladiators fighting each other for the last job. I worked in the film business. It is no longer a happy space. With more people than jobs, it’s a struggle to keep working. Yes, the projects can be rewarding, but staying in the game comes with great sacrifices. Those trade-off’s apply to most industries in our modern world and it takes a certain kind of emotionally armored warrior to thrive in the fight. That’s not me.

But maybe it’s you. Maybe you embrace the stress (or at least feel comfortable in it) and come out on top. If that’s the case, I admire you. You’re the kind of person I always wanted to be.

Over the years I’ve noticed that certain personalities do better than others in the work world. There are the fit-in, non-confrontational types who threaten no one. They move up the corporate ladder because their bosses trust them to carry out company policies and not question them. They are “Yes Sir” people but that’s a good thing. Agreeable lieutenants stay employed because bosses don’t want their employees competing with them over decisions. Yes-Sir people say “Yes, sir,” and actually mean it.

I was never a Yes-Sir either, although I tried. Problem was, I couldn’t stop thinking like a manager. If I conceived a different way of doing the task, as tactfully as I could I’d suggest my “better” solution. I use the world better because that’s what I thought at the time and that attitude surfaced despite my attempts to keep it masked. So yeah, many times I felt I could do my boss’s job and somehow he/she felt it. I never messed up but rarely was I someone’s first choice.

So if I thought I could do my boss’s job, why didn’t I do more of that? The answer is, I tried to be fair and nice and be liked. I wish I could say I was 100% successful doing that. I wish I could say I was 100% fair and nice.

*****

We all know about ruthless people and how they intimidate others to follow them. The film industry has plenty of tyrants and books have been written about them. But assholes exist in all businesses and most of the time those people, doing whatever-it-takes, get what they want and amass fortunes and power. It’s believed that high rollers are greedy, have no conscience, empathy or scruples, and that they break the rules. In many cases that’s true. In many cases it’s not.

Not all rich and powerful people abuse others. Many super successful people ARE nice. And generous too. They are also fearless, ultra confident, likable, love to network, play golf and are really, really smart.

I’m not fearless or ultra confident. I get bored with networking and I don’t play golf. I’m not really, really smart but I’m sorta smart. I hope I’m likable but I don’t like too many people. How I got this far is a miracle.

The third kind of person that excels in the business world are the Hatchet Men. Women probably do it too but I haven’t watched enough TV drama to get a sense of that. In my environment, it’s always been men who do the dirty work for those bosses who don’t want to be blamed for their mean, cut-throat policies. These “Cut & Clean Guys” are also very valuable in the work place…as well as the Mafia. I personally know a guy like that, and he sleeps at night just fine, with dough in the bank. He also cheats on his wife, his second wife. And while smiling, he calls people, “Buddy.” He named me Buddy too as he sold me out – more than once. I couldn’t report him to the department head because the department head was the same boss (his and mine) who authorized all the manipulation. Putting employees into jeopardy was never actually spelled out. But under-bidding contacts and then forcing the job to get done, even if it meant exploiting the workers, was something we all understood. Anyone who objected to that policy found themselves outside the opportunities in the department.

I found myself outside the opportunities in the department. That’s why I left it and the entire industry which had turned into a “Whatever-It-Takes” weekly war.

*****

So after all these years of trying to be the best, I turned out to be “above average” with an above average monetary outcome, which should be okay, right?

garbagetoTheDumpsterMaybe. But I was never supposed to be above average. I was supposed to be the best, according to all the grown-ups who told me that from before I can remember. And now, having failed at being the BEST, I’m just grateful that I can finally chuck that pursuit and forget about working for validation. I can just be ME and feel good about myself while taking out the garbage.

So what’s the take-away for YOU, a person with still more days on your job? It’s a simple reminder: Value and nurture the friendships you have at work. In the end, it’s just us and that doesn’t end when we clock-out. The ultimate purpose in life is sharing rich ideas, affection, and yes…LOVE.

But you knew that.

 

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WE’RE ALL FORGETTING…but we forgot that

OldHandYoungHandMy father died with practically no memory left in his brain. His mother, my grandmother, passed away having lost all of it. Will I end up that way too?

That’s the wrong question. My memories have already betrayed me. And so have yours.

*****

I’ve been forgetting things over the past few years, simple things like names and words. People tell me, especially folks my age, that forgetting names and words is just “old age”. I’m sixty-six. Am I old? I don’t feel old, look old or act old. At least that’s what people tell me and I agree with them. But still I’m forgetting, and although my “older” friends explain that they forget too and it’s nothing to fret about, I have to wonder, do I have a brain that will start to die before the rest of me?

Will I drift into a Thirty Second Universe where my father ended up, a state of mind where normality lasts only half a minute before its all forgotten?

A few years ago I read about a blood test that predicts dementia. Last week my doctor told it me it’s not conclusive, but if I wanted it, the test is covered by my insurance and Medicare. blood_in-viles

If it’s not conclusive, why would insurance companies and the United States Government pay for something that’s iffy at best? Why would they think it’s a good idea to know where you’re headed if there’s really no way to know that? And even if this test gives me just a MAYBE, should I decide that maybe is not MY maybe?

In my mind I’m still young, although aches and pains attack me now and then. Between assaults, when I’m pain free and can easily open a tight pickle jar lid with only my hands, I pretend aging is still in the future. Dad died in June at ninety-six, a long life by anyone’s standards. Still, I’m trying to reduce his finale to a remote concept about something that happens all the time. Everyone’s parents die. We all die. Dying is just one of those things you get over, even your own.

But this thing called Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia or Fronto-temporal dementia – this brain deconstruction is different than other disabilities. It’s about everything shrinking. It’s where everyone else who lives beyond your personal Thirty Second Universe knows more about reality than you do. They know what you did (the stuff you forgot) and they know what you’ll be doing (like looping the conversation back to the beginning for the third time with the same questions). If you believe there is a conspiracy circling you, you’re probably right once your family stops stating that you just said this or that. When you no longer remember that you can’t remember anything at all, you’ve lost your identity. My dad never got that far. His mother did.

*****

If you’re getting depressed and want to stop reading, you probably wouldn’t want to take a blood test that says you’re prone to get brain shrinkage. It’s not depressing to write this because I have yet to get back my test results and I also read heredity is not usually the reason for dementia. So I’m just curious as to what the test will tell me. If it says I have the gene for dementia, I’ll note that but tell myself that brain-fade is for very old people and I’m nowhere close to that.

Actually that’s not true. We’re all forgetting, almost everything. And what we don’t forget, we distort in our minds.

*****

Ebbinghaus ForgetsHere’s the bitter truth about remembering our past. Sure, we have many recollections, but they are only the events that made an impression at the time, the stuff we considered important enough to remember. Our memory selection is filtered and then integrated into our world-view. And what’s not important, well, that we don’t remember. What’s important and what isn’t is shaped by ATTITUDE, not by the intrinsic significance of the event.

You’re approached by someone you don’t know but as words are exchanged you begin to realize you two have met before. You even worked with that person but you forgot. He didn’t. Guess who decided that past encounter wasn’t important enough to retain.

We selectively remember what we think we can use later. Only a few people remember events as they actually happened. All the rest of us remember the IMPRESSIONS of what happened. And those impressions are molded moment by moment by our desire of how we want our life to turn out.

Obviously I do that too. Even the stuff I think I clearly remember is actually jumbled. I wrote three novels based on my memories of 44 years ago. There were many holes to fill in and all the dialogue. So I bridged the gaps and used conclusions that came from later experiences. The story couldn’t have be authored any other way. Or remembered.

Recently I read two years of letters I had written to my parents during part of the time referenced in the books. I couldn’t believe how much I had forgotten, including people who were with me during some of the events I had written about. Without realizing it, I had completely erased those people from my personal drama. I didn’t remember they were there too. And when I phoned those old friends to ask about our shared experiences, they described something totally different than I recalled.

So how much of my memory life was absolutely real? Probably none of it. And that goes for you as well.

*****

What IS real, then? Just ME and YOU in the present with all of our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors built on a mishmash of reconstructed recollection. Yep, we’re a collection of assumptions based on biased data reorganizing from moment to moment. Ultimately the only reality that exists is that which we record with machines, and even that playback is interpreted differently from person to person. Few of us agree on what the facts are anymore, if we can find some that haven’t been edited in someway to impress a point-of-view.

So here’s the point: Most, if not all of our memories are an illusion. We experience an event, interpret it, accept or reject those ideas, store the essence of the memory consciously or unconsciously and then make a decision based on what we believe to be true. Truth is relative. We’re all prisoners of time kept guessing by the way our brains reshape personal data to fit what we want to happen.

*****manLooksOutWindow

At the end of his life, my dad had lost most of his personal data. And what was left, didn’t matter anymore. In his last seven days the only mental activity remaining was the essence of who my father was – simply gratitude. He no longer cared about reinventing anything to win an argument or impress us. Control had lost its significance. Decisions were basic. He had no need for assumptions or critical opinions. He was holy.

How much of our memory do we have to lose to get to that point? How much do we have to remember?

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