Tag Archives: curiosity

double take

The Best Advice So Far - double take

Yesterday, already behind schedule for the morning, I emerged from the house to find my car completely covered … with caterpillar poop. My parking space is beneath a large maple tree inhabited, it would seem, by thousands of inchworms. And the tiny black pellets don’t just brush off. Oh no — they stick like tar.

Add to this the fact that it’s been overcast or raining for more than a week now. And last night’s downpour only made matters worse, turning the worm poop into a tenacious sludge that now also filled the rubber ravines around all of the door seals.

For weeks before this, the car was buried daily beneath a clogging downpour of yellow buds from the same maple.

I got in and maneuvered the muck-mobile closer to the hose then, using the highest pressure the nozzle afforded, I did my best to power wash the goop away.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. This was all making me even later.

As I worked my way around the car, I noticed …


chance

The Best Advice So Far - chance - silver car, green house and dice on the Monopoloy 'Chance' space

I’ve used the word “kismet” quite a few times lately. It’s the only word that seemed to fit several series of events that have had my head spinning in the very best of ways.

Let me tell you about one of them.

If you read my last post, then you’re familiar with Joe — the hard-working overnight crew member at my gym. Well, as diligent as he is, every so often, he does still take a break. It was during one of those breaks that I saw Joe reading a book.

Being an avid reader and writer myself, I asked, “What are you into there?”

Joe stuck his thumb between the pages to hold his place and flipped the book over to show me the cover. Some peaceful golden sunset colors. Maybe a beach. I think there was a bird flying across it as well. “It’s, like, a book of life wisdom. Just short quotes,” Joe explained. “You could open the book anywhere and read it and then just think about it for a while and get something.” He handed me the book as he said this, with the clear implication that I should put this last bit to the test. My own thumb became the new bookmark and I flipped a page or two forward.

I read a two-line entry at the top of the right-hand page. I don’t remember exactly what it said. Something about Fate. It had an Eastern feel. I remember that I had agreed with the central idea. But at the moment, I was focused on Joe, curious to know more about why he had chosen to read the book. “Why this book?” I asked as I passed it back. “Is it something you’ve chosen to read? Or maybe something for a class?”

“Oh, not for a class. I’m just interested in learning more about life and philosophy, stuff that makes you think, y’know?” Joe said.

“And what do you do with the thoughts you’re pondering while reading this, after you’ve read them,” I asked.

Joe paused. “Ummm, I don’t know. Just kind of think about them and try to find the truth in them.”

Hmmm, I thought.

“Joe, if you’re into this kind of book, I have a recommendation for you. I’m not meaning to be the pushy salesman type, but … I’m actually a writer and author, and my current book is based on collective wisdom. It’s about living life in a way that matters. It’s called The Best Advice So Far.” I brought the Amazon page up on my phone to show him. “Each chapter has a central thought, just like the book you’re reading. And also like that book, you can skip around if you want; you don’t have to sit and read it straight through, cover to cover. Only my book is different because it doesn’t quite fit into philosophy or self-help or inspirational. It’s a lot of true stories, some of them pretty crazy, from my own experience, and the stories sort of illustrate the advice. Then it gets into how you can actually put the advice to good use in your own life, starting immediately.”

Joe squinted at the phone screen, seeming genuinely interested. “I’ll have to check it out. That’s really cool.”

Then an idea hit me. It occurred to me …


no words

The Best Advice So Far: no words - wide-eyed man with tape over mouth

It was Wednesday, somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. I was in the middle of a shoulder workout. Joe, the sole employee on duty, was parts unknown; so I essentially had the entire gym to myself. I had just finished up a set of lateral raises and was placing the dumbbells back on the rack.

That’s when I started crying.

*****

I received quite a bit of feedback with regard to last week’s atypical post. Responses ran the gamut, with people enthusiastically supporting or decrying in about equal proportions a wide range of things — some of which I never actually said or meant.

What I found even more curious, given the nature of the topic and its accompanying challenge, was that for all the disparate thoughts shared, not a single person asked a clarifying question toward being sure they understood my intent.

And that, of course, only further underlines what the post was actually about — our seemingly inescapable inclination as human beings to perceive through the lens of our own existing belief systems what others are saying, taking as a given that our interpretations are accurate.

As it turned out, that post was one of my longest to date. And yet, for all the words, clarity still had a tendency to remain elusive.

I’ve always felt that language grants us magical powers. Yet like any tool, I’ve found it to be a double-edged sword — capable of being used for both enormous good and dire ill.

Words allow us the ability to mitigate or to manipulate.

To clarify or to confuse.

To liberate or to label.

To draw people in — or to draw lines that keep them out.

I recall having seen a movie where an inmate at a high-security prison killed someone with a plastic spoon. It occurred to me that, much like words, the spoon was not the problem. The intent of the user was.

Still, this great capacity to help or to harm only accounts for willful uses of language and words.

Some years back, I read a memorably strange news article. A woman had waded out some distance from shore at a beach and was dunking herself under, perhaps seeing how long she could hold her breath. Suddenly, a pelican dove, apparently mistaking the bobbing hair on the surface of the water for an injured fish or squid. But instead of finding an easy dinner …


sea glass

The Best Advice So Far: Sea Glass - light blue sea glass on sand against sunset

Winter is not quite over. But after a couple spectacular blizzards in mid January and February, New England has been enjoying some record-breaking warmth. Last Friday, the temperature reached 75° — beating the historical average for that day by a whopping 35°.

I donned shorts and a tank top, slipping into the sandals I’d dug out from the back of the closet. And for one glorious day, it was summer.

I love summer.

In fact, I chose one of the iconic symbols of summer time as the primary image for the cover of my first book, The Best Advice So Far. And it wasn’t just because I like the taste of lemonade. It’s more than that for me. It’s a symbol of hope, of childlike adventure, of making time for the important little things we so often tend to whiz by in life.

Button to Read Chapter 39 from The Best Advice So Far - Free

In my last post, I shared a sample chapter from the audiobook recording of The Best Advice So Far, for which editing is currently underway. Well, since my health, energy and focus have returned, I’ve also got my sights set on the next book.

Before I’d gotten very far into writing The Best Advice So Far, I knew that lemonade would be the theme. And here again, as I plan the next book, I’m already all but settled on the imagery for its cover: sea glass.

At the center of my mentoring, facilitation and everything I write is this statement: “You always have a choice.” And like lemonade, sea glass is about …

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walls

The Best Advice So Far: walls — 1950s subway riders crowded and ignoring one another

Today, I saw a snail
on the sidewalk in front of our house.
And I thought, I too am like that snail.
I build a defensive wall around myself, a “shell” if you will.
But my shell isn’t made out of a hard, protective substance.
Mine is made out of tin foil and paper bags.

~Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy, SNL

Growing up with three siblings, all close in age, there were frequent and often ongoing sibling rivalries. As such, we learned tricks for being in close proximity while simultaneously erasing the offending party or parties from existence. And mind you, we didn’t have customized media to aid us. We had to be creative when it came to ignoring one another:

Holding an issue of TV Guide up to one side of our face like a blinder on a horse while watching television, so as to block out the person sitting beside us on the couch.

Placing three cereal boxes in half-hexagonal formation at breakfast time, to build a fortress around ourselves that would hide us from the enemy who sat kitty-corner from us at the table, arms-length away.

Car trips were the one time when shielding ourselves became almost impossible, especially as we got older and our bodies grew.

First, with four of us, your status during the trip was immediately determined by which seat you wound up managing to get for yourself. It was a fight to the death for a window seat. But eventually, a tight-lipped parent eventually threatened us with “that look” that meant just get in the car already (somehow oblivious to the obvious stakes); and whoever wound up getting the windows would turn and …

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the birds and the bees

The Best Advice So Far - the birds and the bees / bird icon + bee icon

Let me tell you ‘bout
The birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees.

Actually, they were bushes. Well, more like hedges and a possible shrub. But I digress.

In a recent post, I talked about noticing and enjoying anew the treasures already surrounding you, as if you were someone else from somewhere else seeing them for the very first time. That little exercise in focus and appreciation sparked a heightened awareness in me (funny how that happens); and in the days that followed, I had many moments where colors seemed more vibrant, smells more potent — even memories more vivid.

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: I began this blog post on October 17, when the world up here in the Northeast was still green. It’s now the day after Christmas, and I’m continuing from an airport. At first, I thought it best to scrap this blog post with so much time having passed. Maybe I’d revisit it next year. But then it occurred to me that there’s something in the “sudden” passage of 10 weeks that speaks to the point I was trying to make all along: if we don’t remain intentional and vigilant, if we don’t make time for worthwhile moments to unfold in our lives, time keeps doing what it has always done. It passes.

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riddles

riddles - silver and gold gears interlocked and turning - The Best Advice So Far

I was driving recently with my cousin’s son, Seth. He’s 19, but having lived with a mentally and physically ill mother until her recent death, there are some areas in which Seth is still quite “young.” Until now, he’s never paid a bill and did not know how to write a check. It’s been a steep learning curve. Yet I find most aspects of Seth’s greenness refreshing, to be honest. It’s as if he’s seeing much of the world for the first time.

As we drove between offices, settling yet more paperwork in the wake of his mother’s passing, Seth was checking social media from his phone. Somehow, he wound up coming across a riddle and read it to me. You may have heard it:

A doctor and a boy went fishing. The boy is the doctor’s son, but the doctor is not the boy’s father. How can this be?

After a mere few moments, Seth quirked his mouth quizzically and said, “That doesn’t make sense. It’s impossible. Do you get it?”

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m more about teaching a man to fish than handing him a fish. In fact, Chapter 21 of The Best Advice So Far has this central advice:

THE BEST ADVICE SO FAR: Asking the right kind
of questions works better than making statements.

There are, of course, times when a straightforward reply is best. In this case, however, with a young man who suddenly finds himself needing to approach life’s problems with a new level of independence, it seemed the process of solving the riddle might be more beneficial than simply impressing him with my own ability to arrive at the answer.

The Best Advice So Far: Asking the right kind of questions works better than making statements.

I glanced quickly at him out of the corner of my eye as he waited in expectation of my reply.

“Seth, you just told me that ‘it’s impossible’; but you also asked if I could solve it. You can’t believe both of those things at the same time: that it’s impossible to solve and that I might be able to solve it.”

I let that sit for a few seconds. “I guess you’re right,” he conceded sheepishly. “But I don’t see how it could be true.”

“You only spent about 5 seconds before you decided your own idea was right and that the riddle must be wrong. But many times in life — most times, in fact — the first perspective we have on something isn’t the right one. At least it’s not entirely right.”

“How’d you get so smart?” he asked.

“I’ve lived a while and paid attention,” I said with a smirk and raised eyebrow, “which you can do just as well I can.” I wasn’t going to let him sidetrack me that easily. “So back to that riddle. First rule of problem-solving is …

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