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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hush, Hush . . .

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week’s topic comes from Moma Rock, who asked:  Are you good at keeping secrets?  Describe a time you were able to keep a secret, and another time where you were unable to.  What were the outcomes in both scenarios?  Here’s my take:

                  Would it surprise anyone if this week’s subject immediately reminded me of a Bon Jovi lyric?  It’s from Not Old (Just Older), and it goes:  “When we took on the world, we were young and brave.  There’s secrets that we’ll take to the grave, standing here shoulder to shoulder. ”

                  So, yes, I am able to keep a secret, but I don’t particularly enjoy doing so.  It is just much too much work. 

                  Now, don’t go thinking, “Oh, no, I can’t tell Loose Lips Keliuotis anything,” and don’t fear if you’ve already confided some deep, dark secret.  Chances are, I’ve probably forgotten it, anyway (I’m kidding, I’m kidding).  I’m actually pretty good with confidential information (you know, that pesky attorney-client privilege and all).  It’s just that, sometimes, I hate the responsibility that comes with keeping quiet. 

                  I can’t exactly give an example of a time I kept a real secret without, well, divulging the secret.  But there’s one faux secret I’ve carried for years that absolutely cracks me up and that I can share here.  Many, many years ago, when my older sister was a teenager, she lied to my parents and told them she was going somewhere when she really went somewhere else:  to see a Scorpions concert.  I knew, but I was sworn to secrecy.  For some reason, my sister still doesn’t want my parents to know this, decades later, even though she is a grown woman with a grown child and even though my parents can’t exactly take away her car keys.  This amuses me to no end.  A few times, at family gatherings, I’ve jokingly threatened to tell my parents, but my sister seriously gets upset, so I let it go.  I’m guessing she doesn’t want to blow their image of her (as if they’ve forgotten all the other stuff she did as a teenager), but her need to hide this ancient fact completely baffles me.  Isn’t half the fun of getting older admitting the crap you pulled as a kid, knowing they can no longer punish you?  Sometimes, isn’t the joy of a secret found in finally, finally letting it out?

                  Although I’ve kept my sister’s “secret” (and a whole lot of real secrets as well), not surprisingly, I’ve dropped the secret ball on occasion.  The most recent time I can recall happened at work, maybe a year ago.  The last law job I held was at a small firm where, often, interoffice drama abounded.  Seriously, it was worse than high school – and I attended an all-girls high school.  At any given moment, someone was upset with someone else.  Or sleeping with someone else.  Or about to get fired.  Or fighting in the ladies’ room (I kid you not – that was a fun Christmas party).  I got along with the vast majority of my co-workers, and I was older than most of them.  I’d also worked at the firm for a while.  All of these factors turned my office into a veritable shrink’s waiting room.  Once, one of my co-workers told me something (don’t ask because hell if I remember) and I completely forgot she’d told me it in confidence.  I assume my reason was simply that whatever she had said hadn’t struck me as particularly important or confidential, but it was and I blundered.  I did not and would not intentionally blow her confidence; I just forgot to file the info in the “don’t talk about it” part of my brain.  I slipped and said something to someone – who immediately blabbed it to someone else.  In the game of office telephone that was my professional life, the factoid got back to the original source, who immediately came to me.  She was upset, but in the end understood that I messed up and felt awful.  I apologized – but what I really wanted to say was, “No more secrets!”

                  Part of my issue with secrets is the fact I am a verbal processor.  The easiest and most effective way for me to make sense of information is to talk about it, pure and simple.  I’ve always said I could never practice law alone because I need someone to bounce ideas off of.  I’ve actually found myself in the middle of discussing a complex problem and, as I’m speaking, the answer just popped into my head and I was like, “ . . .  and oh my god never mind I totally know the answer!”  (Remember that, Karen??)  This is true both when I’m trying to work through a legal concept and when someone has told me something emotionally heavy.  Within the legal paradigm, I can and have reframed the facts into a hypothetical, or masked the relevant names, thus protecting any sensitive information.  But when the subject is personal, it can be a bit more difficult.  More than once, a friend has confided something that rattled me, and I’d felt the need to bounce the information off of someone else, simply to make it make sense.  With some exceptions, I tend to subscribe to the Seinfeld rule that sharing a secret with someone who is coupled is as good as telling that person’s other half, which means I feel okay talking to my husband . . . most of the time.  But every once in a while, a secret is passed on that I’m fairly certain isn’t meant for him, leaving it to roll around in my brain because I’m not supposed to let it out of my mouth.  In those moments, I struggle.

                  I understand the role of secrets in life.  Not all information is meant for all audiences.  Sometimes we keep secrets to protect ourselves (like my sister and Scorpiongate), and sometimes we do so to protect others (I can think of a very specific example of that . . . but I can’t tell you).   And, more than that, the keeping of confidential information can actually breed intimacy.  I mean, I certainly appreciate when someone else trusts me enough to confide in me.  Recently, I took a big leap with a mom friend I’d known for about a year and really like.  I shared some private information with her, and my openness prodded her to confide in me, as well.  That result wasn’t intended but, in my heart, the information exchange changed our relationship for the better.  Mom Friend became simply Friend because I know she trusts me, and she knows I feel the same.

                  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less inclined to pass along “secret” information to someone else.  Generally, I’m more guarded with personal facts, and I choose my audience carefully, but rarely do I utter the words, “You can’t tell anyone else!”  When I do, odds are the recipient is one of a small handful of friends and the statement is almost already implied.  I don’t know; perhaps I’ve grown boring and simply shy away from situations that involve any kind of subterfuge.  Or maybe I’ve just had enough drama for one lifetime.  But maybe you have not.  So, if you have a secret to share, feel free.  I’ll take it as a compliment . . .  and I’ll do my best to take it to the grave.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In My Next Life, I Want to Be Daisy

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from Froggie, who simply said:  YOLO (you only live once).

Heres my take:

When I read Froggie’s topic, two lines immediately popped into my head.  The first is a line from Eminem’s song Lose Yourself: 

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment.
You own it.  You better never let it go.
You only get one shot – do not miss your chance to blow.
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

The other is a line from my very favorite book, The Great Gatsby.  It’s uttered by Tom’s lover, Myrtle, as she explains her thoughts upon meeting Tom:

“All I kept thinking, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.’”

Although most people don’t often compare the lyrics of Eminem with the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, both men make the same point, albeit in a slightly different way.  That message, of course, is:  You only live once. 

Eminem encourages us to grab the brass ring with both hands, while Fitzgerald offers an excuse to grab whatever (or whomever) we want.  One is inspiration, the other a bit of an excuse.  Both men hint at the threat of regret if we miss the window of opportunity:  one over lost success; the other over lost love.  Both remind us:  you only get one go-around. 

I know not everyone believes we only live once.  Some of my friends embrace the belief in multiple lives or a continuous energy; even more believe in an afterlife.  As cool as I find both, I believe neither.  I do believe you only live once.  But I don’t always live my life as if that message is true.  I’m guilty of “surviving” as opposed to “living.”  I often worry too much and “do” too little.  I overthink.  I under try.  And then I stand in bemused wonder every February as my birthday again arrives, the number growing larger, the years flying faster.  There’s so much I haven’t yet done, so much I want to change.  And yet . . .

I really don’t know too many people who truly live their lives mindful that this life is their only shot.  Perhaps that’s because I don’t live my life that way and we tend to be drawn to kindred souls.  I know people who live in the past, and I know others who focus only on tomorrow.  I even know some who seem to have given up on this mortal existence and instead focus on the promise of an after life.  I can think of just a few people in my life who, at least on the surface, seem to take YOLO quite seriously.  The take big risks and they live big lives and they make every day matter – or so it seems to me, looking in from the outside.  I envy these friends.  I wish I were wired that way. 

I also know a few people who endorse Fitzgerald’s approach to YOLO, the take-what-you-want-while-you-can mindset meant to excuse seemingly selfish choices.  This one’s a bit easier for me to grasp.  I certainly have not fully embraced this mindset, though I can say I’ve used it in the past as an excuse to explain away some pretty poor choices.  To regularly take Fitzgerald’s road, though, is to dismiss the feelings of others, and that makes me uncomfortable.  Although I want to embrace YOLO, I simply don’t want to be that person.

I do think a lot about the idea of YOLO, and I have of late made a conscious effort to live more mindfully of the fact this is my only rodeo.  I’ve begun to write more and to share it with a wider audience.  I volunteer in a setting that requires a level of presence I’ve not often exercised in the past, and in return I’ve felt a satisfaction I haven’t experienced in a long, long time.  I’ve encouraged my kids – particularly my eldest daughter – to take chances and to live her life on her terms. 

But I cannot say I’ve fully embraced the YOLO philosophy. 

Assuming genetics or the Universe don’t have other plans, I’m hoping I still have many years to get it right.  Because if I don’t, well . . . FML.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Love, Me

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from Merryland Girl, who asked everyone to do one of the following:  

1. Write a letter to yourself in 10 years from now.
2. Write a letter to yourself from 10 years ago.
3. Write a letter to your current self FROM yourself from 10 years ago. 

Heres my take:

I chose No. 2, writing a letter to my ten-years-ago-self, mostly because I’d like to think I’ve learned some things in the past decade.  On its face, my then-life wasn’t so different from my now-life.  I was a mom (of two kids, not three).  I was a lawyer (employed then, not now).  I lived in a different city – Chicago – but it was like eight miles away from here and I owned a house and a car and a cat (um, okay, now I have three cats.  Whatever.). 

But the past ten years have included many changes and life events that aren’t obvious on the surface, and those changes – those events – have, indeed, changed who I am and how I see my little world.  And, so, to my ten-years’-younger self, I advise the following:

(1)  Make your plans in pencil because they’re gonna change.  I stole this quote from Jon Bon Jovi, not because he said it, but because it’s oh, so true.  Ten years ago, I could have sat down and written a ten-year plan, and I’d have ended up re-writing it after about a year . . .  and then again after another year . . . and so on, and so on.  I can dream and I can plan, and then life can come along and – whap! – change everything.  Priorities shift, and what once seemed important suddenly isn’t.  Be flexible, old self.  It will come in handy. 

(2)  Expect the unexpected.  This is a corollary to Number 1.  Self, you simply cannot plan for everything, and life includes a variety of surprises, both good and bad.  You can’t possibly predict them, but you can be open to them.  I used to love to play the “if anyone would have told me a year ago that [fill in the blanks], I wouldn’t have believed them.”  Well, self, believe it.

(3)  Take it day by day.  I am wired to be anxious, a natural-born worrier.  In the past, I worried long in advance, sometimes weeks or even months.  Not anymore.  A series of events in the past decade have taught me to prioritize.  I may have something major to deal with in, say, August, but I’ve learned that I first need to get through January, February, March, etc.  I’ve gotten so good at this one that if I can limit my worrying to the day before.  We’ve made progress, old self!

(4)  You’re pretty (or skinny, or smart) enough.  Oh, old self.  I wasn’t always easy on you.  I almost looked for flaws – and I felt I didn’t have to look very far.  But in the past decade, two people (men, believe it or not) helped me ease up on us.  Years ago, when I’d been complaining about having had gained some weight and feeling fat, a male friend said, “When you weighed less, did you feel thin?”  My answer, sadly, was no.  I’d never felt thin, even when I’d actually been thin.  Fast forward to just last year, when I posted a photo of 1993 me on Facebook.  A friend of a friend I’d tagged commented on the photo and said I looked beautiful (I don’t know this person at all).  His words stopped me in my tracks because, of course, at the time the photo was taken, I sure didn’t think I looked all that great.  But, then, I never do.  So, self, go easy on us.  We’re not so bad.

(5)  Stay in the moment.  This one has always been a struggle, self.  I’ve always spent too much time thinking about one thing while actually doing another, or planning for this other thing instead of actually enjoying what was right in front of me at that time.  Suddenly, ten years fly by and you can’t re-live any of it.  We have a kid in college, for God’s sake, self!  As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.  Learn to focus, to enjoy what is right before your eyes.

(6)  Cut yourself some slack.  I know this comes as no surprise, but we’re fairly Type A, self, and although this has served us well in some ways, it’s been a curse in others.  We’re hard on ourself, self.  On occasion, we’ve expected more from ourself than we have from others – more than what was reasonable or even possible given the situation.  Remind yourself that perfection is the enemy of the good.  Sometimes, good enough really is good enough, self.

(7)  You are stronger than you know.  I wont lie, self:  the next decade is going to kick your ass in many, many ways.  You wont expect them, you wont be prepared for them, you wont like them, but you will survive them.  You will find yourself saying, more than once, "I cant do this."  And you will be wrong.  

(8)  Let it go.  Oh, we hang on to things, don’t we, self?  Past wrongs, old mistakes, missed opportunities.  We’ve lost sleep re-playing scenes in our head.  And for what?  We could have been watching Amish Mafia with all that free time!  What’s done is done.  Over the past ten years, I’ve learned that I can’t change the past.  I can only go forward. 

And so, self, go forward. You will get from there to here, and, really, it’s not too bad.  Enjoy the journey and take care of yourself along the way – for our sake.