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Saturday, July 25, 2015


You know what people love?  LISTS.  Bucket lists, to-do lists, shopping lists, Letterman’s top ten lists…lists help us prioritize and give us a sense of accomplishment.  Ever make up a to-do list and then add something to it that you’ve already done, just so you can cross it off?  ME TOO!  Love to cross something off my list!  Done and done!  I’ve also noticed that people enjoy reading other people’s lists.  Every time the Huffington Post publishes a list ("Top 10 Romantic Getaways!"  "30 things to do before you turn 30!"  "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover!"  No, wait…that was a song.  But people loved that too!), it gets about a billion “likes” because lists are fun and easy to read and understand.  No complicated grammar to wade through, no use of semi-colons; I really should get into the list business while there is still time.  I’ll put it on my bucket list!  My next article will be “Top 10 Ways to Get a Billion Likes on Facebook”—#1 is:  MAKE A LIST! 

Of course with all of these lists flying around, there is bound to be some cross-over.  I have seen a lot of lists that feature some variation of “Worst Break-Up Lines of All Time”, and invariably, no matter how many people take a stab at this particular topic, “It’s not you, it’s me” always makes the cut.  ALWAYS.  And invariably, the reason why this is seen as a horrible break up line is because the interpretation of “it’s not you, it’s me” is always it’s polar opposite: “It’s YOU, not me”.  ALWAYS.  It is human nature to take rejection personally and to tailspin into a woulda-coulda-shoulda retrospective… “If only I had done this or hadn’t done that…if only I were smarter, funnier, sexier…if only I was not ME, it could’ve have been YOU.”  We get past it eventually, and even engage in a little healthy mental mudslinging to do so:  “You know what?  It WAS you, because your world-famous omelet isn’t even admired statewide!”  We move on, but the idea that we weren’t “enough” stays with us.
I’d like to reframe “It’s not you, it’s me” for all of us.  This is actually the 100% truth of every single situation we engage in, even if the end of that sentence is “it’s me who hates to be belittled and tormented” or "it's me who doesn't want to work in a toxic environment" (some people thrive on that crap!).  “It’s not you, it’s me” makes my list of the most empowering sentences in the English language because it both takes full responsibility for what is going down while also drawing a healthy boundary.  While games may be almost as popular as lists (definitely #2, though, because of all those complicated rules!), one game I despise is “the blame game”.  We have all played that one, too.  It is a temporary balm for the soul to think another person (or situation, or corporation!) is responsible for our unhappiness (or situation or conundrum!) but ultimately there is a moment where we get a kind of clarity that life is a “do-it-to-yourself project”, as my Dad liked to say.  And that while passing the buck might feel good for a moment, ultimately it is going to get us nowhere we really want to go. “The buck stops here” is the essential truth.

Whenever I find myself being triggered, I try to understand why I'm feeling the way I am feeling.  Because it IS ME, not you!  I have insecurities, I have wounds, I have buttons…these are mine, I own them and I honor them BUT I don’t let them run the show.  The unique life experiences we have are what make us each invaluable, but they are also often what motivates our reactions.  When I feel upset, I have to ask myself—“Am I upset about what is happening now, in the moment, or am I upset because I am processing this through my insecurities?”  Believe me, more often than not, this happens AFTER I have snapped someone’s head off; not to brag, but I snap off heads like a pro.  What I have learned is that you can, in fact, get a do-over with most people if you are willing to own your reactiveness.  “It’s not you, it’s me” transforms from a weak excuse into a powerful affirmation.  It can diffuse the tension and open a dialogue of trust and acceptance.  Or it can make the triggering person/situation GO AWAY.  And that is an outcome you should always trust and accept.  When we take responsibility for how we are feeling, all consequences are good ones, even if we can’t see it in the moment.
“It’s not you, it’s me” can be a wonderful way to live your life, once you get the hang of it.  And don’t worry that you are letting evil-doers off the hook with it, because “It’s not you, it’s me” is EVERY BIT AS TRUE FOR THEM AS YOU.  When you can take full responsibility for your emotions, it has a great residual:  you give other people full responsibility for their emotions as well.  This means no more feeling guilty about how other people react and no more feeling guilty for how you react.  I think the two most condescending sentences that can ever be employed in a relationship are “Calm down!” and “I’m sorry you feel that way”.  Shaming someone you care about for their emotional response is the absolute pits; the only thing worse is when you do it to yourself.  You feel how you feel because your journey has brought you through the experiences and relationships to this exact point and you are doing the best you can.  When you forgive yourself for being human, it makes it a lot easier to extend this courtesy to others.  “It’s not you, it’s me”…I am learning to accept myself, I am learning to forgive myself, I am learning to be myself more honestly.  That is the greatest gift you can give the world.  And the only game in town, as a matter of fact.

see this also on The Huffington Post:

Sunday, July 19, 2015


It’s birthday time again!!!  Whoop, whoop!  I think birthdays are more meaningful than New Year’s Day in terms of that sense of renewal, reflection and intention setting.  Truthfully, although I am now deeply installed in middle age, I really don’t mind getting older.  I mean, the stuff that is happening with my skin REALLY BLOWS, obviously.  But anyone who knows me knows that I was never much good at being young anyhow.  It didn’t suit me.  And apart from the benefits of catching up with my old soul, there is now also an unapologetic ability to remove myself from situations that don’t work for me.  In fact, I’ve decided “that doesn’t work for me” is my “new year” motto (or T-shirt wisdom, as it were).  There is very little that makes me cringe more than listening to a grown-ass adult making weak (or bizarrely inflated) excuses for not doing something when it is clear to anyone with a brain that the REAL reason they are not doing it is because they DON’T WANT TO DO IT.  We decided as a society at some point that it is rude to admit such a thing.  So here is my birthday gift to YOU:  try “that doesn’t work for me” on for size!

I’ve done a test run with “that doesn’t work for me” at the mall recently.  The salesclerks really don’t give a goddamn if I live or die, so they make an excellent, low stakes test audience.  The first thing that didn’t work for me is bras and panties with bows on them.  BOWS!!!!  Like I am a five year old!  On a recent trip to Florida the suitcase fairies caused every pair of underwear I own to dissaparate, so I trekked to the mall to buy more.  I admit to being a bit picky about the style and fabric of panty I prefer, so Victoria’s Secret was the safe bet.  Except when I arrived I was horrified to discover that the style I like had recently been redesigned to feature BOWS!  No one over the age of ten looks good in a bow and I have yet to meet the man who ever uttered any sentiment in the neighborhood of “You know what really turns me on?  A nice bow.”  So I verbally harassed the sales people, repeatedly telling them that they had to come up with some alternative because bows do NOT work for me!  I was directed to the website, which still sells bowless panties.  This obviously did me no good, as I needed them immediately.  The story has a happy ending, however, because the suitcase fairies returned my underwear later that same day and my hopeless search for adult underthings came to an end.
When the girls at VS took “that doesn’t work for me” in stride, I moved on to Bath and Body Works.  They have recently also done some redesigning and now all of their products look like something you would find in Barbie’s Dreamhouse and smell like something manufactured by Tinkerbell back in the 70’s.  THAT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME.  The salespeople seemed more amused by my observations than anything else; I wonder if they thought I was a “mystery shopper”?  The backstory here is that I actually worked for this company in the early 90’s and my most vivid memories of that experience are that they treated me like a criminal.  Not just me—all of their employees.  Equal opportunity accusers, they were.  Part of their training program was to show us this bizarre little propaganda film about how they KNEW we were going to try to steal from them, but they had Fort Knox quality security in place to assure this would not happen.  Or, if it did, we would be immediately apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  One of these security measures was a flashlight enhanced search of our bags at the end of each shift.  As you can imagine, it was a happy workplace.

But here’s the thing:  they also hired “mystery shoppers” to come into the store and try to bait you into inappropriate behavior.  I actually enjoyed this part, as the idiots would ask ridiculously leading questions that a FIVE YEAR OLD in a BOW would know was entrapment.  I relished “outsmarting” them (not sure why—outsmarting a turnip would have been trickier) and at the end of my brief tenure there was an “incident” with one of my co-workers being caught in some behavior the company deemed unacceptable.  Even at the time I thought “You treat someone like a criminal and they are much more likely to behave as one”, but you know what I wish?  I wish I had been able to say “That doesn’t work for me” sooner.  A stupid waste of my time and energy, that job was.  Now, at the ripe old age of 148 (ha!), I hope I have the discernment and the backbone to say “That doesn’t work for me” anytime I feel I am being compromised, belittled, bullied, neglected or undermined.  Amy Schumer has a great skit on how women over-apologize (check it: and this is something I am catching myself doing less and less these days.  I am not sorry for how I feel, I am not sorry for needing help, I am not sorry that I don’t want to do that and I am not sorry THAT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME.
The other day I overheard a woman making the most long-winded excuse in the history of the world to our yoga teacher about why she couldn’t attend a session of yoga-on-the-beach. In fact, it went on for so long I just wanted to interrupt her and say “YOU CAN’T MAKE IT.  WE GET IT!”  We don’t need to make excuses for ourselves.  Not for who we are or how we feel; if somebody doesn’t like it, they are free to walk away.     Next time you don’t want to do something, say “That doesn’t work for me”.  If pressed for details as to how or why it doesn’t work for you, resist the urge to placate.  It’s just not going to work.  Because you don’t want to do it and that is something you can and should be able to honor.  Making excuses insults the other person’s intelligence (like the mystery shoppers) and is a backhanded apology for feeling the way you feel.  “That doesn’t work for me”.  It’s a good enough reason for everything and anything.  Because this is your life!  Fill it with things and people that DO work for you and it can and will be dreamy.  When you stand up for who you are and what you want, the rest will fall away.  Happy birthday to all of us.  It’s a new day, let’s work it!

Sunday, July 12, 2015


“Sex and Violence”, the ironically titled pilot for the classic Muppet Show, featured a muppetized version of Mount Rushmore, with Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln all secretly agreeing that George Washington is a dull-witted, crashing bore.  He doesn’t get any of their jokes and his own lame attempt at humor is met with silence, and finally a pitying, “That was a good one, George.”  This line has become a staple in my home in response to any story or joke that doesn’t pass muster.  I believe storytelling is an art, and not to be taken lightly.  My husband is the king of the bad story and I constantly have to remind him that relating dull facts that don’t cumulate in a point is not a valid use of verbiage; he’s also heard “That was a good one, George” from our son more than once.  So even though he was not able to join us for our annual beach holiday this year, he did inspire me to set and enforce a ground rule:  no telling bad stories.

I realize that vacations are supposed to be our break from reality and rules—theoretically, we can sleep late, eat too much food, drink too much wine and forget about exercise—and to the degree that vacationing with children allows these freedoms, my family likes to take advantage.  My new vacation rule was announced at our first family dinner after several glasses of the aforementioned wine.  Perhaps you are thinking such a mandate would go without saying, but I have found in group situations that sometimes people talk to fill a silence rather than talk because they have something interesting to say. I generously wanted to lift that onus from anyone who wasn’t brimming with scintillating discourse; I was poised and ready to smack down all family members who didn’t want to comply with my wishes.  But as it turns out, I only had to yell “That’s not a good story!” once--my younger sister had just announced to the room what the current temperature was in a tropical location she had recently visited—and once turned out to be enough, as there were good stories aplenty to be told.
My sister-in-law’s mother, who all the children call GJ, is a gracious Southern lady and born storyteller.  On the evening of my announcement she obliged us all with a riotous account of a malfunctioning carbon monoxide detector and the apparently Chippendales quality firemen who showed up at her house to deal with the crisis.  I could never do justice to the story here, as it requires both a Southern accent and GJ’s wide eyed expression of innocence which betrays none of her punchlines in advance.  There was a lot of clapping and hooting in response to her saga (mostly from me—the wine again!) and I feel it set the tone nicely for a long holiday weekend of no-bad-stories.  In case you are wondering what qualifies for me as a “bad story”, other than relating-dull-facts-that-don’t-cumulate-in-a-point, pretty much anything that is told for self-serving purposes bores me.  A tale told to elicit pity, kudos or to make anyone else feel guilty is categorically NOT a good story.  However, if you can combine all three, as my brother did, you just may have something!

My brother’s top story of the weekend involved a folding loveseat that our mother apparently browbeat some hapless clerks into selling to her for 12 bucks, an outdoor concert of music from the Harry Potter films that featured no music from the Harry Potter films, an unexpected downpour and a handsome stranger from his wife’s past.  You are interested already, right?  The situation was this:  our Mom had secured tickets to this event for herself and my brother’s family and she brought along this luxurious piece of camp equipment to enhance everyone’s enjoyment (without lightening her wallet too much in the process).  The first half of the concert and the love seat were a smashing success, although the orchestra decided to save the “main event” (Harry Potter music!) for after intermission.  My brother, eyeballing the approaching storm clouds, thought they might want to play it safe, but was voted down.  Clearly he missed his calling as an ace weatherman, because once the music started, the rain did too…and the stampede of people trying to get chairs, picnic meals and instruments out of the deluge.
Now as my brother told the story (his wife and children were witnesses to the version I heard; my mother may have to be deposed on details at a later date), Grandma and children huddled under an umbrella while he humped gear back to the car.  Simultaneously, his wife had found shelter with the mysterious stranger, who turned out to be an old school friend recently returned to the area.  The rain kept coming down harder—everything and everybody was soaked through and through by the time they were safely ensconced in the car—except my sister-in-law, who did not make an appearance again until the rain had stopped entirely.  She was dry and delighted by a fun conversation with her old pal (described by my brother as not just handsome but EXTREMELY handsome) before she entered into the sopping wet zone of seething resentment.  I like this story because I think it serves as a pretty good metaphor for how most men view marriage.  Also, if you reverse the sexes, it serves as a wonderful example of how most women view marriage too.

I have often opined that today’s bad experience is tomorrow’s funny story, and more often than not I am correct in this.  My own best story from this latest road trip features a mad dash for a train across Grand Central Station in ridiculous shoes and an errant bra strap that literally shot out my arm sleeve like a rubber band—no, I did NOT stop for it, I just kept on running.  I think with family vacations that in addition to the “no telling bad stories” rule, there should also be a “no dwelling on bad stories” rule too, unless the bad story can be turned into a funny one.  A lot of people in close quarters for several days means without a doubt that toes will get stepped on—this is the law of averages.  The trick is not to turn it into a bad story.  Ruminate on all the fun and positive and remember it’s a damned good thing nothing is perfect.  Consider this: if carbon monoxide detectors never malfunctioned, how would we ever get the Chippendales firemen to come to the house?