Posts Tagged ‘Random’

My First Haters

May 31, 2010

 

I’ve always been opinionated, and I’m not shy about expressing my opinions, whether in a real-life discussion or on my blog.  I suppose it was inevitable, therefore, that some of my posts would rub some people the wrong way.

That doesn’t bother me.  I’m all for spirited debate.  Except . . . I haven’t gotten any.

It seems some of the people who disliked my posts, in particular the one about men, or the one about celebrity divorce settlements, chose not to post comments on my blog.  They also chose not to debate me on Twitter or Facebook, where I usually post my newest blog posts.

What they did choose to do was make cowardly ad hominem attacks on Twitter.

I’ve gotten one or two “you’re divorced, right? figures” comments on this blog.  I haven’t thought much of them.  What exactly does it figure?  Figures that I, a divorced woman, would be interested in the subject of divorce? 

Or does it “figure” that I’m divorced because I’m a bitter, unlovable hag, as evidenced by my writing and my opinions?

Apparently I’m supposed to believe the latter.

Sorry, but no.  Anyone else who wants to believe that about me, believe away.  And feel free to believe, based on a few blog posts and tweets, that you know all you need to know about my marriage and my divorce.  As long as I write about divorce and custody issues, I guess it’s understandable that people would try to construct a story about my own divorce.  Until and unless I choose to publish my divorce story, good luck with that.

I’m just disappointed that the people in question chose to resort to personal attacks, instead of making rational counter-arguments to the positions with which they disagreed. 

In the end, though, I’m pleased that people are reading and reacting to what I write.  Thanks to everyone who visits my blog and read my posts.  Whether you agree or disagree, I appreciate your readership. 

I do not, however, tolerate personal attacks, on me or any of my commenters.  As long as you keep it respectful, debate away.

Advertisements

Zen and the Art of Blackberry Poker

April 8, 2009

 

A couple of years ago, I attended a poker night for professional women – an educational, networking and team-building event sponsored by a friend’s law firm.  The event was based on the theory that poker teaches essential business skills that can be difficult for women to master – such as reading the competition, being aggressive and learning how to take risk at the appropriate time.  We were given poker lessons by a leading professional woman poker player, received a stack of chips, and played rounds of poker for fun.

 

As an attorney, I consider myself to be a tough negotiator who is good at reading a competitive situation. That night, I bet small, folded often, and lost all my chips fairly early in the evening.  I had neither the stamina nor the interest to keep playing round after round until there was a final winner.  But I refused to believe this was due to some innate deficiency I had as a woman.  I chalked it up to an abundance of good wine and good sushi, and a complete lack of knowledge about poker.

 

Still, the idea that most women are not naturally aggressive, calculated risk-takers stuck with me.  So when I saw that my new Blackberry came with a Texas Hold ‘Em game, I was determined to test out the theory and prove it wrong.

 

The first few games were meaningless – I lost money while I familiarized myself once again with the basic rules of poker, learning the hard way that a flush beats a straight, a high straight beats a low one.  Once I got that down, it wasn’t too hard to figure out, at the margins, when to hold and when to fold. 

 

When to bet and how much to bet, was a bigger challenge.  Frequently, I would find myself with great cards, but the courage to bet only a small amount.  I was constantly afraid of losing all my money, although it wasn’t real money.  Sometimes, my ego would trap me into staying in the game, even when I knew I had no chance of winning.

 

Unconsciously, I found myself replaying patterns that played themselves out in my life as well.  Lacking the courage to take bigger risks, staying in a bad situation because I was already in it. . . . I played round after round, losing it all over and over again, with increased frustration because I just couldn’t seem to figure it out.

 

My daughter showed no interest in my new poker fascination, but my son took to it instantly.  He watched me play a couple of hands and then offered some advice.

 

“Mom, what you should do, is bet a lot of money sometimes, to scare them off.”

 

My son is 7.  He had never played poker before seeing my Blackberry game. But his instincts was dead-on.  I was amazed that he seemed to have an intuitive sense of the game, and knew what I needed to do to prevail.

 

The gender theories were being proven right in front of me.  My son had suggested that I bluff, make aggressive moves and take risks as strategies to succeed.  I hadn’t even attempted to bluff.  I strictly played the cards, and lost hand after hand, round after round.  My son got bored watching me and went back to playing his Nintendo DS games, where he could be much more of a risk-taker than his Mom was willing to be.

 

I learned that the poker instructor really had been right – the cards were not the end point; they were the starting point to figuring out what you needed to do.  The cards merely informed your decision.  Each time, you had to take a chance that either your cards would either beat everyone else’s cards, or your betting would intimidate people with better cards into making unwise choices, like folding instead of holding.  Sometimes, a perfectly rational decision resulted in a loss; other times, a riskier decision resulted in a huge win. The subtleties of when to stay in the game and when to get out were a lot tougher to master than the broad strokes of understanding that three of a kind beats two pairs.

 

Finally, I had a breakthrough.  I was in a battle, with $14,000 to my virtual opponent’s $2,500.  I had a hand that I knew should be a winner, but I nearly convinced myself to fold.  I worried that I would be down by a substantial amount if I lost — despite the fact that I would still enjoy a huge advantage over my virtual opponent.  And yes, I actually worried about this – to the point I had to shut down the game and walk away from it for a couple of hours.

  

I told myself I was being ridiculous.  I kept reminding myself it wasn’t real money.  It was a stupid Blackberry game.  In real life, I would be no poorer either way (except for the time lost spent playing Blackberry poker). 

 

I had to close my eyes to place the bet.  When I opened them, I discovered I had won.  The game told me I needed to go to a higher stakes table.  I felt as if I had actually won nearly $20,000.

 

I am hardly a poker master now, but I am now sitting on a bankroll of $32,000 virtual dollars.  I draw it down in $500 increments, and I use the game to practice bluffing and taking calculated risks.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I take none of it personally. 

 

I don’t think I would be able to stomach playing poker with real money – I would wind up thinking of each pot lost in terms of my kids’ college fund.  But learning not to be afraid to take calculated risks, and to keep on trying if I lose, are important real-life lessons.  If a silly Blackberry game can improve my ability to do both, it will have been well worth my time.

 

A version of this post was originally published on NYC Moms Blog.

Running – In the Moment

April 6, 2009

For the last several months, I have been trying to finish Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.  I have found the book enlightening on several levels; I have no idea why I can’t finish it.  Tolle’s explanation of ego is unparalleled.  His discussion of aligning with and living in the now resonates with me intellectually, but I have had a hard time putting it into practice in my own life. 

Years ago, I used to meditate.  It was a Taoist meditation based on circulating energy, or chi, throughout the body’s main meridians, or chakras.  I can’t meditate that way anymore.  I read Eat, Pray, Love, and tried to meditate on a word, on breath, on nothing, on everything.  That didn’t work, either.  I was starting to feel like I’d never get to experience what Tolle describes as “inner space” ever again.

A wise friend told me not to worry about “failing” at meditation.  “You will find the perfect way to meditate for yourself as you are now,” he told me.  I loved the thought, but I didn’t believe him.   I kept focusing on breath.  I kept falling asleep, or stopping to check my Blackberry.

Then, on Sunday, April 5, I ran the City Parks’ Foundation Run for the Parks 4-mile run, in Central Park.  As I lined up in the starting corral with the other runners in my group, making small talk with a woman from my New York Road Runners classes, my mind was completely clear.  Unlike previous races, I made no attempt to imagine how the race would go, or map out in my head a strategy for the course.   I simply moved when I was supposed to move, noted the sensations of wind and chill and the small twinges of discomfort in my tendinitis-challenged right ankle, and waited for the race to begin. 

As we inched closer to and then crossed the starting line, I started my watch timer, wished my classmate good luck, and picked up my feet in accordance with the rhythm of my breathing.  I was conscious of nothing but the movement of my feet and some intermittent but minor pains shooting through my ankle.  I was aware of the runners ahead of me, but didn’t focus on any of them.

Early in the race, my breathing felt labored.  I adjusted my pace, wondering if I was already overheating.  Then I saw we were going up a hill.  I recalled the advice of my instructors, and began pumping my arms to propel myself up the hill.  It was only as we neared the apex of the hill that I realized this was, of course, Cat Hill — the hill we used for training runs in class, the hill everyone dreaded.  The dreadful and dreaded Cat Hill didn’t seem so dreadful anymore.  Somehow, by not thinking about it, by not battling an image of how hard it was, I ascended the hill without too much trouble. 

As other runners passed me, I kept my own pace.  I looked around a few times for other people I might know; seeing none, I kept going.  As I began to pass other runners, I asked myself whether it was my pace or my ego that was driving me to pass.  If it was my pace, I kept moving forward.  If I determined my ego wanted me to pass someone that my pace wasn’t ready for me to pass, someone my ego decided was inferior somehow — whether because of weight, age or some other characteristic — I held myself back and waited until pace, not ego, propelled me to pass.

A race volunteer announced a water station at Mile 3. I dutifully stopped for water.  At Mile 3.5, my stomach reminded me I hadn’t had breakfast.  I acknowledged being hungry, and kept running.  Soon thereafter, I saw another NYRR classmate.  We spoke, and she introduced me to her friend.  For a moment, I thought of slowing my pace to run with them, but decided not to.  I had a good pace, the finish line was near, and my ankle was no longer throwing off warning signals.  It was fine.  I was fine.  I kept going.

Finally, with the finish line in sight, I pushed myself to go faster, to run harder, no longer concerned about running out of steam.  I finished strong, faster than my previous fastest race time.  I enjoyed another drink of water, considered and then reconsidered taking a bagel or apple from the boxes and boxes of post-race carbs, and then just decided to go home.

And on my way home, it occurred to me: during the race, I experienced inner space.  My friend was right.  I had found my perfect way to meditate.  Running was my meditation.  When I run, I focus on nothing other than finishing the workout.  As soon as I find myself comparing myself with other runners, I start to falter.  When I return to focusing on absolutely nothing at all, I achieve my goal.  Sometimes I’m last, never first, but I finish.

I’ve decided to work on remaining in the moment.  To resist the temptation to check Facebook repeatedly throughout the day and night, to watch television while the kids are telling me a story about their day in school, to feel as if I’m idle if I’m not attempting to do three or four things at the same time. 

I’ve already seen some benefits.  Today at work, I got through a backlog of old emails for which responses were long overdue.  At home, I finished two blog posts in time for the start of the NCAA Championship Game.  I don’t expect perfection.  The effort itself is worthwhile.

The Secrets of Cat Ladies, Revealed

March 30, 2009
  • Note:  I do not intend to minimize or make light of animal cruelty or animal hoarding.  Google is replete with sources for a serious discussion of those topics.  This is not one of those sources.

Every now and again, a story like this shows up in the news — a crazy cat lady is found in a house overrun by cats, the owner’s love of felines somehow rendering her insensible to fleas and the odor of cat urine and feces.  Until I became a cat owner, I never understood how anyone could become so attached to cats.  In many ways, I still don’t.  I don’t like my cat.  My recent NYC Moms Blog post about my cat dislike apparently was pretty unpopular with cat lovers — unlike every other piece I’ve posted on the site, it has no comments.

There are any number of theories behind what makes cat ladies become cat ladies — including that old standby, the messed-up childhood.  I have another theory.  It’s not backed by scientific or anecdotal evidence.  It’s something cat owners don’t talk about openly.  But I think it’s pretty obvious.

It’s the purring.

A soft, warm furry cat, purring and vibrating on your lap, is a singular, nearly tantric, sensation.  Unquestionably, it feels good.

Some people will violently disagree that there is anything sexual about it.  It may not be bestial, but a live purring cat, seated on your lap in just the right way, is like a living Magic Wand.  It may not quite do the trick, but it certainly can make you feel all warm and tingly.

If you’re a lonely cat lady who has grown dependent on that nice feeling a purring kitty provides, you get another cat.  And another.  Soon, your house is overrun with cats, but at least you have increased the likelihood that one of those kitties will jump on your lap and purr just when you feel the need for purring. 

The problem with a cat, as opposed to other forms of vibrating love, is unreliability.  You can’t force a cat onto your lap.  You can’t ensure that it will always sit just the right way or stay as long as you’d like.  You can’t plug in a cat, or give it fresh new batteries. 

And then there’s the biggest personal turn-off — the shedding.  No matter what warm fuzzy feelings you might get out of having your cat on your lap, if you wind up with a lap full of cat hair, it wasn’t worth it.  There are easier ways to feel warm and fuzzy without having to care for a four-legged feline.

One solution to the cat lady phenomenon — in addition to intense psychotherapy — may be Eve’s Garden.  They have a wide variety of objects that purr.  A toy from Eve’s Garden don’t require food or water, it doesn’t shed, and you never have to change the litter. 

Best of all, you can make your kitty purr whenever you want.

Make Me Laugh

March 28, 2009

A post on the blog White Hot Truth  made me start thinking about my own positively soul-sustaining must-haves — especially in my relationships with others, whether they’re friends, possible partners, or anything in between.  Number one for me is humor.  I love to laugh and to make other people laugh.  I sometimes think I have the soul of a 12-year-old boy, because I am a big fan of double entendres, and I can find sexual innuendo in almost anything.  Or maybe that means I was British in a past life. 

Throughout my life, my best friends have all been people who “got” my sense of humor.  My best relationships have also been with men who laughed at my jokes.  I have always been attracted to men I found funny, but I never used to demand that they find me funny in return.  I used to think it was enough for them to have a sense of humor, whether or not they thought I had one.  During my marriage, I discovered how wrong I was. 

My ex-husband remains one of the funniest men I’ve ever met.  (His late brother Charles was even funnier.)  His dry wit drew me in from the first moment we met.  I used to work overtime to try to make him laugh in return, with varying degrees of success.   At times, I’m sure I tried way too hard.  One of the most hurtful things he ever said to me was, “You have no sense of humor at all.”  It was hardly the cruelest thing he ever said to me, but it cut me deep.  I stopped trying to make him laugh.  And when I lost interest in that, I lost interest, period.  I recognize now that not only do I need for my partner to be funny, I need him to think I’m funny, too.

I think the value of humor in business is severely underrated.  In some of the most productive business meetings I’ve ever run, or participated in, humor was used to get the participants to relax.  Once relaxed, they were more willing to contribute their ideas and agree on action plans.  The same is true for negotiations.  Although most contract negotiations are tense and stressful, I’ve been most successful when one or both parties used humor to relieve some of that tension, which enabled us to discuss our differences in a principled manner and work hard to find a common basis for agreement.

Humor isn’t the only thing I need, but I can’t be happy or satisfied without it.

The Look

March 9, 2009

Last week, as I was walking to my office, I passed a woman on the street. She reminded me of myself – black woman, about my age, dressed for a professional, office-type job. As we passed each other, we exchanged smiles, and then she gave me The Look.

No, not the “who is this bitch?” look. That’s the look I used to get in my twenties and early thirties (and still get on occasion) – the look that inspired that song by Klymaxx, “The Men All Pause.” Klymaxx didn’t say it, but when you look good enough to make the men all pause, the women all pause, too, but they want to fill your heart with daggers and empty it of blood.

This Look is a new look, a different look. It’s a look of camaraderie, of kinship, of fellowship, of acknowledgement that you’re a worthy member of a certain club. I’m not sure what the “club” is. Sometimes, it seems to be the “women of a certain age” club. Other times, it seems to be the “women doing the damn thing” club. Whatever club it is that I’ve joined, our members know each other. And it’s not just a black thing. I’ve exchanged The Look with women of all races. The Look is a look of support, of friendship, of “you go girl” and “we’ve got your back.” And it is wonderful. (more…)