The Blog

How much time do you spend contemplating the meaning of life?

I can save you some!

Baby seals. That’s what Darrell told me it sounded like when baby Katie and I “talked.” He was enchanted.

baby Katie for the blogShe’d make those little noises babies do. I’d respond with roughly the same noises, a little softer or louder, depending -- and delivered with such gusto it was as if I not only understood what she was saying but found it the most fascinating thing I’d heard in my life.

Can you guess what happened next? Correct! She’d start in again, but with more confidence. I’d butt in, back off, whatever you’d do if you were actually speaking the same language.

We were engaged. We’d get louder and louder until we collapsed in so many giggles the heavens are still smiling at the thought.

Many years later I read how important this kind of thing is to the development of a baby’s brain.

Important, and instinctive. Right? Baby or no, meet a person where he is -- and proceed with exuberance.

Magic.

piano keysIf you noticed your child chuckling when she makes a mistake during piano practice, what would you think? One dad took it as evidence his daughter had a light, playful attitude.

That’s not the reaction I’d have to her reaction. I’d think my daughter was like me, embarrassed by the mistake and determined to laugh at it before others did.

There’s one way to find out, of course. Ask! Maybe this dad knows his daughter so well he didn’t need to. Good for them. Me? I wouldn’t be able to resist asking Katie if those ivories she was tickling were tickling her right back.

When I ask you a question I’m trying to learn something. I’m not trying to put you on the spot or trap you or scold you.

My friend Jane Brody thinks I’m unusual that way. People don’t generally ask questions because they want to learn something, she says. Their minds are made up and they’re only pretending to engage.

How depressing. And good to know!

It explains my dismay over the years when, after taking great pains to answer a question, it’s as if the exchange never happened. I should’ve been coloring.

No wonder so many of us feel like we have zero -- zero! -- people we could confide in if something bad happened. We’re not listening to each other. We’re posing.

If you’ve been in the company of people who ask you questions because they want the answers and might change their minds after hearing what you have to say, you know how intoxicating it is.

Can’t find the perfect gift for that special someone? I’m not buying it. The perfect gift is attention, and you’ll never have shopper’s remorse.

“Questions, in general, put people on the spot. They’re aggressive.”

Really?

Yep.

That’s according to Jane Brody, who’s joined me on the talk show as co-host. I’ve been friends with Jane for a long time. The chance to learn from her, and to share what I’m learning with you, was irresistible.

Jane teaches acting, which is -- as she says -- examining human behavior and what incites conflict. “So many conflicts begin with questions,” she points out. “Much better to offer an observation instead. It lets people decide whether to engage.”

When I interview people I’m as likely to share an observation as ask a question, more for the conversational variety than anything. Don’t you love it when you accidentally do the right thing?

Have fun, and learn a lot. You didn’t ask, but that’s my advice. It’s second only to the advice I once heard from Scott Adams: “Be useful.” Isn’t that a beauty?

Having fun and learning a lot as you’re being useful is an express ticket to a meaningful life.

I learned how to be a mom in a career planning workshop, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Dick Bolles told us, “If you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right.”

We had a lot of fun with Katie -- still do! -- and we learned a lot from her. Still are.

What would that be like, to grow up secure in the knowledge you’re a fountain of entertainment and inspiration?

If you know Katie, you know.

sailboatIt’s big news in our small town, when the lake is going to freeze. So much anticipation! So many bets. So much endless conversation. It’s just water, for crying out loud. When it gets cold enough, water freezes. So what?

Me? I’m back in September and October, the two months of the year I’m least likely to dread running. The weather’s perfect, and the scenery is otherworldy.

There’s just something about the way the sunlight hits the water. You can’t look at it directly without hurting your eyes, but it’s difficult to look away. Those liquid crystal fireworks make you wonder if you’ve seen anything more beautiful in your life.

Every season has its treasures. I hope you make time to take them in. Watching them on your screen doesn’t count! Nothing makes you feel like you can breathe again like a few gulps of the great outdoors.

I’m not a dog person. Not, not, not.

I doubt if that will ever change. If it does? This will have been the reason! Not the essay so much, lovely as it is, but the video at the bottom of the post. Have you ever seen such love?