It’s Day #2 of 2015. Time for a change, so GOODBYE.
I said, “Goodbye” a few years ago and returned. I might be back again if time frees up. Anything can happen, as we all know.
It’s Day #2 of 2015. Time for a change, so GOODBYE. I said, “Goodbye” a few years ago and returned. I might be back again if time frees up. Anything can happen, as we all know. Take care, Irv Share:View full post
I don’t know, maybe it just happens with me. Maybe I live in a zone where people who super like me, and act like it when we’re together, never call me. Some don’t even text back. But if I keep trying and trying and finally we connect, the phone conversation or face time …View full post
I promised myself I would write something cheery and uplifting this time, ‘cause it IS Holiday Week. But golly gee, I never liked the holidays. Any holiday. It’s a complicated story but traditional events don’t feel like they’re mine. When people invite me to their celebrations of joy and merriment, I’m not joyful or merry …View full post
I’ve been putting it off for months. Five and a half actually. Then six days ago I wrote a post about why writing holiday cards seems phony for me. There’s nothing spontaneous about it. It’s boring homework that has nothing to do with real caring – for ME that is. Maybe for you, mailing cheery …View full post
Why do bad people do nice things? I don’t know why. They just do, at least the ones I personally know, the ones I call “friends”. They’re not close friends, thought. When they invite my wife and me to their homes, it’s just us and them. Our bad friends don’t mingle us with their other …View full post
I don’t know, maybe it just happens with me. Maybe I live in a zone where people who super like me, and act like it when we’re together, never call me. Some don’t even text back. But if I keep trying and trying and finally we connect, the phone conversation or face time seems truly genuine, sincere and intimate with musical words flowing into my ears, as in…
“I miss you so much.”
“I think about you all the time.”
“I’m so happy we got together.”
“I can tell you things I can’t tell anyone else.”
“I love you.”
We then part and I won’t hear from them again unless I phone six times.
I don’t get it. Is love-ignore, love-ignore a cosmic joke or boot camp for Unconditional Love? ‘Cause if it is, I know the drill already! I don’t need more reminders about GIVING! I want some GETTING, like calls or emails or cell phone pics! (Am I sounding like a Jewish mother?)
You wanna know my wish list for 2015? I wanna be best friends with someone who is NOT a stranger! One-way reach-out sucks. And that applies to family too, except for Mom and two nephews on my wife’s side. Those call-me-first folk are gods in my world.
Now, my wife has a few close friends and a sister who do call her all the time. So when I tell her about my waiting-for-the-phone-to-ring anguish, she says, “You know how people are. They’ve got a lot of things going in their lives.”
Readers, am I the only one? Am I just dreaming a phone fantasy where people call each other just to check in? Is that reality anymore? Was it ever? Or should I wake up in the real world and stop screaming, “Is anybody out there!?”
Hummm… If I’m nicer, would more people want to call me, besides Mom?
But maybe I’m not alone with this. Maybe you too have long waits for call backs that never come. Do your friends phone you? Or do you have to call them first? And if you’re always going to them, are those people B list chums?
Or maybe you haven’t noticed which way it goes and it doesn’t matter who calls who. Maybe I should be more tolerant, stop judging and keep reaching out until somebody picks up the damn phone and tells me they love me. Maybe I should buy a service that calls me and tells me they love me. Maybe I should get my wife to do that. Maybe I should leave messages for myself that say that.
Dear Readers, do you love me? If so, why don’t you guys leave comments? Why do I have to write all the words all the time? Can’t you share at least some of the load? Hey! It’s almost the New Year – a new beginning – I write something, you write something, I write something back. You wouldn’t be strangers anymore!
Here, I’ll make it easy. I’ll write the script. Just cut and paste it, then send it back to me like a holiday card that says, “Best something or other.” Then sign it. Pretend I’m your Uncle Irving.
I know I don’t leave comments but I can’t wait to see your posts each week! Sometimes I even read them. So just for the record, I want you to know…
I miss you so much, Irv.
I think about you all the time, Irv.
I’m so happy we get together on the web.
You tell me things nobody else does.
I adore you, Irv!
(Your Name here)
Oh… I forgot. You’re too shy to tell me that in public. You want our relationship to be special and private. I get it. It’s private. It’s so private, I’m not in it. But I know you love me just the same, ‘cause you keep coming back each week to read a stranger’s thoughts, even when he writes about his brain damaged friend.
So from one stranger to another, I love you, whoever you are. Have a super New Year’s celebration…while you’re thinking of me.
Best something or other…
Your Uncle Irv
I promised myself I would write something cheery and uplifting this time, ‘cause it IS Holiday Week. But golly gee, I never liked the holidays. Any holiday. It’s a complicated story but traditional events don’t feel like they’re mine. When people invite me to their celebrations of joy and merriment, I’m not joyful or merry ‘cause I’m faking that I am.
I suppose that’s sort of warped but I have a mental trick that nudges me into the holiday spirit, which is a good thing, ‘cause my wife LOVES holidays and parties and brings people together. That happens every few months…where I live.
This December we’ve had four parties in nine days and despite my reluctance to get into group chatter, some of it has been serious stuff about religion, tradition, politics, friendship, relationships and philosophy coming from the minds of various races and ethnic backgrounds seated around our candle-lit table. Our parties remind me that given the right circumstances we all can get along and comfortably share ideas, even if we disagree.
That happens because we all agreed to disagree without drama. It’s party time. Nothing is threatening. My wife and I make sure of that by selectively inviting people with the same agenda: Keep it festive!
But outside our doors there’s the real world where it’s not party time and certain groups insist we should all think alike and build homogeneous clubs, tribes, states, nations and religions. Religion’s the big one, influencing the most power for construction and destruction. This is not news to you, and you might argue that not all groups and group members insist that we all think and believe alike. And you might also say that not everyone belongs to a group.
On both counts, I’d say, “Not true.” Every group, even the most liberal, wants uniformity to some degree and everyone belongs to a league, even if it’s not organized. Everyone divides the world into the good guys and the bad guys and everyone considers themselves a member of the Good Guy Club.
People like me, and maybe that’s you too, hope for a live-and-let-live world – one big amenable, flexible, cooperative, tolerant, easygoing super union willing to compromise. The United Nations tried that. How’s it working? Seems coming together as a planet is off the game board. Individual nations can do it, at times. Marriages can do it, at times. Religions can do it, as long as everyone agrees with the rules. But isn’t that defeating the principle of individuality and acceptance of differences?
So we’re back to where we started, asking, can a group be comprised of differences? Can a happy religion take hold that’s all about diversity? Can an assembly exist where those who wish to conform join those who don’t in order to share contrasting ideas and support each other?
How about a group of atheists, agnostics and believers all deciding to give ethical and moral assistance to everyone? Could you call that a religion? Or a government? Could an organization like this diminish the divide between Us and Them?
That’s a long shot. It’s takes highly motivated, super empathetic, well informed, self confident people to make harmony happen on any scale. But just for fun, since it IS a Holiday weekend, let’s think about starting our own Let’s-All-Get-Along club. We’ll need some rules and an agenda. I’ll kick this off with my own version.
Irving H. Podolsky’s
This is a group where everyone has the freedom be who they are and express those differences without fear of intolerance.
Differences should not inflict harm. Harm comes from impeding the mental and physical ability to achieve constructive goals. Constructive goals help a person improve their nature as long as that person causes no harm to herself, himself or anyone else. Harm is created by intentionally inflicting pain and suffering. Within this group, pain and suffering will be avoided. Peace and happiness will be encouraged and supported.
Rules & Guidelines
There you have it – Irv Podolsky’s Let’s-All-Get-Along religion.
Now, I must admit, I modeled this group after an existing fellowship I know about, and I haven’t joined that one either. You may be asking, or not, why hasn’t Irv hooked up with the group he just described? Well, I’ll tell you why.
Becoming part of a Reformed Jewish congregation still maintains the boundary of Us and Them, although that boundary is extremely porous. I never would have met my wife had I followed the encouraged practice of marrying within the religion, yet my religion accepted her as she is. That’s honorable.
But there’s still the ritual thing, like attending Friday night or High Holy Days services. If you don’t do at least some of that, you’re not considered a participating member. Hearing and voicing repeated words that someone else wrote for the masses doesn’t feel personal, spontaneous or genuine. But that’s me. It’s probably not you. I’m not a crowd joiner, not even with rock and roll. I’d rather play it myself than go to a rock concert. And since I’m bringing that up, I’ll mention the congregation who wants my attendance sponsors music events, casual mixers, adult education classes and even tourist trips.
Nope. It’s still not for me. I just don’t feel like I’m part of a historical greater whole even though my Jewish mother says I am. Sorry Mom, but I don’t want my primary identity to be Jewish, or any one thing for that matter. Can’t I just be me?
But here’s the nice thing about Reformed Judaism. Even with all my quirky rebel resistance, they’d still accept me as I am. For that I’m grateful, which is why I haven’t turned in my membership card.
As for my readers, whoever you are, where ever you are, I truly hope you’re happy being YOU and that it’s working. If it’s not, well…we’re all reaching for improvements. You’re not alone. There’s all kinds of support everywhere. I bet there’s a group for you.
Sincere best wishes forever.
I’ve been putting it off for months. Five and a half actually. Then six days ago I wrote a post about why writing holiday cards seems phony for me. There’s nothing spontaneous about it. It’s boring homework that has nothing to do with real caring – for ME that is. Maybe for you, mailing cheery greetings with family photos comes from the heart.
So I’ve been thinking about real caring lately and I realized I could never publish that article because one – it was too negative, and two – I had yet to demonstrate caring instead of writing about it. A responsible act of kindness is still waiting for me. Last July I wrote the reminder, Go see Rob.
At five pm today I finally saw Rob again.
Rob and I have been friends since the ninth grade. Our paths have merged and parted, merged and parted throughout the years. But each time we reconnected, we picked up where we left off. With old friends that happens. You know what I mean. And you also know that when a long time friend drastically changes, the friendship changes too.
Rob changed drastically in June of 2012 when he died from a heart attack and came back a few minutes later with a brain that barely worked. Consequently, Rob’s body barely worked. Rob was barely connected to any of us, needing help with eating, walking, talking and urinating. He was lost in confusion when we met again in his hospital room. No one knew if my old pal would ever recover, but we all promised to help him try. I wrote about it Sept. 27, 2012 in a post titled, It’s Never Too Late.
Since then, slowly…very slowly, Rob learned to slide one foot in front of another while shaking over a walker. Bits of conversation returned, but only with whispered three-word sentences. On a good day, he could laboriously lift a fork to his mouth. This “recovery” was Rob’s big come-back and it was never going to get better. Bathing, dressing, shaving, all the standard stuff needed 24/7 assistance. And yet…every now and then Rob would push his soul out of his busted brain and mumble a funny comment that let us know our friend was still with us and that he wanted our company. Company and friendship…MY friendship. He didn’t want to lose me, but in significant ways he had.
My visits with Rob these past two years ripped me apart. I understood ten percent of what he said and faked responses with nods and agreements, pretending we were conversing as I filled in his side of the conversations. Rob appreciated my few short stays but as I said, I found our face time almost intolerable. I couldn’t bare to watch him struggle. And I couldn’t stop projecting what I would feel like if I were Rob, trapped inside a crippled shell. Even worse, I couldn’t stop getting bored while pretending to enjoy our contact. And heading back to my car, I always felt relieved and then guilty about it. Going to see Rob had turned into a depressing job that was easy to postpone. By last week I had run out of excuses. I had to go see my friend.
At five o’clock this evening I headed towards Rob’s front door carrying two pizza boxes and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. As I passed the kitchen window, I could see Rob slouched over the table as if he were taking an test. I pressed the doorbell, glancing into the living room. Gary, his boarder-turned-caretaker, was watching TV as he waited for me to arrive. Seconds later he opened the door, smiling and happy to see me. I feigned good tidings and cheer, then put the pizzas on the table where Rob was sitting. Under his nose was an open magazine. He wasn’t reading it. He was staring a single picture.
“Rob, look who’s here!” Gary exclaims. “It’s Irv! He brought pizzas! Your favorite!”
“Look at Irv, Rob!” I get no look. “ROB…LOOK-AT-IRVING!”
I get the look, with vacant eyes. “That’s right, Rob. Irv came to visit! And he brought some wine. Wanna get drunk?”
Rob pulls the bottle out of its gift bag. Down it goes in front of Rob’s face, never to be opened.
I grab my friend’s sixty-six year-old hand. It feels warm, dry and fragile. Our eyes meet again. There’s more recognition now, with a hint of a grin followed by a slight squeeze on my fingers. “How’ve ya been?” I ask. “Life treating you okay?”
What a dumb question. I’m not surprised I get no answer.
“He’s gotten quieter,” Gary tells me. “But he’s not as paranoid, and he’s off his psychotropic meds.”
“That’s good,” I say, thinking nothing is good when we talk about Rob as if he’s not here. Gary grips his arm.
“Rob, stand up. We’re going to set the table. Get up, Rob.” Rob stays put. Gary lifts him out of his chair. My friend is wobbling again, as he did in rehab two years ago.
Gary throws down three plates, pours three glasses of water, opens the pizza boxes and drops two slices on Rob’s plate. Rob stares at his food, I’m staring at Rob, Gary’s looking at me. It’s a quiet moment.
“Actually he’s pretty healthy,” Gary informs me. “But I still have to make him eat.” Rob’s skinny as a bean. But clean, well shaven and nicely dressed. He doesn’t seem sad, but he doesn’t seem happy either.
“I wonder what’s going on in your head,” I say to Rob.
“It’s hard to tell what he thinks,” Gary adds, “But he knows you’re here and he knows who you are.” Shifting to Rob, “Fold it in half, buddy. It’s easier to pick up that way. Use both hands.”
Rob slowly moves his right hand towards his plate, but he’s having trouble lifting the pizza. Eventually he gets it close to his open lips but the sausage and mushrooms fall off. I grab his fork, stab the meat and bring it to his mouth. He gobbles it and now I know Rob again needs to be fed.
“The neurologist said his brain is shrinking.”
“It’s the drugs in me,” Rob whispers.
“You’re off those meds,” Gary tells him. “You’re not depressed anymore. Eat your pizza.”
My pal picks at his food, I go for seconds and glad there’s water and not just the wine. My food gifts are salt bombs. “Want the water, Rob?” I ask, pushing his glass closer.
“He drank a lot before dinner,” Gary informs me. Then he moves closer to my friend, cuts up his pizza and sticks the pieces one by one into Rob’s open mouth. He’s taking it down fast. “See?” Gary says to me. “He loves pizza.”
I’m glad I brought it. Eating is the only thing Rob looks forward to anymore.
We move to the couch. “Sit next to Rob,” Gary says. I sit next to Rob. Gary turns on the flat screen to show me a documentary he just finished about brain damage rehabilitation. Gary’s an artist, a songwriter and documentary filmmaker. Gary met Rob years ago while he was making a movie about Graham Parsons of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Rob once played music with Graham. Rob was once connected to all the rock stars of LA. Rob once had a thriving business licensing vintage film clips of sixties and seventies variety shows. Rob once had a music museum. It burned down in the nineties and his business is out-of-business.
My eyes move from the film to my friend a few inches away. He’s smiling, nodding to my words. And I see now that he’s joyful. Sincerely so. So I rub his back and he looks my way. His grin goes wider. I can almost see him glow.
“He’s really happy you’re here” Gary says.
I know that. And I also know that in ten minutes I will be leaving and relieved. I’m so sad now. Some big change is happening in January, something Gary wouldn’t explain in front of my friend. But I was assured it would be better for Rob. I also know it would be better for Gary. He will be married in three months and leaving this house. Rob doesn’t know that. And I’m wondering if assisted living is in Rob’s future. I’m also wondering if loosing his home will kill what little joy he has left.
Or maybe he’ll face the music and deal with it with dignity and integrity like he always has. Everyone loves Rob. All his caretakers cherish their time with him. He’s a kind, gentle soul, never complaining, always appreciative for any attention or help he’s given.
Rob, you’re a better man than me. You’re my mentor and friend. I hope Gary reads you my card. I hope it makes you smile.
Why do bad people do nice things? I don’t know why. They just do, at least the ones I personally know, the ones I call “friends”. They’re not close friends, thought. When they invite my wife and me to their homes, it’s just us and them. Our bad friends don’t mingle us with their other bad friends, if they ARE bad. Maybe the other friends are just medium bad, or medium good, depending on which side you’re on.
Now you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you my bad friends don’t know they’re bad. And if I told them, they would believe me. They would scan their wide but private universe and point out that most of the population thinks as they do, and that all of their friends (who might be bad too) are successful, influential and contribute to all kinds of charities that support the have-nots.
I suspect that’s true. Lots of bad people (not all, but lots) do nice things for those less fortunate, like making Christmas gift baskets for poor kids living with parents in homeless missions or sending fat checks to the Salvation Army and UNICEF. Or they invite my wife and me to their country club for dinner and give us the keys to their Laguna Beach second home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They would lend us their Mercedes if I asked them.
I have no idea why they like me. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they like my wife. Everyone loves my wife. She’s the comet, I’m the tail.
Anyway, those same generous people who stuff holiday stockings and donate to food banks do everything they can to avoid paying taxes where their contributions might be used for supporting things for everyone else. They’re not particularly concerned with our country’s crumbling education system, the contamination of our natural resources, the widening divide between the super rich and the other 99%, climate change, hate crimes, racial profiling, corrupt police departments, underpaid firefighters and teachers, healthcare for low income families, or the ever mounting congestion on our city streets and highways with it’s broken bridges, tunnels and outdated traffic models.
Now to be fair, the bad people don’t deny those problems need attention. It’s just that expanding commerce and profit margins must come first and that everything else that needs fixing, they believe, will come out of that. They also believe technology will rescue the world and global warming will cool down in three years.
(If you’re a member of the Bad-Person Party, keep reading. Part 2 of this post is titled: WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS.)
Now as I said, bad people don’t think they’re bad. In fact, they think they’re the only rational thinkers around and it’s only prudent that the rest of us jump on their train. That’s why they’re working so hard to shape (or force) government policy to work 100% in their favor.
The good people, with all their own save-the-planet priorities, want government support just as much, but they don’t suppress the voting privileges of anyone who isn’t in the commerce club. And they’re not separating the rich immigrants from the poor immigrants and trying to keep the poor ones out. And they’re not crushing unions or branding unemployed people as takers and slackers.
There are exceptions. Not every good person is totally good. There’s no black and white. More on that later.
I don’t know why, but I was born thinking this way and my life experiences definitely deepened my attitudes. I grew up in a middle class Jewish family but when I left college, I was poor for five years. Then I broke into Hollywood and worked freelance all the rest of my life. A third of the time I lived between jobs collecting unemployment insurance. My union, which demanded expensive dues, helped me build a pension and took care of my family’s medical bills. My taxes paid for garbage pick up, fire and police protection, state colleges and a national army that kept the real bad guys away.
I accepted that. Taxes are like paying union dues but into a bigger pool. It’s an Association Fee. And yes, I did get what I paid for. Today I’m retired and living the American Dream. Sad to say, I’m the last generation to have the dwindling social safety nets. It’s so much harder to rise up the ranks today.
But enough ranting! If I don’t stop, I’ll get into how good guys in this administration let off the bad guys who did…
Yes, all of that bad stuff! And all for the right reasons! Right reasons make good people do bad things, and I’m no exception. (Okay, for this post, assume I’m a GOOD person, ‘cause I’m about to give a Catholic-like confession.)
WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS
I’m not a tree hugger but when nature dies from drought and pollution, I think it’s a smart idea to conserve water and contain waste. Being the responsible, passionate, informed, involved and caring dude that I am, I contribute to let’s-help-save-everything causes.
However, I also hate, and I mean HATE, getting solicitation calls about giving more and more and more. I don’t like being pressured to do anything and I feel uncomfortable pressing someone else to do things as well, even for all the right reasons.
(This is why it took an entire post to talk myself into asking you to read my novels.)
So I’m admitting now, that I have hung up on people who need a job and get one at call centers. Politely asking them to stop the invasion doesn’t end the calls. So I have been rude, I have screamed, I have considered blowing a whistle into the handset just so they’ll stop coming into my home with more and more and more guilt inducing phone rings. I’m telling you this because tonight I pushed Solicitor Rejection way into the stratosphere.
I watch very little TV but I won’t miss Rachel Maddow’s news show. It’s like going to college civics class where the subject is always studied in depth. Tonight she was explaining the CIA torture policy, how it came to be, why it was killed in the 70’s and how it was resuscitated after 911. Every word was compelling, super serious and depressing. Then my doorbell rang.
I called out to my wife, only to discover, with silence, that she had left the house. The doorbell rang again. I knew who it was. It was FedEx or UPS needing a signature for another movie screener DVD I’m supposed to watch for Oscar voting. So I raced towards the front door imaging myself drawing a line for my name as I said a quick “Thank you.” Then back to the TV I would fly. Eighteen, nineteen seconds of lost info. Not much. I would still pick up the story and process the knowledge.
So sliding to a stop, I swung the door open and saw a man, maybe thirty, standing in the dark holding a bunch of papers and wearing an ID badge and a big gold cross suspended from his neck. I knew what was coming.
No! NO! NOOOOO! Not another breach into my privacy! Tick-tick-tick. No time for polite words. Tick-tick-tick. No time for my story about supporting battered women and under priviledged kids needing uniforms for little league teams. Tick-tick-tick. No time for hearing his sympathy pitch.
So just as he was saying, “Hello, sir…” I shut the door on a Black man.
Seven seconds later I was back on my bed watching Rachel but hearing none of her words. All I could do was think about the disgusting impression I just made and how a liberal person like me just reinforced the perception that most, if not all, affluent white people hate Blacks and refuse them even an ounce of respect.
I’m so ashamed about this, I won’t tell my wife. She’ll never know unless she reads this blog. But YOU know. You SHOULD know because my mini drama points out that good people do bad things. We must not forget that.
And I will also admit, that I can’t help liking my Republican friends because they do all sorts of kind and nice things for me. I accept their gifts as I judge their ethics.
So what does that make me? Am I a bad person too?
I don’t remember family warnings about showing off or being told that bragging kids deserve to be ignored. I don’t remember any rabbi advising me to be humble, although I’ve heard from my Christian friends the Scriptures say something about that.
There was that one time though, when I came home from college for a weekend visit.
Whoa! That stung! I emphatically denied it, and justifiably so. From the time I was six I knew thinking in terms of ME-first was a no-no. I had learned it at home ‘cause Dad was selfish and that hurt Mom. And I had learned it in school ‘cause kids talked about other kids being “stuck up” or “conceited” all the time.
“Jane thinks she’s better than us,” or, “Dick thinks he can have any girlfriend he wants.”
This was ninth grade gossip but notice I didn’t use the word say? Dick and Jane didn’t verbally broadcast their eminence. They thought it, and probably believed it, because WE believed it. Heck! They were better than us! They acted like it – so self assured. You could tell they trusted themselves just by the way they talked. They never questioned their ideas, took charge and attracted envious fans, of which I was one.
Now of course there were obnoxious jerks who mouthed off about getting laid with her and her and her but we never believed them. The real achievers didn’t try convincing us they were special. They made and did special things, then became our school quarterbacks, cheerleaders, class presidents, valedictorians and Homecoming Queens.
But that was high school and maybe college. In the real world, it’s an open field where introverts and shy ones come out of the shadows and excel. It’s also the place where untalented hustlers oozing with confidence convince others to follow them. It’s the launching pad where that nerdy gamer in the back of the class ends up inventing EMPIRE or SUPER ROAD TRIP. It’s the land where an “average” kid becomes an accountant, takes a graduation job as a level four controller at Warner Brothers and twelve years later becomes the studio’s CFO. It’s the space where an inspired Earvin Johnson Jr. becomes Magic Johnson.
And because in America, where so many Nobodies become Super Somebodies, we’re taught we all have a shot at becoming the President of the United States. Now even minority kids believe it and perhaps it’s so more than a few times. I hope greater numbers of minorities and women take leadership roles. I hope it gets easier for people not born into power. I hope this post helps you and me. Let me try by listing six principles of success.
Okay, assuming you’re not starving, dead broke, unemployable, near death, illiterate, in jail or undocumented, these reminders about “making it” just might boost you into the Big Game. It’s practical stuff that works but often gets sidetracked.
1. You need a primary vision and you can’t be conflicted about it.
By conflicted, I mean you can’t doubt that you can achieve your goal, nor can you have a contradicting agenda that pulls your attention away from you main purpose. If you want to be a rock star but deep down think that’s too long a shot, you’ll never put in the practice time and make music connections to get you there.
If you want a musician’s life but insist you need a backup business degree, you’ll split your time and efforts between the two and achieve one or the other and maybe a little of both. But without 100% commitment to music OR business, you’ll never realize 100% of your dreams.
Still, compromise is okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s practical and 99% of us live this way. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not the best. Only a few people in the world gain the gold and they usually sacrifice important things to get it.
Rising to the top of anything takes connections, mentors and a lot of luck. If you’re conflicted about your direction, if your confidence wanes when the door opens and you stay put, that invitation may never come again.
Commit to your dream, make priorities, stick to them and take the leaps when you reach those steps going up.
3. It helps a lot to like people and be a joiner.
As I just explained, rising to the top takes connections and mentors. There are professions where personal contact is limited but you’ll never lead others unless you’re willing to convince them to follow you. And to do that, you have to connect with people so they know who you are, even if you’re writing research papers in a university lab.
4. Don’t be afraid to express your enthusiasm. Be proud of your passions.
Keep in mind that what you DO is different than who you ARE. If you conjure a better mouse trap, it’s okay to praise the design. You’re not telling people you’re a genius. You’re telling people about how your smart thing works and why you’re excited about it. Hey! You’d be excited even if it wasn’t yours. So present it that way.
Again, your pitch isn’t about you. It’s about the thing you’re offering. So don’t be embarrassed about praising something you did or made. Because if you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY believe it’s great, people will sense your sincere confidence. They’ll know you’re genuine, which brings us to the next reminder.
5. Don’t bullshit. Eventually it catches up with you.
For every lie you tell, even for all the “right” reasons, you need another one to verify it. And then another and another until eventually the rerouted logic becomes so complex you lose track of what you said to whom and where. Then your story falls apart and you lose the trust of the people you lied to.
So be honest. It’s much more manageable and you won’t have to worry about a false history when potential bosses fact-check your background. More importantly, honesty builds self-confidence and confidence is what people want from you, specifically: Conviction, Commitment and Integrity. If you’ve got that in place, the jobs will come and the work details can be learned along the way.
Finally, the most important note…so simple and obvious, yet the biggest trap of all.
If the late, great innovator Steve Jobs can be fired from his own company, Apple, and then release market failures like Lisa, NeXT and The Cube computers, you too have the permission to miss your goals. If Robert Downey Jr. can crash to the bottom with drug addiction and then rise back up to become the highest paid actor in the world, you too can have your ups and downs.
Everybody makes lots of mistakes before finding the best solution or refining the highest skills. We all know that and still, no one is comfortable with failure. We all want to be winners starting out. We don’t want to disappoint ourselves and others. So sometimes we give up rather than flub one more time. But that’s okay. Not everyone is suited for everything they pursue. And it’s also okay to fail and fail and fail again until you finally get it…or don’t. Trying is good. Trying is growing. Trying in honorable.
So now it’s my turn to try something, a first in this blog. I’m going to direct you to what others have said about my novels. You see the book covers to the right while reading this article? Have you ever clicked on them? Clicking brings you to Irving Podolsky on Amazon. Have you read the reviews there, or on Goodreads?
Those four and five star critiques did not come from friends. They were written by book bloggers and readers I don’t know – readers like you who won’t waste their time with stuff that doesn’t connect or isn’t entertaining. And get this, the books are comedies, a style I rarely use in blogs but love to write. Those yarns were fun, fun, fun to shape and they’re fun to read. Promise!
So check’em out. The trilogy will sweep you to realms you’ve never imagined…unless you’re my age, lived in LA and Atlanta, worked in porn, mental hospitals and French restaurants, backpacked in Europe, zipped into out-of-body travel and dated girls from South Africa, Germany and Lobbock, Texas.
The ebook versions? Just 99 cents. Practically free. They’re gifts, really. ‘Cause I want you to have a riveting ride as we share the seventies and a magical journey.
Convinced yet? Give’em a shot. And when reaching the epoch’s end, if it sparked new ideas, if you’re left uplifted and sentimental…that would make me happy. Because you’re happy!
I read the Huffington Post online. I read the Huffington Post because it links to other publications and because I never know what kind of story or blog I’ll find there. So a few days ago I was surfing the site and this headline snatched my attention. A Glimpse Into The Lives Of Couples With Open Marriages. And then I watched Open Relationships Are Good For Married Couples, Sociologist Argues.
“Oh…”, I thought. Is there really anything more to say about casual sex? Back in the day, the seventies to be exact, we called it free love. “Free” had nothing to do with money. Free was about the freedom to enjoy sex without fear and the disapproval of others. Free meant the uninhibited expression of our God given wants and needs. Free meant the ability for a woman to choose her sex partners on her terms. Free love established the first sexual liberation of women, and it had a name. My generation called it, The Sexual Revolution. And it was.
As we know, before the sixties and feminine birth control, having sex was a huge risk for young women but also for young men. And yeah, we guys knew about condoms. You could buy them from vending machines in truck stop men’s rooms. Still, I don’t remember any of us using them. It was irresponsible but in 1967, nobody worried about AIDS, just babies, and we boys left it up to the girls to watch their menstrual clocks. So if a girl got pregnant, it was HER fault, right?
I never bought into that cruel hypocrisy. I think I was born feeling responsible for everything, including a girl’s broken heart. So as a teenager, I didn’t dive deeper than hot make-outs. Then everything changed. While in college, the “pill” and IUD’s hit the scene. They were available in big city free clinics and for the first time, ever, females could be in charge. Just like boys and men, if they wanted to make love, they could do it, safe from pregnancies. Or they jumped for playful sex, fear-free! This was new.
Back to “open marriages.” My wife and I have been living in one of those from the get-go, but it has nothing to do with sex. It’s about having separate creative pursuits, hobbies, friends and time by ourselves. It’s about growing individually so we can come together with new ideas and enthusiasm and share that. Having sexual discovery with others is a dumb idea. Why? Because even now, neither of us want to take on the doubts, suspicion and insecurities that come with that.
Now maybe my wife and I are just overly insecure. Maybe we don’t trust each other enough to push the boundaries, ‘cause sure, we’re attracted to other people from time to time. Isn’t everybody? In the past, we talked about the temptations when they came. Now, as oldies, we’re happy when it happens again. It reminds us we were young once.
But as you know, not many couples talk about the temptation of affairs. They just have them, sometimes in secret, sometimes not. When they’re not hidden, we’re back to open marriages. Maybe yours is one of them and nobody’s getting hurt. Maybe you and your spouse are more emotionally evolved than me and my wife and don’t question your love, even with other lovers.
Or maybe you can do something I could never do: compartmentalize. Maybe you can mentally wall-off experiences with multiple partners and never get anything mixed up, like accidently mentioning that great massage when it wasn’t about your own marriage.
Maybe you don’t “process” your escapades by talking about them, so there’s no need to censor your thoughts and words.
Or maybe your spouse is so secure that you can detail some other-partner turn-on and try it at home. Maybe that replayed touchy-feely thing is just as rich in Marriage Land and you two will live happily ever after.
But maybe that added outside sex will never re-spark your at-home sex, no matter how many new crotches you both bring into the game.
If the thrill is gone, along with the intimacy, what’s left to make your marriage exclusive and special? What promises remain unbroken that undeniably prove you are both the most important person in each other’s lives?
What is your love about?
Years ago, in the midst of that Sexual Revolution and Free Love I talked about, I had the chance to test most of the questions in this post. Although I wasn’t married, I had multiple partners and with each date, I did my best to compartmentalize and make the individual interludes special and unique.
I remember so clearly the girls insisting they didn’t want commitments. “No strings attached,” they said. No, we weren’t dating. We were hanging out and having fun, getting stoned, listening to music, talking about deep shit, going to movies and fucking our brains out. And being the trusting dude I was at the time, I believed the definition… until that time when two girlfriend “appointments” overlapped.
I had to push back my restaurant promise with Trish an hour and half so that Wendy could leave town. She missed her bus ‘cause we couldn’t get out of my bed in time to catch the 7:30 to Gainesville. And so, having dropped off Wendy at the bus station, I speeded across Atlanta to pick up Trish ninety minutes late. I then sat across from her at the Pleasant Peasant, shelling out mucho bucks for $$$ food I could barely afford AND eat ‘cause I was stuffed from my $$ meal with Wendy an hour before.
You know where this is going. No-Strings-Attached Trish had all kinds of hurt going down. She was pissed and I learned my first truths about the female persuasion.
So yeah, I confessed to Trish and that pretty much ended all the deep talking and sport sex. In a way I was relieved. I didn’t like having to keep track of what I did with Wendy and what I did with Trish and what happened with Carol or Dana. I found that censoring thoughts cut off my spontaneity in each relationship. Holding back information was not exactly lying, but it wasn’t being honest either. And connecting the dots, I realized I couldn’t love and lie at the same time, no matter how much rationalization I threw into the mix.
Finally, and this was the biggest lesson of all – I found that lots and lots of sex with lots of women still left me lonely. The bed romps were fun but my soul wanted more. It wanted to be heard and it wanted to be understood. It wanted a loyal friend it could trust, and it couldn’t have that with No-Strings-Attached.
But ya know, I wouldn’t have known what I really wanted had I not played the field as a single man. Going into that “only you” promise, I had already committed to forever monogamy. And my beloved bride had done the same. We both knew that being open and free was all about protecting the trust and making it special.
Never stop making it special.
I’m stupid with foreign languages. Flunked French, faked my way through Spanish and really, really tried to learn German. I didn’t. Nothing stuck. Not good. My wife is German…from Germany, along with the rest of her family who visit us all the time, like they are now. My forty-something nephew and his wife are leaving tomorrow and my twenty year-old grand niece arrived two days ago. Consequently, there are five of us sitting around the table and my thoughts drifted away from words I can’t understand.
Listening to German…German, and more German, I now know what our cat hears when people talk. It’s noise with inflections, just basic emotions – happy, sad, angry. And that’s all she needs to know. Everything else is played out with actions – food or no food, petting or no petting, threats or no threats. That’s her world and it works for her.
So I’m wondering, besides school and rules, what words are absolutely necessary for us? Stories can be entertaining but unless they carry warnings about the future, there’s no need to hear them. And even well-meaning lectures may not apply or be true. The only thing that really counts is how reality plays out. Someone telling us about reality is not reality itself. And yet, most of our decisions and attitudes come from information we read or hear. It’s data or opinions coming from someone else.
So as I said, I’m sitting with people making sounds but I’m just feeling their vibes and thinking about how much of my time is sucked up by people telling me stuff I don’t need to hear, and how I give them the impression I’m interested. I’m sure people bluff me too. We all think that what we have to say is so important, people want to hear it.
In some cases, that’s true, which is why we invented accomplished writers and avid readers, storytellers and listeners, movies and theaters, programs and televisions. All that happens because the information is captivating. We become captives because what is watched is interesting. Master storytellers capture our minds which we willingly provide.
This is a good thing. This is a bad thing. This is a bad thing because not all storytellers are good for us.
We know people lie, or at least we think we know when they lie. That demands making decisions about what’s true or false, or what we believe is true or false. Some folks we trust, some we don’t. We become quite selective about our information sources and entertainment.
Being selective is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a bad thing because we’re not always right about what’s good and bad for us. If we’re not open and flexible, we’re susceptible to those who lie and close off to those who tell the truth. Sometimes we just don’t know where those safety zones are. Still, we keep looking.
Smart promoters understand that search. They have tracked our preferences and they speak to those selections. More importantly, they know threats grab our minds more than potential perks. Reward and punishment, carrot and stick, attraction and avoidance, we all live by those push-pull motivations while professional persuaders, appealing to fears and needs, get us to do what they want us to do. All it takes is a concentrated and focused outreach with the repetition of a single, simple message.
What is that message? It’s BEWARE! Or…Be cool, buy Apple.
Again, fearful warnings ring all kinds of alarms. Thoughts about iPads or happier times certainly don’t, nor do promises of hope if we’re not already happy and hopeful. That’s why masters of control make sure we’re not happy and hopeful. They smash our wellbeing and shatter our trust, then ride to our rescue as the Saviors from Doom. And because there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad, and everything keeps changing, the masses end up scurrying from storyteller to storyteller, from the Blue Knights to the Red Knights, back and forth, back and forth between the Doom and Sanctuaries on the left to the Doom and Sanctuaries on the right. The pattern never changes. Just the details.
So what are you doing about exiting the raging rat race? It takes maturity, patience and foresight to wait for delayed payoffs, and still, too many times the wait doesn’t bring improvements. If the system is broken too many times, nothing wide-sweeping can change over night; or over weeks, months or years.
With the long wait, will you lapse into anxiety, frustration and desperation? Do you feel vulnerable and angry? Are you aware you’re being watched by the Control Wizards who want to win your heart and mind as you shiver with worry? Are you stuck in the grip of artificial but effective polarities designed to never meet in the middle? Do you feel lost?
Or do you see the game as it actually is, with its malevolent psychologists making it all play out? Have you found the Safety Zones where truth and honesty kiss and hug? Those sanctuaries do exist. But you’ll never find them if you get angry and give up.
I’m pretty sure those of you who follow my blog don’t give up. You think ahead, look ahead and wait to form conclusions about all the stuff competing for your attention. You spread your attention over the thoughts of others, watching and listening to the clues of deeper motivations, potential threats or gestures of kindness. Like astute attorneys who confidently know the law and use it to reveal the facts and win cases, you too observe the subtleness of life, gather its information, fact-check it, compare and contrast new truths, and then predict real threats while avoiding unsupported fears. In short, you’re happier than most.
That’s nice, because happier people are harder to manipulate.
Notice I didn’t say well informed. People who seek specific validation for what they believe, whether it’s true or not, will always find “proof” to back up their claims. Then they will tell you they’re well informed after a limited search. Like I said, we’re not always right about what’s good and bad for us. Being too selective about where you find your information narrows your window of judgment.
Are happy people more “good” than unhappy people?
Well, I would say that happy people are generally less judgmental. Sure they have opinions, but they are tempered with empathy. Happy souls feel less threatened so they also feel less detached and ARE less detached from other groups and individuals. Consequently, happier people tend to get along with their neighbors, friends and family. They’re less confrontational, and legitimately so. And they trust the future. That’s a big one.
We can’t be happy if we don’t feel secure.
Are we all born happy, then get immediately reshaped? I don’t think so. I think we come into this world with our dispositions pre-wired. Some of us are secure and relaxed, some of us aren’t. That’s why we have what’s called “good babies.” Good babies don’t demand our attention with screaming fits of whatever. They calmly lie in their beds quietly contented. They goo-goo and smiling and sleep through the night. Good babies are happy babies. For those of us who weren’t Good Babies, we have to learn to be happy.
Learning to be happy, is learning to live without fear.
And learning to live without fear, is learning what’s really scary out there and what is not. Now we’re back to where we started. If you’re scared, did people tell you to be that way? If you’re scared, are you annoyed about it and tense all the time? Because if you’re feeling unsafe and vulnerable, which expands fear and distrust, which then kills contentment and happiness, you still can get past all that (assuming you don’t live in a war zone, a land of starvation or any place that suppressed human rights).
Okay, you’re basically free. So again, to be happy and secure, you have to know you’re secure. And to know you’re secure, you have to leave the cave and explore as much as you possible can, everywhere. That’s the secret: know where your threats live, what they want and what they do…IF they really do anything. Maybe they don’t. Maybe somebody told you they’re bad-asses and they’re not. Maybe not all TV news is telling the truth. Maybe you should question all information…all of everything…even this blog.
Well…not this blog.
I have a blessed life. My wife and I don’t need to worry about money or a job or the troubled children we never had or health issues and no one we love is dying this month. Living like this gives me the time to roam deeper into the human cerebral landscape and put it under a mental microscope.
As you know, when we look at very small things through a lens they become very big. And so it happens in this blog. I analyzing the details of human psychology and I use myself as an example, hoping that in some ways I’m not that much different than you and what we examine together can be helpful.
So let’s begin. Let’s peel back a few more layers of Irv Podolsky. Maybe his questions and his search for answers will apply to your own.
“I don’t want to hear about it,” she said.
She’s told me that more than once so I don’t talk about it anymore. I hide it. I never expected this kind of isolation in my marriage, that I’d have to hold back certain thoughts that bother me. But what bothers me bothers my wife even more. It disturbs her and she asked me to deal with my moods solo. So I write about them. Then I feel better.
Maybe you’re like me when it comes to mood swings. Maybe your emotions are not entirely your own. Maybe they decide to feel bad for no apparent reason, or such a little reason that’s it’s totally unjustified.
I’ve read about bi-polar disorder. I’m not that nuts but maybe I have a bit of unwanted wiring anyway. All my life I’ve been telling people that generally, I’m not happy, but that I’m not unhappy. It’s just that, when waking up to start each day, I don’t feel rosy and cheery or optimistic. A positive morning for me is feeling neutral. Lots of times though, I feel like I’m am now, at seven-fifteen am. I’m unsettled, anxious and uncomfortable. I’m trying to figure out why.
So I’m thinking while writing. Maybe the anxiousness comes from my new project, the one I blogged about last week. I’m fighting a proposed freeway that’s supposed to tunnel into my city. I report to Sally, an aerospace engineer who has volunteered her time like me to save our community and the value of our homes. Frankly, I’m not passionate about this cause but I think getting involved is the right thing to do. Sally needs tons of help coordinating the resistance and I’m in over my head helping her. No matter what research I do or how many reports I write, Sally tells me they’re not enough and they all need more work.
She’s right. Sally and I are working with six groups building a complex court case and everything has to be annotated and verified with credible sources. Consultants charge a few hundred per hour for this kind of work. I’m doing it for free like Sally and everyone else who’s driven to fight the California Transit Authority.
But as I said, I’m not crazy-impassioned and the work is oh-so tedious. Okay, sometimes it’s sort of interesting, if you’re into giant tunnel boring machines. But it’s still grunge work, like studying for a required college course you hate. And it never ends. No matter what I do, there’s more needed and I’m feeling pressured…by Irv Podolsky.
It’s always Irv Podolsky. He has no patience. That’s why I’m not happy. By my own standards, whatever I do isn’t good enough. Which means, I’m not good enough unless somebody tells me I am. How the hell did I ever get stuck with this attitude? Sure, every parent wants their children to do well and mine encouraged me to excel. But they never demanded it. Why do I demand 110% from myself?
Are you this way too? ‘Cause if you are, you know what I’m talking about. There’s rarely a time when you can relax and tell yourself there’s no reason to prove your significance, that you’re fine just the way you are, that you don’t have to EARN your personhood or the right to be happy. You can be happy for no reason. You can be happy when you’re not winning ‘cause you’re not in the race. You can be happy just being alive with food in your tummy and a roof over your head.
My wife is like that and she doesn’t want to be sucked into my Not-Happy World. In my space the Number One Rule says: YOU CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER. And you should!
Nothing’s wrong with that except I’ve taken that notion to it’s extreme with my personal Eye-In-The-Sky scoreboard. Am I BETTER yet? I am? How much BETTER? Is this the best my BETTER can be?
I’m an Over Achiever who never quite over achieves. And that’s why little things bother me. They all turn into big things just beyond my reach. So IF I get them done, there’s always room for improvements. You wouldn’t believe how many times I rewrite and polish these articles.
Acute perfectionism isn’t fun but I know I’m not alone with this. Many people feel they need approval to feel good about themselves. Seeking validation can steal self confidence but there’s an upside to this condition. Really! You see, people who care about other people’s opinions do their best be nice to those people. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re thinking about how other people will regard your work. You’re judging your creations and behavior from another point-of-view. You don’t want to screw up so you watch the reactions of others for signs that your off course. And by doing that, by being careful not to rub people the wrong way, you become more empathic. And that’s just fine.
Of course there are wonderful souls like my wife who are naturally nice and kind and generous. No self doubt or personal gain is involved. But folks like me with lingering insecurities feel pushed to be nice, kind and generous, which means sometimes it’s not sincere. This is the trap:
If we’re feeling dependent upon others for self respect, we know we’re vulnerable. Accordingly, our attention shifts to our own needs and defenses with the tendency to view the world as an EXCHANGE of good deeds for wanted approval. Giving doesn’t always come from the heart. It comes from wanting rewards. And at it’s worst, it’s about buying gratitude through manipulation.
My ninety-four year-old mother has a younger woman friend who doesn’t know me but she wants me to know her. Whenever we meet, maybe twice a year, she predictably says, “Irv…I love you…” And then, staring into my eyes, she waits for a reciprocated ego stroke.
I cringe inside and respond with silence. Whereupon I hear her follow up, “I mean I REALLY love you!”
Okay, I’m thinking, You need your fix. Here it is: “I love you too, Janet.” Can we close now?
“You’re so good to your mother…the best son! You make her proud. I wish I had a boy like you.”
“Janet, I’m three years younger than your husband…”
“I love you, Irv.” She waits for my hug.
Oh, the games people play.
But ya know, we don’t have to do it. “Show-me-you-love-me-even-if-you-don’t” never fills the bill. At some point, we all have to learn that forcing approval goes nowhere and only makes things worse. This you know. But motivations and emotions come from deep inside us and we have to find their home. This takes some soul searching but it’s all doable. If we understand why we rely on the opinions of others for self respect and move past that, what remains is just the caring, the empathy, and the sensitively to sincerely help our friends, our family and those neighbors fighting Transit Authorities.
I don’t think it’s just me. We all do it but we turn it off. There are reasons why people shut it down or ignore it. They don’t trust the power or they hope their feelings aren’t true because there’s much to lose if they are – things like more wealth, prestige or sex. There are times when we want to trust people because they can help us and we hope it will all work out if those subtle signals go away. So we rationalize the contradictions against our instincts.
Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe I’m being too critical. Maybe I’m having a bad day, or they are.
Maybe, maybe, maybe…
Or maybe our thoughts about that new guy are totally true. Maybe we’ve already figured her out and it’s a good idea to add her to our NO-GO list. Maybe we should listen to our Natural Knowing and accept that Feelings Don’t Lie.
Maybe if we tuned into the “vibes” more often and steered clear of bad people life would be easier. Maybe more betrothals, bands and business contracts wouldn’t break up so often if we listened to our hearts. Maybe we’d trust others more often if we only joined up with nonthreatening people.
But like I said, many times, most times in fact, we’re not tuning into all those teeny-tiny little hints we’re picking up because…
A few reasons why we ignore the red flags. We figure there’s lots to gain if we can just get past the downside. Okay, nobody’s perfect but why do we have to embrace critical downsides of anyone? This idea, that we should deal with things that bother us comes from the belief that there won’t be another opportunity as good as this one, even with its issues. So we accept the start-up problems only to find out later that the DOWNSIDE wiped out most of the potential GOOD SIDE. Now we’re in so deep it’s hard to break away and there’s a lot more to lose.
Sad but true. That’s life. But really, does it have to be this way?
Okay, most jobs are hard to get and they all come with downsides. So yeah, we have to put up with them. But that doesn’t mean we have to buddy-up with everyone in the office. Sometimes we have to be really, really careful and maneuver politically, which means we have to lie. We have to pretend to like and trust people we don’t. We have to tell our bosses what they want to hear, unless of course, that puts someone in jeopardy; or the company we work for is down right wicked and screwing lots of people for higher profits.
Then it time to listen to our Conscience. Actually we should never ignore it.
Some people who follow their conscience and act on it become Whistle Blowers. I thoroughly respect whistle blowers but most of the time those boat-rockers are hated. No one wants to be reminded they’re selling out, especially when there’s so much to gain by lying and cheating. Consequently, people-of-conscience are scorned.
I’ve been a whistle blower. Exposing the bad shit led to losing my job. And worse, nothing changed. Still, I’m glad I honored my principles and that others also fight the good fight. Sometimes GOOD does triumph over EVIL. Sometimes telling the truth makes the world a better place. Sometimes people win the Nobel Peace Prize for following their Inner Voice. Most of the time though, saints are stoned. When you’re surrounded by assassins, sometimes it’s best to just walk away and protect yourself. Sometimes I do that.
One of the upsides to retirement, at least for me, is that I don’t have to kiss ass to keep working. Two months ago I picked a new vocation – local activism. I’m volunteering to help fight a freeway project California wants to build through the middle of my community. Most everyone who lives near me wants the project to die. Most everyone who has something to gain from more trucks hauling stuff wants the project to live. The lines have been drawn: The People vs. Government and Big Business. It’s David and Goliath again.
I’m bringing this up because not all Davids get along, even when agreeing to agree. I’ve joined a group of irked do-gooders and I’m meeting them in various committees and organizations. Each time I shake hands with a new him or her I’m checking my internal vibe meter and searching for behavior clues. Who can I trust? Who feels safe? Who is overly angry and who is appropriately pragmatic? Who is stubborn and who listens?
I have a personal rating scale where ONE means I’m comfortable and trusting while TEN means I’m wary and defensive. Most people I’ve recently met fall into the SEVEN to THREE range. Yesterday, in a community out-reach meeting, I encountered a TWO.
“Are you okay?” she asked me.
“Of course,” I mumbled with a smile and slight laugh.
I had just lied. The woman to my left knew my resolve although I never said one negative word to her. She probably felt it ten minutes before when I asked her, “Why does it have to be that way?” Why did the unused freeway pit need to be filled in rather than letting it stay as it is? After all, we WERE given a Plan B allowing a no-build option. So, in front of the six others seated around our planning table, I pushed the lady to explain her reasons for an 80 million dollar fill-in.
“I’m sorry,” she answered with an irritated tone, “but city parks have to be at ground level. I know this from what I’ve done. It’s too dangerous to get in and out of the park if it’s below grade.”
She didn’t have to say, “I’m sorry.” We weren’t heated, although I did consider her argument to be flimsy. I live next to a famous community park that’s situated in a canyon with roads leading down into it. No one has ever said it’s too dangerous to get to that open space and its facilities.
But I didn’t challenge the lady again. She was dominating our brain-storming session and we were already behind in our assigned task – determining land use for eighteen city blocks that would have been a freeway…assuming we kill the project.
So yesterday, at this community input meeting, we residents became amateur urban planners. There were eight tables with eight design groups supervised by real engineers and architectural experts. My table didn’t click. No one introduced themselves and no one seemed to have any organized thoughts, including me. The vacuum left room for any pressed idea whether it was practical or not. The lady next to me insisted on a huge park. I listened, knowing that without commercial or residential use of that precious land, without selling it and then taxing it, the 80 million dollar rebuild could not be paid off. When I started to explain the ramifications, I was cut off. I lost interest and pushed a foot away from the table.
A few minutes later, our insistent lady asked, “Are you okay?” which meant, “Are you upset with me?”
I mumbled, “Of course.” Then I left my chair for the rest of the meeting.
Why then, can’t we listen and respond to real thoughts instead of phony rejoinders? Why don’t we trust our first impressions and avoid negative connections from the get-go? Why don’t we use the powers we have to know what we should know? Why don’t we listen to our hearts?
The good news? Many people do!