Saturday, May 16, 2009

Keep your ears stiff

A German acquaintance said that to me today. I'd never heard the phrase but I suppose the American equivalent is hang in there.

Attitude is everything or as Abraham Lincoln was credited with saying - Most people are about as happy as they decide to be. Have you ever noticed that unhappy people tend to wear it like their only coat, holding tight to all their misery, sharing with anyone who can't get away quick enough. Oh sure, stuff happens to us all making us angry, miserable, in pain and any number of things that can ruin a perfectly good mood. The difference is that unhappy people use any less than perfect event to add another layer to their misery, like adding a rumpus room onto their house and then accumulate all the junk that goes into it.

Happy and successful people by their very attitude save a lot of that grief. They're strong enough they don't get trapped into playing another person's game, if only because miserable people steer clear of them. I had a boss that hated good cheer. When he treated me with disrespect I upped the joy - to everyone but him. I'd like to say he came around and it's now a successful relationship but far from it. However, there's not much he can do because my work output is excellent and others have noticed. Okay, that's not always the best way to handle things because ultimately he is my supervisor and does my evaluations and approves various requests but I finally filed charges against him and I did that because I simply got brave enough to do so. Really, it took a lot to risk it because I had to assure myself I was worth the respect and not live in fear of losing a salary especially in this economy.

It's hard to do the right thing because it's not always appreciated and occasionally there are repercussions. But by respecting yourself enough to take the risk and understand the potential consequences often the lesson learned and the progress made will outweigh and downside. Yes, it might not. That's why it's called experience.

I often hear things happen for a reason. Maybe. It's a good debate and conversation over a glass of wine. I tend to prefer we make our own luck. And that's all about attitude. Face forward and take a giant step. Then when you fall back it might be only a small step. That's progress.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Making a List

Time’s list of 100 most influential people came out this week and I’m not on it. I didn’t expect to be since I’ve led what could be called an ordinary life. Some close brushes with fame through working at a Hollywood Studio and in a Governor’s office when he ran for president. I read most of the bios in Time, being a fan of bios overall, and I usually do that sort of personal connection that people do. You know, kind of like Stanley Kowalski’s “couldda been a contendah.” Except for, well, probably laziness, which I prefer to call well-rounded behavior, I could be there, too. I’ve never known a successful person who didn’t put everything they had into it. Talk to their children.

I pay my bills, am solvent and well employed – so far – in this economic meltdown. I raised and educated a child as a single parent, finishing college after my divorce since I rushed into marriage like all my friends. Nothing sends a young woman to the altar faster than being the last one in the group to marry. It wasn’t like today, when single can be a badge – although as I get older it gets less interesting, or maybe I do. Back then couples couldn’t live together without marriage, now it seems everyone does. Straights brag “who needs a piece of paper to show our love” and gays desperately want to marry to show theirs. Sometimes life is just mixed up. Have you ever liked a guy who liked a girl who liked another guy and so on, everyone unhappy and lovesick? I remember thinking if everyone took one step backward and hooked up half would be happy and the others would adjust. Nothing crashes further and faster than burned out love. The country music genre depends on it.

I thought that as I got older things would settle down a bit but that’s not proving to be so. I am really mad at the financial community who thought we were pawns in their egocentric games of my weenie earns more money than your weenie, just another male version of who’s got a bigger one. Seriously, couldn’t they have sent in for some of those spam-generated products and left my 401K alone? I’m angry because I saved my money and paid down my mortgage, one that I can afford, and don’t have a room-sized plasma TV. I upgrade my possessions as they are needed not when the next toy comes out. I’m not broke but I will work another year or so past my planned retirement like plenty of other people because of those so-called masters of the universe who weren’t even masters of their own impulses.

So how does one live well in these times? By remembering there is lot out there that’s good. We had a food drive last weekend and the amount soared above expectations. People got it; this was the year to help. Everyone is hurting but no one should be hungry.

Electing President Obama shows that we have, as Lou Grant said to Mary Richards, “Spunk.” He may have hated spunk – although he didn’t really – but it’s great for our country. As our new president, that spunk is what will take us out of the dark place we’ve been. The Bush election may have been stolen or it may have just been diabolically clever and 9-11 may have set things in motion or it may have been an excuse but bad heart equals bad actions. Hoo boy, did we get bad actions, lies and torture, bullying and lack of attention, the gamut of Murphy’s Law.

We need to take stock of what we have, focus on the half full glass filling up. Remembering life isn’t a game of winning at all cost. All those stories of Little League parents going nuclear so little Johnny or Sally can shine. Bribing and browbeating teachers to complain about a grade when here’s a thought, try having your kids do their homework.

Schools are a disaster in many areas because those who can afford it go to private school leaving public schools to teach the problem children, the poor children, the hungry children who can’t concentrate. Rich areas have good public schools and there are bright spots in poor areas but overall it’s shameful. Teachers are such heroes, every day out there on the front lines, making the world just a bit better when they reach out to a child. Yet we idolize sports icons that brag about sleeping with thousands of women. We gasp at steroid use when even me, who doesn’t follow sports at all, have been reading about it for years. When someone’s neck grows by four inches, hey, it ain’t from pushups.

We all know what’s right. We all think we believe it. But we get caught up in trying to stay ahead or afloat. That’s getting tougher. But all of it, ALL OF IT, was preventable. We sent to Congress too many boobs with hands in the till, we let money buy our vote because sound bites are easier than reading the facts. The good ones were squeezed out because they couldn’t compete in a crooked game. I know so many people who never voted until Obama came along and then it was to jump on the bandwagon, I’ll bet. Not enough people want to make an effort to do what matters. They want what they want and most of all don’t want to pay for it. Too many people want lower taxes and then have government as daddy, writing the checks. Oh so easy then, gimme lots more money to get into debt with.

Now we’re all rushing to go back to basics because we finally found a leader who makes it seem cool again. I read we get the government we deserve and thankfully we deserve this man. Even better, he seems to think he deserves us; that we aren’t beyond help, we’re good kids who sashayed out behind the school to cadge a smoke. We got caught and have to clean the graffiti off the walls for a while to show us the error of our ways. And we’re finding it’s really cool to help make it better. Like a pebble thrown in a pond it ripples out into something worth looking at. The tiny pebble is not influential but the ring of movement it creates can sure build momentum. We need our influential people but they can’t do it alone. They need us as much as we need them.

Each day if everyone did one thing to make something better then wrote it down before bed, thinking about how it felt and slept with it under the pillow. It’s how Obama won, one vote at a time.