Archive for the ‘Life is Hard’ Category

Remember the days when an ice-cream was enough to make you happy or shift the mood?  Or a chocolate bar?  Or any delicious food thing that felt special?  I remember realizing in a concrete way when I was a teenager that those days were over.  Going to Baskin-Robbins was no longer going to cut it.

I had a similar realization yesterday about my older son:  his ice-cream days are over.   His depth of feeling and comprehension on a gut level of how difficult/disappointing/frustrating/sad life can be has hit a new level.  That’s not to say that things didn’t upset him deeply, even at a young age.  It’s just that before, even the worst things could be soothed by ice-cream or something like that.  When he was just over two and half years old my father died.  I still remember him walking in the room before we told him.  He knew.  He knew and felt that something big had happened.  And, without having the words to describe it, he knew it was sad.  But that sadness or feeling, whatever it was, didn’t step in the way of pleasure.  In fact, there was room for both.

Now he’s a teenager with more independence, more complicated hopes and dreams, more pressure on himself and surely from others.  And I feel sad for him that his ice-cream days are over.  As I watched him struggle the other night, I immediately thought of making and buying food he likes.  I had been on a semi-cooking strike …protesting the lack of appreciation I sometimes feel from my family for all the food I make, but seeing him struggle my instinct was to feed him, both physically and metaphorically.  And although food may not provide the cure-all that ice-cream once did, I believe that it nourishes him in important ways.


A couple months ago, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk about vulnerability.  I was traveling and didn’t get around to watching it until a couple days ago.  I realized right away that I had already seen the talk, and although I couldn’t remember any specifics, I remember liking it so I kept watching.  I liked it again.  And then I watched a follow-up talk the speaker, Brene Brown, did, also at TED.  This time it was about shame.

Main messages:

vulnerability = good

shame = bad

I figured I must have already written about vulnerability, but I couldn’t find anything on my blog specifically about that, so I thought I’d do it.  I definitely haven’t touched shame.

(Aside #1:  I just finished an article in The New Yorker about the phenomenon of TED talks, and had a pang of feeling cliche to be writing about another TED talk on my site!  The article is very interesting and points out what you kind of know after watching a TED talk:  they are skillfully produced.  And produced to pull you in and make you emotional.  I had to ask myself if I’m just another tool who drank the kool-aid.  But I decided, screw it…produced or not, these two talks bring up a lot of important things and if they give people something to think about and examine about their lives, then so be it.)

(Aside #2:  I watched the videos up in Bolinas, where I was providing moral support for my younger son who was going to a camp up there with a friend.  I was only supposed to stay for two days and then leave him for the rest of the week.  But my son was struggling.  He’s very attached to home and family and he has a hard time stepping out of his comfort zone.  He doesn’t like to feel vulnerable.  Every time I talked with him about staying alone, he would tell me to speak more quietly.  He didn’t want his friend to know he was nervous.  He was embarrassed.  And then I realized I was also feeling vulnerable because I know that some people feel I am too soft with my son.  And I know I am sometimes, but I honestly don’t see the point in pushing him too far too fast.  But at the same time I know he needs to become independent and learn to cope in uncomfortable situations.  What was the “right” thing to do?

After I dropped my son and his friend at camp yesterday morning, I drove away.  Headed back to S.F.  I was struggling with my own fear that it would be hard for him, and knowing it was time for me to get back.  I felt like I should rush home and start working, but then I saw the sign for Stinson Beach and thought there was absolutely nothing so pressing that I shouldn’t take a little time to unwind.

I walked and thought, and thought and walked.  I thought about vulnerability and shame and how closed off so many people are.  I felt glad that my son could recognize his vulnerability and I, mine.  And we could still move forward.

He’s coming home this evening and I will hear all about it.  I did get a text at 6:30 a.m. this morning.  Nothing wrong, just reaching out.)

My asides aside, I think both TED talks are worth watching and hearing.  It’s a good reminder that as uncomfortable as being vulnerable is, it’s what gets people closer together and what brings us to new places.  And, we all have shame.  Don’t let it rule your world.

How many times has someone said to you, “Why can’t you get over it?”  Or perhaps it’s something you say to yourself.  A lot.

I was asked that question by others, and myself, for years.  And still I couldn’t get over “it.”  The “it” in question doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how unproductive the question is.  There is always the implication that there is something wrong with you and that it’s not a big deal.  In fact, if you can’t get over something that means it is a big deal!  No matter how easy or logical it seems it would be to get over or let go of certain things, sometimes we can’t.

The trick is to take the fact that you are stuck very seriously and not discount it.  You can’t get over something if you’re still wrestling with it.   There was a time I didn’t think I’d ever get over the “it” in my life.   I started to believe I would have to live hold onto it and feel it forever, but then I also started to take the pain seriously that I had been though.  And I did get over it.  In some ways I think I couldn’t get over it until I accepted that I couldn’t get over it.

What do you tell yourself to get over?  What do others tell you to get over?

I watched a TED talk by Roger Ebert a few days ago.  It made me cry.  I only vaguely knew of his story, and I had never seen him at the height (or was it the height?) of his career as a movie critic… when he was part of Siskel and Ebert.  I didn’t watch them, but it was hard not to know of their thumbs up and down rating system.

For someone to put themselves out there is such a public way…mouth literally hanging open, is incredibly moving.  There he is with what looks like a perpetual goofy smile on his face talking about incredibly hard things and looking unflinchingly into the audience.  He calls it like it is and shares his pain and struggle.  I can imagine an overpowering desire to disappear, to hide, but he holds on to the voice he lost.  (Click here to watch and hear his talk.  I encourage you to check it out… even for a few minutes.)

Everyone has their particular circumstances.  Their particular challenges, handicaps, and weaknesses, alongside their strengths, gifts and  successes.  It’s what we do of all these things that make up who we are.  I am moved and inspired by this man, Roger Ebert’s, strength and will and vulnerability and sense of humor.  May we all live our lives with the grace and humility he has found and shared.


***WARNING*** This blog post is about song lyrics.  If that is too cheesy for you, please wait for my next post!

Every once in a while I feel particularly moved or inspired by song lyrics or they make me think in a different way.  I consider writing about them, but I always decide that what moves each of us is so particular to us and to the moment that I should stay away from it.  So I have a rule not to write about song lyrics.  But I’m breaking that rule once.  The song came on yesterday as I was jogging, and although I usually skip over slower songs when I run I felt compelled to leave it on.  As I ran and breathed and thought it became clear to me why this time it was okay.  So here goes.

I was taking a walk a couple months ago listening to music and half paying attention/half letting my mind wander.  I had recently put a bunch of new music on my iPod, so there was some stuff I hadn’t heard yet.  I remember sort of liking a new song and feeling somehow connected, but still not really paying close attention.  And then the last line of the song played and it struck me:  “And there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re 13…right now. “

Wait a minute, I thought.  I’m not 13 right now!  And I think it’s precisely the “right now” that gets to me.  I’m not 13…I’m 44!  Why was I relating to a song that is all about a 13-year-old’s emotions?!  The song is Tell Yourself by Natalie Merchant.   Since then I have listened again and again, and yeah, it resonates.

So what I’ve come up with is how much it reminds me that my 13-year-old, 10-year-old, 18-year-old selves still reside in me.  No, that’s not quite right.  I know they’re there, but certain lines in the song made me reconsider my 13-year-old assumptions and feelings from a more compassionate place.  I’m not 13 now, and just as Natalie Merchant has an older person’s perspective, so do I.   So while it’s comfortable to tell myself certain things…mostly because I’ve been telling them to myself for so long, maybe it’s time to stop.  Maybe my 44-year-old self needs to step in with some perspective and support.  Maybe that would be good for both of us.  And so that’s what I’ve been doing in small ways and it feels really good.

What have you always told yourself?  What would it be like to change the story?

If you’re curious to hear the song, click here.    It’s attached to a video on YouTube with scenes from an Ingmar Bergman movie.  Personally, I would just listen and not watch…didn’t make much sense to me.