Nice, SuperNice

Mother Theresa statue, Struga
Mother Theresa statue, Struga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like 20 years ago, I was temping at a bank in New Rochelle. I was working for a banker — I forget his name — but he was younger than me by a few years. But he seemed older. He was getting over some kind of cancer. He used to buy me lunch almost every day. He seemed confused by me.

Then, he told me why. “You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

“Really?” That seemed weird. I’m no Mother Theresa. I get impatient and insecure on a daily basis. I felt sorry for this banker — I mean, if I was the nicest person he’d ever met! Well, that just seemed sad.

Still. Nice gets a bad wrap. I remember in the book The Happiness Project when Gretchen Rubin is super-nice to everyone in her life for a week as a path to happiness. No one really notices her niceness and she’s glad when the week’s over ’cause it feels like kinda a waste of time. And niceness requires a lot of effort.

I have felt that my niceness is, at times, perceived as stupidity. (Especially at work — when the cynical males were perceived as smart and the young female optimists were seen as fools. Well ha! Fools have more laughs than cynics!)

I can’t help it. I am compulsively nice. And this kind of “nice girl” syndrome has cost me. Maybe in being nice I have swallowed some honest emotion.

Still. In the long run, I’d rather be overly nice than overly critical or mean.

My daughter and I had a screaming match yesterday and she accused me of being so mean. And ugh, that hurt. In a quieter moment, I asked my husband, “Was I mean?”

“When you two lock horns, no one wins,” he said. Which, I think, meant, ‘Yes, you were unfair or unkind.’ Hey, I thought, I’m sorry. And you only hurt the ones you love.

I don’t want to get into the deets of the argument, but my daughter and I talked it out later and we both promised to do better next time — to give each other a little more patience and more room to breath. Tough stuff. At least for me. Me? The nicest person you’ve ever met.

I have blogged about this before. And interestingly enough, I also wrote about my daughter four years ago in the blog post the power of niceness. I, then, too, referenced the Happiness Project and my resentment about workplace sarcasm winning over niceness. Weird. Four years later. I’m writing about the same stuff.

And still. Niceness wins. Every time.

Compassion, too.

This post was inspired by Daily Prompt: Nice Is as Nice Does

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a weekend in Connecticut

Connecticut
I took a walk by myself, feeling grateful for friends, for family, for Chris. I snapped some pics. Sometimes, I feel a loneliness in my marriage. Sometimes, my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease reveals itself as apathy or depression. Walking, working out, and blogging help me handle this.
wildflowers
When I walk in nature, I receive so much. Once, on a silent retreat, the nun, my spiritual adviser, told me that I must believe that every flower I see is a personal gift from God to me. Just to and for me. Sometimes I remember this.
an old barn
We took a drive and saw this barn on the Connecticut-New York border. Rumor has it this this gothic barn belonged to the Reynolds (of Reynolds Wrap?) family and then Sally Jesse Raphael bought it. I thought, women in media can make that much money to own an estate? Dang, I’m a woman in media.
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I found a little corner in my friend’s house to curl up with a book (or two). I started “Middlesex,” by Eugenides and “Are Men Necessary?” by Dowd.
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I took another walk and passed a horse farm.
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I am grateful for cozy nooks and my friends’ hospitality.

I think blog posts are great when they are short, timely, contain photos, heart, passion, memories, or some deep thought. What makes a post great? the daily prompt

What I'm Reading

For mother-daughter book club, we are reading The River Between Us by Richard Peck. It is the story of the Civil War told from a girl’s point of view. I love the Civil War as a metaphor for families in conflict.

For my friends’ book club, we are reading Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (we had previously read March. Loved it!) For workplace book club, we’re reading What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. All three of these have astute girl narrators, nice!

**

I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted. So now I must update. In my workplace book club, we are reading Hanhunt: The 12 Day-Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. And for friends’ group, we are reading The Hunger Games (though I’ve seen the movie!) by Suzanne Collins.

I am not very far in either of these books. But I know that they are quests. I love novels about a hero’s journey, especially when the hero is a spunky heroine!

This Month's Book Club Picks

For book club we are reading Diane Keaton’s Then Again.

I can’t find the passage but at one point she says we mustn’t blame mothers for all of our adult unhappiness. Mothers do their best. I agree. The book is a collage of memories, a collage like the kind Diane’s mother created –  scrapbooks and journals.

I am having trouble staying focused on my reading. Fortunately, occasionally, the choices from my work book club and my other book club coincide, like when we read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in both.

At my work book club, we are reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Catch-22 and for Mother-Daughter Book Club, we are reading the Robin Benway’s The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June. The girls and I recommended that book; we’ve already read it. Very funny. (But if you don’t like it, don’t blame me, a mother.) Phew. I have one less book to read.

I’d like to blog more on this topic, but yes, you guessed it, I have to get back to the Diane Keaton memoir. Book club is Tuesday night and I have hundreds of pages to go. I might just skip ahead to the Warren Beatty part.

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Read a lot!

Even more than writing, I love to read. And I love talking about books. At last night’s book club we discussed Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Only two of us finished the book. (Yes, I was one of the two! And it was a loooooooooong novel.)

I found it compelling. I identified with every one of the f’ed up characters. I didn’t like that I saw myself in the depressed women. The character Patty was trying to be proactive. Still, she was reactive, self-defeating and messed up. She should’ve been in a book club. Reading helps.

We vote on the next month’s selection. In last night’s final voting, The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald was tied with my pick (and my mother’s recommendation), A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I was disappointed that in the final round, the classic won.

Today, it dawned on me: I can read whatever I want, even books not picked by my book club. That’s what it means to be a grown-up. I like that part of adulthood. I can be proactive, not reactive. I am more than a character in a novel (or a writer of a blog.)

Drowning in Literature

I’m gonna drown myself in a book. Not just any book. A good book. A book with a fine bouquet.

Paperback or Kindle. From a box or bottle. Bought or borrowed. It’s all good. It all works, gets me out of my own head and into a different space.

I love love love love love reading. I can read everything and anything.

I took this picture last August at my friend's summer house on Saranac Lake.

When I’m down I grab a book and I down it.

I don’t care if it’s self-help (need it!) chick lit (love it!) or trash (gimme!).

I have been feeling a little down this week — maybe it’s transitioning the kids from school to summer or a slight anxiety about Chris’s health or simply not enough sunshine.

So I start with an appetizer, the front section of The New York Times, then I move on to the main course, right now reading Franzen’s Freedom. For dessert, I might read Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak (Thanks, Juliana for lending!).

I get lost in reading. I have to have something to read with me at all times — in my purse, beside my bed, in my bike basket. Something to comfort, transport, drown me.  Reading is my great escape.

And it is my Number 2 Rule — Escape Through Literature. I’m going to read a lot tonite, but first I have to finish watching the movie Chris borrowed from the library, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  That’s right, I’m drowning myself in a movie based on great literature. That counts too.

A Message from Judy Blume

There was a message on Twitter from Judy Blume to me. My breath caught in my throat.

I had been walking on Broadway for 30 minutes, heading to work yesterday morning. I stopped to check my phone. I was super excited to read what she, one of my heroes and the author of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, wrote to me.

See, on Monday I’d written to Ms. Blume:

@judyblume we have a mother daughter bookclub in #nyc Could you stop by #uws Sun, June 4? we are reading #Deenie THANKS SO MUCH!

Ms. Blume’s message said, “– love mother/daughter book clubs but won’t be NY then. Say hi to readers for me. Parental expectations-should be interesting.”

So I emailed the “Hi!”  from the great author to the mothers and daughters in our book group. And now I pass on Ms. Blume’s hello to you, blog readers. And rest assured, we will discuss parental expectations — and much more — at our next book group!!!

Happy Reading, everyone! (Here’s my post from our first mother/daughter book club http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/mother-daughter-book-club/. )