To steal a line from Garrison Keeler, “Welcome to Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.”
Over the years, writing these blogs, you, the readership, in true Darwinian style, have morphed. You’ve become more selective, more sophisticated. Your age demographic is over 30, sometimes a lot over, and the best word I can think of to sum you up is…thoughtful. You’re still plugged into a 220-line which is life, and you want to learn something every day. And I’m pretty sure you have a solid handful of nuggets of wisdom.
The interesting thing is: Since we are all different, each of has arrived at different wisdoms, different strategies, different philosophies. With that in mind, please take a moment to share some of your tidbits with us. You just might change someone’s life. …wouldn’t that be nice?
Like most people, my parents were my first source of wisdom and advice. My very first piece of advice was from my mom who said, “When the winds fail, take to the oars.” At age seven, I took that literally, thinking Mom must have had some seamanship training. Later, when life got bumpy, I realized that what she was really saying was: Never Give Up!
The corollary to this, and perhaps the most important tidbit I’ve learned was: The harder I work, the luckier I get. That’s one you might consider tattooing on your teenager’s forehead. Is that allowed??? Guess you’d have to tattoo it backwards so they could read it.
And, in a bit of Zen irony, the huge lessons I learned from my dad were by example of what not to do. I learned early that alcoholism is something to be avoided at all costs. Smoking…not so hot either, and most of all, I learned that 99% of being a good father consists of being there. Dad was gone most the time, and when he was home, his interest in his children was non-existent. I vowed to be there for my kid and I kept my vow. So, okay, I learned from my dad…what not to do. One exception: Dad boxed in the Navy. We had a speed bag and a heavy bag in the barn and I learned how to box. I have a wicked left hook and my right cross ain’t bad. More importantly, I learned to never, ever, ever start a fight. But…if I’m hit, forget about TV- fighting which orchestrates punches like a tennis match. Once you’re in it, 100% is the only way you fight. I taught my son this and it has served him well over the years.
Friends: When Pamela and I linked up…close to 50 years ago, I realized quickly that we had…have, diametrically opposite approaches to making friends. Strangely, both philosophies work. When we meet an individual or a new couple, they know fairly accurately who I am and where I’m coming from in the first thirty seconds.
CANDOR: Candor is my ARMOR. Candor is my means of communication and once in a while, my charm. And on occasion, Candor is my weapon. Translated, in today’s society, telling the truth has become a very muddy thing. Sometimes, it’s best to put away the sarcasm and the polite bantering and (s’cuse my French) cut the crap. There is no misinterpreting where I’m coming from or my position……..on pretty much everything. What you see is exactly what you get. Strangely, this seems the best way over the long run.
Pamela is genuinely sweet and genuinely sincere. She’s fun and she is witty. But, at the end of the evening, driving home, you’ll slowly realize that you know essentially nothing about her. I am just the opposite. Strangely, it works and is smooth. But the number of people who truly know Pam…adds up to one.
An odd piece of advice hit me over the head from one line in one of John Steinbeck’s novels. He said, “You have to be a sucker for someone.” Huh??? What it boils down to, is we all have barriers, some eggshell-thin, some built from concrete and cast-iron. Whatever their thickness, there has to be someone you can trust completely…even if you are disappointed. The X-Files mantra of Trust No One, sounds cool and macho, but it’s a recipe for a lonely unfulfilling life. Having trust, and being trustworthy are about as important as loving and being loved. …trust me on this one.
Advice I STILL Haven’t Mastered: Ever since Mrs. Roser’s kindergarten class at Budd Lake School, New Joisy, I wanted to be liked. I suppose everyone wants this to some degree, though I’m not sure of this. I know I do and I know it matters a little too much to me. Does it dictate my actions? Strangely, no, but that being-liked-thing has always lingered in the wings.
Developing a “Thick Skin”: Haven’t succeeded in that either. Probably never will. Possibly because I write for a living, conversations (dialogue, if your characters are doing the talking) are hyper-perceived. Both Pamela and I hear the timing and the timbre of an extra beat of silence in a conversation, a cough, clearing of the throat, a glance off into the distance, a ricktus grin, a million little clues. And then when someone opens their mouth, well, we often know waaaaaay more than we are supposed to. Point of Fact, though Pam and I rarely fight, it can be fomented by the mere saying of, “Okay.” A real fight starter? Answer with “…Hokay” or “Fine” and the checkered flag goes down. If you think about it, I bet you and your sweetie have your own flag words.
Resetting the Meter: This is a family thing. Pam knows it. Cameron does, as well as Melissa. The reality is, EVERYONE screws up on occasion. Everyone. Motive is key. Did they mean to hurt you or was it a slip-of-the-tongue? Standing-by for all emergencies is our family meter, which can be reset ten thousand times. What that means is, to get through life, you can’t cross someone just because they screwed up, if their motives were good. You reset that meter…you forgive, and most important of all, you truly forget the issue. That is how it should be.
The corollary to that is when you run across an individual who constantly sets off your meter…a toxic person of sorts, one whose main goal is to hurt or demean you. Sooner or later the meter goes off and sooner or later you have to decide between resetting, and cutting your losses.
My advice is to reset the meter as many times as you can stand, BUT, there’s a point when you have to enact the cutting-your-losses concept. When that finally does occur, do it quickly, instantly, and irrevocably. No one, not even your enemy, deserves prolonged suffering.
Last and best, that terrific and ever-present Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It works perfectly every time.
P.S. The last bit of advice I’d give to anyone and with a 100% guarantee is this: If your life has wilted a bit or you’re feeling your age, or feeling disappointed…any of those things, I have something guaranteed to up-your happiness. Get a pet. More specifically, having had many, many pets in my life, get a Boston terrier. Their entire reason for living is to make you happy, and they succeed in SPADES. You will never regret it. Oogie, pictured above ,was my best friend ever.