Gut Feeling – When’s the last time you followed your instinct despite not being sure it was the right thing to do? Did it end up being the right call?
Without getting all Leroy Jethro Gibbs here … is there any other way to make a decision when you have no hard facts to work with? If you are a mother and you know your kid is “off,” you take him or her to the doctor. You don’t wait until the strep throat or whatever is lurking actually presents with full symptoms.
You hear a noise in your car’s engine. A funny little squeaky noise which comes and goes. Do you wait for the serpentine belt to snap or take it to a mechanic?
The meteorologists on the television are predicting a few inches of snow, but your bones are screaming “it’s a big one on the way.” Do you ignore your instinct and believe the guy on TV? Or lay in some supplies, fill the car with gasoline, and bring the candles out … just in case.
If I have data to work with (better yet, if I had Data to work with), I’ll work with it or him. But through most of real life, we have no facts. We have instinct, experience, “gut feelings.” And a kind of prescience that comes with years of making judgment calls, dealing with emergencies … a kind of “know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em” sort of thing.
What passes for “being psychic” is in large part an ability to read subtle signals. You say something, your client shows no obvious reaction. But the pupils of his or her eyes dilate. Just a little. There’s an infinitesimal tightening around the jaw line. A shift in the way he or she is seated. Most of the time, we ignore such little hints, probably because we’re more engrossed in our own stories than in listening or watching others. But signs are always there.
It’s the same with your kids, your pets, your car. Lots of little things are the breadcrumbs we follow. We call it instinct, but it is subtle messaging. We hear and see these messages without realizing it. A good psychic is a good watcher, listener, reader of human reactions.
Most decisions in life are gut decisions and should be. That’s what makes us human. Otherwise, we’d be computers … and you know how bizarre the decisions computers make for us can be.
Not for Thee — What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you wouldn’t give to anyone else? Why don’t you think it would apply to others?
I’ve gotten some really great advice over the years. From professors at college, from people I worked with or for. From a husband or two. From friends. Advice that changed my life, career, and destiny.
I suppose, in theory, it could apply to someone else. But I doubt it because important advice is not pithy or necessarily quotable. It’s specific to an individual. Not aphorisms or “rote” messages. Not the kind of thing you toss around in casual conversation.
I remember the very first piece of life-changing advice. It came from a professor who’d become a friend and mentor. I was a music major, a pianist. Doing pretty well. I aced most of my classes. The only bothersome worry nibbling at my mind was what in the world I could do with this education? My talent as a pianist was limited. To a non-professional, I sounded great. To a professional, not so great. In short, not good enough. In classical music, not good enough is a million miles from good. Either you can compete — or not.
Dr. Deutsch accosted me as I was leaving a practice room one afternoon. “We should talk,” he said. I knew I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. And I knew I should listen.
“You’re good at this. You do well in your courses. Your grade point average is high. Very high. But your heart isn’t in it, not like it needs to be. Music is a hard road. If you aren’t fully committed, you won’t survive. Make a decision to get into it … or get out.”
It was a critical turning point. I was a single credit short of completing the major, but here was time to start a new major without delaying graduation. My choice of music had been based more on loving music than where it might take me professionally. To my surprise, I was more relieved than upset by what he said.
Practical young woman who I was, I selected Comparative Religion for my new major. As we all know, there are so many jobs opportunities in that field. I hedged my bet. I was already involved at the college radio station, so I majored in communications too, though I had no interest in working in radio, television, or theater. I just enjoyed messing around.
By then, it was obvious I would be a writer. I wrote. Always had. Even when I did it with a pencil on lined paper. It was obvious I had talent for words. I had fantasy visions of a Stephen King-like career living in a solitary retreat on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There, alone with my grand piano and a typewriter, great novels would emerge and take the world by storm.
Not exactly the way it all came down. While taking long hours of psychology, philosophy, and history of religion courses, I gained discipline. I had a wonderful, wise, perceptive professor who not only read what I wrote, but could tell the difference between when I’d done the work, and when I was glib and faking it. He was the only professor to ever give me a grade of A+/D on a paper. A+ for style, D for content.
Under his tutelage, I learned research methodology. How to write so others could follow my reasoning. Although I would later be surprised when technical writing became my career, it wasn’t as out-of-the-blue as it seemed. All those papers in college had paved the way.
Could either of these pieces of advice have been given to anyone but me? Would they have made sense to anyone else?
Later, there would be a husband who suggested I stop moaning about the past and move on. Pointing out there was little future in the past, he combined this with keeping my father out of my life to give me a chance to grow up in peace and safety. I will always be grateful.
Sometimes, a relationship lasts exactly as long as it is supposed to. That first marriage let me become an adult, with a husband who supported me, friends who cared. When I was ready to move on, he didn’t stop me. It was a good marriage that ended in divorce.
There was more. A lot more. I wonder, often, if the advice givers knew how much they were influencing me. How much their advice rocked my world, changed the direction of my life and career. Sometimes, a single sentence at the right moment was enough to illuminate the darkness. Perhaps one of my gifts has been knowing when to listen and who to trust.
These days, non-interference is the social gold-standard, but that’s part of the whole “me, me, me” mentality of the 21st century. Thoughtful, intelligent advice is never a bad thing. Whether or not it is appreciated or taken to heart is another issue.
Silence will never offer anything of value — while one important moment of truth can mean everything.
Take a chance. Save a life.
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
A mere two years after a double mastectomy, I’m facing another medical crisis. I’m not handling it gracefully. Too many crises. Dozens of surgeries. I can’t bore you with details; I have, thankfully, forgotten them.
I’ve spent more time in the hospital than most interns. I’m a professional patient with the scars to prove it. When I die, they should stuff me. Put me in some kind of museum proving with enough medical attention, even the totally unfit can survive. Each doctor who redesigned some portion of me can tattoo his signature along the appropriate scar, assuming all the doctors are still alive. Probably they aren’t because I started my career on the wrong side of medicine while still a teenager and apparently am not due for retirement anytime soon.
I need a new mitral valve. I used to joke and laugh, saying the only major system in my body that continues to work is my heart. I laughed too soon. Probably jinxed myself.
I go into each surgery with fear and resignation. I know how I’m going to feel when I wake up from the anaesthesia. I will hurt. I will be sick and disoriented. I will realize I must have survived because I’m aware how totally miserable I am. Again.
Last time I woke up and the first thing I did was look down at my chest to see if I had a semblance of breasts. I did. Lumpy, not flat. Though I knew they weren’t original equipment, I was comforted by the familiarity of the landscape. With all the pain, drains and anger at my body for betraying me, it was nice to know I would at least appear — on the surface — female.
That was when I said: “Never again. I’m never going through this again.”
I should just shut up. How stupid am I? I can’t remember how many times I’ve woken from that weird deathlike anaesthesia sleep and have fought my way back up to the light. Each time, just a little weaker, a bit less sure of the future — but alive. Hanging on.
It’s too soon. I’m not ready. Maybe this time the magic won’t work. My first husband died following complications of mitral valve replacement surgery. I watched him die. After the surgical accident that killed his brain, he remained technically alive, but in a vegetative state for 9 long months. I took care of something that looked like him, but whose eyes were empty. When finally he passed completely, I and the rest of his friends gratefully wished him well on a journey he should have taken nearly a year before.
Probably no surprise that this particular surgery holds a special terror for me.
Less than two years since I vowed “Never again,” again has come. I suppose I’ve already made the choice to let them fix me, or try anyhow (does “or die trying” sound too ghoulish?). The alternative — slowly dying while my heart becomes less and less able to pump blood — doesn’t sound attractive. An attractive option does not seem to be available. But, there’s no advantage in waiting. I won’t get younger or healthier. The older I get, the more dangerous surgery is.
I gave myself a little gift of time. I put off my appointment with the surgeon until the beginning of September. I need to get my head into a better space, to settle down emotionally. A few weeks of denial before I tackle another scary reality.
So for the next three weeks If you ask me, I will tell you. I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.
No Time to Waste — Fill in the blank: “Life is too short to _____.” Now, write a post telling us how you’ve come to that conclusion. (Thanks for suggesting this prompt, theempathyqueen!) Life is too short to drink bad coffee. Or eat lima beans, or work at a job you hate. It’s too short read dull books […]
ATTACK OF THE ELECTRICAL GREMLIN
Garry was on his way to visit his brother in New York. He got a late start … too much last minute stuff, too much time checking email and sipping morning coffee. When finally he got on the road, it was almost noon. He was a couple of miles from home, heading for the Mass Pike, when the electrical gremlin hit.
The right side rear window went down and refused to go back up. Finally, after some wiggling of switches, the right rear window closed. But the left one promptly went down and refused to rise again.
Why? Who knows? The mystery electrical gremlin, the bane of modern computerized cars had struck. It has happened before. For no reason.
Garry called and said he was coming home.
When the car was in the driveway, I went down to see if I could convince the system to reboot. I opened and closed windows. I jiggled switches, turned things on, turned stuff off. I turned the engine on, off, on.
Locked and unlocked the doors. Eventually, the gremlin was exorcised, disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived.
Garry had enough.
“I know how to take a hint,” he said. He called his brother and rescheduled. Next week is looking good.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
My enthusiasm for cooking is at an all-time low. I’m not sure why, but it may have something to do with 45 years of cooking meals for husbands, children, family, friends … even myself. But, like it or not, dinnertime arrives everyday.
I am left staring into the freezer wondering what to defrost. We just went shopping, so there’s a choice. My fallback position is frozen pizza, but we’ve eaten too much pizza lately.
As I stood there pondering, a package of frozen Italian-style turkey sausage flew out of the freezer and landed at my feet.
“Okay,” I said. “Got it. We’re having pasta and sausage for dinner.”
I too can take a hint.
For some of us, irony is just the way it goes. Life is one ironic incident after another. Just when you think you’ve finally got it together, it falls apart. The job that looked like a career maker comes with the boss from Hell and some vital organ fails. Oh well. You might as well laugh. There’s no percentage in tears.
Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Meds not working? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just a little ironic humor by Life, Inc.
Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on. No suffering allowed. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.
The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart (though it lasted longer than it ought because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made), I staggered — bloody, dazed, and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling as if I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.
All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins.
There’s a fine line between comedy and a tragedy. Mostly, it’s all about the ending. Tragedies end with piles of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s mostly timing.
Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Later, with perspective, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in both breasts (they were having a two-for-one-special at Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.
And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties, the high point of my cancer experience.
Ironically — there’s that word again — a mere two years later, my heart needed a complete overhaul. The ultimate irony (but luckily, not the final one) because I’d been telling everyone my heart was the only organ that worked properly. Famous last words.
When life goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, a lot of people who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious? But they also look at you with a subtle whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be so rude as to say it aloud, but they are overjoyed it happened to you, not them.
If you are a writer, out of the wreckage may emerge a book — or at least a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. It wasn’t for nothing after all.
Personal traumas are collateral damage in our Darwinian battle for survival. No one gets through life unscathed. Just, for some of us, it’s rather more scathing.
Mindful of future tragedy lurking down the road, prepare some clever repartee. You can give it a test drive at the next get-together with your successful pals. Something to look forward to.
As a bonus, you’ll truly appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces.
No matter how awful things are, you will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Depression will ebb. The crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic which you will call “normal.”
It’s all in good fun, right?
The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them. We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses your mind, but we don’t all agree on what those things are. We are polarized to the max, whatever that means, and we can not reach consensus. Worse, influential people will try to make sure the majority does not rule.
With an eye toward the concept that this world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail. That You Tube video has gone viral. A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that quickly hit a million views and is reposted and shared everywhere. It needs reposting again.
Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA. It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning. For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is the earth he is most concerned with. The earth, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video. He wastes no time in coming to the point. The video opens strongly:
The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded
The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…
He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others. Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?” I see it all the time. There are people too busy with facebook, twitter, tumbler, You Tube or whatever to have real communication. So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on You Tube.
Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue you to death
When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously, via facebook or Twitter. How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions? The world we see is one Williams thinks should end. Do you agree?
Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way
There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all. And while we permit this type of role model, we see others that certain parts of society would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion. How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?
So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?
Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer. It is a simple answer of course. It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply. “We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”
This is why the world should end. It needs a fresh start with love. It is the love we must all provide. Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning? Where is that message that we need to go viral?