‘REAL’ LOVE

I saw this key next to a brochure promising, “Real Love,” sitting on a bench this morning when I took my walk. It seemed as if they were ‘planted.’ A little contrived, I thought. And yet? There was no one around but me. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find ‘real’ love on a park bench? Walk up, read the tract and then. . . just turn the key?

Once, while counseling a couple of almost 40 years, the husband suddenly turned to me and said, “You know?  I just don’t ever want to argue with her.  I love her too much.”  Thousands of songs have been written about love and the platitudes are endless:  love is holding hands and not caring if the other person is holding too tight or not tightly enough.  It is not having to prove you’re right or prove anything at all because there is nothing to prove.  Love is not making the other person happy but sharing in their joy.  Love lifts you up.  It doesn’t break you down into your lowest common denominator as if you were a mathematical equation or squeeze you into a box.  It always has your back—because you matter more than any scale of justice. 

And while there is truth in all of those, there is one sign that always resonates with me. I saw it in that couple.  ‘Real’ love is being with someone who smiles just because they’re looking at you.  

I’D RATHER ROW THAN WADE

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Skiff (La Yole) 1875 Oil on canvas, 71 x 92 cm Bought, 1982 NG6478 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG647

Had lunch with a friend this afternoon at a local restaurant and we were seated in a booth.  When the food arrived, I suddenly realized just how low my seat was.  My chin was almost even with the plate.  I asked the waiter for a booster seat.  He just looked at me.

“A booster seat?” I asked again.  “Do you not have one?”

“Um.  Yes.  We do,” he replied still staring at me.

“Would you bring me one, please?” I asked again.  “Or maybe you have some pillows?”

“Well, I see the issue.  This booth has the lowest seat of all the others in the restaurant but we don’t have any pillows.”

“Then just bring me a booster,” I repeated for the third time.

“Um.  I’m not sure you’d be very comfortable in one,” the waiter said.

Finally, I understood his reticence.

“Are you trying to tell me politely that you don’t think my butt will fit in one?”

He went violet.  

“Um, yes.  I guess.  I mean they are for kids.”

“Just bring me one and let me decide,” I said firmly.

Reluctantly, he returned with a booster.  I put it under me and maneuvered myself in.  I’ll admit the fit was snug but I finished my entire lunch sitting in it.

When the Supreme Court rendered their reversal on Roe vs Wade today, I was dumbstruck.  This is not a matter of whether abortion is right or wrong.  This is simply a matter of giving women the CHOICE of what to do with their OWN bodies.  If men gave birth this would have never even been an issue.  Never.  Not once.  Not in 1973. Not now in 2022. Not ever. Never.  

Just bring me the damn booster and let me decide if I want to sit in it.  

LIGHT IT!

As a mental health counselor, I’ve had my share of suicides, psychotics, schizophrenics, and a host of other tortured, lost souls:  Men emasculated by women.  Women abused by men.  Siblings that can’t stop fighting.  Couples that can’t stop quarreling.  Addicts that can’t stop addicting and an aging populace that has lost its’ purpose.  Recently, a teenager told me that she was ‘too old’ to start re-inventing herself.  ‘Too old?’ She has a lifetime ahead of her. If she’s lucky, she’ll reinvent herself many times over.

I know what I’m talking about.  In the last 5 years, I’ve changed cities and my entire friend group, taken up a new sport, learned how to play ukulele, had two knees replaced, two cataract surgeries and started working again.  Between podcasts, reading books and observing others, I’m not done learning by a long shot.   

Our brains start to solidify by age 25, when our neural pathways become well-worn into grooves.  Change is still possible but it takes work.  The key is to continuously create new pathways to break apart those stuck patterns in the brain.  The older you get, the harder it is to break free of them.  If you really want to change, you need three conditions:

  1. Focus on what you want to change. 
  2. Create the right environment (meaning eat healthy, sleep deep and move often).
  3. Repeat/ practice (meaning do the ‘new’ thing, like learning ukulele, over and over).

Often, my older clients are reluctant to leave the house at all. Some only go as far as the mailbox. It’s not just COVID. Sometimes it’s due to physical issues but more often than not, they’ve simply forgotten all their options. Even if they think of things to do, they’re hesitant to do them alone. They feel stuck. I get it. But you know the irony? I meet far more people when I’m out alone than I do when I’m out with others. 

Here’s the thing.  Unless you believe in reincarnation, you have ONE life.  There are no do-overs.  From my perspective, many people not only live lives of quiet desperation, they feel STUCK.  And the irony?  They are not stuck at all.  They just THINK they are.  Look, you don’t need to burn the candle at both ends—you just need to light it.

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE

ON THE STREETS OF WAIKIKI

Homeless people have been around since I was a young girl in the 60’s wandering the streets of New York City.  Back then, they were few and far between, sitting quietly beside a sign that read, “Spare change?”  Now, they are up front and very center across America. On any given night, half a million people are laying their heads on the ground, exposed to the elements, disease, filth and predators. Statistics say it’s due to unemployment, unaffordable housing, drug use and mental health issues.  And while those things do affect the numbers, there is something deeper at work:  they have lost connection with others.  Sometimes that connection is lost by accident.  Other times it is a purposeful break due to violence, trauma, or family alienation which now affects 27% of us.  

13 years ago, a Stanford graduate fell off the grid.  His concerned classmates, after a long, circuitous hunt, found him alive and sort of well living on the streets of New Orleans.  That story had a happy ending.  Most don’t but often it’s not for lack of trying.  My own mother spent her later years walking the streets of Long Island pushing a shopping cart.  At night, she slept in a baseball dugout.  Despite getting her into housing, she always bolted claiming that she needed, “fresh air and freedom,” both of which came at a price.

Homelessness is a broken connection.  It cannot be simply fixed by relocation, housing or even treatment.  There is no one size fits all when you are talking about people.  If you want to repair a broken circuit, you first have to turn off the power to it, troubleshoot which breaker has malfunctioned, replace and rewire it.  On a plastic panel, it’s a simple process.  In a human being, the breakers are endless and finding the right one to re-wire is often a crapshoot.  This crisis across America will take a multiplicity of interventions connecting together at the same time.   

I’ve spent the last few weeks in Hawaii.  It is not the paradise I remember from 25 years ago.  Now, I cannot go a single block without encountering a homeless person.  I often take the bus but have yet to be able to sit at the stop, since there is usually someone sleeping on the bench.  Once, I was chased into the street by a man who threw his socks at me because I didn’t have a light for his cigarette.  But I’ve noticed something:  The police are tolerant and the locals leave food and coffee by their camp sites.  Yesterday, a blanket and a cooler filled with water and bananas were left on a park bench.  This morning, I added my own pair of worn shoes.  As Iyanla Vanzant so poignantly said, “You have to meet people where they are and sometimes you have to leave them there.”      

LIGHTEN UP

Apparently, this is NOT a ballet barre.

There is perhaps no more mournful place in American than the local gym.  Where else can you see a sea of grimacing, grunting faces in various heave-ho positions?  It could be all the mirrors.  I’d be depressed if I stared at nothing but myself, too.  When folks aren’t staring at their anatomy they are deeply involved with their cell phones.  Deeply.  From my observations, the average gym goer spends more time looking at their phone than actually working out.

If you go to the gym, do NOT attempt to converse with anyone, particularly those with ear buds.  They do NOT want to be disturbed from their very, serious business.  Also, do NOT attempt to ‘work in’ with those who have laid sweaty bandanas across the equipment or placed a water bottle at the base.  They plan to occupy that territory for as long as it takes them to do 10 reps, then pause for 5 minutes to look at their phone, do 10 more reps, etc.  They are not in a hurry to work out.  They are, in fact, camping out.  This morning, a man sat on the same piece of equipment while I swam a half-mile.  After I showered and changed, he was still sitting there!

I dare you to go into a gym without your phone and ear buds.  You will get more done in half the time.  You’re also more likely to start up a conversation and burn social calories.  (Yeah, that’s a thing.)  I also dare you to ride a bike without staring at the TV.  Talk about feeling the road.  Distractions are just that.  They keep you from doing the work.  If you don’t do the work you won’t get results.  If you want results, stay out of the gym.  

If you do go, here are some ways to make it fun:

Ask the guy wielding two, heavy ropes if you can, “Double Dutch,” with him.
Ask the 6′ 4″ kid shooting hoops if he’ll take your picture. Explain you’re writing a ‘style’ piece for the NBA.
Pretend to get stuck and ask someone to extricate you from the machine.

But WHATEVER you do make it fun. Life is too short to take yourself that seriously.

USE YOUR WORDS!

OMG!  Hasn’t life been SO much simpler since we reduced words to three letters?  I checked the AQI this morning and decided not to go outside.  Since I don’t take PED’s, I had to do something so headed to the GYM.  (My acronym for Get Yourself Moving)

FYI, more people stare at their phones there than exercise.  So, while they’re texting LOL’s to their BFF’s, I wait and fume.  Finally I say, “Hey.  I’m getting OBM.  Can I work in with you before I GOP?”  A guy wearing a JDI shirt is sprawled in the middle of the mat doing nothing.  I ask if he would mind moving over.  He doesn’t budge.  RUS?  I say, “Don’t wear a JDI shirt if you’re not gonna DI.” 

I head to my car and pass a woman and her mom having coffee at an outside table.  The mom stares at her phone and says, “Honey, what does EMF mean?”  (Had she not told her, I’d have had to look it up). TMI? In the car, I turn the radio on.  WTF is up with all the commercials?  If you have a UTI, STD, PTSD, BPD, ED or OCD, you’re in luck.  There’s a drug for you.  If you just wanna listen to music, however, you’re SOL!   

Back in the day, cops put out APB’s if you were wanted. You were DOA at the morgue and SOS meant ‘Help!’  Now?  We’re living in a 3-letter world.  OIC.  Don’t believe me?  Consider this:  Ariana Grande’s last song was ‘POV’ and 60 Minutes just did a whole segment on NFT’s.  

FTR, I had lunch today with an older friend who doesn’t own a computer or cell phone.  As she struggled to recall where the Red Sea was, I opened my phone.

“Hey Siri?”  I ask.  “Where is the Red Sea?” 

“It is an inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia.”

“Isn’t that cool?” I brag.  She looks askance.

“I could’ve looked it up.  Imagine all the other things I might have noticed along the way.”

Branson and Bezos just zoomed into space; a zillion dollars for 10 minutes of free fall but what did they see ‘along the way?’ Do we really need to spend that kind of money to “realize just how small we are and how fragile Earth is?”  DTS. We’re on the expressway of knowledge but everything is flying by.  Nothing is sticking.  Initialism has become our self expression.

Recently, I helped look after the adorable fellows pictured above.  Oh, how I loved listening to them use their words!  Every syllable was a symphony to my ears.  When the littlest dropped his toy and I said, “Uh, Oh.” He replied: “It happens.” Honestly?  Isn’t life short enough without shortening it even more?  IDK.  I’m thinking of adding all the letters back in. It might just prolong my life.

CHEAT SHEET FOR THE CHALLENGED

OMG: Oh My God

AQI: Air Quality Index

PED: Performance Enhancing Drugs

FYI: For Your Information

LOL: Laugh Out Loud

BFF: Best Friends Forever

OBM: Older By the Minute

GOP: Go Out to Pasture

JDI: Just Do It

RUS: Are You Serious

EMF: Enjoy Mother F…..

TMI: Too Much Information

SOL: S… Out of Luck

FTR: For The Record

OIC: Oh I See

POV: Point Of View

NFT: Non Fungible Tokens

DTS: Don’t Think So

IDK: I Don’t Know

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW!!

A few months ago, my eye doctor told me that I had cataracts in both eyes and one was a stage 4.  “Oh,” I said upon hearing the news, “I was having trouble playing tennis at night.”  He was incredulous.  “I don’t think you quite understand,” he replied.  “You’re actually legally blind.  You shouldn’t be driving, let alone playing tennis.”  So, I had one removed.  The change after surgery was so dramatic that I was utterly convinced my vision was perfect!

Nope.  Now you may see the difference between these two sets of pills, but my eyes fooled me last week.  The white, elliptical one is my heart pill.  The yellow, oblong one is for the thyroid.  Somehow, in the bright sunlight, I poured my new prescriptions into the wrong, waiting bottles.  Since I only take one of each every day, the mix up wasn’t particularly crucial.  But it did give me pause.  What if my thinking is as faulty as my eyesight is becoming?  What if what I think I see isn’t what is there at all?  And what if my mind makes decisions based on my faulty seeing?

Such was the case this morning at Ace hardware for one, young man.  As the cashier rang up my batteries, she noticed that one was mismarked and asked me to get another one.  The kiosk was only a few feet away.  So, I walked over, grabbed another one and as I returned to the cashier, a man in line yelled at me for, “cutting in line.” 

 I explained calmly that I did not cut but was merely finishing the purchase.  He was so mad he didn’t even let me finish my sentence.  “It’s about time someone put you in your place,” he barked.  “We’re all waiting,” he said, indicating the line behind him. At a loss for words over the absurdity of his behavior and complete Iack of awareness, I noticed that the back of his black, T-shirt said, “Only in darkness can you see clearly.” 

So, instead of saying what I really would have liked to say, I simply repeated the quote on the back of his T-shirt.  He had a blank look on his face.  Completely blank.  Then he said, “You know what?  You are completely wasting my time right now.”  

“Well, darlin’” I replied,  “I can see that.

I walked out thrilled.  Clearly, I am not the only one who doesn’t see clearly!

OUR CHILD

Last Sunday, CBS ran a piece on the Sackler family and their profiteering from opioid production and deceitful marketing.  Their company, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for their role in creating our nation’s opioid crisis which has killed half a million people in the last 20 years.  As their name was removed from countless buildings around the world, there was another death.

This young man, the son of a very, close friend, was given a street Percocet laced with Fentanyl.  It stopped his heart.  Now before you criticize him, pause a moment to reflect on your own teenage years.   Do you ever count yourself lucky for getting away with things that might well have killed you back in the day?  I do.  He was 19, returning to college this fall, had a part time job at Home Depot and was teaching tennis lessons to kids. 

Our nation’s drug crisis is not trivial.  It is endemic and so deeply woven into the fabric of our communities that not one of us are immune to its’ peril and all of us have been touched, even tangentially. This child is not just my friend’s son.  He is our child and we have lost him forever.

We can do better.  So, while this mother grieves for what was and now will never be, we must see ALL children as our OWN. You can make a difference in your community. Who knows, you might even give a kid a second chance to grow up.

  1.  Encourage the use and distribution of Narcan, which can save someone from an overdose.  It should be available and affordable to anyone that might need it.  At present, it’s only legal in 8 states and astronomically expensive .  
  2.  Ask the courts to assign ‘help’ time not ‘jail’ time for our addicts and ‘REAL’ time for the dealers.  
  3. Insist that lawmakers tighten controls on prescription writing so that pills don’t keep falling into the hands of our children.
  4. Instead of penalizing drug companies AFTER the fact, hold them accountable NOW in both their product and marketing!!

Ironically, the Sacklers lost a son of their own.  He was an addict and committed suicide in the 70’s.  They never mention him.  

GET THE DAMN SHOT

My oldest daughter came home for a visit yesterday and as we walked across the patio she said, “Oh, Mom.  I love how you haven’t pulled the weeds.  It makes everything so GREEN!”  She was serious.  I was dumbstruck.  What a wonderful world this would be if all of us found that kind of positivity in a gnarl of chaos.

Since her visit, I have thought about moments recently where I could have employed that same outlook but didn’t.  What first came to mind was being cut off in traffic, mid-turn by a woman in a huge, pickup truck.  She blew through a red light and even though I had a green arrow, I had to slam on my brakes mid-turn to let her pass.  Lucky for me, she was going to Trader Joe’s, too.  Yes, I followed her in.  Yes, I stood outside her huge, orange truck looking up at her and waited for her to emerge.  When she did, here is what I should have said:  “How fortunate I am that you drive such a BIG truck I was able to see you in time and slam on my brakes when you ran that red light!“

When a friend of many years sent me a bizarre, far right, conspiracy video complete with grossly, false statements, here is what I should have replied:  “How wonderful I have your emails to remind me that some seemingly, normal people really are duped by QAnon conspirators!” 

When my tennis partner hit the ball to the net player for the third time in a row and I got blasted, she turned to me and said, “Look.  You need to be ready for those.”  She was dead serious.  I was speechless.  Here is what I should have said.  “How lucky I am that you’re so good at continually placing me in jeopardy!  I’m sure it will quicken my reactions in no time!”

 My daughter has given me inspiration.  Now I need to apply it to my next challenge:  a friend who is at high risk for Covid, has young children, is single and lives at the poverty level has just told me she is NOT getting the vaccine because she, ‘does not trust what’s in it.’  Here is what I am going to say:  “You don’t know what’s in bologna but you eat that!  Get the damn shot!”           

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

No one’s in it.  I had the entire mall to myself this morning.  Where is everyone?  Holding out at home, too terrified to risk contagion at any cost.

Soon there won’t be any excuse for that.  We won’t have time to sit around and dream up conspiracy theories.  Thanks to thousands of scientists around the world, we now have not one but two vaccines to protect ourselves with!  This is nothing short of miraculous.    

 2020 has taught us more than we realize.  For one thing, we’re not in Kansas anymore.  Clicking our heels together will not return us to any former semblance of what life once was.  We are poised to make it infinitely better.  So let’s get ourselves and communities up and running.  What does that entail?  Vaccinations! 

As one who goes faint at the sight of a needle, I welcome this one.  I will take it as willingly as I popped that sugar cube in 1961 to eradicate polio.   It is my duty as a human to be as impervious to this invisible plague as possible.  It is our duty to fight it together.  I will take it in the arm like a big girl to protect my family and friends as well as yours.  Hopefully, you’ll return the favor.  

If not, you will not be part of the solution and you know what that means.  

Do we really need any more grandstanding?   We’ve already watched the screen fall from our very own Wizard of Oz, yet he continues to pull the strings of his dwindling, political puppetry.  Incredulously, his flock follows him over one cliff after another seemingly unscathed.  Perhaps it’s because their bodies lack backbones.  

So,
let’s stiffen our resolve.  Together, we can give America and the rest of the world a real shot in the arm.  Let the Emperor walk around with no clothes.  There isn’t much to see anyway.  Soon enough, no one will be interested in him at all.  We will all be too busy looking at each other– face to face.