Giving and Receiving

It’s the holiday season. I had to pick up a package from the post office (not a present), and I was commiserating with the postal worker.

“Lift from the knees. It’s going to be a long holiday.”

She moaned and thanked me. We were looking out for each other. It is the season for giving and receiving of gifts.

My dear husband nags me every season to write out a list of what things I would like to receive. It’s so hard to think of things!

My daughter does not have that problem. This is probably the last year that Santa is still mostly real for her, and she will ask for anything. A Unicorn, a pony, a REAL kid-sized BMW.

Me, I am too busy thinking of what I must get for everyone else that it feels like a burden. I know what Christmas is all about: all the other people. And I like giving gifts!

A few years ago I was walking down the street, and saw a man standing at a bus stop. “All the busses go out of service as soon as they pass me!”

“Where are you trying to go?”


“Oh, you need to stand on the other side of the street to catch the bus to Pasadena.”

“I know what bus I need, but they keep going out of service as soon as they get here.”

I tried to tell him, three times. He was so sure of what he knew and that he understood what was going on, he couldn’t receive the information I was telling him.

How about that.

Holidays can be like that too.

A couple years ago, Chris bought me a kindle for Christmas! Oh, thank you baby! How sweet! How nice!

I tried one or two books on it and then let it gather dust. I knew I liked the feel and smell of physical books.

And there it sat…for more than a year, until I came to the end of a book, a first in a compelling trilogy and I HAD to read the next one. They didn’t have it at the library or bookstore, so kindle it was.

I now have more than 200 books in my kind library, 90% of which I’ve read. I often make buying choices based on whether it is available in kindle. I’ve upgraded to the Paperwhite and love it.

I didn’t even let myself have it for several years. Like the stubborn man at the wrong bus stop, I was so sure of myself that I missed out.

So here is a call to action, Wonder Readers. This holiday season, open up and see what you can receive. Yes, presents and stockings and baked goods and drinks.

But maybe try new things. Let your musical relatives know you’d be interested in hearing a new song or artist, and the sorts of things you like, rather than dreading having to hear THEIR noisy favorites that you can’t stand. Tell them what you like and let them surprise you with what they know.

Ask about books, or recipes or movies or hobbies. See what else there is to experience in this wide world.

There is so much more than any of us have time for!


This thanksgiving I am sick and home alone.

I’m a little sorry for myself, just a little. Because I am without a job AGAIN.

and I am not feeling great.

I am underneath it all, thankful. I have a lot of blessings. More than I would have thought.

What an adventure life is.


After the Facts

There’s a show that I have never seen, but they had a catch phrase that entered common speech

“Just the facts, ma’am.” It was a police show, and the detective was trying to figure out a crime.

Right now in my life, I am thinking about and facing things that are new. And I don’t know what will happen.

I want to be sure of what choices I make. So I’m trying to get information and decide what to do next, what’s the most important.

What I really want to a guarantee. I want to be sure that what I choose will be worthwhile, and that it won’t waste my time or money.

I want an after-the-facts. I want to go forward in time and experience what happens when I make one choice. Then I want to rewind time and try it again with the other choice.

And THEN rewind time and make the choice I really want.

An after-the-fact choice.

A really great book talks about this The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?”

It’s a true thing, this time that we live in. We are bound by the track we are riding. Just forward.

In the book, the hero goes forward and makes a choice.

I have to do the same, and I’d prefer to do it boldly. I just am so concerned that it might not be the RIGHT choice.

I started re-reading The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success by Megan Mcardle

I can see that my fear of failing is a big part of what makes me scared.

I don’t want to do it wrong. And that fear of the cost of making a choice freezes me. This book is helping me see that I’m not alone.

Somehow that helps. That it is really common, and that I am not uniquely afraid of these things.

If it’s common, it seems more surmountable. If tons of people have this problem, then I can find a way to get over it too.

Or even if I don’t banish it, I can live with it while still making the brave choices I want to make.

Who Are You Talking to?

In the wake of the election, America is really polarized. They were polarized before, but now there is a record of how polarized we are.

People voted, and it was recorded that we don’t agree. And it’s tough. Although I love social media, the algorithms have left us mostly hanging out with people that agree with each other.

And now, incontrovertibly, a lot of people don’t agree.

I’m watching people try to come to terms with the election. I am hearing a lot of fear and anger. And people trying to understand each other.

I am reminded of a time when I was in a hostile work environment. It felt like everyone was against me, and I didn’t know whom to trust.

Months went by as I tried to understand what to do. And I also would go over in my mind what was happening, and I would try to understand why my coworkers were so against me.

I caught myself having imaginary conversations with each of them, explaining myself. And then they would have counter arguments, which I would then refute.

My mind was completely occupied with these mental conversations. It was not pleasant. I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into helpless despair.

The point of all those imaginary conversations was to try to find a way to make it better. I started them with the idea that I could understand what my persecutors were thinking and perhaps I would be able to change something in my control and resolve it.

But I didn’t stop when it didn’t work. It wasn’t clear to me that this preoccupation had become the problem.

Until it did.

I forced myself to stop. Never ever have a conversation with someone who is not in the room.


It was not easy. It had become an ingrained habit.

In order to stop, I have to fill my mind with something else. Whatsoever is good, think on it. I was working on finishing The Russian American School of Tomorrow. My mind was so preoccupied with all these imaginary conversations I wasn’t making much progress.

So, I decided that whenever I started to go down that rabbit hole, I would think of what needed to be done next in my story.

I was not eloquent as a ground the gears of my mind in a reverse direction. I did not come up with beautiful metaphors or tense plot pivots.

I recorded my own voice into my phone; “The next part is the part where I don’t know what to do next.” I repeated what came before and what I thought might be good to put into that section.

Then I listened to my recorded voice, considered what I’d said. Then I would record over that and do another version with a few improvements.

I would then take those recordings and type them into a MS word Document. Tedious. Uninspired. But NOT obsessing about imaginary conversations. I pulled myself, completely resistant and incapable of anything, into making progress on what really mattered to me.

So what does this have to do with the election?

I find myself having imaginary conversations with people about the results of the election.

And I remembered–that’s never a good idea.

I thought I could share with you all my experiences. Spinning brain cycles on non-productive trains of thought is very seductive. But is makes me unhappy. And I want to make progress on what’s actually important to me.

I want that for you too.


I’ve been feeling down. Well, that’s an understatement. Friday I got some news and it squashed me flat.

It reminds me of something Mark Twain said:

I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.

The news had to do with some people’s opinion of me.  It squashed me flat. Of course I ran to all my friends, and told them about it. They encouraged me, and I felt sustained.

For about 15 minutes.

If I was lucky.

Then I would let it get to me again and I would run to the next friend to get encouragement.

I was running out of people who would take my calls. I was relentlessly needy.

And I felt like I did not deserve these amazing friends. I was so unworthy…that’s why the catalyst negative opinion of me had been correct in the first place!

But I was down. I couldn’t shake it. So I called some more friends and got some more comfort.

Even as I was low I knew this was not sustainable. I had to find a way to not be dependent on other people to get me through this.

There is a book I like Loveability by Dr. Robert Holden. He writes:

Looking for love is painful. You are looking for love because you have judged yourself to be unloveable. Until you change your mind about yourself, your only hope is to find someone who will overturn this judgment.

Well, that about summed it up. I had to shake off this Other Person’s Opinion of how I was unworthy and form my own opinion that I was a worthy person.

I called my brother Bryan, with 1% of this figured out, and he really helped walk me through understanding the rest of what I needed to do to get out of my hole.

Right now, I’m in a transitional place. That’s the new word for unemployed: “in transition.” That was part of what had knocked me all the way down. My usual coping tools had to do with buckling down at work.

That was not available, so I had to come up with a new way of being ok.

A transition.

One of my tools that I (re) discovered that would help me feel ok is writing about it.

Like now. Like right now.

During my panic of self-loathing, I had found myself envying smokers. I have never smoked, but it seems such a perfect solution. Introduce an addiction in one’s life, then whenever things are bad, serving the addiction will make it a little better.

Writing is not exactly an addiction, but it is something that always makes it a little better.

Once I got my bearings back, and remembered that other people’s opinions can be safely discarded, that I do not have to espouse that opinion, I felt quite a bit better.

But it was scary for a bit. And I thought I’d write about it for my beloved readers.
Those that go searching for love
only make manifest their own lovelessness,
and the loveless never find love,
only the loving find love
and they never have to seek for it.
D.H. Lawrence

game over

I’ve heard it said a lot “They’re acting like it’s a zero sum game!”

In a zero sum game, the total amount of resources are limited. There are only a set number of “points.”

And if one person has more points, it meant the other person has less.

A zero sum game is a highly competitive environment, justifiably so.

If i want points, and you have all of them, how do I get them from you?

That’s where it falls apart. If the only unit of value is the points, I have nothing to give to get the points.

But…it’s not a zero sum game. Value surrounds us.There are other things than the points in the game.

And of course, it depends on whether you are playing that game. Maybe there is another game altogether which  would better suit.