Tag Archives: patience

in a year

less stress - calendar year turning 2015 to 2016 - The Best Advice So Far

We had done everything we could to expedite check-in at the airport, in preparation for our trip to Miami and the Bahamas. My mother had coordinated tickets so that she, my stepfather and I could be in adjoining seats on the flight, and we had all completed the process of checking in online ahead of time. On the way to the airport, I even downloaded the app from the airline, so that I could get us digital boarding passes on our phones in order to further move things along once we got to Logan International (no easy task; the app was rated two stars out of five, and it was very apparent why).

We parked our car in Braintree, south of the city, and took a shuttle in. Even with all of the travel involved to that point, we were hours early for our flight.

Once at the terminal, though already a bit tired, we were confident as we made our way forward to check our bags. I had my digital boarding pass up on the screen and my license in hand as I stepped forward to the next available representative at the counter. Should be a breeze, I thought, since on top of being ultra-prepared, there were only a handful of other people milling about in the area, none of whom seemed to have done the early check-in online (they were all at kiosks, rather than in line).

I met the rep and with a smile, taking a quick peek at her name tag so I could greet her by name, then handed over my phone and license and began to heft my bag onto the scale. She looked at me and then the bag with what I could only call a chiding face. The first semi-word out of her mouth was “UHN-uh.”

“I’m checking this bag,” I said simply.

YOU need a TAG!”  she said, stabbing the words at me accusingly while still shaking her head.

I found this an odd greeting from anyone, let alone from an airline representative to a customer. But in taking a quick glance around for some other sign or clue, I noticed something like a goldfish bowl full of ID tags with the little elastic bands attached. I already had a leather ID tag on my bag, but I figured it was better to just “follow the rules” with this woman. So I reached toward the bowl – which she promptly slid away from my hand down the counter, lips pursed, eyes wide and head tilted condescendingly.

In a too-loud voice, like someone’s bossy great aunt, she pointed one finger vaguely to my left. “YOU got to go over THERE!”

I looked “over there” and didn’t see another line that was marked for pre-checked passengers. In fact, I was sure the line I was in had read “Pre-Checked Passengers Only.”

I began to get the feeling that foam was expanding inside my skull, getting denser and denser. I held up my phone again, showing the digital boarding pass. “I’ve already checked in online,” I said, still feeling swimmy (in the bad way).

She added no new information, arm and finger still rigidly pointing. “You STILL got to go over THERE!” she repeated. “YOU need a LUGGAGE tag!”

Befuddled, I wandered in the general direction of “over there” and had the good fortune of seeing a couple with an equal look of consternation on their faces a few kiosks up the line. They were trying to collect the long pink and white strip that was snaking from the machine like Play-Doh from the Fun Factory (only much less fun). Maybe that’s what she’s talking about, I thought.

The kiosk was its own wonder of confusion and inefficiency. There was no greeting, no instructions. Just some buttons insisting that I enter forms of ID that didn’t pertain to me, since my mother had purchased the tickets. But after studying the screen, I eventually found a way to bypass the other methods and manually type in my confirmation number … along with re-entering all of the details I’d entered online days earlier when I went through the early check-in process.

At long last, out came the pink and white strip. It was clearly a luggage tag of some sort, but did not have clear instructions about which parts peeled off, which you kept, or how to affix it. With the long strip fluttering like a streamer in one hand, I lugged my baggage back over to the woman at the counter, handing her the digital boarding pass, my license – and now the luggage tag.

“UHN-uh!” she said. “I need a BOARDIN’ pass!”

Feeling caught somewhere between helplessness and vexation, I held up my phone a little closer to her (maybe she had poor eyesight?). “This is a boarding pass,” I stated, as mildly as possible. “I got it from your own site this morning. And I’m still not sure why I just had to enter all of my information again in order to get a luggage tag, when we all checked in online days ago.”

The woman sucked her teeth, exhaling a condescending sigh. “I can’t USE that. It don’t WORK. Now, I need a BOARDIN’ pass. YOU got to go over THERE!” She was pointing with the same rigid finger back at the kiosk I’d just come from.less stress

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hope floats

hope floats - cruise ship at sunset

For those avid readers of The Best Advice So Far: the blog, you’ll have noticed that there was no Friday post last week. This is because I was out to sea, unplugged from WiFi and Internet access, as I headed out from Miami to the Bahamas as part of my younger brother’s wedding celebration.

As a side note, I should tell you that, as much as I enjoy digital connection and writing, the break did my soul good. You should give it a whirl sometime. However, my focus in this post will not be on making room for silence in your life or how important it is not to let technology interfere with our human interactions. Those are both important topics. But today, I want to let you in on an intriguing human phenomenon I witnessed during this oceanic excursion.

We arrived in Miami on a Saturday evening. My sister-in-law-to-be picked us up at the airport, where we promptly got lost in construction and confusing signage, turning a 7-minute ride to the hotel into nearly an hour-long “adventure.”

The hotel was a tall gray building, standing out above the downtown Miami skyline. There was some kind of circus in town, as well as a concert by a major artist and a prominent bike race. It was mayhem. There was no parking at the hotel, even though it had been paid for.

Once we checked in, our small traveling group was tired and hungry (they didn’t even have little bags of pretzels or nuts on our flight). But feeling frazzled, most of them didn’t feel like hunting down a restaurant; so they just made their way down the block the multi-level grocery store and decided on grab-and-go “meals” they would eat back in their rooms.

Some of the wedding party had already arrived and were out and about. Others had to be picked up in shifts as they arrived mere hours apart back at the airport.

I myself wasn’t particularly fazed by all of this. I enjoyed the change of scenery and multicultural population of Miami. But in addition to interacting with strangers on a regular basis, I’m also an observer. And what I noticed was that people seemed very guarded. The streets were crowded with people, but even huddled at crosswalks, elbow to elbow, people went to great lengths not to look one another in the eye or greet each other – not even with a silent nod or smile.

Some of my party hid for the rest of the evening in their rooms, exclaiming that they’d been “stared down” by the “sketchy” and “scary” people on the streets. Constant stern reminders were doled out regarding keeping money and valuables in your room (hidden well, because “these people will steal it right from your room”).

The next day, Sunday, I made plans to meet up with an author-friend I’d connected with online. As I waited for him to pick me up, I was chided curbside by a relative stranger who sucked his teeth and questioned my judgment and warned me about “these people down here,” expressing in ominous tones, and with much wagging of head, that I’d likely be kidnapped or chopped into little pieces and hid in a dumpster, and just what did I think I was doing?

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un-worry

how to stop worrying man smoothing forehead wrinkles

Worry and anxiety have been big themes in the last couple of weeks around here:

You may recall that I moved last year about this time into a new place. It’s the first time I’ve really felt “at home” in 20 years, and it has allowed me room to breathe for just $800/month.  The landlords invited me to “stay forever” and offered to keep this incredible rate as long as I chose to live here. Well, I just learned that they are now selling the house and that I need to move out, after only one short year.

As the book has just gone to print and speaking in conjunction with the book has only begun to open up, other sources of income have simultaneously and inexplicably dried up. I’m at a crossroads where I am faced with the choice to either find a way to allow these new options, as well as the ongoing mentoring, time to emerge and flourish – or to take on regular hours of “just-pay-the-bills” type work again, which would limit both my mentoring and speaking opportunities severely.  This is in conjunction with now needing to move and all the financial changes that will involve.

Just yesterday, I wound up in the ER for seven hours with extreme internal pain … and lots of time to wonder what it could be. That is, in fact, why today’s post is late in getting published. (No worries; it was not life-threatening. I’m home now recuperating and will live to see another day.)

Everyone faces moments or periods of anxiety, worry, fear or outright dread. No matter how serene we may be, sudden change, bad news or added challenges affect us.  However, the degree to which worry controls our mind or capsizes us remains within the realm of choice.

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my own little world

man wearing virtual reality gaming headset

I love to learn, to do, to think something new. In fact, I make my best effort to do these things on a regular basis. A couple of days ago, a new thought occurred to me. Only this time, it terrified me. It was just like that moment at the end of The Twilight Zone episode where the realization hits too late, as the door to the alien spacecraft is closing: “Don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book, To Serve Man … it’s a COOKBOOK!”

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bigger than the bubbles

social media alert bubble

I heard this week that Amazon.com is expecting to begin implementing a flying drone program this year, which will get products to customers’ doors about a half hour after placing an order online. I suspect that, not long after this goes into effect, people will be standing by the door 31 minutes after ordering, shaking their heads in irritation about their “late” delivery.

In a society that is ever more fast-paced, it’s easy for people to forget that we have control of (and responsibility for) things as integral and personal as our own thoughts and reactions.

As technology advances, “developed” humans find ways to take multi-tasking and expectations of results to increasingly higher levels. Pencil-and-paper math problems were replaced by simple touch calculators, which were replaced by smaller and more complex computers. Currently, I can just ask Siri to figure out my math problem for me. And in most instances, automatic algorithms predict my needs and solve problems in the background without my ever realizing the math is happening at all.

The faces of our smart phones are arrayed with neat rows of a hundred apps, all with little red bubbles demanding that we must find out RIGHT NOW that our friend Sarah “loves peanut butter so much (!!!)” or that someone just recorded himself riding a unicycle across a rain gutter. And we have accepted, for the most part, that relieving ourselves of these red bubbles is acceptable at any time: at work, while with family, out to dinner with a friend, on the john.

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threshold

threshold camp walk bridge boards planks

This past weekend held some firsts for me.

For nineteen years, friends have been inviting me to stay with them at their family camp in the Adirondack mountains.  And after nineteen years, I finally made it.  Each summer past, something has come up that has prevented me from getting there.  Competing vacation plans.  Hurricanes.  Flooding.  Power outages.

This year, as it turned out, there was nothing to save me.

Each time, it’s been the same.  Exclamations commence at Christmas time: “Now, this year, you absolutely have to come with us up to camp!  It’s so beautiful and peaceful!  The sunsets!  Very cozy…”

And just as regularly, the exclamations give way to a sudden biting of nails and a recitation of the same disclaimers.

“Just keep in mind, it is very small and rustic.”

“There’s no running water, so you’d have to bathe in the lake.”

“And, of course, it’s an outhouse situation.  But you don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, and there are bugs.  Lots of bugs.  Are you OK with spiders?”

To hear them talk, one would assume I was made of the most fragile glass, liable to shatter at the first strong breeze.  And this coming from two women in their fifties.

The truth is, while I have always wanted to go and share this experience with them, I have had a certain amount of apprehension at the thought, surely to blame for the list of cautions.

This year, as the time approached with no natural disasters to save me once more, I did begin to feel increasingly anxious.  Was I really that much of a lightweight that I couldn’t handle camp living for a few days?  I began to think through each possible reason for my misgivings; and one by one, I crossed them off the list.

Sure it might be small, and there would be eleven of us in a 200-square-foot space.  But these are all close friends, and I enjoy their company.

I’ve bathed in lakes before, having white water rafted the Colorado for days.  And an outhouse is a step up from what that trip offered by way of bathroom accommodations.

Bugs?  While I’d rather not have them cuddled up with me in bed, they really don’t bother me and I have no fear of them.

So what was it?  Where was this anxiety coming from?

As the complicated ride situation to and from began to be put into place, I found my answer.  I realized that, since I’ve had a license, I have never traveled more than an hour-and-a-half or two tops in someone else’s car.

The camp was more than five hours away.

Yes, that was definitely it:

my car + me at the wheel = freedom and control

In my car, I can pull off the road any time I like for a break — for as long as I like.  I can change routes at will, or even turn around and go back home if the mood strikes me.  Understand, it’s not that I would do these things — it’s just that I’d know I could do them if I wanted to.

It leaves choices.  I like to have choices.

As it was, there was not enough room for my vehicle, even if I had wanted to take the chance, driving a car with 280,000 miles on it that far.  So, if I were to go, it would mean placing myself at the mercy of another person.  Once I committed and we were on our way, there would be no turning back.  I’d be stuck until the appointed return time.

Trapped.

It was all very suffocating to think about.  I am not lying.

Now, this all rather bothered me — this realization that, at my age, I was still susceptible to such silly fears.  While chiding myself about it did little to relieve my apprehension, I decided once and for all that I was going.  I constantly encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and take risks; to wimp out would make me a hypocrite.  It was me against the beast, and I would tame it, by sheer force of will if necessary.

And so I got in that car.  I buckled myself in the back seat.  And I laughed in the face of fear (silently, so no one would make fun of me).  And after those five-plus hours of winding roads and ramshackle towns in the middle of nowhere and a deluge of a rainstorm pounding the car, we arrived at our destination in one piece.

The camp seemed even smaller than it had been described.  One could not open the front door and step into the tiny square of a “kitchen” if anyone else were in there at the time, and a system not unlike a revolving door was devised.

Inside, the small main room was a hodgepodge: a small table with four camp chairs; four more camp chairs in a semicircle around a stone fireplace; a sofa-couch-bed strewn with pillows; a refrigerator; bookshelves laden with old and classic books, like tomes in a castle library; lanterns hanging; pictures and memorabilia covering every inch of wall; journals hanging from twine, in which were a century of visitors’ handwritten notes; various and sundry items everywhere, each with a rich and interesting history of how it came to be there.

To the side was a closet posing as a bedroom, in which were kept two small beds and an equal amount of “stuff” hung and leaned and balanced every which way, and in every available space, from floor to rafters.  And beyond the main room was a narrow screened porch, overlooking the mountains, lake and decks.

Outside was “Kim’s Cabin” — another building no bigger than a shed, which presumably would sleep four.  And a tent had also been erected to sleep two more.

We arrived near ten at night, and immediately food appeared from seemingly nowhere.  Spaghetti and homemade sauce.  Salad with garlic and garden-grown tomatoes.  Bread.  Ginger cookies.  Caramel brownies.

The nerves of the trip already a thing of the past, the weekend had begun in earnest.  I was there with the best people all snug around me.  Eating.  Talking by the fire.  Laughing.  Planning our adventures.

Later that night, sitting out in the aptly-named Adirondack chairs on one of the decks above the lake, some of us watched for stragglers from the Perseids.  After a few quick glimmers here and there, we were rewarded with the most brilliant specimen I’ve seen to date — bright and blazing, its tail long and slow in a sky extraordinarily clear and star-filled.

All was right with the world.

By mid-day Saturday, we were all remarking that the cabin — which had seemed so tiny and cramped the day before — seemed to have grown and become quite comfortable and roomy.  There was even an impromptu dance party in the kitchen, which had miraculously gotten bigger somehow, as well.

Time slowed down just for us, with plenty to spare for snacking, reading, swimming, chatting, hiking, napping.  Twenty-four hours felt like a week.

By the second night, camp life had set in.  Even the resident chipmunk, who tenaciously managed to find his way inside despite our best efforts, was more a welcome guest than a cause for irritation or alarm.  “Chippy’s back,” someone would say nonchalantly, before continuing unperturbed with their reading or a game of cards, leaving the little rascal to scurry around our feet and eventually find a door.

And I began to realize on a deeper level than even my everyday life affords, just how little we really need, in order to live and be happy.  Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.  More isn’t always more.

camp Adirondacks: Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. More isn’t always more.

When the time finally came, I was a little sad to go.  This adventure — these moments — would never be repeated.  They were their own.  And while I enjoyed a hot shower and a queen-sized bed with seven pillows in an air-conditioned room upon my return, these things all felt different somehow.

They felt extra — bonuses in a life already too generous.


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the gods are angry

We had a humdinger of a thunder and lightning storm this afternoon.  The temperature dropped thirty-some-odd degrees from days prior.  The wind and rain lashed with fury, downing branches and setting the flagpole in the nearby courtyard to clanging an urgent warning.

But the pinnacle of any storm worth its salt is when it crashes down right over your head.  There are no “Mississippis” left to count between the blinding light and the heart-stopping BOOOM!

Prepare yourself as you might for the next clap, the adrenaline spikes again, seizing your lungs for a moment.  Tell yourself all you want that you are safe inside your house, but the storm feels alive.  You feel small and vulnerable and irrational.  That lightning just might come through the outlets and get me!

Such a storm was the one that struck today.  And it occurred to me for some reason how truly and utterly terrifying such storms must have seemed to earth’s inhabitants centuries or millennia ago, during dark ages when men believed that such events were the wrathful vengeance of powerful and capricious gods.

Take a moment to go beyond merely reading that thought.  Try your best to consider that perspective.

The fire sizzling around you is a personal punishment on your town.

Your neighbors.

On you.

The wind is tearing at your house, seeking you out.  It knows where you are.

The deafening crash is the incomprehensible voice of deity, naming your sins for the world to know.  How many people will suffer today because of the displeasure you have caused?  But do you even know what it is you have done to incite this curse?

Silly folks, right?  I mean, c’mon.  How could they have been so utterly ridiculous?

Ah well, what did they know …

But I’m inclined to think that those terrified souls weren’t all that different from us.

It seems to me that each generation of humans fancies itself terribly enlightened, while considering those who came before to have been simpletons all.  But consider even recent history.

Slavery?  Segregation?  Of course!

Man on the moon?  Never!

Teleportation?  Science fiction!

Forget history.  Look at your own life span.  How many things did you once believe firmly — things at which you now can only laugh or shake your head in chagrin?  Never mind Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  I’m talking about real-life stuff that matters, and at ages where one might have known better, only to declare a decade or so later, “What on earth was I thinking?”

Philosophy.  Religion.  Politics.  Relationships.  Priorities.

Consider.  If we, as a race on the whole and as individuals, have been wrong so many countless times before — however right we may have believed ourselves to be at the time — isn’t it only logical to assume that at least some of what we may firmly believe today is also less than 100% accurate?

And if this is true, could we not extend a little more patience and open-mindedness to others, even when their ideas may seem dead wrong to us at the moment?

I came across this quote recently, and it seems to me to hold a good dose of wisdom:

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s own ignorance.  ~ Confucius

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's own ignorance. ~ Confucius

I am not a relativist.  Logic so far as I understand it would seem to say that all things can not be equally true.  I only question whether any of us should be so bold as to declare ourselves the final authority.

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The Best Advice So Far is about choice. Filled with wit, humor and poignantly real stories, The Best Advice So Far shares collective wisdom through a new lens, as well as practical application for living like it matters (because it does).

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waking up

Toward the end of August, I became very tired.

As September tiptoed in, I began to say to friends, “I need a vacation.  A good, solid week to unplug and refill.”

Then, somewhere in the middle of speaking and all without warning, I fell asleep.

This was not the kind of sleep that spans hours, but rather days and weeks.  In fact, it lasted more than a month, this sleep.

Oh, I did not remain tucked in bed or snoozing away under some tree like a modern day Rip Van Winkle.  I walked.  I talked.  I showered and ate and drove.  But I assure you, I was very much asleep all the while.

In this somnambulistic juxtaposition between the nether and reality, I heard my own voice of advice.  I listened as best I could.  And so I smiled dreamily at people and the words that came out of me like floating marshmallows were warm and uplifting.  Or at least they had that kind of feeling, as best I recall.  I even braved a visit to the ocean in the middle of a raging rain storm with an old-new friend.  And this nearly roused me from my slumber.

But not quite.

The stars remained above me.  I saw them.  But I could not manage to look directly at them.  They seemed to be evading my direct gaze on purpose.  Or maybe I’d just forgotten how to look the right way.

Haddock (what a funny word — “HAD-dock”) smelled like cornflakes.  And cornflakes sounded loud.  Heavy.  Too loud, falling in the bowl.

Once, while I slept, I almost thought of something important.  Maybe a song.  But then it flitted away and was replaced with another thought that I’d thought a hundred times and yet which still made no sense at all.

I laughed.  I felt my muscles move.  And it felt strange, like looking at your friend in the dark after staying up much too late during a sleepover when you were a kid.  I heard the laugh and it sounded like someone I used to know.  But I couldn’t tell where the laugh came from, other than my mouth.

A few days ago, it rained again.  I felt it.  I felt the raindrops.  And it smelled right.  And the cotton unpacked itself from my ears and unraveled from my brain and fell down.

And I woke up.

Soon after, a part of me rose up and felt it should wag a finger at me for having let myself sleep so long.  The nerve!  And yet I did not allow that voice to have the floor.  I told it that I could handle me just fine.

Here is the conclusion I have reached.  Sometimes, we just need to sleep, even while we continue to walk.  Realizing our need for rest, our body and soul take it upon themselves to hop a plane and write us postcards: “Wish You Were Here!”

When they finally do return, they bring back souvenirs and things to wear that smell like someplace else.  And we feel like we can carry on a while longer on their stories that we don’t quite understand, but that we feel from having looked at the pictures.

So I slept, because that is what I needed.

Then I woke up when it was time.

And there is no shame in it.


save yourself

One of my very first posts was entitled “carlotta’s wisdom.”  In it, I shared three of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard or given. If you have not yet read it (or haven’t read it in a while), I highly recommend doing so.

In response to yesterday’s post, “hitting the wall,” Dibby responded with a comment containing some more wonderful wisdom passed on from her mom and my friend, Carlotta.  I just couldn’t pass up sharing it with everyone as a post proper:

“When you are feeling crowded and think your upcoming schedule is too much, chances are that something will get cancelled.”

[My thoughts:  Where “chances” don’t take care of it, choices will.]

“Nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it’s going to be.”

[My thoughts:  Expectations are powerful.  Both of the truths contained above result in enjoying everything more.]

“If you wait long enough to do something, sometimes the need to do it goes away.”

[My thoughts:  While this hails a certain benefit of mindful procrastination, it also supports the finding that 80% of the things we worry about … never happen at all.]

And this post’s namesake:

“Save yourself.”

[My thoughts:  If you don’t, you are in no position to help anyone else.  As the kindly flight attendants instruct, “Place the mask securely over your own mouth before assisting others.”]

I don’t believe I can add much more.  As Dib astutely assessed, “My mother was brilliant!”  And that she was, in all senses of the word.

Thank you, Carlotta.  Your spirit and wisdom are still very much alive.


love hate

When I was a kid, I ate everything set in front of me.  Spinach.  Liver and onions.  Meatloaf.  Lima and wax beans.  Brussel sprouts.  I ate them all without a complaint.  I even liked them.

Alas, my sole nemesis when it came to food — was beets.  I just couldn’t seem to stomach them.  They tasted like mud with a faint hint of baby formula.  It was for this reason, of course, that it also seemed they were part of every meal.  As I grew older, hosts would ask me if I liked this food or that, and I would always say the same thing: “I’m easy.  I like everything.  Except beets.”

Once in college, when I sort of broke up with a girl I sort of wasn’t really even seeing for not quite six weeks, she showed her disapproval in some uniquely memorable ways.  During Christmas break, she sent me a crafty little hand-made postcard.  On it were glued magazine clippings of a skeletal, starving child and a torn globe with a mushroom cloud coming out of it, drawn in red crayon.  A real, dead fly was also attached, squashed and discoloring the paper beneath cellophane tape.  Scrawled across the card in black crayon was her message:

I HOPE YOU HAVE A MISERABLE CHRISTMAS!  THIS IS THE BEST YOU DESERVE!

I met with another demonstration of her disapproval one morning when I came out to my car to find an industrial-size tin can of generic beets sitting on the hood of my car.  The attached note was reminiscent of  the Christmas wishes:

THIS IS THE BEST YOU DESERVE!

One might be surprised to learn that the person responsible for these “gifts” was 21.  At times, I have to strain to remember her full name. This is due to the fact that I have only ever referred to her since graduating college by the code name “Psycho Chick.”

Eesh.  As if childhood weren’t enough to cause a guy to hate beets.

Somewhere along the line, I began to study Russian.  And even the most cursory introduction to the culture will make clear that Russians love their borscht — beet soupThus, enamored with both the language and the people, I set about the goal of learning to like beets.  (Besides, given my personality, I was never really comfortable with letting one little vegetable best me.)

Today, whenever I visit a more extensive salad bar, you will  see pickled beets on the plate.

Beets and I have a complicated relationship.  But I’ve learned to love them.

Another birthday is fast approaching.  This has me thinking again about last year’s birthday, when Chad treated me to dinner.  We were both up for an adventure, and so decided to choose a restaurant at random from an app on his iPhone.  This landed us at an authentic Nigerian restaurant about 45 minutes away.

We were the only customers.

I talk more about this night in the book, but in short, we asked the genuinely friendly waiter to just surprise us and bring us an array of things he himself would find delicious.  Among the delicacies proudly presented to us were bitter greens with tiny pieces of bone shards for seasoning, a whole gelatinized ox hoof — and tripe (please do humor me and click the link).

If you don’t already know, tripe is the stomach or intestinal lining of an animal.  In the case of our visit, it was unadorned with spices or sauce.  There it sat, in all its sponge-like glory.  We each took a bite.  Knowing its origins, one will find it no surprise that it tasted like poo.  Yet, out of respect for the hospitality and care of our host, we forced ourselves to finish the entire thing. We laughed quietly together as we choked it down, bite by bite, holding our breathe like little kids taking cough syrup.

I did not like tripe.  I might even go so far as to say that I hated tripe.

And I loved it.

I loved it because it was a unique experience.  It was shared with a close and daring friend.  And it is now yet another treasured memory of a chance taken, a reminder that we are alive.

A few days ago, Chad and I had dinner at an Indian restaurant on a whim — one we’ve visited before but which we do not frequent.  Our waiter, Burak, was Turkish and had the best voice.  He taught us to say “thanks” and “you’re welcome” in his native language.  The latter was approximately forty-three syllables long, but we gave it our best shot, much to Burak’s amusement and appreciation.

In addition, to make this particular visit unique, we decided that we would order a smorgasbord of dishes we had never tried (except for the ginger honey nan, for which I’m certain there is an actual rule somewhere stating that it may under no circumstances be passed up).

The bhel puri was addictive.  We both agreed that we were doomed from that day forward to be stricken with random cravings for it.

The mango pickle, on the other hand, despite its deceptively enticing name, was … er …

I like to consider myself as having a better-than-fair facility with words.  Yet I’m having real difficult coming up with an accurate way to describe the taste of mango pickle.  I can only say that, upon chewing the first bite, my left eye began to flutter, then closed and would not open for some time.  I didn’t ask Chad, but I’m nearly certain that my facial expression resembled that of a baby who has just squished a rotten grape in his mouth, and yet hasn’t yet the language to express his dismay.

Upon seeing this reaction, Chad did the logical thing.  He immediately also took a bite.  I love this about Chad.  We both agreed that it was the strongest tasting food either of us had ever eaten.  In our case, that is saying a lot.

Because of the surrounding experience, I also now have  soft spot for mango pickle, despite the taste.

I have this love-hate relationship with many things in my life.

Horseflies are highly annoying.  And yet they remind me of beaches and summer and being a kid.

Cigarette smoke smells foul and causes my asthma to flare up.  Still I love it, because it reminds me of Brandon and John and other smokers I have loved along the way.

I could go on, naming dozens of things I hate.  And love.

Of course, life is filled with many things we may hate more than beets and cigarette smoke.  Bills.  A dead-end job where we may be overworked and under-appreciated.  Family reunions.  Abuse in our past.  Yet I still believe, if we are willing to face the challenge, that we can find something to love in the things we hate.

Bills signify that I have luxuries most of the world will never enjoy, for instance.  In addition, is there a spouse or friend with whom you could make bill paying a sort of date together?  That’s ridiculous, you’re thinking.  Bill paying can’t just be ‘made fun.’  You really might be surprised just how far optimism and creativity can go toward transforming the drudgeries of life into memorable moments.

But what of abuse?  Certainly, we cannot just decide to be happy about past hurts that have been inflicted upon us.   No.  But I can attest that it is possible to embrace such experiences as part of the wholeness that is you, remembering that the past has no power over you in the present.   To be thankful for your unique story and its power to help others along the way, if you are willing.  To love who you have become despite your past.  Or perhaps because of it.

As with most things, I believe that finding ways to love the things you hate all boils down to perspective.

Perspective and choice.