Stay away from moody people. If they can’t put their best foot forward during the beginning stages of a relationship, they never will.
A Movie Lover’s Favorites to get you through the pandemic #12: Annie Hall (1977). Say what you will about Woody Allen, but Annie Hall remains a hilarious and touching film. It won four well deserved Academy Awards, and made Diane Keaton a super star. The film also inspired a major fashion trend. It’s hard to separate art from the artist, but Annie Hall was made over a decade prior to the accusations against Allen. If you disagree don’t watch this movie, but you’ll miss out on a wonderful experience.
Running a therapy group on happiness is one of my favorite job responsibilities. There’s a huge industry focused on happiness. While doing research for the group, I learned that optimism boosts happiness, so we discuss this concept in the group. Like many of the things that make people happy, optimism may be innate, or we may have to mindfully develop the habits and skills that boost this attitude. Here’s my template for optimism: Be hopeful. Show up. Do your best. Let go. Repeat. Over the years, I’ve found it’s a winning formula.
In December 1981, I moved into an apartment in Mountain View, California, when Silicon Valley was in its nascent phase. My brother, Charles, and, Margaret, my future sister-in-law, who lived over an hour away in Berkeley, visited me several times, together and separately.Sometime in the spring, Charles looked around my apartment and asked if I owned any tools. I didn’t—not a hammer, screwdriver, or pliers. This seemed to trigger some paternal impulse in him. He declared that I needed to own basic tools. At his insistence, we walked over to Sears, located few blocks away, and he bought me a hammer and screwdriver combo. I still use them almost forty years later. I am forever indebted to Charles for his fount of big-brother wisdom and care.
Early this year I realized I’d let my natural frugality go too far, and I needed to replace more than a dozen items in my house. I replaced a pocket calculator that had numbers I could barely see, a light bulb that was too dim, all of the old pillows on my couch, and numerous other old or worn items. None of the new items were expensive. I doubt I spent $200.00 total. But the numerous small home improvements made my life easier by removing small irritants. I’m not sure why I waited so long, but I now feel more relaxed at home. Sometimes it’s good to take stock of our daily habits and environment and assess room for improvement. Small changes can have a big impact.
I’m a hardcore sugar addict. My addiction waxes and wanes, depending on the level of self-control I’m able to muster. When my addiction is under control, I’ll indulge in a sweet treat once every week or so, or not at all. But I don’t believe in deprivation. I have sugar in my morning coffee, and I employ what I call the two-bite rule. This rule allows me to eat two average-size bites of anything sweet. So if there’s a birthday cake at work, I’ll have two bites of it. Two bites don’t seem to trigger sugar cravings and I always feel as if I’ve indulged just a little. When I can implement the two-bite rule, it works well, and I don’t feel deprived. When I jettison the two-bite rule, I’m always striving to return to it.
It’s hard for me to imagine being as young and stupid as I was in college. But at least I had an older brother, Charlie, to help me with the profound as well as the mundane. I went to school in Olympia, Washington, a place well known for near constant drizzle. Before I began my freshman year, Charlie helped me buy a small umbrella. So when I opened his gift for my twentieth birthday, sophomore year, and saw he’d given me a huge red stadium umbrella, I was confused. I thought, doesn’t he remember I already have an umbrella? He was there when I bought it!
At the time, I didn’t understand that umbrellas are not usually possessions that last a lifetime. They wear out and break easily. Less than two years older than me, Charlie seemed to know this fact. I don’t remember what happened to either of my college umbrellas, but they’re long gone. Thank goodness for my smart big brother, who knew I’d need at least two to see me through my college years.
When my father died suddenly after a four-day illness, my brother Charles expressed my feelings best when he observed, “We used to have parents. Where’d they go?” I felt exactly the same way. We had parents, and with Dad’s death, suddenly we didn’t. It was a strange, uncomfortable feeling.
Many people who supported me after Dad died confirmed that the world never feels the same after your parents die. I’ve had other sudden deaths in my life. My mother died of pneumonia when she was forty-nine, and my ex-husband, with no forewarning, killed himself in 2013. The latter left me traumatized, but I didn’t miss him the way I miss Dad. I’ve never missed anyone so intensely, and frankly, I want him back. I know this won’t happen, but it’s a primal desire I can’t control.
Every phase of life has its unexpected challenges and joys. My fifties have been wonderful in numerous ways I never could have anticipated. Despite my longings to have Dad back, I know I’ll get used to his absence. I just need to give myself time.