Free Is Just Another Word For…

Yesterday and today I’ve been offering a free download of Tales From the Family Crypt on Amazon.   I’ve been watching the download numbers go up with… well… actual glee. Mind you, no one makes any money on a free download so why is this making me so happy? What is it about imagining the readers who are about to crack open (cyber-wise that is) my work that gives me joy?

I think it’s something like this– Writers write. We often write in isolation but while we’re doing so, we’re envisioning the reader who is going to absorb our words. However, we can only imagine that person, we’re not there when they’re reading what we’ve written. (Unless you have a significant other you’ve been regularly forcing sweetly asking to read what you’ve written.) Seeing my download numbers go up on that lovely graph Amazon provides and on the rankings (#63 in nonfiction, #1 in Parenting, #1 in Aging Parents!)  just fills me with the hope that maybe, just maybe, in the next couple of days lots of people will read what I artfully crafted and poured heart and soul into in the tiny space that is my office. The work from that small space will spider out, yes, like the crack in your windshield that pops and then grows quickly into a web eventually taking over the front of your car, but in a good way. It will grow and expand into the universe of readers who will see what I wrote and perhaps act on it in some good way. Maybe they’ll call a long lost relative. Maybe they’ll find a way to speak to a family member or friend with whom they’ve had a falling out. Maybe they’ll hug someone who means a great deal to them. Maybe they’ll phone me with an offer for a movie script in which I will be played by Jennifer Lawrence. Anything is possible, right?

So for today, the download graph forecasts more joy. I hope you have a wonderful day too. And, remember, the best things in life are free. Some very good things cost money, don’t get me wrong, I like those too, but being able to enjoy the free is also terrific.

Let’s Talk About Death, Baby.

In the immortal words of Salt-N-Pepa:

“(Punch it, Hurb
Yo, I don’t think we should talk about this
Come on, why not?
People might misunderstand what we’re tryin’ to say, you know?
No, but that’s a part of life)

Come on”

The song, “Let’s Talk About Sex” continues thusly but as you read, feel free to substitute sex with death. (only in the lyrics, not in real life)

Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex

Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd
It keeps coming up anyhow
Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic
Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it
Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows
Many will know anything goes
Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be
How it was, and of course, how it should be
Those who think it’s dirty have a choice
Pick up the needle, press pause, or turn the radio off
Will that stop us, Pep? I doubt it
All right then, come on, Spin

Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sex

If you think about it, the reasons we don’t talk about sex and the reasons we don’t talk about death have a great deal in common. We don’t talk about sex because the mention of it is taboo, considered gauche or low class. Ditto, death. We don’t talk about sex because it involves aspects of our lives too sensitive to be discussed in detail. We don’t talk about sex because we believe we can stop it from happening among the people for whom we don’t want it to happen. (i.e. young teens, etc.  ) Ditto death, because not talking about it won’t make it go away. But, there is one big difference, sex is a choice. Death’s generally not. Why talk about death, then? Because  it’s the one thing we all have in common and very few of us deal with that reality effectively. The results of us being in group denial is that death causes so many problems for the living and for the dying. From inheritance battles to battles over end of life care to sibling rivalry to battles over who “Mom loved best.” Many of these could be avoided by exposing the reality of death to the light of day.

Talking about death may not be able to stave death off but it can make the whole experience easier for all, the dying as well as the living.  Making your wishes clear to your loved ones enables them to help you when the time comes to have the death you want. Do you want to be kept alive at all costs?   Do you want to be hooked up to machines that may breathe for you and feed you? Or would you rather go naturally and perhaps faster? Voice your choice.  What do you want to happen to the possessions you own? Do you care who gets your family photos or archives? What about the dresser you inherited from your Aunt Tilly? Or your father’s pinky ring? Who should get that? What should happen to your beloved pets? What about your money? Who gets what and how much? And why? If you need to leave more money to a loved one because he or she has greater need, tell your other loved ones your reasons while you still can. Dying with wishes unsaid helps no one. And, if you have a message you want your loved ones to hear, don’t wait until after you’re dead to deliver it. Don’t send a message via your will. (But do have a will!) Tell your loved ones the things you want them to know while you can. In fact, do it today, because no one is assured of a tomorrow. You can choose to have or not to have sex tomorrow. But you can’t choose whether you’ll be hit by a bus tomorrow. So, don’t wait. Voice you choice today.

Maybe death needs a snappy slogan to encourage people to talk about it more. How about one of these? “Death Talk: Just Do It!” “Death Discussion: Because You’re Worth It!” “Can You Hear Me Now?” Fed Ex had a good slogan, “Because there is no tomorrow.” That would work. Or how about Burger King’s “Have It Your Way?” Or, why not, “A Life is A Terrible Thing to Waste?” Choose one and use it to motivate yourself to talk with the people you love about the life you live and how you hope to see it end. It literally will not kill you to talk about it. You’ll be glad you did.

Perhaps death  needs a theme song to make the whole concept more palatable. I have an idea. Why not use this one? Check the video for the tune and sing along changing the lyrics as follows:

Let’s talk about death, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about death
Let’s talk about death
Let’s talk about death
Let’s talk about death

Let’s talk about death for now to the people at home or in the crowd
It keeps coming up anyhow
Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic
Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it
Now we talk about death on the radio and video shows
Many will know anything goes
Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be
How it was, and of course, how it should be

Once you’re motivated, you may need a guide or an agenda to follow for your big talk On my next blog post, I’ll share 10 aspects of death everyone should discuss. Read it, share it, print it out as an agenda for your next family dinner! Meanwhile, enjoy the music and singing along, changing the lyrics as needed.

Finally, I ask you to consider carefully… Can you do it? Can you talk about death openly? Can you encourage others to do so too? We’ll all be a lot happier….literally in the end… if we can. Please spread the word. I’m thinking we can start a movement called, “Happy Endings.” Will you join?

5 Simply But Carefully Stated Sentiments for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a holiday you’d think pretty much everyone could embrace enthusiastically. I mean everyone has one, right? But for some people, Mother’s Day is one of the scariest days of the year. It’s taboo to talk about and so few do, but alas, some people have challenging mothers (Seriously hoping my daughters aren’t currently shaking their heads but if you are, read on.).  For years I watched my husband painstakingly choose Mother’s Day cards because it was virtually impossible to find one that didn’t call out, “You’re the best human on the planet! You made me the unbelievably successful and happy person I am today.”

But what if your mother isn’t the best human on the planet? Maybe she had her reasons, maybe she was dealt a difficult hand, maybe life just didn’t play out the way she envisioned. Maybe she isn’t Cruella De Ville or Joan Crawford but she’s also not June Cleaver or or Carol Brady or even Clare Dunphy. Whatever the story behind your difficulty with your mom, what if you just can’t bring yourself to get a card that has too much BS to be delivered? And, if your mother won’t understand sarcasm or irony, you’d be wasting your time to send her, “Have a wonderful day. I hope it’s filled with all the happiness you’ve brought to me since childhood.”

But, since you are still hanging around with your mother and you’re not ready to cut the cord entirely, you do need a card. I can help. Here are 5 things you can  write comfortably on a blank card while still maintaining your integrity. Choose one with a lovely flower or sunrise (sunset seems like the wrong message) and you are good to go on the upcoming scary holiday.

1. Thanks so much, Mom. I owe you my life.

(Because, you do, despite how it might have played out!)

2. Thinking of you today.

(Again, because you probably are, without mentioning in what context.)

3. There’s so much beauty in the world. I hope you can take some time to enjoy it.

(Totally lovely but completely skirting the icky family issues.)

4. Wishing you a very special day.

(Not saying why or in what way it should be special.)

5. Happy Mother’s Day.

(Perhaps the most simply stated of all and also totally appropriate.)

Then you need a strong closer. You can pick one of these and sign your name (first name only as, again, irony and sarcasm aren’t appropriate today) with any one of these warm closings, artfully avoiding the word love. Warmly, As always, Take care, Cheers (don’t use this one if alcohol factors in), Good wishes, Thinking of you, Most sincerely, Peace be with you, Peace and blessings, Rock on, or Truly.

Good luck. And cheer up. It’s only another month or so until Father’s Day. Maybe that one’s easier.

Peace out,

Debby

PS. Feel free to use this lovely flower if you choose to make your own card. Print it out and move on with your life!

P1020010

Family Holiday Survival Tips You Need Now

Holidays can be hell when you’re a member of a dysfunctional family unit. I know this for a fact as holidays have been challenging for us for most of the last 20 years. But, I didn’t want to dread the holidays so I’ve developed some strategies for surviving the event where you may be surrounded by people you can just barely tolerate. Here are my half-dozen  survival tips for dealing with the holiday happenings.

1. Invite some people you love. Balance the scales in favor of more people you enjoy than people who drive you up a wall. For many years we’ve opened our family celebrations to our friends when they were available. That way you can, throughout the meal, turn to your friends, roll your eyes and silently thank whomever you believe in for sending some friends your way. This works for a while. In recent years some people politely said if my in-laws were going to attend my holiday dinner, they’d prefer not to. So, you have to rotate the friends you invite in order to have new people who are up for the challenge joy of being with your extended family.

2. Learn to look the other way. When my in-laws would start fighting at the table, my strategy was to turn toward my kids, whom I adored and focus just on them. It’s like meditating where you control your mind but with the control being on your focus. Of course it helps if inside your head you keep repeating this mantra: At least I’m not as crazy as they are, at least I’m not as crazy as they are…

3. See recent movies. This is a good one. When the conversation takes a turn you know is going to go swiftly downhill and end up in  an unpleasant valley, you bring up a movie you’ve seen and be ready to launch into a five-minute distraction/dissertation about the plot, the characters, why you loved or hated it, whatever you can think of to completely derail their plan to foil your fun with misery.

4. Speak loudly. When the relatives are heading into tough territory if you can overspeak them in volume and take the talk somewhere better, to something less volatile than their personal grievances, like say politics or religion, you will be happy with the result.

5. Some holidays call for wine as part of the celebration. If yours doesn’t, you may want to consider adding that.

6. Know that the sun will set on this day and tomorrow your life will be much brighter for having done so well in coping with holiday “joy.”

glorious sunset

Could You Attend A Functional Family Convention? If you do these 10 things…

We become part of a family and although it’s a complex machine, we receive no instructions on how to make it work well. Much like becoming a parent, you do it and you fly from the seat of your pants. There’s no instruction manual, no how-to guide, no user guide, not even a quick-start info graphic. No wonder so many families go painfully awry!

So I thought I’d remedy that today. Here are 10 things people who appreciate family do.

1. Love unconditionally. This one seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand how important unconditional love is. Love doesn’t just happen, it takes work. Unconditional love means loving someone regardless of what they’re like or what they do for you. It’s loving for the sake of loving, no more, and no less. Unconditional love is a gift for the giver and the recipient. It starts with loving yourself unconditionally and grows from there.

2. Seek understanding. Notice that says, “Seek understanding” not “be understanding.” My point here is  it’s up to each person to reach out to family members to try to be understood by sharing what matters to them. Great family members want others to know them well.

3. Be understanding. Here’s the other side of the understanding coin. Understanding is definitely a two-way street. Family members who wish to be understood are often the ones who understand others well. The give and take of understanding is the foundation of any great relationship. It’s particularly acute in families where if you can’t understand each other, it’s harder to just walk away.

4. Stand and fight. Yes, sometimes conflict happens and it probably should. Chances are if you never disagree on anything in a family it’s because you’re not doing much together. Family members who interact a great deal are likely to disagree from time to time. It’s okay. Those who stand and fight can also resolve problems. Those resolutions lead to stronger bonds. So great family members don’t have to shy away from problems, they can fight and win stronger ties.

5. Forgive. Following the fighting with forgiveness is a hallmark of a healthy functioning family. Forgiveness isn’t magic. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a conscious letting-go of any resentment. A conscious letting-go. Family members who want to move on after a conflict make a choice to move forward to peace of mind. Those family members help to set others free from the pain of the conflict. This one is huge.

6. Give. People who understand the value of giving in a relationship don’t hesitate to do so. They may give time, they may give money, they may share possessions, they may give a sympathetic ear, they give what they can when they can. Giving is a way of exhibiting caring. It’s a manifestation of how a person feels.

7. Take. The other side of this coin. Giving is great but, surprisingly, taking reasonably is also terrific. (In other words, there’s a difference between taking and taking advantage which is not good.) Being able to accept, whether it’s time or help or money or advice is important. It may show vulnerability and that is a good thing of sorts. Being vulnerable means to be open to hurt. Why is that good? When people are vulnerable they are exposed because their defenses are down. In a family the walls that protect us should not have to exist.  Great family members should be comfortable with being somewhat vulnerable and open to emotion.

8. Stay honest in the big moments. Honesty is fluid and that’s okay. If your sister gets an awful haircut a loving family member can choose to assure her it looks okay and that’s fine. But a loving family member doesn’t tell lies to manipulate others.

9. Eschew secrets. There’s a fine line between being trustworthy with private matters and keeping secrets that shouldn’t be kept. Loving family members don’t recruit others to keep secrets that might later come out and hurt people.

10. Be accountable, reliable, responsible and dependable. Loving family members mean what they say, do what they promised and show up.

So, how does your family stack up? If you have family members who do all of these things, consider sending this post with a thank you note to brighten their day. And if you think you could do a bit better, consider sharing this post with a note of promise to work harder so your family functions better than ever. Is there anything you’d add to this list?

syncswim