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Friday, August 29, 2014


I love to complain.  It is a long held habit that I truly enjoy for so many excellent reasons.  For one, I am really, really good at it.  We all enjoy the feeling of mastery, and I have mastered the art of complaining, honed it to a razor sharp edge that cuts right through the bullshit to the heart of the matter:  a lot about our world sucks.  Does that seem harsh?  If you think so, you and I could probably never be friends.  Because as much as I value the ability to accentuate the positive, I value the ability to see what is really screwed up even more.

Of course we all know what I like to call “the wrong kind” of complainer, those people who pretty much exclusively complain about the same things over and over every day until they have drained you of every single bit of compassion you might have ever felt for them.   These people are energy vampires who herald their own powerlessness in the face of such atrocities as “the DMV” and “the speed limit” and “the weather”.   They don’t quite grasp the usefulness of online registration, obeying the law or umbrellas, so they come up against disasters on a regular basis, and this is not only exhausting to hear about, it’s also catastrophically boring.  And the worst part for me, these whiners give complaining a bad name!
If at this point you are wondering which kind of complainer YOU are, I will give you a helpful hint:  if you feel energized and invigorated by your complaining, you are my kind of complainer!  If you complain to people who actually may be able to help you rectify the situation you are complaining about, you are my kind of complainer!  And most importantly, if you also utilize the complaint’s oh-so-effective cousin, criticism, then you are my kind of complainer!  Rejoice, you are impacting both your world and your blood pressure in very positive ways!

As much fun as complaining is, criticism is just that much better, because not only are you pointing out a situation that leaves a lot to be desired, you are offering a potential solution.  For example, if your husband asks you where the mayonnaise is and you tell him (probably for the 400th time) that it is in the refrigerator, there is a pretty good chance he will assure you that he has already looked, because it  is a fairly obvious location for this condiment.  So you will go to look for yourself, and inevitably you will find the mayo just where it always is (or on rare occasion, slightly obscured by the ketchup bottle) and now you are faced with some choices. 

Will you go ahead and make your husband’s sandwich, because you are up now anyhow?  Or will you complain that you “have to do everything around here” and then make his sandwich?  Or will you tell him that he is as lazy as he is blind and that opening the fridge is not the same as actually moving your eyes from side to side and scanning the contents, and then slam the jar on the counter and storm off?  It’s up to you obviously, but I choose number three.  Because as good as I am at complaining and criticizing, I might be even more skilled at storming off.

 The point I am making here is that what is complaining and criticizing but the savory marriage of identifying a problem and offering a solution?  What could be more productive and positive than that?  If I complain “I have to do everything around here”  I have identified a problem that certainly needs to be rectified. 

But then if I further offer the solution of moving one’s eyes from side to side when the refrigerator is open to scan its contents, I have now taught you a life skill that will serve you most excellently well.  And how can this be a bad thing?  Life has just potentially gotten a little better for us both, what with me not running wild goose chases and you with your mobile eyeballs (these come in handy for so much more than scanning for food, I promise you that).
Pretending there are no problems in the world seems to me the silliest and most counterproductive of options.  The world is full of problems, and this is why we actually have something to do with ourselves every day.  The more problems we identify and fix, the easier and happier life becomes.  And it all starts with a complaint.  The sound of that first whine starts the cosmic ball rolling, and who knows where a well-placed criticism can take it next.  So come on, do your part!  Make a complaint today!  And if someone complains to you and there is any way in your power to make that person’s complaint go away, just do it.  We’re all in this together, and if you oil a squeaky wheel today, you have just brought us all a little closer to heaven.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


True ‘dat.  You could find a billion t-shirts, mugs, pillows, stitch samplers, picture frames and people who would agree with some version of this sentiment.  So it’s not like this is a groundbreaking insight of mine.  Friends are really, at the end of the day, who and what we live for.  Our families are different; they are so intrinsic to who we are that there is very little separation between us.  Friends on the other hand…these are the treasures of discovery, the uncharted continent, the freedom of CHOICE. 

“Friends are the family you choose” is another one of those stitch sampler wisdoms…but I think it goes beyond this.  Our friends represent the parts of us that didn’t quite jibe with our families, the pieces of us we may have denied if not for them; friends help us create the mosaic of our wholeness.  Our friends make us FREE, our friends make us WHOLE.  And that is why we need to consciously return the favor.

The late, great British author Iris Murdoch once quite brilliantly defined love as the quality of being “inexhaustible” to each other; that is, never feeling done, never feeling as though all of the gold has been mined out of this particular relationship.  When I use this as my yardstick, it quite accurately delineates bonds that exist out of history or loyalty and bonds that exist because of true love.  I believe true love and passion can be found in any format—not just for romance, it is equally applicable to friendship and yes, even family relations. 

“Passion” and “lust” get used interchangeably sometimes and this is a shame.  Because passion is the driver of life, the voice of God urging our souls forward.  The love we feel for our children literally makes us want to shout from the rooftops, dance in the streets, throw ourselves in front of a bus if necessary for their survival…is this not passion?  The love we feel for our friends and family gets us to do all kinds of inconvenient and nonsensical things if we think it will help them or make them happy in some small way.  This is the inexhaustible well of love.  
One of the biggest mistakes any of us make in love and friendship is to try to box it up, keep it on a leash, limit ourselves or the other person in some way.  Sometimes our insecurity makes us believe that “true love” is about bending to another’s will, or worse yet, making them bend to ours.  If people don’t “behave” in the way we have determined is acceptable to us, it is certainly worth a discussion. 

But ultimately we have a decision to make—do I choose to have this person in my life for who they really are, or am I hoping they will become who I think I need them to be?  If the answer to this question is the latter, then it might be time to move on for both of you.  A relationship isn’t a “test”.  It exists for the mutual benefit of the parties involved, and there will be challenges and there will be arguments, but these should always lead to expansion, not restriction.  The more restrictions you place on your relationship, the more likely you are to stifle it to death.

Years ago, a friend said this regarding relationships:  “You don’t go to the hardware store for milk”.  This has become my relationship credo, as it were.  These are the words I need on my t-shirt and stitched onto a sampler for me.  You don’t go to the hardware store for milk because you know better.  Likewise, you should not go to your “good time/shopping” friend if you need a shoulder to cry on.  Any more than you would ask a happily married friend for divorce advice or a shopaholic friend for budgeting tips.  We all bring different gifts to the table and these gifts are all welcomed and should be graciously accepted. 

But as far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, one of the biggest causes of relationship “crisis” is when one person wants the other person to be something/someone they are not.  When they go to the hardware store and become outraged that it doesn't carry milk.  To be upset that a person we know to be selfish is behaving selfishly or a person we know to be moody is being moody…well, it’s kind of like being upset that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  A pointless waste of energy.
Look, we are all forced into contact with people we would rather not engage with, if given our druthers.  Friends SHOULD NOT BE THOSE PEOPLE.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but Facebook has devalued the word friend to such an extent that it gets thrown around as casually as a penny is thrown into a fountain…it has lost its worth.  It is important to remember that a friend is a free choice you made, not some horrid obligation thrust upon you.  As your choice, you need to take full responsibility for it.  If how the other person is or WHO the other person is bothers you?  Make another choice.  Don’t go through the motions while secretly resenting the hardware store that doesn’t carry milk. 

Life is too short to choose bullshit, you dig?  If you have ever felt like you were invisible to another person or conversely come across someone who is an unpleasantly unsolvable riddle to you…trust this.  And back away.  There are plenty of friends for you to choose from, as long as you are okay with the fact that one is handy with a wrench while another bakes a mean cake.  As you allow others to be themselves, an amazing thing happens:  they return the favor.  That is friendship.  Don’t go to the hardware store without it.

PLEASE "like" this for me on the Huffington Post:

Sunday, August 3, 2014


You are perfect. 

Scared you there, didn’t I???  Who do you know, who isn’t a complete and total narcissist, who can accept a compliment well?  Honestly, most people glow, just light up when you say something nice to them, BUT most people also disagree with you either verbally or nonverbally in some way.  The rolling eyes, the little shake of the head, the “Who me?” rejoinder.  And that’s just if you say something like, “Nice haircut”. 

Now hear this:  YOU ARE PERFECT.  Most people will full-on recoil, eyes rolling in the back of the head exorcist-style and very likely you will hear the ever popular voice of Ziggy say, “Pobody’s Nerfect.”  Am I right, or am I right?  BTW, if you don’t know who Ziggy is…well, that is just sad.  I’m sorry.

As a teenager, I was obsessed with the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne (nerd alert!) and most specifically, “The Birth-Mark”.    Also:  Ziggy.  But first to discuss the Hawthorne…this totally awesome story is about a brilliant scientist who marries a radically hot woman described as physically “perfect” with one exception: a small red birthmark on her face in the shape of a hand. 

Apparently blinded by science, the husband has no problem with this birthmark until the day they walk down the aisle; then he becomes obsessed with it.  With its hideousness, of course!  He dreams of cutting off her cheek, he is literally repulsed by his scorching-babe-of-a-wife because of this one small perceived imperfection.  So the wife says—“Get rid of it!”  (I am paraphrasing here)—because her husband’s love and esteem mean everything to her, this small blemish nothing.  So he does!  And also…then she dies.  Wah.
So what are we to learn from this tale?  Perfection kills?  Men are shallow?  OR how about this:  it is our imperfections that make us perfect.  Huh?  Huh???  I say it again…it is those small quirks and oddities that distinguish us from every other person on the planet.  These are the things that make us US, the things that perfect our characters, redeem our souls. 

Every now and then you will hear about someone who gets hysterical regarding Barbie (not me) or Photoshop (that’s me) or some other arbiter of the unrealistic ideal that no one can ever achieve.  The bottom line of these arguments tends to be that pobody’s nerfect and these images (and dolls) confuse us and make us unhappy with WHO WE REALLY ARE.  But the real problem lies in the idea that who we are and how we are is somehow not right, never mind not good enough.  That we are intrinsically flawed.

Like the concept of original sin (sorry people who believe in this!)…there is an idea that the human creature is an imperfect vessel waiting to be perfected.  Whether through prayer, ritual or plastic surgery, our flaws need to be excised to make us pleasing in God’s (and Madison Avenue’s) eyes.  My response is this:  BULLSHIT. 

If God is All-Powerful, then why create flawed creatures who need to jump through hoops to please Him?  Why not use those super-powers to create already perfect beings?  Is this a game show?  Some kind of cosmic “Hunger Games” where we outlast, outwit and outplay each other for God’s favor?  Or are we beloved sons (and daughters) in whom God is well pleased?  Are “the very hairs on our heads numbered”?  You pick what works for you, but I choose the latter.  Every hair on your head is precious and correct in the eyes of everyone who understands why we are really here.  Especially the greys!
You are perfect.  Every scar, every scab, every heartbreak, every mistake…these are the things that make you who you are.  These are the things that have taught you invaluable lessons and given you invaluable wisdom.  Cellulite free legs may have “taught” you to wear a bathing suit without shame, but this is not exactly a world-changing stance.  A high metabolism may have “taught” you that Dunkin’ Donuts ROCKS!!!!  But that is not exactly a life affirming position.  Naturally bouncin’ and behavin’ hair may have “taught” you that every day is a good hair day, but has it taught you compassion, generosity or coping skills? 

Because the world is not perfect, but you are.  The world cannot comfort a grieving friend, soothe an inconsolable child or repair a broken relationship, but you can.  Your super-powers are born not from the ways you are perfect, but rather from the ways you have experienced your mistakes and “imperfections”.  You are not Barbie, you are not Gandhi, you are YOU; thank God for that!

Like the smokin’ hot wife in “The Birth-mark”, when you remove the (perceived) imperfections, you remove who you are.  You literally cease to exist.  You become Barbie, plastic and empty and INTERCHANGEABLE.  Human beings are like snowflakes, no two exactly alike. 

And do you not think this is by design?  By perfect design?  You fill a space that no one else can fill because your bumps and “flaws” and differences make your space unique and invaluable.  The next time you make a mistake, instead of thinking “What is wrong with me?”, realize that now something new is right with you—you have learned, you have grown, you have gained a coping position that you previously did not have.  Because the world is not perfect, but you are. 

And finally for Ziggy:  he isn’t actually the one who coined “Pobody’s nerfect.”  Ziggy was more of a “So what if everyone laughs at you?  You are making the world a happier place!” kind of guy.  You and your perfect imperfections are making the world a happier place for sure.