Category Archives: never giving up

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 13: Delightful Dumas, Magnificent Murphy and Crazy Charlie

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A beautiful quote in this series that is willing to go the distance and let us all know — that it’s all going to be OK:

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must [feel] what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.

Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’
― Alexandre Dumas
tags: hope, inspirational, wisdom 5689 likes

“Wait and hope.”

Who can’t love an optimist like Dumas? Who can’t love this quote, in all of its depth and and wholeness? Context is immaterial here; but I’ll explain it anyway: Morrel is a shipbuilder who was very kind to Edmond Dantes, the protagonist in this amazing book. I’ll stop here about how that story goes. If you’ve never read it, do.

This post is several days late. I apologize; I had this whole 30-day series locked up. Then this happened:

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The last day I wrote posts for this blog, I made a to-do list because we were going to be traveling to New York to see family. That day was 1/9. I didn’t have “adopt rescue puppy” on that list. I really didn’t. But as things go in my world, this quote, the very last words of it, in fact, apply to everything that happened.

In true Molly fashion, I will manage to dovetail all of this to try to make sense without completely hijacking this quote.

First, we named the puppy “Charlie” after Charleston, SC, a place my family loves to go and which shares the same state where Charlie was found. I will tell Charlie’s story soon; it’s a great one, and it encapsulates Dumas’ quote perfectly, but I don’t have all the details yet. Suffice it to say that “Wait and hope” captures everything that happened to that puppy and to my family.

I don’t know who rescued whom in this little deal because that 13# ball of fur has stolen our hearts. The good news is that The Murph is doing well; they were playing on the deck today in the sun and had a really great time together.

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Ahhh. I thought this moment might never happen. It only took three days!

We really got Charlie for Murphy; he had grown sad and lonely seeming. He is almost six and I had been thinking of getting him a buddy for a while but these things don’t always work out for me and we know how shitty my cats are in general. I find myself gravitating to the new possibilities that Charlie and Murphy can create for our little family and also for my writing. As fun and wonderful as Murphy is, he was all alone and he is a really good dog; no antics since his Flour Incident years back:

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Charlie however, creates a whole new opportunity for writing about pets; he is a good dog, but he will never be like Murphy, who is docile by nature and has not at all shown the cattle-dog and herding instincts that Charlie is already manifesting. To Charlie, we are all cows. Or sheep. He’s already figured out the humans around here.

My son was looking at Charlie so kindly the other night, with softness and amazement and awe. I caught him and said, “What are you thinking about? You look so happy.” He said without hesitation, “Charlie. He’s already changed our little family just by walking in the door here. He’s so great.”

I smiled at him and said, “Yes. He’s a good little dude,” and then did everything I could internally to keep myself from winding up anxiety and fear because the moment was so pure. I didn’t say anything, but I had to wreck it: “What if he doesn’t live all his years? What if he gets hit by a car? What if Murphy hurts him? What if he hurts Murphy? What if it all …???”

I’m a pro at screwing up my own bliss. Here we were, in this new-dog coccoon. The weather was rainy and blech but the puppy didn’t care. Water beaded off his shiny who-knows-what-he-is coat. His little paws, webbed like Murphy’s, patted at the puddles on the street. He was taking it all in: licking the blades of grass, snapping at low branches on the euyonomous bushes outside the house like how Indiana Jones cracked his whip, bounding from a stick to a leaf to a puddle.

I compare them, Murphy and Charlie. Murphy is fantastic and regal and loyal and so smart. I trained him to whisper a password before we let him eat his kibble; he gets on his hind legs for “Say your prayers, rabbit! Or I’mma gonna blasssst yuh…” and begs us not to “shoot” him. He’s gentle with children and he loved my mother, especially her chips. On our walks, he prances and smiles at me midway through. He stalks squirrels, ducks, geese and cats. He’s got “heel” down, but he hates to do it. He plays “jump high” when we walk up our driveway. He lays behind me whenever I write. He’s a Great Big Love.

Charlie fumbles about. There isn’t a smidge of pride in his little soul. He’s truly a miracle of survival. His mother was an amazing mom. He likes to nip at our ankles and yell from his crate like a boozer on a rant outside a pub from which he’d just been punted. He pees every fifteen minutes and drinks his weight in water. He constantly tries to make love to Murphy’s face or tail or ear. He tumbles down the gentle slope in our front yard and runs painfully slowly on his tiny 6″ legs and massive paws but his ears bounce and flap in the wind he creates and to him: he’s flying. But he does one thing, a major thing to me anyway, that Murphy has never done: he gives kisses and he wags his tail like crazy when he sees you come in. He cries when you leave without him. He feels the feelings. Charlie’s got soul.

Murphy has soul, but Murphy is a thoroughbred and we know how some of those blue-bloods can be…. Murphy was “designed” and and whelped in a heated barn under warming lights in the dead of winter, and selected by us five weeks before we could take him home and we visited every weekend and he was safe. If his mother couldn’t nurse him, another dog could. Charlie…? Charlie is from an enTIREly different stock and circumstances. ComPLETEly different… and I’ll write about that soon. Charlie is a miracle. Charlie makes Murphy happy. Charlie is a gift to all of us. Having wee Charlie is like having a new baby in the house; everyone speaks a little softer and kinder.

So then when it’s quiet, I hear myself worry about them. If it’s not them, then it’s the condition of the house (three boys + two dogs + two cats + me + husband = basic chaos). Or how I haven’t been the best cook lately. Or how I haven’t populated this blog in a while, or that I’m really behind on this series. Or that the laundry is at DefCon 2 right now. Or that I’m not practicing yoga enough. Or that I’m not writing enough. Or that I should really be kinder to myself, which invariably creates a cycle of “YEAH! YOU SHOULD BE KINDER TO YOURSELF! WHAT THE HELL’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?” and “WHO ASKED YOU TO BUTT IN?!”

And then this quote… “There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.” I say to it, “Yes. Deep grief and total happiness; this is life.”

That’s all we can do, anyway, right? Feel the feelings and wait and hope? In the meantime, we can do our best and pay our taxes and face our fears and chase our dreams, right? Anything less is not living.

So I’m at another point where I feel like a decision is waiting to be made. I can keep doing what I’ve been doing and stay where I am; or I can push myself through the wax paper and really take myself to the next level and start doing something. Get back on the treadmill and under my meditation shawl. I can start really writing, do a little blogging here and there, but really … do what I’m here to do, which is tell my story, keep telling it, watch it grow and tell it some more, but in the final analysis: live without fear.

I read a really clever piece in The New Yorker, “Downton Abbey With Cats.” It’s short and surprisingly deep and existential and it got me thinking, if everything is a repetition of something before, but just in new packaging, what are we (I) so afraid of when we (I) don’t take that leap? I can tell you this right off the bat: I’m afraid of isolation and being misunderstood. Writing a memoir, about my “deeply complicated, richly complex and dynamic family” per my therapist, has to be done in a way that I know I’m capable of doing, but I know I’m going to piss some people off. But it can’t be helped. So I need to do this; plus it’s through my filter.

I can say this much, if I’m not here, that’s where I am. If you want to reach me, drop me a comment here or at any other post and I’ll reply. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sort of tired of forcing myself to write about other writers. I’m interested in writing other things entirely.

Thank you.

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 1: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Oft-Misquoted Line about Permission

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Hiya! Welcome to 2014!

I am embarking on a new series today. I’m thinking that soon I’m going to commit to a plan (isn’t that conveniently vague?) for the whole year to write a series per month — I need to write something every day that is public so I can write more that is private. That doesn’t sound very sensical, but it makes sense if you’re avoiding working on a memoir.

Here is today’s quote:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story
tags: confidence, inspirational, wisdom 53755 likes

I’m glad to have this cleared up. For years, I operated under the presumption that the quote was “No one can take advantage of you without your permission” which is an important concept, but it’s nothing like what Roosevelt actually said.

Inferiority. That’s deep. It taps the nerves of Brené Brown’s stuff I covered last month and I guess, judging by the way my body is reacting right now as I type, it really still hits my nerves, despite my insistence that I do my best to not feel inferior. What is the opposite of inferior? Superior. I don’t think that’s where I’m wanting to go either because both of those self-concepts are sort of delusional.

Which is better: A superiority complex or an inferiority complex? Both of them can lead to personal disaster: depression, addiction, self-harm, isolation. Feelings of inferiority stem from deep stuff that didn’t come from nowhere; the problems arise when those feelings go unchecked.

Feelings of inferiority in all people are created by other people. People who tell other people they are no good; that they are failures; that they will always be failures. Those feelings also come from nothing being said at all: being ignored, being cast aside, being emotionally abandoned or discarded in preference for something else. Those feelings of inferiority are so unbearable by the projector of those feelings that they have to be spewed upon someone, anyone, with a pulse.

Roosevelt is expressing the confident notion that we can reject these feelings; that we can refuse to take another person’s crap just because they’re leaking self-loathing and they want the company.

An adequacy complex seems to be the best route: to be enough, but make it run on a law of averages: that sometimes we are amazingly adept and other times we fall spectacularly short. This to me is more like life. The trick is to not let those highs and lows so get to us that we lose our perspective of the importance of the notion.

I just saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” while in Buffalo visiting family. It was a “B” movie’s take on an “A+” short story by James Thurber. While Ben Stiller brilliantly endowed it with breathtaking cinematography and he captured the spirit of Mitty’s fantasies. I’ve always loved Walter Mitty; his is a caricature of all our less-than moments and the escapism we all concoct in order to deal with it all.

Whatever way you’ve grown familiar with Roosevelt’s quote (inferiority or being taken advantage of), it’s safe to say it’s a very popular quote with the self-improvement and self-help set. “Be your own person and reject the silly notions of others” is what it’s all about. It’s also (to me) rife with controversy though and here I go stepping into it on a very controversial topic: victimhood. Who hates the notion of victimhood more than the perpetrator (who would rather think s/he has done nothing wrong)? The victim. It’s all about righteously rejecting feelings of being taken advantage of or being led down a path that is not yours, which is more in line with how I’d continuously mistaken the quote. I’m about to reference a blog post that confuses me; my friend posted it on her Facebook wall and it’s title immediately offended me, which probably led me to dislike it right off the bat:

“14 Fucks I refuse to Give in 2014.”

I am uncomfortable sharing it because I have a Big Thing about swearing just for shocks. People can be just as influential and thoughtful without abusing other people with their vitriol and the referenced post just makes me think that the writer is desperately fighting her own self-imposed inferiority complex by being crass and what I consider to be unnecessarily ugly just to get her point across. It’s like “I LOVE ME, BUT I’M NOT ENTIRELY COMFORTABLE WITH THE CONCEPT, NOR AM I GOING TO BE NICE ABOUT IT.” I have suspected since reading it that the writer is much younger than I am. So that makes her about 90. I’m interested in hearing what you think of her post.

Back to me and Roosevelt: When I was in my raging 20s I was literally on a tear to be no one’s bitch. Being no one’s bitch meant that I was hell-bent to make other people my bitch without ever really wanting them around any way. I would be snarky and sarcastic and incredibly assholic. I was angry. Like most adolescents (even though I was deeply in by this point, but I was delayed) I grew up in a world that was becoming clearer to me day by day that it was completely upside-down. I hated the feeling of my parents’ unwillingness or more perhaps inability to change the circumstances of our lives. My crusade wasn’t about desperation, it was about feeling trapped in a crazy screwed-up world of denial and abdication.

So to differentiate myself, I grew fangs and horns and refused (from what I can see now in retrospect) to be defineable. I became not sullen and deep, but comical, flip, glib and really pissed. On the good side, I earned a high school “most likely to …” out of it, we called them Senior Superlatives. I earned “wittiest,” a moniker which I wear proudly to this day. On the less-good side, I was incredibly needy and available to anyone who would give me the time of day. Angry, self-destructive, sarcastic, manipulatable, an emotional push-over and deluded is no way to go through life.

So that was my personal interpretation of that world — here’s the reality though: no one actually tried to make me feel inferior. It was all my reactivity; it was all my doing. I made myself inferior without my own consent. I subjected myself to personalities and situations which were detrimental but familiar. Eventually, I figured it out, but it took finding a mate who wouldn’t exploit me, and creating a family that I could be proud of and focus my energies on first.

In the meantime, I let myself be a doormat and felt like crap about any decision I made. I was full of doubt, even though I possessed the intellect and energy to move beyond it all.

Do you do that? Do you pile crap on to yourself when no one has even suggested it? Do you take responsibility for a thunderstorm on a picnic that was planned? Are you Zeus? Do you summon the cold fronts? Are you a meteorologist? Do you say, “Sorry!” if a movie you picked out (which you’d never seen) sucked? Did you direct it? Did you star in it? Did you threaten people if they didn’t go with you? Do you wear other peoples’ shame without being asked to? What if you are asked to? Do you wear it?

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This is the kind of inferiority that Roosevelt is speaking of as well — not just the crap that other people try to foist on to us, but the crap we foist on to ourselves without others even knowing.

Hey! That’s MY CRAP! What are you doing taking it on?! No one takes MY CRAP without MY permission. That’s what the world needs more of.

The creepy underbelly of this inferiority stuff, this taking it on, this stuff we SWEAR we don’t want any part of at all is …. drumroll….

Narcissism.

Do you know how close that behavior is to narcissism? It’s a hair’s breadth away from martyrdom, which is just another form of manipulation and making other people feel as though they are inferior, which then creates more isolation… It’s a slippery slope. I wonder, if Roosevelt’s quote were expanded upon (and I’ll look for the book) there might be more to this line than presented.

The thing is: everyone’s in this freakin’ battle all the time. We all have moments of doubt, moments when we need to eat our fears and poop them out and flush them so they can be recycled into freedom.

Share your moments with me. Let’s beat the crap out of inferiority complexes. We can do this. I know we can.

Thank you.

Three Things Thursday 6 — Self, Health & Laugh Lines

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Today I’m sharing three things you can do for yourself to improve your health and fitness for your mind, body and spirit in less than 800 words.

Mind: Self

Determine to include yourself in your life. I saw this card (below) by an artist named “Leigh” (http://www.curlygirldesign.com/) at a fancy boutique in Connecticut in 2006 right after my husband was laid-off from his job.

We went on a weeklong vacation and stayed with family at their home. It was a very scary time for us and although I knew my husband had the chops to find another awesome job, the specter of only eight weeks’ salary to cover our mortgage and health insurance for a family of five was terrifying. The card was a piece of art and it cost $6; its sentiment is empowering. I bought it. I enlarged it and hangs in my office.

We came home from that trip determined to make it through the layoff with optimism, not obsession, and to come out better than we went going in and we did. He started his new job on my 39th birthday with not one day to spare.

"Spirit."

“Spirit.” Rekindle yours.

What has already happened to you in life is done and over. Decide to do something now for yourself today that is good. Do it again tomorrow and the day after that and own it like a boss.

Body: Get Up, Get Down, Repeat.

I started working out again Sunday and my mood instantly elevated and has stayed there. I have an extensive personal background and interest in fitness, health and nutrition. Yes, you can love Cap’n Crunch and be healthy. I have a lot of gear, but that’s because I love exercise gear. Do you have a question? Throw it at me in comments.

Here’s an awesome FREE! app for keeping track of your diet and exercise. “MyFitnessPal” <– click there for link. My SIL lost all her baby weight using that app in three months. I’ve been using it and I adore it. The sense of awareness and accountability it instills is amazing. It confirmed for me this: I don’t eat enough. More on that later.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is get up right now. Stand up, inhale, lift your hands over your head, exhale and lower your hands back to your sides and sit back down.

Do it again.

Again.

One more time.

Feel that thumpa-thumpa? That’s you. You just burned probably 3 calories.

I do all sorts of things: aerobics, strength (mostly floor work and for many of us our own body weight and gravity pose enough resistance) and yoga.

Sunday I worked on the elliptical trainer. I did High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). To keep this description high level, it goes from a “0” being sitting to a “10” being an all-out sprint from a rhino or chasing after a baby-napper every two minutes (two slow, one high).

I have a heart-rate monitor (HRM), I use it. Is an HRM essential? No, but it keeps me honest. Just starting is essential. I will write about the benefits of exercise soon.

Start small, finish BIG.

I’m a weirdo: sometimes I do squats when I unload the dishwasher. I double up the stairs, I stand on one leg when brushing my teeth. I’m not normal, but I’m also not at all overweight.

Keep a journal, write this stuff down; you don’t have to step on the scale now. Numbers don’t matter, how you feel is what matters. When you write it down, you commit.

Cravings last 14 minutes. Beat the 14 minutes and you beat the craving.

Be sure you’re eating enough. Sounds like a nice problem to have unless your body does what it’s supposed to do: goes for the muscle (lean body mass / LBM) first for fuel because LBM burns calories the best. You definitely don’t want that, because you will lose your tone. I know this personally.

Drink lots of water. Your skin will love you for it.

Spirit: Gratitude. Express it Often.

Thank your body for what it always does: functions even if you think it’s dysfunctional. And especially if you stood up and raised your arms. Thank your awesome legs, your amazing hips, your kick-ass shoulders and your freakin’ lungs for getting you through every day. Do you stop, ever, to contemplate what a MIRACLE it is to simply be alive? The genius that goes into all our cellular functioning? It’s mind-boggling.

Thank your laugh lines for keeping you sane. Go ahead: look in the mirror and say, “I LOVE YOU LAUGH LINES” and mean it.

they are. they show you don't take yourself too seriously.

they are. they show you don’t take yourself too seriously.

As I always say, “the quickest facelift is a smile.”

Thank you.

Law of Diminishing Returns

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Everyone who has a goal exerts an effort toward achieving that goal.  Typical of overachievers (or hardheads), they press on even more.  As a culture, we are told that with greater effort, tenacity and perseverance results will come abundantly.  “Work is its own greatest reward.”

The Law of Diminishing Returns states otherwise.  The law states that with increased and sustained effort toward a goal, the return will actually decline.  We see this in athletics: overtraining can result in strained ligaments, torn muscles, increased irritability, disrupted sleep and joint pain.  Run too hard too often and too long and you’re not gonna be running much at all very soon. 

Consider my beloved yoga. I recently read that too much yoga-inspired meditating can slow the metabolism and counteract any muscle building the work can impart.  Obviously taking a pose beyond what our bodies can withstand can cause injury and clearly issues with inversions (headstands, backbends and similar poses) can royally mess up the spine.  Would you rather unwind or unravel?

The Law of Diminishing Returns reigns in personal relationships and dynamics: stalkers go to prison.  

All too often, all that pushing, working, believing, and wishing will be the undoing of the effort. Tenacity sometimes can kick your own ass.

Take Thing 2 (11) for example. This evening, he wanted to go outside after dinner to play and we said no because it was too cold, too dark and very windy outside. As I type, I can hear the winds, they are gusting at about 35 mph.  Our neighborhood has a lot of old trees with brittle branches and that is that.  We have learned over the years to head him off at the pass: to offer the reasons and conditions for our decision before he has a chance to whine, “But whhhhy?” I said no.  Not two minutes later, he asks again, but in this way, “So you don’t want me to go out after dinner?” And we both said no.

Thing 2: “I’m asking DAD. So DAD, you don’t want me to go out after dinner?”

Dad:  [I love this]: “What did your mother say?”

Thing 2: “I’m asking you. Can-I-go-out-side-af-ter-din-ner?”

Dad: “Again, I ask you, what did your mother say? She said ‘no,’ right?”

Thing 2: “Yes, but I want to know what you say, Dad.”

Dad: “If your mother says ‘no’ then I say ‘no’ and that’s it.”

. . . . . . . . . . Kiss of death:

Thing 2: “Guuuuh … huff.  But I waaaaant toooooooo…”

Dad: “You’re about to lose playing outside tomorrow.  Now sit down and eat.

That is a prime example of the Law of Diminishing Returns.

For all of us, Thing 2 included, our id (the wah-wah baby in us) is the voice that says go ahead, keep trying harder, ask again, ask louder, get what you want, go faster, push again.  We like that voice because we want to be rewarded with bigger, better, stronger, faster, richer, smarter — because why? Because we know best.  We know that our goal is the best goal.  Oh, and because when you get what you want, you’ll be a different, a stand-out; you’ll be NOTICED.

Bobby Brady tried it when he wanted to be taller: he used the backyard swing set to stretch himself so he’d grow a couple inches to impress a girl.  It didn’t work.

So if we have the id, what about the other voice? The super ego, the rational one, the one that says, “give it time and it will work out.”  “Don’t overdo, you might get overdone.”  In most first-world nations we push that annoying, nasaly, Felix Unger voice off the nearest cliff.  Surely our super ego or even our intuition can’t be right.  Intuition? That’s so … Fiji and woo-woo.  In our world of watching a movie on our phones while waiting in line at a store or paying a premium to block access to WiFi at hotels and resorts, acting with our intuitive intelligence doesn’t always fly.  If there’s no app for that, we don’t want it. Go Go GO!

Ten-assity

Quite often tenacity works and it’s great: you study hard and you get a good grade.  You work long hours and your boss gives you a raise.  You watch what you eat, exercise with care and you lose weight and gain energy.  You show kindness and patience to a new friend and you are rewarded with a solid relationship.  It’s good.

How can our tenacity kick our asses? Well, when we push the boundaries sometimes. Duh. No, I mean if we involve other people, tenacity can backfire. For example: What about the partner, the child, the friend who continually implores an addict to change his or her behavior?  It’s at moments like this when tenacity has become our enemy. 

Consider the popular phrase, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It dovetails beautifully for someone who loves someone else so much that he or she loses his or her self in their beloved’s problems: the partner nags, pushes, reads, researches, hides, distracts, connives, plans, schemes, dreams and wishes, tries again and never gives up thinking or hoping that things will change.  And guess what?  The addict does almost exactly the same thing, but just in the opposite direction: hides, schemes, lies, steals, distracts and dreams that things will stay the same but that the other person will change. 

 

I was in a strained and significant relationship where I wanted to thank someone for something.  I didn’t want to let that person think that I didn’t appreciate their efforts despite any challenges in the relationship. I was in a good place emotionally and so I started to write a letter of gratitude and appreciation and unfortunately, it morphed into a place where I apologized for any strain I had placed on things but my apology wasn’t perfect.  I couldn’t look away from the bright and shiny trophy that I felt we both deserved if we owned our parts in the challenges.  It was at this point that things went a little pear-shaped but they reformed before the end of the letter.  The letter was never sent because I realized that it wasn’t pure and isolated.  Despite the fact that I’d printed the letter, folded it, put it in an envelope, addressed it, sealed it and put a stamp on it and walked it to my outgoing mailbox, I realized several hours later that I wasn’t ready to send it.  Even with all of my best intentions, and all those letter-closing actions I knew I had created a back-handed compliment and I had twisted and contorted my way around the communication to sincerely thank the person but also suggest, “by the way, you’re welcome for my putting up with all your manipulative crap…” which wasn’t altogether fair.

So I told my therapist about that attempt.  She said it was a noble idea but she was glad I pulled the letter out of the mailbox.  She knows I’m a word freak and that I shroud my emotions under my intellect, it’s a protective mechanism.  She gave me homework.  She said, “Instead of sending that letter of gratitude to your person, I want you to come up with an appreciation of yourself.  I want you to thank yourself.”

I said, “You want me to thank myself?! Well THANK YOU!” and I sprang up from my seat on the couch, grabbed her box of tissues and beaned her with it.  Gave her a shiner.  Then she called security and had me arrested. 

No, actually we didn’t do that.  I sat on the couch and festered.  I didn’t like this assignment because after mostly being on the couch for a few years, I knew that where we she was taking me was not Dairy Queen.  It was going to be a mahogany-paneled library in my mind where great thinkers thought in leather chairs and considered great things.  I had to do some work.  “Ok, I’ll thank myself.  This is not as easy as it sounds, y’know.” And you know what she said? She said, “I know. Good.”

So naturally, it had to be something major. I was lost.  After a couple days of head-scratching, I went to the most sagacious place I knew: Facebook. I posted my status, “If you were going to thank yourself for something, what would it be?” and I got some answers that were good, but not right for me.  They were lovely reasons, but they were extrinsic.  I needed to go deep, down the sidelines and turn to receive a great pass and take it in for a home run.  (I don’t watch much hockey.)

After the Facbook consult, I continued on.  I didn’t forget about the assignment and I stayed on task, driven to distraction and the only word I could come up with, for myself when I considered all of my life and the story I had created in it was “TENACITY.”  I laughed at the irony of how I’d finally arrived at it.  I never gave up.

So all chest-puffy and feathers fluffed I marched in to my therapist’s office about a week later and plopped on the couch. 

“I know why I’d thank myself.  I figured it out.  It took me a while, but I did it and it makes perfect sense and it’s the most appropriate and good reason: I thank myself for my tenacity.  For never giving up.  For always swinging and putting in the good effort and for always believing things could happen and get better and that good times were just around the corner.  I love that about myself.  And that tenacity has made me a good mom and a good friend and a good person.”

My therapist has this cute mouth that reminds me of a turtle: right at the center of the upper lip she has a delicate dip and she has a sincere smile.  Her smile did not belie her plan:  she had me.  And up went an eyebrow and down went the pen on to her notepad and as clear as the sky on a crisp fall day, she said, “Great. Tenacity is a noble quality and it has been good to your children and your friends and your family and the PTA and community, but has it really been good to YOU?”

My head tilted, my eyes locked and drilled, my neck unrolled and I said,  “Urruh?” I felt I looked like my (incredibly gorgeous and talented) dog when he’s watching a squirrel on our front stoop through our storm door and he Can’t! Reach! The! Squirrel!  “Urruh? Of course tenacity has been good to me.  Pish posh.  I’m there!  I did it.  I thanked myself! Tenacity is good; you agreed. Right? I mean, since when is optimism and perseverance a bad thing? Since when is commitment and never throwing in the towel . . .  and never quitting . . . and believing a . . . better day is  . . . just around . . . the . . . cor—  ner. . . a bad . . . idea?  Oh  . . . . . . . . . . shit.” 

And from across the coffee table, my therapist scribbled, scribbled, scritched, scratched, nodded, nodded, “mm-hmm”-d and nodded …  “And so when has tenacity been unkind to you?” she asked from her notepad.

“It’s been unkind to me and a foolish idea when the goal is out of my control.  It’s a bad idea when it’s clearly not gonna happen.  It’s a bad idea when the other factors don’t align; when the other person is out to lunch, when the other players are on a different field, playing a different sport, or are on the . . .   worse: playing for the opposite team.”

Crap.

That is when tenacity is bad. That is when the law of diminishing returns becomes your best friend: when you realize that what you’ve been doing, pushing, believing, pursuing, idealizing, praying for and dreaming about is simply never going to happen. 

Does that mean your goal, your ideal is absurd? Not in a vacuum, no.  Say you have a situation that is truly wrong: a friend who is unfaithful to its spouse.  You disagree with the infidelity; you lecture, you listen, you engage, you debate, you defend and you hold your ground: that infidelity is wrong.  The thing here isn’t whether your goal of honorable behavior is bad or good (it’s good). The thing is that your tenacity, your moxie will be your undoing.  Your friend might not give a patoot if you are right or wrong; afterall, the id and its drives motivate that person and your id and probably super ego are what are motivating you to fight for truth and justice.  But it’s a waste of your time because it’s not your battle.

So while tenacity is great, sometimes giving up is better.  Hanging on to wishes, ideals, goals, hopes and dreams that you can never realize for someone or something else is effort, energy and time you will never get back.  And that, sports fans, is a bummer.

So be tenacious about yourself by paying attention to the Law of Diminishing Returns, for it comes down always at the right time and its judgment is flawless. Having my tenacity turned on its head is the most liberating thing that could have ever happened to me.

Thank you. 

 

ps – i wrote this in Word, that’s why my I’s are capitalized. a’hem.  :o}