Given my finite time and energy every morning, I ask myself, should I put on make up or have breakfast? Some questions I never ask myself: should I help my kids find their backpacks? Or help Chris out of bed? I always do those things when asked — and even when not asked.
And this is why I feel an anticipatory loss thinking about about my girls going to college (or gap year or whatever they decide to do) next year. Because my kids are my front and center and they have been the reason for just about every decision I have made for the last 21 years. I am always asking myself, How does this — whatever this is — impact my kids?
And incidentally, I know I should wear make up AND have breakfast. But if you’re a working mom, maybe you can relate. Our time is finite. So we help our children find their backpacks. And we help our loved one out of bed. And then, if we’re lucky, we grab an apple or swipe our lips with lipstick as we head on out the front door.
You want to be happy but there’s so many chores to do.
For one moment, put your happiness first.
The other day, I bought myself a really cute pink party dress from Talbots. Once, as a preteen, reading Young Miss, an article said: ‘In order to be popular, do not wear a new outfit right after you get it. Wait at least a week.’
I have internalized this advice and have for more than 40 years tucked away my treasures in the pursuit of popularity. But WHY???
There is another truth: Don’t hide your light (or pretty pink dress) under a bushel. I am wearing the dress today.
Also, to increase my happiness quotient, the other night I went to the 52nd Street Project. I saw plays written by 10-year olds, performed by top-notch adult theater professionals, like Bill Kamp and Edie Falco. Going out to the theater makes me so happy. But especially because I like hanging out with my friend Joanna.
So for today’s happiness advice, I suggest you:
Do something nice for yourself
Wear something new
Go to the theater
Meet up with a friend
Admire the creativity of children
Plan something fun
Tomorrow the girls and I leave for almost two weeks in Italy — Milan, Ravenna, Bologna, Florence, Rome. Looking forward to this trip has made me happy.
Today is my twin daughters’ 18th birthday. I am focusing on the good.
I have had so many good things in my life — good people, good work, good communities. And yet the world, and this country especially, is full of so many challenges. We have a lot of work to do. We have to lay down our arms. We have to keep building on and remembering to look for the common good. Our constitution guarantees that we promote the “general welfare.” Let’s promote each other, rather than tear each other down.
Yes, we humans probably each have an innate desire to show off. Maybe we once needed this to survive — a social evolutionary tactic to ensure that human existence persisted. But we need to make sure our neighbors persist too. We need to look out for our fellow human beings, even and especially, if and when we disagree with them.
We latch onto this myth that the accumulation of great wealth — of things — will make us happy. That ‘things’ will make us good or loved or better. This is not true. It is not the things in my life that bring great joy or deep meaning. But the people — children, family, extended family, friends, colleagues — that truly matter.
I have always tried to be good. I am sure that I suffer from some sort of Good Girl Syndrome. However, I would rather be good, look for the good in life and in the lives of those around me, than see only the bad. I know this world is difficult for young women today. This is a tough time in the U.S. to turn 18 — there are so many admitted predators leading institutions, including the commander in chief. But there are also great and good people all around — leading our families, schools, churches, faith communities, cities, states. They are persisting, not just for their own sake, but for the common welfare.
I am not giving up on the good.
Now that my daughters are 18, they can no longer threaten to sue me and go to court for emancipation, as they like to tease.
Seriously, I am reminding my girls to persist for the sake of good. Truly, the future is female. Let’s celebrate the ascendancy of good girls and good women everywhere. Happy Birthday! May our goodness and greatness dominate the world!
My 12th-grade girls are starting to narrow down their college choices. Even though they are twins, they do not necessarily want to go to the same school.
College visits are so educational. Like at Smith, our tour guide described how students could receive grants. And so she, having just completed research about how exercise increases brain function, petitioned the school for treadmills in the library. And now, there are treadmills in the library, which has helped students study better, longer, healthier.
Young people are so inspiring.
This is why it is awesome to be a teacher and a parent right now. The leadership in the U.S. is sorely lacking. People need inspiring, moral leaders. (Those who claimed to want to drain the swamp are the new swamp monsters, yesterday’s CNN opinion piece says).
Young people will soon take over. In some places, like at the Smith library, they already have. And they are not giving up. (That is our family motto, “Never give up.”)
At many other schools this summer, we visited the beautiful libraries. This is a perennial highlight of the college visit: the library.
At Oberlin College, my girls crawled into a womb chair in the library. But it was not my womb chair. From my comfy nook, they emerged nearly 18 years ago, kicking and screaming. Only suddenly, they will be plunked down from their childhood into new places of growth, new libraries.
To be inspiring and to be inspired. To take over and to never give up. I hope.
Why is it so easy to tear each other down? I don’t get it.
I like to walk down the crowded Manhattan streets and say (in my head) to each person I pass, “Good for you.” or “God bless you.” It’s my little rebellion in the world of Might Makes Right. My radical, unconditional kindness.
I reject the idea
that the fastest, sharpest, meanest person gets to speak loudest, longest, have the most power.
I tell my students, most often in creative writing classes, “It’s more important to be supportive than right.” We do not need to have all the facts exactly right — we have dubious Google for that — but, Good God, we need to support each other. For when we stretch ourselves in our writing, when we share our vulnerability, when we ask for help, we are opening ourselves up to growth. We may make mistakes but we will grow.
How did asking for help get such a bad rap? I know I do not like to ask for help but when I have, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. And the crazy thing is this: even if I do not get what I wanted, I get something else. I get something. It’s what it’s all about — lifting each other up. Asking to be lifted. Lifting.
Do not be so fast criticize. Be fast to praise. To support. To love. To admire. Just for today.
I am glad I live in New York City where you are not allowed to have a gun unless you have a special license. Although maybe that makes no difference. Across the country, there must be more checks on guns. It is out of control. Good God.
When I was in Dublin, I chatted with a guy at a bar. He was the night manager of a small hotel and he told me about how he missed his estranged daughter. And we talked about other things. And when he found out I was from New York, he told me that he used to want to visit the states, especially New York. But no more.
“I might get killed by random gun fire if I go to the U.S.” he said. Because apparently, the U.S. now has a horrible international reputation as a lawless, gun-toting country.
“I’d rather go to China,” the Dubliner told me. “Safer.”
“No, no,” I assured him. “New York City is safe. It’s only in a few places where they allow guns. And only a few places where these gun massacres occur. Not New York. Not big cities.” I, of course, was wrong. Not just today. But other days.
I tried to call the NRA just now. The number was busy.
As a mother, I feel I have the right to call and tell them, please, please, please, advocate for safer laws to protect innocent people. Use your lobbying money to help get the government to keep people safe. No more semiautomatic guns.
Let’s make sure all people who just want to experience the happy community vibe of a country music concert or a Miami dance club can enjoy these experiences without worrying that they will die.
I also turned to my beloved United Methodist Women. Recently, I’ve been working on a project and had to get a quote from Bishop Oliveto, who is another hero of mine. Here were her words after the Colorado Springs horrific shooting:
These moments, when we feel deeply the loss and see clearly that such loss could have been prevented, place us on the sacred ground upon which our commitment to heal the brokenness within our community rests. It is imperative that as we grieve we find ways to move through it in ways that empower us.
How do we grieve? How do we attempt to heal our brokenness? Who are your heroes? How are you making a difference? To whom do you turn to make sense of the world?
Take yourself less seriously. Find the good. This was my vow today.
I am trying to write every day. See, I feel stretched pretty thin. And writing balances me out. And here is a truth about me: The more I do, the more I get done.
From the library I borrowed the Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. The book reminded me to notice — not just my gratitude — but the ways in which I make a contribution. This resonates for me. What about you?
I do a ton of stuff for my family. There is so much emotional labor of parenting, planning. Right now as my girls begin to apply for college, I have so much to keep in my head — to remind them, without being a bisatch (spelling? bizatch? Aw, you know what I mean.)
I need to acknowledge my contribution. I need to ask, not, Why me? But hey, Why not me? Since I’ve got a heap of work, emotional and otherwise, I might as well enjoy it or do something with it. Or be the best self I can be.
These were some of today’s thoughts as I biked through Central Park. I went to church, had brunch at Vesleka in the East Village, paid some bills, and saw two plays: Small World and No Wake, both at 59 East 59th. Both, really good. I did my thing. I made a contribution.