Can I Help You?

Several years ago I decided to take a “coaching course” via a website called, affiliated with Harvard and I believe reputed to be the top training site in North America. And why did I do this you might ask? Well, mostly because after countless hours at my bar, pouring wine and sorting through problems (my own and other’s) I kept hearing the same phrase over and over again – “You should be a life coach.”

So why not, thought I? I’ve already been a waitress, a singer, an actor, a public relations professional, a radio DJ, an author, a playwright and a mom. Let’s see what this is all about.

The entire course was facilitated through a weekly conference call with an instructor (and my classmates), a small practice group and lots of reading and homework. It was a bit daunting for a few reasons. 1) There was a 30 year gap between my last schooling (university) and this and 2) I learned on our first day that I was in the company of doctors, nurses, dieticians, psychologists, fitness professionals and one yogi. When my turn came to announce my profession it took all the guts I could muster to say “radio DJ and jazz singer”. Yeah, there was a bit of a stunned silence in the room.

What I learned very quickly though was that I was born to do this. It all made perfect sense to me. It was a lot of logic and even though I am blonde I will say with the utmost confidence I have a very logical brain. I loved every minute – the reading, the studying, the classes. Even the live participation. We were probably about 8 classes in when that day’s instructor (we had a different one almost every week) informed us it was the “day of reckoning!” The day that one of us virgins was going to actually have to coach someone live … and then get adjudicated by our peers. He then said that this was the toughest class of the course and, even though he would ask for a volunteer, he knew he wouldn’t get one and would ultimately be forced to randomly choose a victim.

Nope. Before anyone else could prove him wrong I raised my hand. I mean, I did it vocally since we were on the phone after all. I blurted out with all my radio-voice bravado – “I’ll do it!”

Again, stunned silence. And then from the good professor – “Wow. In all my years teaching I have never had someone volunteer period, much less so quickly.”

Take that all you doctors!

He assigned the role of my client randomly, gave her a problem which I would coach her though and then also assigned one of my other classmates to be my adjudicator. When the mock session was complete she would be called upon to assess my skills based on certain predetermined criteria before he would throw me to the lions.

Off we went. I was scared shitless but also exhilarated. The mock session finished. More silence. And then our instructor asked the adjudicator to weigh in. She began with “Before I say anything …”

Fuck. I thought that was it. I reckoned she was going to suggest I keep my day job. Keep on singing. Leaving coaching to the grownups. But what she did say was this – “Vickie is an absolute natural. I don’t know how else to say it but it’s like she’s been doing this for years.”

Well the truth is I had. Been doing it for years. Just in my kitchen with wine.

So today this all got me to thinking about coaching and if you could break it down into an easily understandable model, one that could be explained in a sentence or two, what would that look like. And then I remembered that time in Los Angeles when my son was finishing his course at The Musician’s Institute and he was having a tough time wrapping his head around what he needed to accomplish. His final few months in Tinseltown had been a challenge (he was only 18) and the poor boy was spinning. And that’s when it hit me.

We spin because we engage in circular thinking. We are so overwhelmed with so many thoughts or tasks or problems or goals that we allow them to overtake our brains and rotate willy-nilly like a whirlpool, eventually sucking us into a vortex from which there is no escape. At least that’s what we think. We think we are doomed because we feel doomed. And we feel doomed because we cannot abandon that circular thinking. We cannot move our doomed asses into …

Linear thinking. Going in a straight line. Handling one thought/crisis/task at a time and when that one is covered and only then, moving on to the next.

And so that is exactly what I did with my son. I asked him what the next thing was that had to be completed. Was it a project? Was it a test? And then I asked him not to think about anything else except that one thing. No listening to music, no looking in the mirror worrying about his complexion, no wondering about the rest of his life or the rest of this course or if he would even pass. Just finish the one immediate task. Then we’ll think about the next one.

So why I am telling you all of this?

I think because we all get sucked into that vortex on occasion, some more often than others. And if we remember this one trick, this one concept, those two words (circular and linear) then maybe when we feel that dastardly pull we can say NOOOOOOOOOO … I am not going down! I am going to concentrate on one thing and only one thing and I am not going to think about anything else until I get this one thing sorted and then and only then will I … move on the Thing #2.

My son did pass his course. So did I and not only did I finish that wellcoaches course I actually went on to coach one of my fellow coaches (from my study group) because she asked. And I was honoured. She wanted to self-publish a book and wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Neither was I but I figured I could help her sort it out. Can you imagined how delighted I was when she thanked me, in her book? Yes she got there and I was thrilled to be a part of her journey.

I am a total believer in getting help when you need it, whether at a kitchen counter or from a trained professional. But I am also a total believer in regulating your own thoughts which will in turn regulate your own actions which in turn will get you moving forward which in turn will save you from the vortex.

Onwards Linear Thinkers! You can do this!

And if you need help I am here … and by the way I am free.

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What I Have In Common With Sharon Stone …

March is my birthday month and as such a time for contemplation. Also a time for wine-drinking and merry-making (I am so not one of those people who says “don’t make a fuss … please fuss away!”) and I try to keep my ruminating to the grateful, optimistic type. But once we enter what will no doubt be the final third of our lives it is difficult to not take a little stock or wonder (when we look in the mirror) how the hell did this happen?

So in the midst of today’s thought-fest I came upon an article in Vanity Fair about Sharon Stone’s new movie “All I Wish” (which I believe comes out, oddly enough, at the end of this month which is exactly when my birthday will transpire). When first given the script, the soon to be 60 year old Stone was offered the part of “the mother”. But she had other ideas. She lobbied for the part of the 25 year old daughter. Not playing her as a 25 year old, mind you, but giving the story an entirely different slant with a much older daughter and a much older mother (Ellen Burstyn).

And there is a photo of Ms. Stone in a bikini top and long blonde pigtail and another of her in cutoff jeans on a beach and in my opinion, because she looks absolutely fucking fabulous, I immediately think – I want to be Sharon Stone when I grow up.

It hits me a moment later that I am grown up (and then some) and I am Sharon Stone. I mean I’m not a movie star nor do I have her movie star looks but I am sitting here writing this blog in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. My uniform. And I mean my uniform all year long. Even today when the snow has been flying, the winds howling and the temperatures maddeningly below zero I am sitting here in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, drinking wine and writing this blog. Our house is by no means hot (68) and neither am I (though I do tend to run somewhat warmish these days). These are just my happy clothes. And damnit it if I can’t live in my happy clothes at this stage of my life, when can I?

I do realize that many would say my attire is not “age appropriate”. God, how I despise that term. And who the hell got to make those rules anyway?

But it’s not the clothing, this I realize. It’s all about the attitude. And I have chosen to remain young at heart (everybody sing now!). And believe me, this is a choice that has to be worked on every single damn day. Much like we may colour our hair or get Botox or go to the gym or wear makeup to make ourselves look younger, we also must spend time on our attitude every single day to remain youthful. I try to keep up with technology, I cultivate friendships with younger people, I nurture a relationship with my 25 year old son which is open and non-judgmental and I just fucking refuse to “be” old.

Trust me, this is not an easy task. When I look in the mirror and see all those lines around my mouth, when I realize I just may be developing jowls, when the crow’s feet around my eyes can no longer be hidden with concealer and those damn brown spots just keep appearing like they were invited or something … well, it is disheartening to say the least. Don’t even get me started on chin hairs.

But then I look back and remember that for me life did not exactly unfold in what I might call a “usual” fashion. I actually hit the peak of my “physical” beauty in my late 40s. I went on the trauma diet, lost tons of weight, still didn’t have many wrinkles, figured out how to dress and it all came together for about 5 years of “Holy shit, look at me!” Believe me, I was more amazed than most.

Reality, however, never goes on permanent vacation. I come from good German/Russian Mennonite stock and we are genetically predisposed to, you know, girth. Add to that the fact that I love to cook and drink wine and well, bye-bye size 8.

I am okay with this. I am okay with this because I am currently madly in love with my own skin. Not it’s physical attributes, not the wrinkles and spots and saggy bits and extra bits. I am just madly in love with who I have become.

Now please don’t think I’m getting all vainglorious here. I say this from a place of torturous, struggling, hard-won acceptance. A place where I no longer have even a moment’s time for those who may choose to criticize me. A place where who I am far outweighs how I look. A place where my wide open eyes and wide open heart contribute far more to my “beauty” than a diet and plastic surgery could ever tender.

Of course I still get highlights in my hair and wear makeup when the occasion calls. And last year when I was undergoing some skin cancer treatment on my face I also had my dermatologist blast off as many brown spots as he could locate (well worth the price). I also wear a bikini when I feel like it, buy groceries in just lip gloss (well, and clothing, of course) and pretty much live in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. Don’t worry … if I don’t know you that well and you’re coming over to drink wine I’ll probably also put on a bra.

I truly believe it is this magnificent comfort-in-our-own skin that keeps us youthful. It also helps to have relatively good health, keep somewhat fit and enjoy genetic blessings (my mother died at 93 with still quite lovely skin). But the key word I think is curiosity. And the other key word is acceptance.

Curiosity is what keeps us in the game. It keeps us current and contemporary and vibrant and relevant. There is a reason I am friends with many of my son’s friends. A reason they actually come to visit me. A reason I am not just the old mom. The funny thing is I had him fairly late in life so I really am the old mom. But I don’t think they see it that way.

Acceptance is perhaps harder. I have friends who now dress only in baggy clothing or cover up with cardigans or shop at old-lady stores (never!) because they are now so uncomfortable in their skin they feel the need to hide it.

Not this girl. If I need to spanx it up I will. And if can’t, or don’t feel like it, I won’t. If those cool ripped jeans show off my muffin-top, oh well. If the low cut dress highlights my sun-spotted chest so be it (it also highlights my boobs!). And if I can head to the beach wearing whatever I choose and not worry even for an instant what anybody is thinking then praise Jesus! Because the fact of the matter is most people aren’t thinking about me at all. They are too worried about how they look in a bathing suit to worry one iota about me.

So bring it on Birthday! I am always so very thankful for another year on this plant. Doing it my way … in cut-off jeans. I think this year I may just celebrate at the cinema, with my new best friend Sharon Stone.

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The Question Is – What Is The Sexiest Part Of A Man?

I was asked today what I thought was the sexiest part of a man.


Now let’s see. I remember when I first started on-line dating in my 40s. I remember the first profile I ever wrote. I do fancy myself a bit of a writer so I knew the standard “I am this, that and the other thing” and I want you to be “that, this and the other thing” would never work. I wanted to be honest yet creative. Alas, that was several computers ago and I don’t have it anymore but I do remember the first line – The sexiest part of a man is his brain. Followed closely by his forearms.

Okay, so call me weird but yeah, I have a thing for forearms. Sleeves rolled up. Sinewy, muscled flesh suggesting strength and masculinity without being too obvious. Damn. Excuse me for a moment. I’m getting a little hot and bothered just thinking about it.

Okay. I’m back.

But what about the brain thing? Yes, I like a smart man and by that I mean a man who utilizes his intelligence wisely (hey, I made a funny) for any number of different things. Rocket science, Scrabble, painting the kitchen or playing guitar. I like a man who can tackle almost any challenge with a certain confidence, knowing that even if he doesn’t flourish he will give it a damn good go.

But I don’t think Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang) is sexy. Quite frankly none of those guys is sexy although I will say that Johnny Galecki looks pretty hot when he’s not portraying Leonard. So obviously I misspoke on that profile because if the sexiest part of a man is his brain wouldn’t I find Sheldon sexy? I guess that goes to my second statement that the guy also has to utilize his intelligence wisely. And diversely. Yes, that’s it. I’m not looking for a savant. I’m looking for a well-rounded smarty pants.

But what about physique? I don’t know many women who will argue with a fireman-calendar physique but I can state from personal experience it will never be enough. During my dating career I met a lot of flabby, jiggly, aging-before-their-time dudes who were my age or even younger. So I hooked up with a bi-athlete who was a year older than I and had a rockin’ body. That rockin’ body bought him exactly 6 months of my attention until I could stand no more. He had the IQ of a donut.

So is it success? Wealth? Status? Are those the big turn-ons? I once read that is It as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one. How I would love to subscribe to and then live that concept. Alas, I cannot. When I left my husband I walked away from all of that and then some. It just wasn’t enough to keep me there.

Maybe it’s creativity? God knows I’ve loved me a few musicians in my time, an actor or 2 and even once a sculptor. So is that it? I crave the artistic type, the guys who live in the clouds and follow their muse no matter what the sacrifice? I’m going to say no only because I like having a roof over my head and food in the fridge. The “starving artist” term was coined for a reason.

I will also wager that emotional availability is paramount. And sadly there are a lot of men who do not excel in this department. But hey, I have girlfriends who are ridiculously available and as much as sometimes I wish they turned me on, they don’t. Love ’em. Don’t want to do ’em.

But today I figured it out. The sexiest part of a man came to me in a transcendent flash of illumination. Well, it was either that or my second glass of wine.

The sexiest part of a man is his sense of humour. I want to laugh – preferably out loud – at least once a day. I want to smile even more often. I want to be surprised and overtaken by laughs and smiles all the livelong day. I want to roll on the floor in fits of hysterics, cry with hilarity until I pee my pants and I want to giggle and chortle, chuckle and guffaw until every hilarious cow comes home.

That, to me, is sexy.

I will wager that a combination of all of the above is optimal. Intelligent, fit, creative and let’s not forget those forearms … yes, that is a sexy man. But that ability to make me laugh (and I don’t mean groaner jokes and borrowed one-liners), that ability to use his intellect to make me laugh … well … damn.

Sorry. You’re going to have to excuse me again.

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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Busiest Of Them All?

Many years ago, near the start of my broadcasting career, I was offered a big-time morning show gig in Toronto. So was my on-air partner. He turned it down fairly quickly and I think our boss thought I would just as quickly follow suit because, as the lowly chick sidekick, Big Toronto Station wouldn’t want my solo ass without the Big Manly Kahuna. We were a team and a darn good one. Boss-man assumed we’d both stay. Of course he threw a bunch of (bribe) money at my colleague and not a single penny at me. His reasoning was – and I quote – “Sorry Vickie, there just is no more money.” And I naively believed the budget was tapped.

But crazy as it may be this Toronto station was still throwing all kinds of money and perks and fabulous things my way. And I was really tempted. So my morning partner (who did not want to lose me) said “Vic, now you listen to me. There is no such thing as “no more money. There is only ‘no more money for you‘. So you get back in that office and tell him what you need. Because once he realizes you’re serious about leaving guess what? There will be more something … for you.”

Turns out the something was an extra two weeks vacation per year and a car. A fancy, brand spanking new, super sexy top-of-the-line car. My belief was that, being radio, my boss had pulled a contra deal with the dealership. That the extra holiday time and bartered car were things he could give me even with no more money at his disposal. I was wrong. I found out later that the station was actually paying the almost $500/month lease! So as you can see, there was more money. Even for me.

Which brings me to friendship, socializing and accountability. Because when you want to spend time with someone and they tell you that they are “too busy” what they really mean is they are too busy for you. They are not too busy to do all of those other things that are causing that busy-ness. Much like the money that was actually there for me, the time could also be there for me. So when they say “Sorry I’m too busy” what they really mean is “I am just too busy for you.”

I wrote a blog a few years back called The Friendship Totem Pole and this speaks to the same principal. We all stack our priorities. And even though those priorities can shift position daily we stack them according to our choices. That’s not to say that the single mom working three jobs and ferrying her kids to ballet class and soccer practice has much choice. And don’t yell at me okay … that is just an example. We all have commitments and responsibilities. But then, most of us also have the luxury of choice. We can decide where, and with whom, to spend our leisure time. We can choose our friends and our drinking buddies and our hobby pals and our dinner party guests.

So here’s the thing – if you keep choosing someone and they are too busy to choose you, maybe it is time for you to make some new choices? What is that expression? Don’t make someone a priority when they are only making you an option.

I am a huge believer that it is better to suffer with the knowing than suffer with the wondering (and yes, that is a Vickie quote). And I’ll tell you what, it is hard to swallow that there really is no time/money/whatever for me. I’ve made a career out of being available, giving, caring for, cooking for, celebrating and facilitating. So when I finally have to accept that someone is too busy for me, yeah, it kinda stings.

Don’t worry. I’ll get over it. And SO WILL YOU.

When someone is too busy for you, let them go. Let them go be busy and you go get busy with with folks who are not too busy to fit you in. That is your tribe. Those are your people. Whatever you thought you might share with those busy bodies is an illusion. Or a desire. Whether based on history or fantasy if it’s not happening because they are too busy, let them go.

If they ever decide to get un-busy, you can still be there with open arms.

Or not.

Like I said, busy-ness is all about choice. Now go make yours.

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I Have A Feeling A Lot Of You Will Argue This With Me But …

On this eve of Valentine I would like to talk about love. I know I have spoken of love before in this blog. When does it end? Is there only one love of your life. When is love really not love? Love languages. I even wrote a piece called “I Hate Valentine’s Day.” So what else is there left to say about love?

Only this.

Love is not a tap.

True, to the depths of your soul, intelligent, selfless love is not a tap. You cannot simply turn it on and off randomly, depending on your mood. Or circumstance. Real love exists in a state unto itself and it is merely your responsibility to protect it. And express it. And if you one day decide to no longer protect and express then I offer that it was never real love to begin with. Because real love is not a tap. Or if it is, it is a tap that flows freely without restraint or conditions. And if you can turn it off and shut that valve down completely maybe it never really was love? Maybe it was lust or ownership or a simple fly-by. But I don’t think it was love.

Now I reckon at this point a bunch of you are yelling “Hey, wait a minute! I disagree! Because I have every right to despise that shit-head that I married even though I did love him once. After all the crappy things he has done, there’s no way I can love him anymore!”

Again, I’m not so sure. Because as I’ve mentioned before (thanks to Glennon Doyle) – True love is like water. It never disappears. It just changes shape. So if you truly did love that shit-head you would find a way to continue that love ad infinitum. And if you can’t, you might want to dig deep and discern if you did really love or if there were other factors at play that tricked you into believing you were in love. We are all so very capable of confusing love with emotions and desires that actually have very little to do with love.

I personally still love my ex-husband to the moon and back. I could not remain in a romantic partnership with him and I am no longer “in love” with him but my pure love for him is undiminished. As a matter of fact, when I look back over the years, I can honestly say that those I loved, I still love. The shape has changed but the love remains. Those liaisons that I thought were love and were not? Like the guy who threw me down a flight of stairs or the guy who screwed around on me (and every other woman he was ever with) more times than anyone can count? I thought I loved them but in hindsight I most assuredly did not. I needed something from them. Whether it was affirmation or a challenge or simply boyfriend-hood, I was blinded by need. But that is not love. That is when we start to confuse love with desire. And desperation. Ownership. My way or the highway. But real love isn’t any of those things. It is more a deep caring that subscribes to no Hallmark definition. It is wanting your beloved to feel whole and at peace. In harmony with the Universe. Even if that means not in your bed.

So what about marriages that end in volatility? Even when children are involved? Again I offer that it is the grownups’ responsibility to redefine their love. Even when one party seemingly deserves the shit-head crown more than the other. Why? Because those children will always want to believe that it was real love that brought them into this world. And even if that love has now changed shape, it still exists. Even when no kids are involved and even if your heart was broken to bits, it is possible to move forward with love. And gratitude. It’s not easy and it may not magically happen overnight. But it is possible. I know this because I have lived it. And even with a bruised and horribly beaten heart I still chose love. And that’s the beauty. You have a choice.

And what about non-romantic love? Have you ever had a friend who professed love for you at every turn and then one day just decided to shut off that tap? I have, and I admit it hurts like hell. Because romantic or platonic, for me love is love and I can’t turn it off. If it was ever there in the first place it will always be there in the future, no matter how dried up someone else’s tap becomes. It’s not about heart emoticons and blown kisses and “love yous” galore. It’s about patience and trust and understanding and belief. Yes. Believing that real love is worth the fight, the discomfort and the pain. It is worth the effort and the dialogue and even the occasional period of silence. It does not shut down because your feelings got hurt or you had an argument or you lost touch. It cannot disappear – ever – because it is like water. It can only change shape.

I have a friend who refuses to toss out casual “I love yous” to other friends. She reserves her “love” for her partner, as is her right. I used to kid her about this and say “I love you” to her all the time. But now, in hindsight, I think she may have been on to something. We all throw “Love yous” around like confetti at a wedding and perhaps that has made it easier for us to relinquish it fully when it no longer suits our needs. We can always buy more confetti, right?

Tomorrow many of us will in some way celebrate love. For all the love currently in my life I am grateful. For all the love I have known in my like I am grateful. And for all the love that has been unceremoniously removed from my life … I am also grateful. And if those unceremonious removers ever decide that my love is real, that their love is real and that a new shape is better than no shape, well I will still be here.

Because if love is a tap, mine is always on. And always will be.

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How Do You Define Success? And Has It Changed Over The Years?

When I was a kid, success meant scoring an extra hour before bedtime. Or a Pepsi on the weekend. In my teens, success meant a later curfew or not getting grounded when I broke said curfew (who me?). And in my 20s, when I finally realized that adulthood could no longer be avoided, success looked more like becoming a Broadway star, or writing a hit song, or signing with a major record label or even becoming a morning co-host at a hot radio station. These were my beacons, the shining lights that propelled me across the country more than once, into Nashville studios I couldn’t afford and ultimately to co-hosting the morning show at a hot radio station.

Once that happened (in my early 30s) success was defined in a more material currency. A custom-built house in the country. A zippy new car. Yearly trips to Europe to visit family and a sunshiny vacation every year. Some gold and some diamonds and money in the bank. Damn, we were a happening couple, my hubby and I.

When I divorced in my 40s I walked away from much of that and suddenly I was forced to redefine success. The custom-built house in the country became a townhouse in the city. The car was used and not exactly zippy, the vacations were fewer and farther between and the money in the bank considerably less. I even sold the gold and the diamonds.

So now, as I approach my dotage (with gratitude), I am once again assigning new criteria to the word success. Ready?

To me success now means “the opportunity to be sick.”

This past week I’ve had a cold. Not the flu and nothing too horrendous. Just a stuffy, snotty nose which led to a heavy chest, some coughing, a voice lower than most men and a whole lot of lethargy. And for me, the fact that I was able to endure this cold while nurturing myself with long naps, afternoons in bed reading and early nights going nowhere reminded me – resoundingly – how successful I am. I didn’t have to rush out to a job for fear the rent wouldn’t get paid if I didn’t. I didn’t have to wheeze and sneeze all over customers because my boss insisted I come in if I wasn’t dying. I didn’t have to take care of other human beings just because they are small and in need of care. I didn’t have to do anything except “work” on getting healthy again.

I’m very lucky, this I know. I do my job from home so can get it done in my pajamas if need be. My child is grown and on his own (but knows I am always available on the phone) so I am no longer daily at his beck and call. And now that my mother is gone, those frequent trips to her are no longer required. So I was sick and I got to stay home. For days. On end. Being sick. Trying to get better.

Oh the relief.

I also feel quite successful that I don’t have snow tires on my car. I do have all-season radials but it turns out when I bought my little used Kia it had been “souped up” by the previous (obviously fun) owner (hey, I too like going vroom vroom in my 8 year old car) and the cost of installing new rims and wheels and rubber and who knows what else – astronomical. I do not care. Because I never HAVE to go somewhere. So when it snows I stay home. Or I walk. Unless I’m sick. Then I stay home and crawl back into bed with a book.

Yep. I am a success.

And then there’s that trailer. I grew up with a cottage and always figured there would be a cottage in my future. But holy shit cottages are expensive. I mean, really fucking expensive. So guess what? I’m not getting one. What I do have is a trailer. A lovely trailer parked at my favourite place on this planet. In a trailer park. Surrounded by many other lovely trailer park people. Am I sad that it’s not a full-fledged cottage on it’s own leafy lot?


It is what it is where it is. And I am beyond thrilled.

Sure no one has published the book I wrote and I haven’t recorded all the albums I’d like to and I haven’t starred in one last Broadway musical and no one has actually paid me to interior design their home (yet). I don’t have a country house or a brand new car or gobs of money in the bank. But I am a success. Because when I’m sick or when it snows, I get to stay home. And you really can’t put a price-tag on that.

I’m not going to tell you to re-think your job or your life or your priorities. I am going to ask you to re-think your definition of success. Because it truly is the little things that count. And if you count yours, you may just discover that you are far more successful than you think.

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Are You A Surface-Dweller?

Last night we hosted a little social gathering. Nothing too out of the ordinary, just 3 couples eating, drinking, chatting and then a bit of music. If you follow my social media feeds you probably already know that I love to entertain. And I do. I love bringing people together, creating a delicious evening, cooking up a storm and bringing on the ambiance. I even curate playlists so that the (recorded) music is just right.

Here’s what I don’t do. Small talk. Cocktail conversations. Weather, politics, gossip, your work, my work, the price of tea in China.

Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating. Of course I do some small talk. Pretty much all social discourse begins with some small talk. But if we can’t get to a deeper place a few glasses in (or by dessert) I can tell you I am bored. On those rare nights when I can’t steer the dialogue to something deeper I must either sing a song, play the piano while you sing a song or go to bed.

The two couples involved in last night’s soiree were only vaguely acquainted so yes, we small-talked it up during dinner. But by the time the plates had been cleared and we had retired to the parlour we three women found ourselves at the piano, yes noodling on the keys and yes singing some songs but mostly just talking. About life, men, love, getting older, Botox, men and love. I found this conversation to be exhilarating.

Why? Because I simply cannot be a surface-dweller. I cannot just skim the outskirts of deep and meaningful interaction for fear of a) offending someone (yeah, never done that before) or b) putting my foot in my mouth (yes, there is room) or c) bringing up a taboo subject (no such thing) or d) shocking the party crowd with my candor (don’t care). At the end of the evening I truly need to feel that a connection has been made – with someone – about something that is real. Yes, even the hard stuff.

This past summer we attended a party where I was delighted to see an acquaintance I had not encountered for many years. In the interim I had learned this dear woman had lost her only child to a drug overdose. We sat together at the end of a table on the deck, commented on how wonderful it was to reconnect and how marvelous we both looked for our advanced age (yay small talk!) and then I said “Holy shit. Tell me. How are you dealing with this? I cannot even imagine.”

Well, because we do reside primarily in a land of surface-dwellers and that is what most people are used to, I wasn’t exactly sure how my forthright approach was going to fly. Would she hate me for bringing it up? Have relished a night off from her anguish? Preferred to discuss the beautiful gardens surrounding us?

No. She dove right in and off we went. We had an incredible conversation. We got deep, down, dirty and felt a thousand times better for it. I would like to believe she felt seen and understood. And I would also like to believe that she was grateful. I mean she said she was grateful. And I was grateful that she had felt safe enough to share her pain. Man, did we hug it out.

At that same party was my darling ex-husband. A lovely man raised in the land of surface-dwellers. We had a bit of catch-up chat and when he mentioned that his parents would be visiting in a few weeks I offered that it “wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world” for him (and his new wife) to invite me over for a glass of wine. After all I have stayed in cordial touch with his folks, visited them at their home across the pond, and my ex and his new partner have socialized with both me and my family more than once.

My answer was a nervous chuckle and then silence. And then I’m pretty sure a change of subject. Or maybe it was an “I’m off to get another beer” moment. I don’t remember. What I do remember is the blinding (re)realization that any type of meaningful dialogue (and really we’re talking tip of the iceberg here) was never going to happen with this man at a party. Nope.

A few years back, at a Christmas party in another town, I met a woman for the first time. Somehow, in a room full of people I did know, she and I ended up on the sofa by the fireplace talking about everything from divorce (she was freshly going through one) to amicable relationships with ex-husbands to our kids handling divorce to finding personal fulfillment and are we really entitled. It was a fine conversation and when it was over, man did we hug it out.

And then this past Christmas, at yet another party, and after I had made about as much small talk I could handle (and most of it with the bartender) I sat down with a woman who again I know only socially but who I also knew had just endured an unimaginable tragedy. And I really should say “was still enduring” because do unimaginable tragedies ever abate completely? I had just lost my mother – sad yes, tragic no – so we had some common ground to start with. But after mutual condolences were offered we too marched stoically into the muck. We just went there and talked it out. And when we were done, man did we hug it out.

My guess is this beautiful (and sad) woman had spent the entire evening of festive frivolity accepting sympathy (heartfelt, I’m sure) and maintaining her own stiff upper lip, as we are (weirdly) expected to do – especially at a Christmas party! When she could finally shed that veneer and just BE REAL, in all its not-so-socially-acceptable permutations, she was relieved. And I was again grateful. Not only for the new and stronger connection that she and I had forged but because I don’t do small talk. And a party is pointless to me if that is all that is on offer.

You may notice that in all these encounters (save last night’s, which was beautifully organic), I am the one who instigates discussion. You may also have noticed that all of these encounters – the “successful” ones – were with women. Yep, I know. Not lost on me either.

Apparently men are conditioned to be small-talk super heroes. Whether it’s sports or work or Scotch or the latest episode of Big Bang, most men have an uncanny ability to talk about nothing (my blog, my opinion) ad nauseum. My own beloved is quite capable of rehashing an entire movie plot in detail, dialogue included, while I listen to the clock tick tock tick tock into the next millennium. I do know men who embrace the non-surface-dwelling mentality and I am eternally grateful for them. Even more so grateful for the women who are not afraid to enter into these uncharted waters with me. Regularly. Sometimes even without wine.

My friend T tells me this: You are never boring, Vickie. Conversations with you are not always easy but they are always interesting.

And that is truly one of the best compliments I have ever received.

I know people who hum constantly. As in all the fucking time. Why? My guess is they don’t want to be alone with their own thoughts. Any noise is better than facing your inner sanctum so geez, hum up a storm!

I also know people who are ALWAYS busy. Work, sports, charitable endeavors, music and dance lessons, committees, projects and more work. Why? My guess is they don’t want to be alone with their own thoughts. Any activity is better than facing your inner sanctum so geez, busy up a storm!

I get it. If you make enough noise and stay busy enough, you’ll never have to face your own truth.

I choose to live in a land where deep is the norm and surface-dwelling is unacceptable. I choose to step out of my comfort zone at parties and talk about “that which shall not be said”. I choose to risk scorn, ridicule and a whole lot of eye-rolling to go to sleep content, knowing that I helped someone else share their burden and be seen. And heard. Also, knowing that I have shared my burden and have been seen and heard.

I urge you to try it. You never know … you just might like it. And even more so, who knows whose life you just might impact?

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