Tag Archives: giving

it’s a breeze

The Best Advice So Far - it's a breeze - curtain fluttering by an open window

One day last week, I wished a friend of mine a happy birthday. He turned 30 and was feeling old. Interestingly enough, he was a sophomore in high school when I met him, and I was older than he is now. So I was able to paint a convincing picture for him as to just how young he still is.

As we talked about getting older, a famous quote came to mind:

“With age comes wisdom.”

Yet I’m inclined to agree with the second half of Oscar Wilde’s observation on the matter:

“… but sometimes age comes alone.”

I don’t need to look very far to find middle-aged adults who are just as petty, rash, irresponsible or egocentric as they were when they were teenagers. (Some, in fact, are even worse off now than when they were younger.) Likewise, I know many in their twenties who are quite well-adjusted and have exemplary character.

That is, wisdom comes not merely from experience but from intention to ponder that experiences. To learn from it. To make new choices.

To change.

Well, after this exchange with my still-young friend, my eye was immediately drawn to a seemingly trivial bit of movement in my living room—a sight so familiar to me that, if not for that particular conversation, it would certainly not have been noteworthy let alone served as the inspiration for a blog post.

At the open window, the edge of a sheer white curtain floated and fluttered in the spring air.

In that moment, I was transported to a particular night in February back when my birthday friend was still in high school. He and a dozen or so other guys his age were gathered in my home on a Monday night for our weekly meet-up. They crowded onto the olive green sectional or found space on the living room floor, happily munching on pizza, which was the norm.

The conversation that night coalesced around a theme. Many of them expressed that they invited change, that they wanted more for their lives, that they were open to deeper connection with others and a sense of real purpose. They came faithfully each week, ready to absorb. They were honest about who they were and where they excelled or struggled. They took part in discussions and read books. But they hadn’t seen the personal progress they’d expected “by now.” They still weren’t feeling or experiencing whatever it was they thought they should be feeling or experiencing.

One or two of them even hinted that they were disappointed that the other group members hadn’t gone to greater lengths in supporting them during the week between meetings.

Where was the magic that would grant them the life they were looking for?

As they continued sharing their thoughts, I got up and headed for the kitchen, presumably to grab another slice of pizza for myself. What no one noticed was that, on the way, I cranked the heat up another ten degrees.

Even at a moderate 70°, I can tell you that 15 teenage boys will heat up a room quickly. With the thermostat now at 80°, it wasn’t long before the sweat was trickling and they were begging for relief.

Instead of lowering the thermostat, I opened the two windows along one side of the room. “Let’s see if this cools things down quickly.” But even though it was a frigid winter night, the temperature in the room didn’t drop by even one degree. No air was coming in from those open windows.

“That’s not working,” they moaned. “Can you just turn the heat down?”

I had them where I wanted them. Breaking the current flow of conversation, I said, “The windows are wide open. Why do you think the cold air isn’t coming in?”

One of them held his hand up to a screen, as if he thought for a moment that maybe a tropical heat wave had mysteriously descended upon New England. I could see that they were thinking. Another offered, “Maybe there’s no wind tonight.”

After a minute or so more, when I was sure their minds were open, I got up without a word and disappeared down the short hall. I opened my bedroom door (which I knew they would hear). Twenty seconds later, I returned and stood in the center of the room. I pointed to the open windows and, as if I were a sorcerer, freezing air whooshed into the room. In less than a minute, they were bundling up in the hoodies they’d so recently discarded; and within two, they were shivering and had had enough.

I turned down the thermostat, closed one window, leaving the other open just an inch or so as I revealed to them how I’d gotten that air to come in—to transform a stagnant space with something new and refreshing.

My secret? I had…

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big deal

The Best Advice So Far - big deal

This Thanksgiving held changes for my family.

My mom has been putting in long hours for a while now, caring for her own mother, so that my 93-year-old Nana can continue to enjoy the familiarity and comfort of living in her home of more than 60 years.

In addition to being plumb tuckered out most days, mom was also sick heading into Thanksgiving day.

So for the first time ever, we had our small family Thanksgiving out at a local restaurant instead of at my mom’s house. No preparation. No dishes to do afterward. No leftovers to wrap and store. However odd it felt to set aside tradition this year, no one could refute the sense in it.

We were seated at a spacious, horseshoe booth at about 12:30. The meal was catered, buffet style.

Our server was a young woman named Kim. After making introductions around the table, I asked Kim if she would have any time after her shift ended to join her own family for Thanksgiving meal or desert. She paused, smiled in that way people so often do when they are trying to sound positive about something negative, and said, “All of my family has passed away.”

“Oh no…” I replied. “All of them? Or do you mean there’s just no one local?”

Kim sighed, though her half-smile stayed in place. “Well, I have some distant relatives, cousins. But my own family are all gone now. I figured I’d work today so that people who do have families could be with them.”

I took a moment to just hold Kim’s gaze and let that heavy disclosure stand in silence. Then I said, “Well, we will be your family for today. Let us be your comfortable table, no stress, OK?”

Kim was genuinely appreciative as she explained the buffet setup, then went to fill our drink order.

The meal was good. Plenty of offerings. And I was glad for my mother’s reprieve.

Kim stopped by many times to check on us. She was pleasant and did seem to relax and just be herself when she came to our table. After serving dessert, she brought the bill.

“Kim,” I said, “would you consider yourself an open person?”

Her eyes were curious. She nodded. “Yes, I think I am.”

I stood up to face her. “Good to know. Because… [click link below to continue reading this post]

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creative love

The Best Advice So Far - creative love

Due to an unexpected turn of events this week (a stolen wallet, fraudulent charges to my bank card and all that goes along with getting your life back to normal afterward — a topic about which I may write in more detail at a later time), I’m still not quite over the finish line where the audiobook release of The Best Advice So Far is concerned.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share one more audio chapter — Chapter 14: “Creative Love.”

This chapter has remained one of the most popular and most talked about chapters of the book. What’s more, the chapter combines memories from 4th-of-July celebrations both recent and long past. So in honor of Independence Day, Tuesday here in the U.S., I thought sharing this chapter would be apropros.

Click the link below to continue at the new site and listen to the official audiobook recording of Chapter 14: “Creative Love” (the full chapter text is there as well, if you’d like to follow along) …


kindness

The Best Advice So Far - kindness

Last week, I shared with you the first fully mixed and mastered chapter from the forthcoming audiobook version of The Best Advice So Far. This past Friday, my best friend Dib came over to record the Foreword, which she wrote. And once that’s edited, I should have no more to do before giving wings to a project that’s taken just about 120 hours to complete.

Then … it’s into the next book. (:: deep breathe ::)

I’m still reeling (and celebrating!). With brain-buzz still in effect, I I almost decided to skip posting this week. But instead, I thought I’d share one more short audio chapter with you. It’s one of my favorites, “Chapter 10: Kindness”…


[To listen to the full audiobook chapter, click the link below. And why not bookmark the new site while you’re there?]


lemonade: for the ears

The Best Advice So Far - lemonade for the ears

At the end of February, I finished recording the tracks for The Best Advice So FarAnd at that time, I posted one of the audio recordings here on the blog —”Chapter 2: Negativity.”

Well, I had set a goal for myself to have everything mixed and mastered by June 1. It turned out to be far more than I had bargained for — over 100 hours altogether. Wearing headphones for hours on end, listening for “poppy” Ps and “tappy” Ts and “slushy” SHs, all while watching jagged sound waves on a screen. Listening to every facet of my own voice, up close and personal. Let’s just say it was no picnic.

But now I can have a picnic. Because I did meet my goal. At long last — it’s done!

And I am inviting you to my picnic…[audio link on the Main Site; click below to hop over!]


two and five

The Best Advice So Far - two and five

My brain has been in a perpetual fog for the latter half of this week. Any semblance of a regular sleep schedule has been obliterated since Wednesday, when I made the choice to stay up all night. I had my reasons. They seemed good reasons at the time. But the result was that I wound up going about 36 hours without sleep. Since then, I’ve been wide awake when I should be sleeping — and tired only when I can’t be.

Being this off kilter when it comes to sleep makes me feel “buzzy,” like my skin has a low-level electrical current passing through it. It’s particularly annoying in my head and face. This is paired with the sensation that the world is what I call “slidey” — that things in my peripheral vision are sneaking around, dashing back to where they were only when I look directly at them.

Some people think writing — particularly writing a blog post — is easy. I can only say … it’s not. I would estimate that each blog post takes an average of three-and-a-half hours to complete, and that’s only from the time I start typing. It doesn’t account for all of the mental planning that goes on during the week about what to say and how, an ongoing process that takes considerable time and energy all on its own.

Last night was another largely sleepless night. I went to bed at 11:00 (quite early for me), with the hopes of getting at least a solid six hours. But not even three hours in, I woke up with a start and was wired. My mom admonished me to just stay in bed when this happens. I tried. I really did. But it was just not going to happen. So I got up, threw on some shorts and …


reverse

The Best Advice So Far - reverse - one yellow rubber ducky swimming the opposite direction in a line of black rubber ducks

We’ve all seen those bumper stickers:

HOW’S MY DRIVING?
555-123-4567

Ever called the number to report that the driver is, in fact, currently driving respectfully and obeying all traffic laws?

After all, the sticker doesn’t say, “Call if I’m driving unsafely or otherwise annoying you.” Yet isn’t that how we tend to read it?

(Yes, I really do think about these things.)

“I want to speak to a manager.”

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”

“I’m going to email your teacher.”

In my experience, these statements are rarely followed by …

“… to let them know what a great job you (or they) are doing.”

It seems to me that perhaps many of us have become naturals when it comes to complaining, while becoming more and more uncomfortable with giving praise where praise is due.

In my last post, where I wrote about crying during a late workout, I mentioned incidentally that there was only one other person in the gym at the time: the overnight employee on duty.

Well, his name is Joe. Let me tell you a bit about him.

If you’ve ever worked the night shift, then you know …


the good old days

The Best Advice So Far: the good old days - old-fashioned soda jerk offering chocolate ice cream cone

Ah, the good old days.

The simpler ways of bygone eras have become an indelible part of our collective consciousness, stirring a sense of wistfulness at their passing, whether we actually lived through them or not.

Neighbors leaned from open windows or across picket fences to chat, and thought nothing of asking to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. Newcomers were welcomed with a jingle of the doorbell and a proffered platter of freshly made cookies or a Bundt cake. And it was assumed that all were invited to the backyard barbecue.

During trips to the local grocer or druggist, owners and customers greeted each other by name, never in too much of a hurry to ask about the children or that recent vacation. And partings were peppered with give-my-best-tos.

Young people helped the elderly across busy intersections, offered to carry their bag a few blocks, and climbed trees to rescue their kittens.

Sinewy men slung a tattooed arm around their buddy’s neck as they crowded together around diner booths — some sitting, some standing with one foot propped on the edge of a seat — swapping outrageous and animated stories with other guys from town.

People took leisurely strolls down shady streets, played chess in the park, had picnics on Saturdays and impromptu dance parties on the beach. No one dreamed of whizzing by a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping.

Friends threw dress-up dinner parties, and guests offered small gifts upon arrival, as well as following up with a thank-you card by mail a few days later. Just as likely might be a game night during which participants played Twister, eventually collapsing into a heap upon one another and laughing until their cheeks hurt.

Wholesome stories and images abound, combining to weave a sort of glorious fairy tale — one continuous happily-ever-after.

Of course, we tend to overlook …


say my name

say my name - The Best Advice So Far - graffiti big mouth on brick wall

When’s the last time you had a real honest-to-goodness “aha!” moment? For me, it was quite recently. It was so simple that I wondered how I’d missed it up until now. And yet it was so profound that I actually felt the perspective shift happen and knew at once that it would change things moving forward.

I don’t know if you’ll find it as revelatory as I did or not. I suspect some of you will. For others, perhaps, it will serve as a timely reminder of something you’ve merely forgotten for too long.

If you’ve read my book, The Best Advice So Far, or if you’ve been reading along on this blog for any length of time, you know that I devote a good deal of focus to the importance of using people’s names often, whether it be with the cashier at the convenience store, with the other patrons working out around you at the gym – or even with sketchy neighbors. Most of my stories of cool personal interactions with strangers begin with our having exchanged names. I mentioned in one post that I make a point to ask homeless people their names (just as I would with anyone else), and recounted having met one woman who hadn’t heard her own name spoken in so long, she’d actually forgotten what it was.

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when the dust settles

when the dust settles - bedroom window - morning dust motes - The Best Advice So Far

I’ve been conspicuously absent for the last month. I figured, when the dust settles, I’ll explain everything. I’m ready to do that now.

Heading into 2016, I realized that I’d gotten myself into a position where I’d taken on so many extra things in order to help others that I had crowded out the pursuit of my own goals. And so I resolved to put forth my best effort, even if it meant cutting into already minimal sleep, to complete all lingering projects by the last day of January – or to hand them back unfinished, trusting people would appreciate the fact that they were certainly in far better state than when I’d stepped in.

The truth is that most of these projects were presented to me as “small favors,” unassuming kittens that developed increasingly ravenous appetites, devouring more and more time after I’d taken them on, until they’d grown, in many cases, into those B.E.A.S.T.s I talk about in chapter 31 of The Best Advice So Far. Still, whatever the reasons may have been, I had made the choice to continue to say “yes.” Come December, I realized I needed to make new choices, even if that turned out meaning people were disappointed with me.

I told myself, By January 31st, I’ll complete (or hand back, if need be) all of these tasks I’d allowed to pile up in 2015 and, when the dust settles, I’ll be sure to be extra diligent regarding what I agree to take on moving forward. I’m ready to get back to my dreams and goals, and reengaging with the activities and community that fill me with energy and inspiration.

And I meant that. My resolve was strong.

As it turned out, I did somehow manage to complete every single project I’d started. I took a deep, cleansing breath, and allowed myself to bask in the knowledge that I’d be back to writing (and at least five hours a sleep a night) the very next day.

Ahhhh, February 1st. Glorious freedom …

But just as the last motes of that dust were settling into place, a got a phone call.  Continue reading