Years ago, I learned an important lesson when someone I loved was dying. If you can throw money at a problem and fix it, then it isn’t really a problem after all. Of course, such a philosophy requires that you’re flush with cash. Line up a roof repair, new hot water tank, and a balloon mortgage, and such wisdom can quickly fly out the door. But I’d bet that you’d be inclined to agree that we all tend to focus too much energy on minor irritations. They’re annoying, yes. But not permanent.
A Wise Man Once Said
So today, I thought I’d share my coping strategies when faced with life’s little bug-a-boos. The things that drive me crazy and the solutions that I’ve devised to let go of the negative energy. I’ll just offer a few for consideration. They’re simple and don’t require much explanation. If they make you smile…then I’ve done my job.
The Golden Ten
- When you don’t have time to clean the house—dim the lights. Everything looks better in the dark.
- If you hear a rattling in the car while you’re driving—turn up the volume on the radio. That pen rolling around in the glove compartment can wait until you’ve come to a full stop.
- Everything today has an embedded computer chip. Before you call India to fix a problem—reboot by shutting down, unplugging, and counting to 30. Then try plugging it back in and starting over.
- Brownies, ice cream, and chocolate topping are the fastest cure for the blues. This also works well if you’re bored or lonely.
- All of the grocery carts at Walmart have at least one broken wheel. That’s the price you must pay for deep discounts.
- No matter how your dog stares into your eyes, he isn’t desperately in love with you. He probably wants to eat, poop, or play. Maybe all three.
- Love is not a given. Act loving—and you’re bound to get some loving back. Behave badly—and watch your world turn upside down.
- Fear is there to warn you. But then, it likes to play with your head. Face your fears and you might surprise yourself.
- Age is all in your mind. Until you ache. Then it’s in your right thumb, left toe and elbow.
- Happiness requires that you focus on something other than yourself. True happiness is found in helping others.
Take What You Want…Pitch the Rest
I hope these little truths resonate with you. They’re beliefs I hold dear, though I haven’t always managed to live by them. It’s a funny thing about being human. The next drama always seems to be just around the corner, waiting for us to pick up the script and read our lines. Every now and then, it helps to break the habit. To refuse to play the part. I wish I’d done that more often in my life. I guess there’s still time to learn.
Years ago, my mother rebuffed the news of my coming out by explaining that she couldn’t deal with it. Her exact words. “I’m too old to change.”
But you’re only fifty-five?
It rarely happens in life when you have extreme clarity. But at that particular moment, it was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I made a vow to open my mind to the possibilities of life. I’d do my best to never be, too old to change.
Change is hard
And it has been a challenge. Over the years, we’ve moved from city to city, from job to job. My career in healthcare has had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, until the last move to Phoenix. But even then, I realized early on that I’d landed in the wrong organization. The thing about change is that sometimes we need to be careful about what we wish for. And to recognize when it makes sense to say no thank you, and move on.
Career as a Writer
I’m grateful for many things in my life, but none more than that one insight from my mom. She suffered a lot of emotional pain with that too old to change. And though it’s a wonderful thing to hear affirmations from those we love, sometimes, it’s the judgments that force us to envision whom we choose to be. My mother offered that gift, and to her, I’ll be forever grateful. By learning to change, my life has turned out to be a lot better than I ever expected.
There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.
Yes – I know
If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.
Commerce in Action
I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .
The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.
Why is the drawer full?
At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill?
We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.
Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .
I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time looking down. Is this a matter of safety, not wanting to trip, or a reflection of my innate personality? Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time.
It isn’t that I’m afraid of falling. My balance is okay. Of course, there are nights when I stumble along in the dark to you know where. When I first step out of bed, my feet are stiff—curled tightly—like claws. Eventually, the muscles relax. I must look like a parrot walking along on the tile, shifting left to right. But no one else is up to see me. Except for the dog. Move, and he’s awake.
It’s not about shoes
I’m not looking down because I’m fascinated with shoes. I could care less. Though in Phoenix, flip-flops almost pass for formal wear. And then there’s the occasional lady in high, spiky heels. It’s amazing to watch her balance on stilts. It’s like watching a circus act without a net.
New York City kid
I think the real reason I look down is based on where I was raised. In New York City, you don’t make eye contact with strangers. Not unless you need something. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. No one wants to be on the end of a hey man, what are you looking at? Best to keep your gaze downward—avoiding the dangerous elements populating your world. Little boys have been beaten up for much less.Continue reading . . .
Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, a poodle lived in our bathroom. Pink, with black eyes and a white bow permanently sewn to its head, it sat atop the back of the toilet tank, beady eyes watching our family during the most intimate of moments. By now you’ve probably guessed that the crocheted body with four tiny legs and a bouncy tail, concealed the extra roll of toilet tissue.
Is this for the company?
When you live in a one bath apartment, there is a decorating dilemma. That single bathroom serves both family and guests. And so along with the poodle cozy, there were decorative hand towels that we didn’t touch. And now that I think about it, I never did see that poodle lying atop the tank disemboweled. That stuffed poodle was a permanent fixture. The order of the day: reach under the sink if you needed to refill the roll.
Years later, the lessons learned in my childhood are hard to shake. And though we don’t have a poodle cozy for the extra roll of toilet tissue, I remain unwilling to use the decorative hand towels. Why should I have this reaction in my own home? It must be the result of my early toilet training.Continue reading . . .
A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.
But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.
Startled by the recall
As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.Continue reading . . .
I wish my refrigerator was spanking new. Perfectly clean with all my favorite foods lined up on shelves that sparkled. Labels facing front so that you can read them. Tupperware neatly stacked. No crumbs or wet spots anywhere.
A little OCD?
Yes, I’m neat, but not a neat freak. I don’t mind if a drawer is messy—as long as it’s closed. The bedroom closet may need some straightening up, but not every day. And frankly, I’m okay with the state of the garage. Of course, it’s easy to pass through there quickly. Really—who lingers in a garage? But the refrigerator feels different. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time looking inside of it.
Think of how a trained chef dresses a plate. It’s more than just the food—it’s about eye appeal. How the colors balance. How the shapes contrast. It’s lending an artistic eye so that everything presents in an appetizing way to heighten the experience.
The fact is, older homes come with older refrigerators. I’ve tried taking apart our refrigerator and washing out every nook and cranny. I’ve even tried ordering new shelves and drawers, but everything is out of stock. Discontinued can be such an ugly word. Continue reading . . .