Saturday, December 20, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I had a conversation with my stepdaughter, who is enlisted military. Something she told me I just can’t get out of
my head: that she has been told she was
“selfish” to join the armed forces. SELFISH to enlist. The main rationale for this criticism, as far
as I can tell, is that she is a MOTHER.
And enlisted military are sometimes required to LEAVE TOWN. Did you know that? That our soldiers can’t just sit around
hometown USA and collect a paycheck?
This gave me a big old brain hole where I am trying to comprehend the
reasoning. She is divorced, with a 50/50
custody arrangement. Which according to
some people is also SELFISH. So let’s try to figure out why a woman who
wants to serve her country and doesn’t provide 24/7, 365 childcare is somehow
“selfish”, shall we???
Thursday, November 20, 2014
So a few years ago, my Mom confessed that she hates the Grinch. I was completely taken aback by this; I thought love-of-the-Grinch was a universal constant, not unlike dislike-of-the-way-bowling-alleys-smell. Just the title sequence, with the Whos singing “Welcome Christmas” gets me a little misty….LONG LIVE THE GRINCH!!!!
I will tell you why so many
people (my Mother being in obvious and flagrant violation of this) connect with
Dr. Seuss’s hairy green confection: WE
ARE THE GRINCH. Every last one of
us. We are strapping the sawed off horn
to Max’s head and cracking the whip because the holidays are GRINCH SEASON and
we all experience the pain of having a heart that is two sizes too small.
But CHRISTMAS IS COMING and every Christmas of my adult life I have played host to someone and I live far, far, away from my nearest and dearest so the post office becomes my second home except THANK YOU AMAZON PRIME for EXISTING and how-in-the-hell-did-people-do-this-before-the-internet-was-created-thank-you-Al-Gore? I should hashtag that one, right???
Christmas is magic. Christmas is about believing in wishes come true and a mystical spirit that actually NOTICES when we are good and rewards us for it; how awesome would that be???
How satisfying would it be to see the bad punished and the good rewarded? How uplifting is it when the Grinch (or Scrooge, take your pick) realizes that he is a complete and total DIRTBAG and man(s) up and stops being the selfish-brat-abstinent-hoarder-that-he-is??? I should probably hashtag that one, too. Christmas is about NOT being a DIRTBAG in a BIG way and recognizing that most other people aren’t dirtbags either. Christmas is magic.
For most of us, though, the holidays are pressure. Pressure to go, be, and do things that are completely beyond our capacity. Pressure to be MAGIC ourselves. A few years back, I had a Christmas epiphany—or miracle, as you prefer it. I was losing my mind over all the Christmas cards I still write a personal note in, having a nervous breakdown over the dozens of pounds of fudge I make for teachers, neighbors, mail personnel and friends, freaking out over the myriad of packages that “needed” to be mailed and suddenly I said to myself: THIS IS YOUR CHOICE. If you don’t like your choice, just stop. If you do like your choice, GO AHEAD, but STOP being such a giant baby about it. I chose the latter. Business as usual, without the big baby attitude. And now? I enjoy the holidays SO MUCH MORE.
The truth is, it is so much easier to be a Grinch than to be a Christmas Angel. People will support your curmudgeonly ways, too, because we all feel so overwhelmed we are invigorated to see anyone break from the pack. “Run, Forrest, run!” is what we think as we watch you willfully abstain from participating in the three-ring-circus-that-has-become-the-holidays (#)?
But guess what? Christmas is our annual invitation to let our hearts grow THREE sizes that day. We can shrink away from it, go on strike, do whatever we feel is necessary to remove ourselves from the chaos, but at the end of the day Christmas is an open invitation. To do more, open ourselves to new and exciting possibilities, experience joy as we never have before. It waits for us, calls to us, returns for us. So how many Christmases do YOU need before you have your Grinch/Scrooge epiphany?
THANK YOU for every card you send, every greeting you share. THANK YOU for every gift you choose, whether thoughtfully or out of obligation. THANK YOU for understanding that even though going-through-the-motions is all we can achieve sometimes, often it is enough. THANK YOU for not being the Grinch, even though every green fiber of your being says that this is the way to go. We all experience conversion at some point in our lives. We all know that the “right thing” to do and the easy thing to do are almost always polar opposites.
We all know that CHRISTMAS IS COMING, whether we like it or not, and our participation, while voluntary, is measured in a He-sees-you-when-you-are-sleeping (#) kind of way. THANK YOU for being awesome. We see you. When you are sleeping, and when you are awake. Isn’t it amazing how often you choose to be good rather than bad, even without an audience? HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you. The world is a better place because your heart is officially three sizes too big.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
Anyhoo, one of my personal favorite all-time Bill Murray movies is (drum-roll, please!): the epic summer camp classic, Meatballs!!! This opinion you need not share; there are so many good ones to choose from. But between my sister and my best friend from high school, I have quoted this particular movie more often than maybe any other—because, as you know, there are children starving in India and you are walking around with a whole sombrero full of peanuts. I hope you sleep well. But the quote that defines “Meatballs”, as it were, is more straightforward and somewhat less (?) comical…“IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER”. Here is the link to watch Bill Murray at his finest delivering this classic motivational speech: (I’ll wait).
Why? Can you build a reasonable case for it? Do you want to? Or do you want to say, as the entirely less entertaining Tom Cruise said in Risky Business, “WTF?”
Hmmm, this is turning into a movie quote trivia game, huh? But guess what…it just doesn’t matter. No, it doesn’t. There are very few things in life that need to be taken so seriously that we cannot take this advice to heart. Boyfriend breaks up with you? Fantastic! That ass obviously didn’t appreciate you anyway. Lose your job? Did you love it? Did they love you? One of these things obviously isn’t true, so good riddance to bad trash.
The great and powerful Louis C.K. even goes so far as to say divorce is always good news. Because what great marriage ever ended in divorce? Ah, King Louis, you steal my heart away.
I will go ahead and call myself out by saying my number is legion. Perhaps you have more self-control than I do. But more often than not, as my “drama” played out, I discovered that I had been harboring the infamous “tempest in a teapot” and that a lot of my suffering could have been pre-empted by the wisdom of Bill Murray…it just doesn’t matter.
My husband used to irritate me when I was in a frenzy by quoting the Blues Travelers song, “It won’t mean a thing in 100 years”; I’d be all—“well, yeah, if you are here in 100 years, you can let me know how that all worked out because I’LL BE DEAD”.
Of course he (and Blues Travelers and Tom Cruise) are right. For most things, WTF is the most appropriate response. WTF is the key to freedom, as long as you don’t use it to turn your parent’s house into a bordello.
You think you’re not pretty enough or rich enough or successful enough? HA! WTF???
Seriously, DO YOU THINK IT REALLY MATTERS??? Elizabeth Taylor, arguably the most beautiful woman in the history of the planet was MARRIED to Larry Fortensky!!! The thought of having to kiss that guy makes me want to throw up in my mouth, and I am no Elizabeth Taylor!
Rupert Murdoch, author of three failed marriages (all good news, says Louis) and creator of FOX News (all bad news, say I) is a super rich guy who is less than admirable in almost every way, IMHO. So you got looks and/or money? IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER. The only thing in the whole wide world that matters is this: are you happy? Are you?
If not, LEAP! And the net will appear. If you are happy enough, BRAVO! YOU ARE MY HERO.
WTF, dude????? WTF, I say! Nora Ephron, who could be riotous or condescending in fits (See: “Why Sleepless in Seattle Bugs Me”) once said—“If children had to choose between their mother being happy and fulfilled in Hawaii or crying in the next room, they’d choose crying in the next room every time.” Ha. Funny stuff.
But who in their right mind lets an 8 year old dictate their choices? NO ONE WANTS AN 8 YEAR OLD IN CHARGE BECAUSE THEY KNOW NOT OF WHAT THEY SPEAK. But you do. At least as far as you are concerned. And you don’t need to be prettier or smarter or richer, you just need to be BRAVER.
Because apart from this, it just doesn’t matter. Leap. You are so worth it.
Friday, October 31, 2014
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Monday, October 27, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
So the other day a friend of mine joked that he was going to call his autobiography, “The Lives I’ve Ruined”. HA! At least, I hope that was a joke. But as a recovering perfectionist, it got me thinking a lot about that idea that things get “ruined” because of our actions…a cake, an event, a relationship…we say we “ruined” it by adding too much sugar or scheduling it on a day it rained or enabling bad behavior or behaving badly ourselves.
I think the
reality is that most things are pretty tough to ruin. I guarantee you will find someone who thinks
your ruined cake is delicious (or at the very least hilarious), your rainy
wedding poetic and your “failed” relationship good riddance to bad trash. Most good things are very hard to ruin, and
to ruin a life is damned near impossible.
There goes the premise of my friend’s autobiography. See, I ruined it for him. Ha again.
I used to be the kind of person who never left the house without make-up. Never let anyone see my house messy. Never let anyone know they had hurt me, exposed my fear of not being lovable, not being good enough. Perfectionism was recently redefined by Elizabeth “Eat, Pray, Love” Gilbert as “Fear, in really good shoes”. I used to be afraid that if I was unkempt or messy or vulnerable, these obvious markers of my imperfection would declare me unlovable, worthless.
I lived in a constant state of anxiety about “ruining” things and this anxiety caused me not only to screw up more, but also rendered me incapable of enjoying anything until it was completed and deemed by the royal me as a “success”. Naturally I set the bar so high for what was “successful” or “clean” or “attractive”, I could rarely accomplish my objective, which would leave me with massive case of “aftershame”. Eventually I realized it was my expectation that things go “perfectly” that was the real enemy. Not the rain, the zit or the dust on my mantle. It was the idea that anything less than perfect was “ruined”.
For example, as an achievement driven society, we tend to view marriage as a “goal” in a relationship; a long term marriage is a “success”, a marriage that ends in divorce is a “failure”. Divorce means we “ruined” our marriage. But not all relationships are meant to last forever.
This message brought to you by a Cancer, stage three clinger if there ever was one. Just ask any of the people who have been engaged in 20, 30 and in a few cases 40+ years of friendship with me: I hang on for dear life. Like the crab that is the symbol of my sun sign, once I attach I am very, very difficult to shake off.
I am passionate in my friendships; in fact, I am passionate about all things I love, from people to places to movies to books and in a few rare cases even things. But I have had to accept, fortunately again in a few rare cases, that some relationships are not built to last. There is almost always some pain in this, but endings are actually new paths that open for us, paths that the relationship prepared us for and pushed us towards. This is the gift of a “failed” relationship: it sends you in a new direction that you never would have conceived of if you hadn’t come through it exactly the way you did. It was a gateway to a new part of your life, a new part of you.
There is humor and wisdom in the expression, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed drunk”, because it reminds us to laugh at the hypocrisy of judgments. Have you ever known a slob who becomes a self-righteous neatnik after living with a worse slob? We see ourselves mirrored in our exchanges with other people and when we don’t like the reflection, it is our invitation to grow and change. ..“When the student is ready, a teacher appears”. I think this applies to every single relationship you have in your life.
But here’s the rub: in each of those relationships you are BOTH teacher AND student. We learn from each other, sometimes through joyful communion and sometimes…not so joyful. The Buddhists believe it is the people who irritate us and push our buttons that we have the most to learn from. There is an old legend about a man who was relocating to a new village and insisted on taking his worst and most insubordinate servant along. When the head houseman questioned this decision his master told him he had heard the inhabitants of the new village were so pleasant he was afraid he would not have any opportunity for personal growth without him. Love it!
So here is my conclusion: you haven’t ruined anything. If you are still breathing, you still have an opportunity to bring your best self to the table and live a life you feel good about. That will mean a million different things to a million different people and that is how it is supposed to be. We travel many roads with our various companions while we are here on earth, some of them more enjoyable than others, all of them crucial to the development of our true selves.
Like an irritant forms a pearl, we are honed into our best selves by the people who challenge us as much as those who love us. We learn from each other and while we definitely will have preferences about the lessons we get, all of them are ultimately useful if we remember to see them that way. Not a single thing you have done in your life has been in vain, because you (and/or someone else!) have learned from it. You haven’t ruined anything. You are on a journey and even if you sometimes feel lost, the destination is never in doubt.