No Internet or Phone? Can’t Connect?We Don’t Care!!

I was away last week and for large swaths of time had no internet access. I also had even more time without any phone connectivity.

I learned a lot about this inability to connect quickly.

People don’t pay attention to what you tell them. “I have no internet or phone where I am” fell on deaf ears. When I was in range, I’d have 20 texts and emails and voice mails asking me why I wasn’t responding. “I’m away” has no bearing on others wanting your attention. How dare I not be available right NOW!

It has also taught me that I can be away from social media but it’s going to take a lot of willpower. Why you ask? Well, here it is. It has finally occurred to me what Facebook or Instagram is like. It is like one of these:

  1.  A bad car accident that you just have to look at even though you know it’ll upset you (or fill you with envy).
  2. A place to get information on friends because nobody calls (or emails) to let you know  anything anymore. Without FB, you often don’t know what is going on with anyone or anywhere — how many events will I miss if I don’t see anything on FB? Good question. Friend going out of town? Read about it on FB or Instagram .
  3. Friends like to drink. Apparently a lot.
  4. That Christmas letter you used to get once a year? Yeah, now it’s every day. Just as annoying but you get to be annoyed by how perfect their lives seem to be every – single – day.

I have tried to cut down on FB (I don’t use Instagram much). I have almost totally stopped posting anything very personal. I’m not posting pictures of my food (unless I’m doing a restaurant review), selfies, pictures of where I am, and other pictures that say “hey! look at me!!

I mostly enjoy those pictures and posts that are of flowers, sunsets, puppies, kitties, other cute critters, books and music.

Considering that all I seem to post lately are political posts and about reading, or puppies, kitties and other cute critters, I don’t really know why I even bother.

Hmmm. That’s a thought.

Why Should I (exercise & eat right)?

Ever since my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve been asking myself, why I bother to eat right and exercise. Dad did yoga and walked and lifted some weights for years. Dad ate very sensibly all of his life, even trying vegetarianism for a while. He stopped smoking when he was around 40 years old.

Cancer still bit him in the ass. In the 15 months from his diagnosis to his death, that suckie cancer drained all the vitality from that man. I admit I’m resentful. So much for good health practices (not to mention my grandmother’s good genetics which didn’t help either).

I saw this cartoon by  Roz Chast on The New Yorker Magazine FB feed and was reminded, yeah, don’t be crazy with either diet or exercise because they are not a free pass.

ate kale for nothing

Mind, I don’t eat dairy or grains or much sugar or nightshades. Why do I bother? Because I get sick when I eat those things and I’m very much alive and really dislike the stomach bloat and upset as well as the general feeling of malaise that sometimes occurs when I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t (whether deliberate or cross-contaminated).

But I am not going to make myself insane counting calories or macros or shoving an extra serving of greens into my gullet at 10 p.m. because I’m one serving short that day. I think those days are over.

I also think those days of trying to push more and more weights and making myself puke from exercise are over as well. In fact, I just read about a study about yoga , which piggy backed on a study about tai chi, both of which found that yoga and tai chi were very effective forms of exercise — without weight lifting and heavy cardio. Thank God! I’m so tired of the aches and pains that I now have in my body from all that joint and muscle pressure I put on myself for the last number of years and I just want things that help me feel better. I’m done counting steps and if anyone locally wants my Fitbit, I might just sell it to you for a deep discount (hardly worn).

I want to maintain my balance and flexibility, and be able to breath. Those are much more important goals than anything else.

Because what I’ve learned over the last 18 months is that truly, we make plans and God laughs. We have no guarantees in this world. I think it’s more important to be happy. That seems to me to be a much better goal than counting steps and macros.

Sol 365

About a year ago I read The Martian by Andy Weir which I really enjoyed a great deal. Last night I watched The Martian with Matt Damon which I liked as well. The book was better.

But that’s not what this is about.

What this is about is that a year ago I was reading this book while traveling back and forth to Texas. At that time, my dad was valiantly fighting stage 4 non small-cell lung cancer and 365 days later he’s gone.

I cannot begin to express what it feels like to not be able to call my dad everyday just to chat the way we used to. For the last months of his life he was living with me. Admittedly, there were days we drove each other nuts. But most days we sat and talked much in the same way that we talked on the phone except we were able to do it face to face. We literally would talk for hours. Those times with him have been some of the best of my life.

The house is very quiet in comparison to when he was living here. Before he moved in I lived by myself for about a dozen years. I wasn’t used to music blasting at all hours and the TV sound set at 40. I wasn’t used to hearing someone yell from another room “Suzan, come here please”. I wasn’t used to anything remotely dealing with another human since the cats frankly are not affected by my idiosyncrasies.  Yet now, in the span of just four months I am having difficulty adjusting to living by myself again. Compare that to the character in The Martian, Mark Watney, who was living on Mars alone, with no one to talk to,  for over a year. Compared to that, this loneliness is a cake walk.

Yet this is also very different and I am having difficulty processing it. It is really quite surreal. There are days I don’t believe it’s real. Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that my dad is dead. But there are days that I think that this is all a dream that I will wake up from.

Friends of mine who have also lost their parents have told me of similar feelings so I know I’m not alone in this. Each of these friends has told me that he or she has been dealing with feelings like this for years. In fact, my dad told me a few months ago how much he missed his father and my grandfather has been gone for over 40 years. That’s a long, long time missing someone. It tore at my heart to know that my 83 year old dad missed his dad.

I’m reminded of something said in The Martian in which Mark Watney said that you just keep working the problems one after the other, and if you work all the problems you get to go home (from space). I’m similarly taking this as one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.In other  words, I keep working the problems; I keep living life one day at a time.

I know for a fact that’s what my dad would want me to do and so I do what I must. But I would be lying if I said that it was easy. I just hope that I will arrive someday in the future, sol 1000 or sol 2000, and find that the day went without that horrible feeling of knowing that I can never speak with my dad again.wp-image-1901019737jpg.jpg

Go Fund Me and Please Send $$

dollar-499481_1280Anyone that knows me knows I donate my time and money on a regular basis. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I honestly do not get the constant barrage of people asking for donations for money online and off.

Help fund my brother’s surgery. Help pay for my father’s funeral. Help pay for my dog’s hip replacement.

Today I got a letter from someone I don’t know, but likely knew I donated to a particular local charity, asking for a donation for softball scholarships so girls could go to a softball tournament. Dear person, the letter went in the trash. If you want me to donate money to you perhaps you should ask me personally and not send me an unsolicited letter. Years ago, someone I barely know asked me to give them $100 for a trip her daughter was taking. I was flabbergasted. If she had asked for $10 I likely would have helped but it seemed like a lot of chutzpah for someone I really don’t know to ask for such a sum.

Why you ask? I get asked for donations at home and at the office on an almost daily basis. I can’t donate to everyone no matter how much asking or pleading happens.  Frankly, if I gave to everyone that asked, I’d need a Go Fund Me account myself. If the Red Cross asks for donations because of a disaster, well of course! Otherwise I make my donation decisions in December for the following year and with few exceptions, I stick to it.

Am I being too harsh? How do you determine to whom you give your donations?

Good Advice from 484 Years Ago

Sometimes I read blogs of other people. Some of those people are famous. Some are not. I almost always come away with something that yields an “a-ha moment” for me.

Every Friday I read Tim Ferris’s “5-Bullet Friday” and often find food for thought there. (For more on Tim Ferris, see http://fourhourworkweek.com/about/).

This week, Tim (I hope he doesn’t mind that I am calling him “Tim” and not “Mr. Ferris”) quoted Niccolò Machiavelli and I had my “A-HA” instantaneously. For those that don’t know who Niccolò Machiavelli was, he wrote a book studied the world over since 1532 called “The Prince”. (On a side note, Machiavelli never knew his popularity. He died 5 years prior to the book’s formal printing. I highly recommend this little gem of a book.)

While written as a political discourse, the quote from this book, I believe, most definitely applies to all people.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

How does this apply to all of us? Well, for me, I know that stepping out in the world is hard. Fear is easy to give into. But calculating the risk and moving forward in a prudent and judicious manner, now that’s strength, especially because you are not giving in to the fear, but using it.

You never have any guarantees. A quote I have been known to make often is “You make plans and God laughs”. We never know how things are going to turn out. Plans go sideways. We ask for things and we never know if the answer is going to be “no”. But let’s face it, if you don’t ask, the answer is always “no”. Why suffer with a definite “no” when you may very well get a “yes”? Isn’t a “maybe” better than the “no, hell no” you’re going to get if you act from sloth and do nothing?

The goal is to participate all in. I think luck is in the doing. You get lucky because you participate. If you participate with calculation of the risk and acting decisively, you increase your chances of being lucky. So isn’t it better to move forward with deliberation as Machiavelli says, than to sit back and wait for the world to happen to us? Because one thing I know for sure. The world will happen whether we participate or not. I’d rather drive the bus than be a passenger any day of the week. You?

Fiscal Fitness

At the March Valley Business Women’s luncheon, I heard Elsie Rose speak about the penalty for being born a woman. I did not take offense to her topic or her premise as I have preached that sermon many times myself. As a member of the American Association of University Women I was made amply aware of the statistics that Ms. Rose used as part of her presentation, and in fact, she used AAUW statistics in her presentation. The presumed penalty for being born a woman comes to $849,000 in simple math terms. To see a slide of this, see http://www.dailyfinance.com/photos/the-849-000-penalty-for-being-born-female/. Type “penalty for being born a woman” into Google and you’ll see many entries. This is not just an American issue. One of the articles you would read if you did a Google search is for Australia. Another is for The Netherlands. One website called being born a woman a “major financial mistake” as if this was a choice for most of us.

piggy bank

I “came up” when women were only 25% of the graduating class of my law school and it was difficult to get a job because I didn’t have a Y chromosome in a very competitive job market in the midst of the mid-1980s Texas oil bust (where I was living at the time).

I remember when a woman still needed her husband’s signature to get credit and when the wife was not even added to the utility bills. Female clients whose husbands died found they were not credit worthy simply because they had been married and none of the marital credit worthiness was attributed to the wives, only to the husbands. Imagine having to pay a deposit to the electric company when you had paid the family’s electric bill for the last 50 years! When I was getting divorced and was establishing my own auto insurance policy, I needed my soon to be ex’s permission to acquire certain auto insurance benefits with a well-known insurance company (that shall remain nameless) because we were still married and he had a policy with those same benefits. He had to agree to let me have those benefits too. I was lucky he agreed. I imagine not all exes are as amenable. By the way, that was only a dozen years ago.

Honestly, I have such fatigue realizing that the same fight I was arguing about in 1986, the year I graduated law school, is the same fight I’m arguing about today.

Authors and news people, Katy Kay and Claire Shipman claim that the key to fiscal fitness among women is being confident and asking for the job you want at the salary you want (The Confidence Code, Harper Business, 2014). I don’t know that it is that simple. If you are a Katy Kay (of the BBC) then maybe you can command enough clout to walk into a boss’s office and demand what you want (job, hours, salary). I am not so sure that a woman working at Handy Mart for minimum wage can do the same. I doubt that a teacher can do the same. I know that I wasn’t given that opportunity either. I still hear about this from other women I talk to as well. Frankly, I think that if we weren’t still hearing about it, we’d know that either we had succeeded at being in charge of our fiscal fitness and closing that $849,000 lifetime gap, or had totally given up.

I don’t see us giving up, at least in my lifetime. So what I really want to know from the Valley Business Women readers being directed to this blog entry, as well as any woman (or man) that reads my blog, is what do you think we have to do to close this almost $1 million gap? Are there skills we, as women, need beyond our education, our innate intelligence, and our willingness to work really hard? Or is it something else?

© Suzan D. Herskowitz