It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Sometimes that shelf is too high for you to reach. Sometimes things require more strength than you can muster. Sometimes what is required is not something you know how to do. Sometimes you realize that acting on your own could make things worse. Sometimes you find yourself in a scary situation. When that’s the case for me, I ask for help. And that’s okay.

Asking for help does not mean that you’re weak. It does not mean that you’re a victim. It does not mean that you’re being manipulative. It simply means that you need help.

A true sign of weakness, in my opinion, is refusing to ask for or accept help when it’s obviously needed. If you’re going down for the third time, it’s foolish to drown because you’re simply too proud to ask for help. It’s so much more self-destructive to suffer in silence than it is to swallow your pride and reach out for assistance.

If no one ever needed help, then societies wouldn’t have been invented. Think of asking for help as the ultimate form of taking care of yourself. You should be proud of your ability to recognize that need and act upon it.

And helpers are amazing. There was a reason that Mr. Rogers said to look for them when you see something scary. Helpers are generous and kind and compassionate and caring. A true helper isn’t going to judge you for your need. They’re not going to think less of you. They are going to realize that someday they just might need help, too. And that, too, is okay.

The coolest thing about being a human is that your asking for help today does not preclude you from lending a helping hand tomorrow. So don’t let anyone make you feel like a victim. We all have good days and bad days. There’s no shame in that. The strength is in recognizing that fact.

Look-for-the-Helpers-640x640

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

An Apology Goes a Long Way

Someone I know quite well recently screwed up to an epic degree. She erred to the point of angering many people and shocking me speechless. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

I tried to talk to her about it, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me. She had to know that she had made a massive mistake. She was painted into a corner and she couldn’t see how to get out of it.

The way out was simple. All she had to do was sincerely apologize, admit her foolish blunder, and say she’d do her best not to let it happen again. I mean, we’re all human, after all. Nobody’s perfect.

But no. She’d rather have her pride than our respect. She’d rather be the woman on the dragon, burning down the city full of innocent people, than take the high road and step back and treat people with decency and human kindness.

No, I’m not talking about Daenerys from Game of Thrones here. As of this most recent episode, it seems she’s too far gone. But the parallels with my former friend are distressing. Sometimes it just pays to put your reputation ahead of your pride. That’s a tale as old as time.

https _img00.deviantart.net_1d2c_i_2016_285_8_1_mother_of_dragons_by_offbeatworlds-daktytt

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Another Extinct Job

One of my sisters is 9 years older than me. When I was little, I watched her grow up and enter the working world. I think in her first full time job she earned a hundred dollars a week, and I thought she was rich beyond my wildest dreams. That should give you some indication of how old I am.

I always admired her so much. She was beautiful, and cool. I tried to dress like her. And she had a cool job.

The first job I remember her having that I had any understanding of whatsoever was for our local newspaper. She was a Paste-Up Artist. She went on to do that job for a variety of newspapers in three different states.

The job no longer exists. That makes it even more exotic in my memories. It’s so exotic, in fact, that it actually merits its own Wikipedia page.

Basically, she would design the layout of the paper from day to day. Sometimes she just created the ads, choosing the borders, and making the art the proper size to fit the column. Other times she designed the whole page, choosing the font, getting the set type and pasting the type in, breaking the columns in appropriate places.

I got to go see where she worked at the Orlando Sentinel a couple of times. She had her own workspace. She knew her way around. People knew her name. It was exciting. I wanted to be her.

I thought it was cool that she got to earn money from being creative. She would often bring the paper home and show me what she had done. I was very proud of her. I remember that she took pride in making all her borders meet at perfect 90 degree angles. She even let me choose the border once. It made me think of a newspaper as a thing of beauty, and my very own sister was the one to create that beauty. People looked at her work every day. She did that.

Now, of course, all that work is done on a computer, almost as an afterthought. In fact, here I sit, laying out my blog post every day.  Everything is automatically at 90 degree angles. I hope she’s proud.

Most people today probably don’t even realize that once upon a time, someone sat at a drafting table and used an exacto knife, sometimes drawing blood, and glued things together to create what they read. It’s weird to think that the job you do, the job that allows you to live and eat, the job that causes you stress and/or makes you feel glamorous for having a talent that others don’t have, might someday disappear like the dinosaurs.

paste up artist

I wish I had my sister do the layout when I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

 

Beware Abundance

I absolutely love buffets, so I try to avoid them. I am frugal by nature, so when I’m charged a fixed price in an all you can eat situation, I tend to try to get my money’s worth. In other words, I gorge myself. I don’t think I’ve ever left a buffet without feeling slightly sick to my stomach and at least moderately ashamed.

Abundance is not something I’ve experienced very often in my life, so it’s not surprising that I tend to overdo. It brings out the worst in me. I can’t imagine who I’d be if I lived in a constant state of abundance. I suspect that this is why the super rich are, for the most part, despicable human beings. If they exhibit even a shred of decency, they’ve no doubt had to work extremely hard to maintain it.

When you have to work for what you need, you appreciate it much more. When you aren’t completely sure you’ll get what you want, it inspires you to strive toward your goals. Achievements are so much sweeter when you’ve actually had to achieve them.

It’s the struggle that defines us. I don’t think pride is such a bad thing when you’ve seen a hurdle and have managed to clamber over it. Yay, you! Victories are all the more delicious for having been hard-won.

I have much more respect for those who try and don’t always succeed than I do for those who have had everything in their lives handed to them on a platinum patter. For most of us, life is not a buffet. But there’s a certain dignity to being figuratively lean and hungry, all while maintaining your integrity.

Buffets

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Stop Wishing for Peace on Earth

Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to make a wish, my stock response has been to ask for peace on earth. With world peace, I thought, everything else would have a much better chance of falling into place. If we could direct our energies elsewhere, surely we’d focus on the greater good, right?

Well, it was a nice idea. Unfortunately, wishing has yet to make it so. And the older I get, the more cynical I become. I no longer think most of us prioritize the greater good. Most of us just want good for me and mine.

So I decided to reverse-engineer my thought process. Why don’t we already have peace on earth? What causes war?

That’s easy. Greed. Desire for cheap oil so we can maintain our destructive lifestyles. Desire for land that never belonged to us in the first place. Desire for riches that someone else has accumulated. The view that women are chattel and men make good field hands. Desire to make a profit from the military industrial complex. As long as this greed exists, war will exist.

I’d even go so far as to say that Greed is what causes the six other deadly sins. Think about it.

Pride is feeling good about what you have, or the ways you are superior. Greed is what caused you to strive for those things.

Lust stems from the greedy need to have the best mate all to yourself.

Envy is greed unfulfilled.

Gluttony is greed that is so fulfilled that you can’t seem to stop yourself from feasting upon it.

Wrath is the feeling you get when your greed is unsatisfied.

Sloth sets in when you either become so exhausted by your greed, or you are reveling in the fact that you’ve gotten what you’ve greedily taken from others.

In this age of corruption, especially in the halls of power, greed should be viewed as our greatest enemy. So from now on, when I make a wish, it will be for the death of greed. Surely then we could know peace.

peace

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

A Random Story

Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write, I’ll rely on the Random Word Generator for inspiration. That made me wonder if there was a Random Image Generator. Yay! There is! So today I decided to get a random image and then write about it. What follows is the story I came up with about this picture:

fruit-stall

To the casual observer, Gianni may have looked exhausted. This would have been a reasonable assumption, too, because he had to go to the produce wholesaler every morning at 4 a.m. in order to get the best fruit and vegetables for his stall. And for Gianni, nothing but the best would do.

That “nothing but the best” concept was rather new to him. A year ago he was running the streets with no real purpose or goal. The only consistent routine in his life was stopping by to visit his grandfather at this very stall, just as he had done every day since he was old enough to walk.

His grandfather was larger than life. He never took a day off, and yet he was always smiling. Oh, and how he loved his grandson! When he spied a younger Gianni running across the piazza, he would throw his arms wide and embrace him roughly, as if he hadn’t seen him in years.

Gianni would help himself to an apple or an orange and listen to Nonno talk about his day, and recount what was happening in the neighborhood. Mrs. Rossi was going to have another baby. The Conti’s daughter was going to be a doctor. The Bruno’s dog kept stealing carrots from the stall. (And yet Nonno never moved the carrots.) The stories would make Gianni smile. He loved these visits.

What he loved most was that Nonno never criticized him, no matter how much trouble he got into. Somehow he managed to express disapproval without berating him like his mother would. The message was silent but clear: “I love you, but I expect more from you. I know you’ll get there someday.”

That’s why Gianni never quite gave up. He just… he didn’t know what to do with his life, that’s all. He knew he’d never be a doctor like the Conti girl. University was out of reach for his family. And besides, his ambitions weren’t that grand. He knew he would live in this same neighborhood for the rest of his life, not because he was trapped, but because he wanted to. This was his home. He just needed to find his purpose.

Then one morning Mr. Gallo came pounding on his door to tell him that Nonno had a heart attack “or something” and had been taken to the hospital in the city. Gianni was not to worry. It was probably nothing. But could he watch the stall for the day?

This was Nonno’s way of distracting him. Of course he would worry. But Nonno’s stall had been open every day for 40 years. It wouldn’t seem right if it were closed. So Gianni got dressed and headed for the market.

The produce had already been delivered. Piled on the sidewalk haphazardly in splintery wooden crates, it had yet to be put on display. Gianni set to work.

He stacked everything neatly, just as he had seen Nonno do a thousand times. Not a single bean or tomato out of place. The stall was like a work of art. It said to all the passersby, “This is quality. Buy here.” The splintery crates were stacked in the alley for retrieval. And thus began the day.

Nonno recovered, thank God, but he had to slow down. So that summer, Gianni ran the stall for him. It was only temporary. Gianni’s friends would ride by and call him an old man. But a funny thing happened. He discovered that he didn’t care. He had found his purpose.

When the leaves started changing colors on the trees, Nonno sat down with Gianni and they both agreed that it was time. It was time for Gianni to take his rightful place in the family business. Besides, Nonno was enjoying feeding the pigeons as well as that damned carrot thief of a dog, and playing bocce ball with men he had known since the first grade. Now it would be Nonno’s turn to visit Gianni every day.

On the day Nonno took this picture, he could have told that casual observer that what he was seeing was not exhaustion. It was contentment and pride. It was the way things were always meant to be. It was just taking Gianni a while to figure it out, so Nonno had to give him a push. With his heart.

Now, how to get him to notice that Conti girl…

_________________________________

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Not My Problem

I spent the first hour of my shift today with a battery operated leaf blower, cleaning off the sidewalks and the bike lanes of my bridge. A clean bridge is a happy bridge. At least that’s my motto. I take pride in showing this drawbridge in its very best light, and in my quarterly reviews it’s usually noted that this is the cleanest bridge in the system.

Leaf blowers are fun. They give you this sense of power that is normally beyond your reach. Out, damned spot! Out I say! You just have to be careful not to get so caught up in your own head trip that you get mowed down by a bicycle. Talk about a reality check.

The only down side to blowing leaves is that you’re not really getting rid of your problem, you’re just relocating it. Which is fine, if you follow through and bag them afterward. But I’ve seen many a landscaper just blow them down the street. “Not my problem anymore.”

Yeah it is. Because a certain percentage of them are going to blow back into your yard eventually. Count on it. And if everyone has your attitude, a whole lot more debris is going to be blown into your yard by the equally lazy people up the street.

This is also why most medical funding is not focused on prevention. Even though prevention has proven time and time again to give you a much better return on your investment, society in general is much more willing to deal with the problems that have already occurred, when there is no longer a choice.

It’s the same with the environment. Does it really surprise anyone that so many people are willing to ignore global climate change? We’re doing all right for the time being. We still can fill our bathtubs and eat our avocados out of season. Why make sacrifices? And I’m not just shaming the climate change deniers, here. I live in one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the entire country, and yet even as I write this I’m looking out on a highway that is so choked with vehicles that they can hardly move. And yes, I drove home to write this.

One of the few problems with short terms for politicians is that they, too, can blow their problematical leaves down the street. “Let someone else deal with the tricky stuff a decade from now, once I’ve retired.” We now find ourselves hip deep in a political leaf storm, people. Having fun?

Humanity has a lot of growing up to do. We have to start behaving like adults. We need to take responsibility. We need to act with integrity. We need to take society’s ills seriously even if we aren’t feeling particularly feverish as individuals.

It’s time to start bagging up our leaves.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

My Very First Royalty Check

When I wrote my book and created the website for it, I had to rent a post office box. I didn’t want to put my home address out there for the whole world to see. Granted, the odds of my acquiring a stalker based on a book about gratitude are probably pretty slim. (It’s hardly a controversial subject. Delightful, yes. Divisive, no.) But hey, you never know what is going to stir someone up.

But now I have this post office box, and the subsequent guilt that comes along with it. I chronically forget to check it. (I don’t like to neglect things, even if they are inanimate.) When I do get around to paying it a visit and peeking inside, it’s generally full of junk mail. I almost find this to be a relief. I’m not being rude to anyone except advertisers, and they don’t count, right?

But the other day, nestled among the discounts for the roof repairs on a home that I don’t own and the pleas that I bundle my television services when I haven’t had a TV in years, was an important looking envelope. It had probably been sitting there for weeks. It turned out to be my very first royalty check for my book. I have no idea why, but I wasn’t expecting it.

My first paid writing gig. I’ve been published many times before, in newspapers and magazines, and I have even been included in an anthology, but there was never any compensation involved. And now here was this check.

It felt like vindication; like the thing I love to do finally has value. But that’s kind of silly, because I’ve gotten so much value from the feedback of readers, and from the pride I feel when I publish a particularly well written post. The ability to express myself is also priceless. But these things are intangible. Here was this check. In my hand. Right here.

I took it home. I sat with it for a long time. I crowed a tiny bit on Facebook. Then I set about giving a fair share to those who had collaborated with me, and donated a dollar for every book sold to StoryCorps, since they’re the ones who sent me on this amazing journey in the first place. And what a wonderful journey it has been!

What was left of the check won’t even cover the rental of that aforementioned guilt-laden post office box. But just holding that check in my hand… that was an amazing feeling.

pie
My piece of the pie.

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Leggo My Ego

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always had piss-poor self-esteem. I’ve always felt kind of weird. Different from everyone else. Like I don’t fit in.

Because of that, I leave myself rather vulnerable to criticism. Any hint of censure from someone else causes me to think, “Maybe THAT’S it! That’s what has always been wrong with me!” I’ve spent most of my life searching for that puzzle piece that will make the picture complete, the problem solvable, and allow me, finally, to be like everyone else.

So when the moderator of a local storytelling group kicked me out and said, among many, many other things, “Your ego has been growing exponentially for months… Your need for more and more recognition has been tiring for me to deal with,” it caused me to place myself under a very harsh microscope.

Am I egotistical? To me that means being selfish and uncaring about others. It means being vain and conceited. It means feeling like I’m better than those around me.

That doesn’t feel like me at all. But that’s the trap, isn’t it? If I am egotistical, would I be capable of seeing that?

Is that the image I project? I asked a friend of mine who is a counselor, and she said, “If anything, you’re the most understated person I have ever met.” That was a relief, because I truly, genuinely don’t feel superior to those around me. If anything, it’s just the opposite.

And I try really hard to use my blog to highlight causes that need help. I’ve also volunteered and donated, and lent my writing skills to people and groups that need to spread the word about their organizations. I vote. I recycle. I try to comfort people when they’re hurting. I ask for help even when it makes me uncomfortable. I compliment those whom I admire. I try to give people credit, especially when I feel like their efforts have been overlooked. Are those selfish acts?

But egotism also means talking about oneself, being opinionated, being boastful. I do have to own that. My blog is mainly about the things that rattle around in this head of mine. It’s about the way I see the world. Is that bad? Is it wrong? How could I write every day about anything other than my own experiences? And 99 percent of my entries are, in fact, opinion pieces. Everyone has opinions, don’t they? As far as I know, I don’t try to force anyone to agree with me.

I asked my counselor friend if it is wrong to be proud of my blog and my book. She told me I should be proud of both. I worked hard on both of them. There’s no shame in feeling good about things that have taken so much effort. There’s also nothing wrong with gaining confidence from their success.

It occurred to me that this critical man only knows me from the stories I’ve told in his group. Well, one of his rules is that the stories you tell have to be about yourself. It seems to me, then, that talking about oneself in that context isn’t egotistical. It’s what’s required. But it did cause me to look back at all my stories. Most of them have been recorded and are on line, if you’d like to hear them.

The first story I told was for the theme Who Do I Think I Am? I told the story of Chuck, the love of my life, who died unexpectedly, and how that sent me 3100 miles across the country to start over. I think this was my best story of all of them.

The next theme was Personal Mountaintops. This was a story about moving from Florida to Seattle, and comparing and contrasting the two places. I’m a little bit embarrassed about this one, because it sounds like my attempt at stand up comedy in retrospect. But that wasn’t what I intended, and it came from a sincere place. I was trying to bring across the profound changes I was experiencing.

My third story was on the theme of Comfort Zone. I told the story that I had told years before for StoryCorps, which they decided to include in their anthology. It was about being the last person to see someone alive. Supposedly. And then learning that my reality wasn’t the only reality.

The theme he gave us for my fourth story was Change of Heart. I talked about my insecurities about my looks as opposed to my confidence in my intelligence. And basically I was trying to say that beauty comes from within.

Story five was on the theme The Hardest Thing to Say.  So I talked about the nightmare that is internet dating. I thought this one was pretty good. Several other people have used that topic as well.

In January, 2016, the theme was Starting Over. I told the story of having a gypsy give me the evil eye, and how that kind of gives me an out of jail free card. In other words, if something goes wrong, blame it on the evil eye.

Mistakes was my 7th story. Now, this one may be why that guy began to think I’m egotistical, because I told a story about all the amazing things that had been happening to me recently. I talked about the StoryCorps anthology that I’m in, and all the media publicity I was getting, and the fact that I was about to publish a book. But the story was mainly about my shock that all this great stuff was happening, and how I really felt that I had done nothing to deserve it. Still I have to admit it was shameless self-promotion. But, hey, you can’t make this stuff up.

My next to last story was about the theme Say Yes. This was about desperately wanting my sister’s approval, and how hard I tried to fulfill her dying wish, and how devastating it was that I couldn’t do so. And it was also about how amazing my nephew is.

My very last story didn’t get recorded, unfortunately. The theme was You Can’t Always Get What You Want, so I told the story of my recent vacation all alone on the romantic Oregon coast, and how in the end it turned out to be a wonderful time regardless of my being all by myself. It’s still a beautiful place, after all.

Do any of those (well, except that one) seem egotistical to you, given the requirement that stories are to be true and about yourself?

So after a week of soul searching, and trying to determine the health of my ego, and picking my stories apart with a fine-toothed comb, I tend to agree with my counselor friend’s ultimate conclusion. Apparently I represent something to this guy that pushes some button or other, and causes him to be hostile and have a low opinion of me, but this is through no fault of my own.

Maybe he has a book in him that’s dying to come out, and somehow my pride in my own book has triggered him more than my many compliments of his writing ever did. If so, that makes me sad. But this is pure speculation. I’m quite sure I’ll never know.

Yes, I’ll continue to write about myself, because I’m pretty much the only frame of reference that I have. But I’ll also continue to be fascinated with the world and all the people therein. I’ll continue to want to learn from others, and about others. I’ll continue to delight in those who get me and support me, and be confused by and try to figure out those who don’t. I’ll continue to be glad that I’m just a tiny part of a big, amazing universe, and I’ll always, always enjoy observing bits and pieces thereof in this blog and getting your feedback.

And maybe instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, I should just work on getting a thicker skin. There’s a thought. Sigh.

the_bloody_big_head_by_katiesparrow1-d30ft4v
The Bloody Big Head by Katiesparrow1

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I hope you like my book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

 

Own Your Fifty

Ever since I entered my 50’s I’ve had many people say to me, “Don’t worry, fifty is the new thirty.” As if I needed comforting or something. As if it is preferable to live in a state of denial.

Here’s the thing (yes, yes, there’s always a thing): I don’t want to be thirty. I like myself a lot more now than I did then. As a matter of fact, if I were to meet the me of 20 years ago, I’d probably give her a stern lecture about some of the bonehead decisions she is about to make.

I also genuinely believe that my generation is probably going to be the last to squeak through life while the environment on this planet is relatively habitable. That makes me sad for future generations, because it’s not their fault that we have done so much to destroy their world, and so little to fix our mistakes.

I’m glad I won’t be around for the riots over water, and won’t have to watch the ever-increasing population fight over the ever-shrinking coastlines. I’d really rather not experience the mega-storms. I’d prefer to skip the time when most bugs are resistant to antibiotics.

I also don’t feel that 50 is so freakin’ bad. My body might be a little slower getting started in the morning, but it still functions. I’m still perfectly capable of having new experiences and seeing new sights. I know that there is still much for me to create and write about and do. My future is still unpredictable enough to be exciting.

My advice to you is to own your age. Embrace it. Don’t look at aging as a source of shame, but rather as an accumulation of knowledge and life experience. That’s something to be proud of.

The fact is, we all have an expiration date. When I was 30, that thought scared me. Now, it’s kind of comforting, and I’m okay with it. I don’t mind playing my part in a much bigger picture. In fact, that’s exactly what I want to do.

50
I bet there is some interesting stuff in those drawers!