Tell Your Truth

According to the New York Times:

“Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

“They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot…”

Why do you suppose that is? I think it’s because by now, almost everyone in the US knows someone who is openly gay, and knows that this person is a ‘normal’ person in all respects, whose only difference is that he or she is attracted to members of the same sex, instead of the other sex.

Why do you suppose everyone now knows someone who is gay?

It’s because a generation ago, gay men began to organize because of AIDS, began to speak out, began a ‘gay pride’ movement. When all those gay men, and eventually lesbians, began to come out of the closet, eventually, almost everyone realized they knew someone who was homosexual. And each person realized that his friend, cousin, colleague, brother, sister, son, daughter, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt who came out of the closet was still the person he or she had always been. That made homosexuality, well, normal.

Why would you want your friends and relatives to have fewer rights than you do? You wouldn’t.

This is the power of telling your truth. When you stand up and tell your truth, it empowers someone else to do the same. Eventually, like tiny streams come together to make a river that changes a landscape, all of you come together to change the consciousness of a country (and eventually the world). 

It’s not just true for homosexuality, either. It’s true for those who are fighting to legalize marijuana (and by the way, 24 years ago, an FBI agent told me that “if we had to exclude anyone who’d ever smoked marijuana from government, we wouldn’t have a government”). It’s true for people like me who openly talked about psychic abilities before it was popular. It’s true today for people who are talking about having positive contact with extra-terrestrial beings. It’s true for the insiders who are leaking political, financial, military and scientific truths, which the ‘powers that were’ are trying to hide from We the People.

So whatever your truth is, say it loudly – and proudly (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else — I am not standing up for child molesters, etc. here).

The Heart Grows Smarter – NYTimes.com

The strong effect of relationships on longevity:

The Heart Grows Smarter – NYTimes.com

A sense of place

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was horrified that an American city had been allowed to drown, disgusted that our government didn’t give a damn about the hundreds of thousands in the city itself, and the millions in the area. When the tsunami hit Indonesia, I was horrified by the loss of life. When the earthquake hit Haiti, I was saddened for what happened to all the people there. When the tsunami hit Fukushima, I was worried for my friends there (who got out okay), horrified by what I saw, scared about how it would affect the entire world (still am, actually).

But when Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, it was a completely different experience.

Before I get to that, though, let me say that everyone I know — and that’s a lot of people, because I grew up there, because I went to college in NJ, because I lived in Manhattan for a couple of years — is okay.  (I know this thanks to the magic of Facebook.) Many are inconvenienced by lack of electricity and in some cases, gas, but they’re coping. Two friends, a couple who live in Highlands by the ferry terminal, had to evacuate. Their house is still standing, but it’s gutted. Other than that, it’s a tree down here and there. Yes, it’s sad; yes, it’s difficult in the short run, but for everyone I know, except my Highlands friends, there’s no real life-changing damage.

The thing is — Sandy hit me in the gut. And it’s kind of in my consciousness all the time.

I grew up at the Jersey Shore, 5 miles from the beach. I was at the beach every day of every summer, often all day, every day, all summer. I learned to swim there, learned to ride waves there, felt one with the entire universe in the ocean there for the very first time. I learned to go to the beach to clear my head, even in winter.

I learned gymnastics from friends on the hard-packed sand at low tide. I learned life-saving there, and worked briefly as a life guard (the pool, not the ocean, but still).

I went to beach dances there. I heard Springsteen before he got famous, when his band, the ‘hot’ band, was the Steel Mill.  The Asbury Park boardwalk was my idea of fun — roller coasters, the Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Fun House, not to mention cotton candy and candy apples.

Mostly I hung out in Sea Bright and West Long Branch, but every summer, one of my grandmothers would rent a studio in Asbury Park or Bradley Beach or Belmar or Deal. I’d go stay with her for a week, then I’d go home and my sister would stay with her for a week.  It was always so much fun. It meant I got to know more beaches in more towns.

I remember when the Long Branch pier burned down. I had one very memorable date at Seaside, where we walked the beach after the boardwalk closed, talking till 2AM. (Yeah, Dad was angry, even though I had no curfew.) When I was in college, a friend and I rented a house on Long Beach Island for a week off-season, when we could afford it. And I remember meeting a Long Branch firefighter in Wildwood, who told me they’d been instructed not to put out the Long Branch pier fire.

Reading that the many of the train bridges are out upsets me terribly (one of them goes through the Raritan Bay marsh, and it’s amazing). Seeing photos of the destroyed Seaside rollercoaster saddens me. Seeing photos of Asbury Park, and Sea Bright and Highlands under layers of sand, the water having retreated, churns my gut. The photo of the missing wall of the Asbury Park Convention Center horrifies me.

None of my close friends in northern California is having the gut wrenching experience I am. But then, none of them grew up there, either.

Here’s what I’ve learned: places really do become part of you. I don’t know if it’s just the memories, or something deeper. We exchange molecules with the air around us with every breath, and we use what we take in to build our bones and muscles and organs and skin. But every single atom in us supposedly changes every 7 years. So how is it that these places are so much a part of me?

I know now that what they say is true — you can take the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t take New Jersey out of the girl.

Does this really need to be said?

This is going to sound like a shaggy dog story, but bear with me – there is a point.

A friend of mine, Heather,  told me the following story:

“I’m a small time landlord, and recently rented one of my apartments to a single mom, a nice lady with two young girls. The woman was getting out of what sounded like an abusive marriage, and in a real hurry to sign a lease before she left the country briefly to care for her ailing grandmother. She was REALLY not looking forward to this — she grew up here, didn’t know her grandmother all that well, and hates being in Fiji, her grandmother’s country.  She was the best family member to go, though, because she makes her living caring for the elderly.

“She signed a 1 year lease, gave me a deposit, and we made plans for her to move in just after the first of the month. This would give me a couple of days to clean up the place in case the last tenant didn’t do a great job.

“Four days before she was supposed to move in, she called from Fiji, and reached me on my cell phone. The number was blocked. I was in the car on the way to a MeetUp, but my friend, Jack, was driving, so I took the call. My tenant said, “My grandmother died, and I’m stuck here healing with cultural issues.” Wow! I was shocked, and said I was sorry. Then she said, “I don’t know if I’ll be back in 2 weeks or 2 months. Can I get out of the lease? What do I do?”

“I told her calmly, but firmly, that she had signed a lease, and I was not about to let her out of it. That she was responsible for the $10,000 amount of the lease. That the law is that I’m required to make reasonable efforts to find another tenant, but that she is responsible for any deficiency. That is, if it’s vacant for a month, she owes me a month’s rent. And that I’ll take her to small claims court to collect whatever she owes me, as soon as I know the amount of my damages.”

“She said she understood, and would call me back in a few days to let me know if she could borrow enough money from a family member to keep the lease. I said I understood, and would look forward to her next call. Of course, she never called back.

“That was bad enough. Then I heard through a mutual friend that Jack was telling people that I dealt with this all wrong. That I should have just expressed my condolences and put off a serious discussion for another time. Never mind that he didn’t know the situation, that he didn’t hear her side of the conversation, that he didn’t know the phone number was blocked, so I had no way to reach her, that he’s never been a landlord, that he didn’t know the law, and that I really need the money.

“So now, I’m not only out a tenant, but my reputation is being ruined by an ignorant jerk, who apparently knows better than I do what to do in my situation — and is happy to tell anyone who will listen. And who is so cowardly as to not tell me this to my face. By the way, I tried to approach him to talk about it, but he has excuse after excuse as to why he ‘can’t’ get together. What can I do?”

If he won’t meet with you, there’s not a lot you can do, except to realize that there are ignorant, cowardly jerks everywhere, and to let it roll off your back. You did the best you could. As my grandmother would have said, “Don’t dignify that with an answer.” Focus your attention on more positive things — and let this go.

I think the lesson here is more about not being in Jack’s position. How do you avoid that? In the words of Craig Ferguson (yes, the guy from the Late Late Show — he’s a very perceptive guy, not just a funny one), ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said by me now?

And if the answer to any of those questions is “no”,  keep your mouth shut.

How to keep showing up!

In the fall of my second year in business school, my friend, Candy, who’d just completed a summer job and been offered a full time post by that company for after graduation, had to go to a company recruiting cocktail party on top of studying for mid-term exams. Trying to put myself in her shoes, I sympathized with her time crunch, as well as the stress I thought this would bring (or it would have brought for me).

Candy looked at me with a wry smile, and laughed softly, “Oh, no, this isn’t stressful! All I have to do is show up. I’m good at showing up!” She continued, “I’ll get brownie points for showing up. That’s  really all I have to do —  show up and say ‘hi’ to a few people I know, so that they know I’m there, as part of the team. I don’t have to impress anyone — they’ve already offered me the job. I don’t even have to talk to the recruiters much; they’re more interested in prospects they don’t know.”

This idea that sometimes, all you have to do is show up, stuck with me. Or as Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

I’m reminded to mention this now, because I personally have a lot to show up for at the moment. In fact, it seems never ending — the weekly radio show, the clients, my other businesses which seem to constantly need something, let alone friends and family. (Did I mention taking the barest of acquaintances in for surgery last week because he had no one else?)

I’m actually really good at showing up. I know not everyone is, though, and I think that’s mostly caused by lack of motivation. So how do you maintain your motivation?

  • Keep reminding yourself of the big picture — when you see how a tiny action can really help with the big goals of your life, you’ll keep on showing up for the little stuff.
  • Remember that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“, as Lao-Tzu said. Yes, you have to take a lot of those single steps, but only one is the first one, and the ‘showing up’ ones are pretty easy.
  • Ask yourself, “How much effort is this really? How can I systematize this so that I can do it with almost no effort?” For example, if you’re a coffee drinker, you have surely devised a system to make coffee so efficiently that you barely notice making it any more. You can do that with many things in life.
  • Try to find the fun — or something positive — in showing up.

Last week, I had a computer nightmare (believe me, you don’t want to know the details!). Showing up to deal with it sucked. But the big picture is that I need that computer to run my businesses, and to do the radio show. The first step was to try to do the updates I needed by myself, using all the online help available in forums. When that wasn’t enough, I called Apple for help. When that wasn’t enough, the online help desk made me an appointment at the local Apple Store for help. When they couldn’t solve my problem, they sent me to an outside company who is one of Apple’s premium service sites.

There, I met the owner, who is not only the most competent Mac person I’ve ever met (he almost solved my problem completely, and told me how to do the rest myself), but also turned out to be interested in a lot of things I’m interested in that have nothing to do with computers — star visitors, the unfairness of our current economic system, angels, the effects of vibrations, etc. We had a fascinating conversation that went on long past the completion of my computer issues. Meeting this man turned out to be the ‘something positive‘ in showing up.