The Lobster Mafia

“Don’t ever hoard buoys like that,” Allyson says as we hurtle down a country road. “The lobster mafia is real.”

I barely catch a glimpse of what she points at, but I know what she means. Every so often I’ve seen small houses almost completely covered by buoys in every combination of colors. Naïve urban outsider that I am, I had assumed they were meaningless kitschy decorations, like those old metal Coca-Cola signs you can buy at a certain type of antique store. Continue reading “The Lobster Mafia”

Book Review: The Corner Office

corner office

Adam Bryant was curious about CEOs. Specifically, are there certain traits they have in common that set them apart from others? And are those traits necessarily what we would expect?

To find out, he interviewed more than 70 CEOs and executives, then grouped the nuggets he gleaned into chapters under three broad headings: “Succeeding,” “Managing,” and “Leading.” Continue reading “Book Review: The Corner Office”

Going to Your Brother, Again

My husband and I both have a particular small failing, and not so long ago we received a complaint about it. We could see that the relationship with this person had suffered because of this failing, and we felt bad. “Why didn’t you tell us before?” we wailed.

“I did,” was the devastating response. Continue reading “Going to Your Brother, Again”

Death of a Lobster

I found a restaurant in Santa Monica that sells lobsters for $45 apiece. I’m no expert, but I get the impression the price can go a lot higher at an elegant establishment. Here, the dock price is $6.

It’s a temptation that can’t be resisted. Several times I’ve gone into the kitchen to find lobsters crawling around the counters as one or another of our housemates prepares for dinner. Continue reading “Death of a Lobster”

Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey

After driving for about 10 miles through a very pretty kind of nowhere in particular, the road curves around to the right and you suddenly become aware that you are entering a village. A blink-and-you-miss-it road turns left to the country club. Before you is the Commons, a medium-sized field with a gazebo (and frequently a craft fair or farmer’s market), rimmed on two sides with a lot of old wooden houses and a crab shack. It is balanced on the right by the Traffic Triangle, grassy and adorned by a stone statue of an as-yet-unidentified man. Continue reading “Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey”

One Change at a Time? Not so Fast.

Among those in the business of telling you how to change your life, it is universally contended that the best method is to choose the most important change you can make, make it, and then move on to the next one. Continue reading “One Change at a Time? Not so Fast.”

The Void In The Universe

I never understood grief at death.

Well, that’s not totally accurate.

When the spouse or the child or the best friend in regular contact dies, I understood the gaping hole it leaves in a life. I understood the sudden crashing down and the time it takes to rebuild that.

For the person who is atheist/agnostic/believes in “this life is all we have” I understood the pain of the thought that the dead are gone eternally, wiped from earth as if they had never existed.

When there has been a strain in the relationship, anger, neglect, whatever, I understood the self-recrimination, the agonized loop of “if only I could go back and set it right” that can never be.

I understood even the sort of irony that smashes into the solar plexus: the father who dies days before his child is born; the scientist who dies weeks before his research discovers the cure for cancer.

But, none of those things being true for me, I didn’t understand my own sadness. I won’t even dignify it by the name of grief; I am not sure that a tear or two at Mozart’s Requiem, or at remembering from time to time the natural grace that made him a natural at every sport, or a half a dozen other little things, is really of a scale to qualify.

We had not been in contact for years, so no hole was left. True, that would have been a source of serious regret had we not found each other again two or three weeks before his death, with a joy and a triumph of certainty that we always would. (This is, after all, someone who signed my senior yearbook with his full name, birthday, and social security number so that, as he said, “You will always be able to find me.” Ah, the epic romanticism of teenagers.) For that matter I still believe we will meet again.

So, then, why sadness? It was so puzzling. And I wondered, what does that say about me, that I cannot understand so simple a thing?

A friend of mine suggested that “grief, like happiness, is a function of intensity, not time.” This was comforting, in that it validated my right to my own feelings, but still felt too simple…

I think I understand it now.

When someone vanishes completely from the surface of the earth – pouf! – you are left loving a void in the universe. You might as well pick the blackest spot in space, a hole between stars, and love it. It is preposterous. The mind rebels.

I see him in his unknown grave, because my mind will not let him be nowhere. Or I see him still alive, because I wish to speak to him, but I know he exists only in my mind, in a vast orb of space and time where I can never reach him. Will never reach him so long as I live, and when I think of it, life seems long indeed.

I understand now the urge to believe in immediate ascension to heaven. Or reincarnation. Or anything that isn’t – pouf!

I love a void in the universe. Is that not cause for grief? I think it is.

Book Review: The Slow Fix

The premise of the book is that “quick fixes” cause more problems than they patch up. For instance, the BP Deep Horizon oil spill was the result of years of quick fixes. Honoré is quick to acknowledge that when billions of gallons of oil are pouring into the ocean, you need a quick fix to stop it – but then you need to step back, examine what went wrong, and figure out a way to keep it from ever happening again. This is a Slow Fix.

On the other hand, a Slow Fix is always – and often counterintuitively – a good investment.

The full review is published on vision.org! Read it here.

A Good Use of Time

As Sunday afternoon wore on, part of me felt frustrated. It complained, “Here’s the whole day gone and I haven’t done anything!”

The other part of me countered, “What I have done is go on a 5½ mile walk with my husband and my dog, stopping in the middle for a charming lunch at a sidewalk café. What I have done is lived.”

Why is it so hard to feel like that is a valid way to spend part of my weekend? Especially when there was nothing else I particularly wanted to get done that day? Continue reading “A Good Use of Time”

A Portrait of The Poster

lettuce

I worked with a guy who had this as his desktop image. This was in the days before Facebook was such a big deal; certainly, long before it became so meme-heavy. The image had novelty, and in fact I was so tickled by it that I ran to the internet, found it, and saved it for my own future amusement. (To be honest, I still can’t see lettuce without giggling a little inside.)

In a discussion about Facebook today someone posited that the things people post – even silly memes – “reveal much about those who post. It could be a way to revealing a bit of the emotional struggles that they are going through (under stress, need to laugh, or a need to share with others).” And as ridiculous as it sounds, that honestly had not occurred to me in that specific way. At least not in the context of silly pictures of cats (to pick just one scapegoat).

The use of such an image – and the ones that succeeded it from the same site – was completely in character for my coworker. He was famously random, off-beat, even eccentric, but his randomness had a predictable hilarity to it that was regarded with indulgent fondness. I have no doubt that if he is active on Facebook, his page continues to make his friends tilt their heads to the side and say, “That’s really odd.” And then laugh.

I have several intelligent, well-educated friends who frequently post intriguing articles it is impossible not to read – even when they’re on subjects I wouldn’t have said I was interested in. I have a number of witty or “punny” friends, and friends who are always having small adventures, whose statuses are not only enjoyable but immensely repeatable. I have friends with definite interests (writing, gardening, travel and photography, off the top of my head) and friends with unique voices. I have Facebook-friends who are honest about their lives in large and deep ways that make me determined to have them as real-life friends. There is even one person who shows up in my feed whose statuses are confined to such cheering things as “I’m tired” or “bad day” or “so bored”.

And I would say that all of these things are true to who these people are in person.

Yes: what we say and do says a lot about who we are, and that’s true whether we’re in person or online. Whether we are kind or dismissive, joyful or negative, goofy or serious, that comes out in what we share. No, nobody does this perfectly. I certainly don’t. Nor is there anything wrong with presenting different facets of ourselves at different times. There is not even anything wrong with posting silly memes (after all, many of them are clever and most are funny enough to elicit an involuntary smile, even from me!).

The same person who made the comment about posts revealing the poster added something very wise:

Social Media can be a lot like attending a party. It is not always easy to control what the others are bringing to the party. You can only choose to respond to those conversations that appeal to you.

My husband is fond of saying that Facebook’s problem is that it does what nobody would ever dream of doing in person, because it is an obvious recipe for disaster: collecting everybody you know in one place and having an open conversation that any and all of those people can participate in. In such a situation, there is absolutely a need for people to take the above advice, to tune in or out as they desire.

And yet… in face-to-face conversation, most of us recognize certain responsibilities. You have the responsibility not to be deliberately offensive. To avoid (at least in certain contexts) controversial subjects. Not to monopolize the conversation with a topic your hearer has no interest in.

Do we have these same responsibilities online? I believe that we do. With hundreds of potential hearers, no, it is not possible that everything you say will be interesting to everyone. But most of what you say should have value or meaning – preferably a variety of types of value. You should post at intervals that allow others’ newsfeed not to be dominated by you.

Of course people can block you if they don’t like what you have to say. Just as someone you’re talking to at a cocktail party can zone out or ignore you. But it’s not a pleasant position to be in – and why would you force someone to block you if you could possibly help it?

And yet… even if you think that online all the responsibility rests on the hearer, there is no getting around the fact that whether they react or not, people will evaluate you based on what you share.

I don’t think I know too many people who are accurately represented by pictures with silly captions. So the question is: are you risking being known as the person whose main contribution to the conversation is silly pictures and ecard wine jokes? And is that the impression you want to give?