I strive to avoid dualities – good and bad, right and wrong — those judgments many of us make. Most of the time even emotions fall into one category. We don’t feel good or bad. Joy and pain are the same thing.
Before I get into the heart of this blog, it’s important to give praise where it belongs. You may recall my diatribes about the new washer that came with a dryer that didn’t work. I became frustrated with General Electric, the manufacturer who wouldn’t honor their warranty and Best Buy – the retail store where I purchased it along with extended service agreements.
Guess who won? Guess who stood up and spoke up when everyone wanted me to sit down. I did. I’m holding in my hands the Best Buy confirmation number that will get me another new dryer (for free) to replace the other one. In the end, Best Buy came through like champs (after a few blogs and many phone calls). Best Buy stepped up to the plate. General Electric didn’t. General Electric failed me. Best Buy decided that replacing the defective dryer – whether it was GE’s fault or theirs, was the way they want to treat their customers.
Best Buy did the right thing.
There’s that word “right” again. Maybe everything isn’t non-dualistic after all.
The older I get, the less I know – that much I know. Teenagers growing up don’t monopolize the process of learning how much we don’t know.
But in that lovely little way that Life has, right before I hit a home run with Best Buy, I got stabbed. In the back. Right in the heart.
A friend (I thought) and someone who worked with me – not just for a couple years but going on a decade – gently but with malice of forethought inserted the knife into my heart. I understand my melodrama sounds disgusting. But at this moment it hurts so much that I can hardly type.
The person embezzled (allegedly and according to that person’s own words) over $63,000.00 from me while calling me a beloved friend.
I used to trust this person. Not enough to allow ability to sign checks. Ever. Under any circumstances. Learned that a long time ago. I’ve got to give it to this person. He or she devised an extraordinarily clever plan to get through the tight wall surrounding my money. They found one small crack, got a finger in it, and then busted it open. Take the checks. Run them through a small account, not even a business account – which is where all my receivables are supposed to go (my business account). Then convince the bank that it’s okay to change the address, city, and state on that checking account – a small account with a specific purpose – to pay exterior condo bills at the condo where I’m the unofficial manager.
What’s worse, the other people who live there weren’t assessed, as they should be, for their share of exterior expenses. The ex-friend gave the financial burden of all those to me, too.
Then they laundered the checks by putting them through a bank account in another state. I’m waiting for my documents, but already I know the amount far exceeds the amount reported to me in the confession. It’s like when an addict (active) tells the truth about how much he or she uses: multiply it by at least three, and you may be somewhat close to the truth.
I’ve known something’s been wrong between us for a while. I kept asking, digging, looking. Couldn’t find it. You want to know what really ticks me off? I can’t even order and get my business checks – and I’m me – from the bank (Bank of America, in case you want to know), without going through a lie detector test, having dna run, then going to the bank and showing fourteen forms of id. I may be exaggerating a little – but they will not let me change the address (even though it’s me) – nor will they mail them to me anywhere except to a mailbox sitting way out on the street.
Here I worried about identity theft by a stranger and the enemy stood right next to me performing more than identity theft. Instead, while I’m on the phone talking to Bank of America’s fraud department, the bank simultaneously approves one more forged check.
I’ve done everything I should and can. I doubt if the bank will give any money back. They’ve already told me they only go back three months, and they highly doubt they’ll even do that.
Oh, by the way, I also contacted the bank that’s cashing the extremely high pile of forged checks. They refused to stop cashing them, even though the person signing my name could in no way identify themselves as me.
So, now the next business I’m taking on in my How to Stand Up For Yourself When Everyone Wants You to Sit Down and Be Quiet? A bank I used to admire – Bank of America. I should be reimbursed for every forged check they honored. They allowed someone (not me) to call in from another state and change the address not only on the checks but where they send them and my statements.
The other time someone embezzled from me, the authorities told me: don’t let people sign checks. I didn’t. Have a clear purpose and that purpose alone for each account, so any other use of it stands out. I did. I did everything the authorities told me. However, now people are denying telling that to me. “It wasn’t my fault,” is what I hear. Again. It’s that old familiar song: passing the buck. The sad part is, these are mostly medical reimbursement checks for my chronic illness that have been stolen.
My accountant will have to re-file my taxes for however many years this has taken place (that will cost a pretty penny). I no longer like or trust Bank of America and I’ve stood up for them for years. They didn’t stand up for me. They’ve been great as long as I didn’t need them to step up to the plate.
This person currently holds all my business records hostage. I had to drop the screenplay writing in favor of dealing with this. Get this. Because the bank laundering the money, a Minnesota bank and later on, I will release their name, won’t stop cashing these checks, even though they’ve been informed they’re stolen and forged. But when these checks begin to bounce, guess whose credit record will be affected? That’s when I’ll say their name. Over and over again.
Overwhelmed. Angry. But most of all hurt. That’s how I feel. Big deal. That’s money I’ve worked hard to save. I kept wondering, why aren’t my savings growing.
As soon as I pick this sharp blade out of my heart, I’ll let you know.
Life isn’t either or – we get the good with the bad. Now listen up. I want you to remember this, because I’m going to need you to remind me. According to an article in the New York Times, 88 percent of the people who get close to us will eventually steal from or betray us. At least in ancient times (according to the Bible) the statistics read one out of twelve.
People’s values have changed for the worse.
This is what I want you to remember even more: the more someone claims to be your true friend, likely the more they aren’t. Actions speak louder than words. The people who genuinely care don’t have to keep talking about it. Like this person said after saying they were sorry and I said no, you’re only sorry you’re caught, and then followed it with “but what hurt the most was thinking you truly were my friend and then that person said, “I am” and I said, “No you’re not because friends don’t treat you like that.”
When we think something’s wrong, when a relationship turns (friendship, business, or otherwise), don’t walk. Run.
That includes banks who claim to be your partner and friend in building a life. If I went out and stole $10.00 from someone tonight, well first of all I don’t want to but secondly, if I did – I would get caught and at least spend one night in the slammer.
This is living in the mystery. I can’t figure out why they call “white crime” white.
Sure feels black to me.
Tomorrow (already today for some of you) – Thursday, March 31, Year of our Lord 2011, is officially “C Day with GE and BB.” Before you turn away, stay with me a while longer. Some guarantees don’t mean much. I promise this blog takes a twist and has a different theme than the last. I’m done whining for now.
For readers unsure of what I’m writing about, GE stands for “General Electric,” BB means Best Buy. C Day will be the day I see what’s going to happen next. This is the deal, although it’s not a good one. A new GE dryer I bought from Best Buy seven months ago worked one and one-half times. Then it went pouf and hasn’t worked since.
Between the two businesses, I’ve now had more service calls than months I’ve had the dryer. One thing I haven’t had is dry clothes – at least not dried in that dryer. Because the dryer doesn’t work.
By now almost all parts have been replaced. We may be replacing one the second time around but I cannot say for sure. For the record, I have an extended warranty besides the dryer being under the original factory guarantee.
But will the dryer work come sunset tomorrow? Will the dryer, as I requested, be replaced by a brand new one? If so, will that new one work or will I go through this ordeal all over again? Will C Day be F Day – the day the dryer finally gets fixed? Or will it be one more day when I’m told, “Just one more part, and we should have this baby working in no time, Ma’am.”
I could have dried all my laundry faster by pointing my hair dryer at my wet laundry. There’s no place to hang clothes to dry where I live.
Anyone up for predictions? Let me know. I predict that “C Day” will be “L Day” – Lemon Day. It will be one more service call that ends in the dryer not getting fixed, and me not receiving another dryer from General Electric, a dryer that works. Maybe it will be “E Day” – Excuse Day, the day I hear another BS reason for the new dryer not working. It might be PTB Day (Pass the Buck Day), the day GE blames someone else because the dryer they manufactured, sold to Best Buy, and then Best Buy sold to me doesn’t work.
Or it may be HDDSTIA Day, the day I act on the recommendation from the supervisor at GE who suggested I buy another new dryer from them and I’d get a discount from GE if I did. HDDSTIA stands for how dumb does she think I am.
I’m not holding my breath. I’m getting better at living in the present moment. Tomorrow isn’t here yet. It never comes. It’s always today. I am curious though, a curiosity tempered with low expectations about results.
Before I go any further, it’s time to clarify things. See, everything is relative and now’s the time to put the non-working dryer issue in perspective. With all the hurting people in Japan, all the grieving people in our own country, our state, city, block and maybe our home, this problem goes in the category of “mildly annoying incidents that happen or haven’t yet been solved.”
I feel ripped off, had, lied to, blown off and dismissed. So what? In the scheme of things, that’s not much. Doesn’t compare to losing my son. Doesn’t compare to the couple I recently heard about where the husband, instead of receiving his promised retirement plan, got hosed when he retired after thirty devoted years. His wife then became ill. After both of them working hard all their lives, they lost their home, she lost her health, and they left town with six hundred bucks. It was cold that evening, even for California in the desert. The woman had sold most of her belongings to raise money for food and necessities. She wore nylon stockings under shorts to keep her legs warm. She didn’t have a jacket to put on her arms.
Now that’s a problem. My heart goes out to them. I wish I’d known before the situation passed the point of no return. I could have blogged about them instead of myself and the dryer that doesn’t work.
It’s not just the recession, although that’s made things worse. Bad things happen to people, happen all the time – things people don’t deserve. Most of the time it’s not that we don’t see it coming. We can feel it coming at us at one hundred miles an hour, but don’t know what to do. Or like a deer, we’re frozen in the headlights. Paralyzed, can’t move.
Judging other people who get slammed with serious problems can be easy to do. It can give us a false sense of security and immunity about life. If the other people did something wrong and that’s why the bad thing happened to them, then we know how to keep ourselves safe. We won’t do the bad thing they did. But that’s not how it works. If it can happen to him, her or them, it can happen to us. We aren’t immune.
Radical faith is when we can know this – know how vulnerable we are – and still walk around, in the moment, feeling at peace and trusting Life and our Higher Power.
I don’t want to hear about being tested, or about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. When we’re in crushing emotional pain, some of us would prefer it if Life killed us instead of giving us more strength. Listen carefully. That’s not permission for anyone to hurt themselves or anyone else. All I’m doing is talking about the things we think and how we can feel.
In the overall scheme of things my dryer problem becomes a mere irritation, less than a flat tire when I’m covered by Triple A. I’m not discounting the issue. I will, with Life’s help, eventually resolve it. But it’s not killing me. I’m not doubled over with pain.
Many people are being hurt, harmed, killed or crumpled up with pain. May blessings and good things pour down in abundance on each of you. May tomorrow be the best day – tomorrow March 31, 2011 – you’ve ever had. May gifts come from nowhere. May you feel cared for and loved, your heart be at peace, and your clothes dry and warm.
I’ll let you know what happens on C Day with GE and BB. Meanwhile, maybe we could all devote C Day to a world-wide meditation day, focusing on blessings, getting needs met, abundance, healing, miracles, and relief from pain for the masses of hurting people and sentient beings in our world.
Stayed tuned – tuned in with each other for good things and love for our neighbor, wherever he or she lives. We can’t change other people but maybe for one day if we join together in unison we can change the world. That would be even better than warm, dry clothes. C Day could be, if we wanted it to be, Care About Our Neighbor Day and that would be good.
I don’t want you to think I blogged about the incident with the new General Electric dryer I purchased from Best Buyer seven months ago that doesn’t work just to use my power to whine out loud.
I’ve been thinking about whining about this subject ever since the recession began. It’s not exactly whining I’ve been contemplating though. Whining doesn’t get the job done. I’ve gone back and forth about the title of this book. I know, I know. I said, “No more books. I’m just writing screen plays now.” But likely I’ll still write one or two books. Maybe three if I have something new to say.
The world doesn’t care if we whine or do something quiet. It’s noise-making, persistent and loud expression of sounds that they don’t like.
For those of you who didn’t read the last blog, I bought a new dryer that doesn’t work. It’s what many people call, what’s that word? Citrus? Orange? Oh, lemon. That’s it. The once shiny dryer I purchased hasn’t ever performed the way a reasonable person would expect it to – by drying clothes put in it.
My idea for writing a book by the same title of this blog occurred to me at another Best Buy, this one in Minnesota. That time it wasn’t me being — I want to use nice words — it wasn’t me getting the short end of the stick, or the long end inserted someplace else where it would hurt.
I stood in line that day behind a young man. I guess him to be about twenty. He appeared to be clean, respectable, and polite. He spoke using nice words and in a gentle voice. I listened to him explain to the clerk that he’d come in two days earlier with a coupon for ten dollars off on a computer device. When he asked Best Buy’s computer technician which specific part he should buy for his computer, the technician made a specific suggestion, which the man followed.
The nice man used his coupon and received ten dollars off the purchase price. A good deal for everyone involved, right? Wrong. When the nice man got home, he discovered that the particular part the Best Buy technician recommended was the wrong part for his computer. The nice man returned for an even-up exchange for the right part for his computer.
It should have been a simple transaction. The man had his receipt. He had the part and all its original packaging. The problem was he didn’t have his coupon. The reason he didn’t havehis coupon was because he had to give it in to the clerk when he made his original purchase. Best Buy had his coupon.
The clerk said the man owed him ten dollars plus taxes before he could have the correct part.
“I can’t give you the discount,” she said. “You don’t have your coupon anymore.”
“That’s because I gave it to the store to buy the part your staff said worked with my computer. But they told me to buy the wrong one. I don’t have the coupon,” he said. “You have it.”
“I can’t give you the ten dollar discount without your coupon,” the clerk said in a snippy tone.
“How could I have my coupon if I gave it to you when I made the original purchase?” he asked.
“Not my problem,” she responded. ”How can I give you ten dollars off for a ten-dollar-off coupon you don’t have?”
The nice man stood there struggling for the right words. He didn’t appear angry. He looked as befuddled by this lack of logic confronting him as I was.
“How could I have the coupon if I gave it to the store to buy the original product, the one the technician said to buy, but that was the wrong one?” he asked.
“Not my problem,” she replied again. “But I cannot give you the discount if you don’t have the coupon.”
The dogmatically positioned clerk had no intention of negotiating, problem-solving, or giving him his ten dollar discount without the coupon that she (she representing the store) already had. After another five minutes of listening to this idiotic reaction by the clerk, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Call me codependent. A rescuer. Call me whatever you want to. I’d had it.
“Go get your supervisor, please,” I said in the low voice I use when I’m enraged. “And get him or her right now. This gentleman deserves his ten dollar discount. H e’s not leaving the store without it.”
Her eyes widened. So did his. She immediately went to get the manager (at least I hoped she did and wasn’t going to call the police). I apologized to the nice man for interfering. He looked stunned. Within two minutes, the nice man had his new computer part – this time the right one. He also received his ten dollar discount without giving Best Buy a coupon he didn’t havebecause he already gave it to them. The manager understood the situation. This customer was right.
The customer thanked the clerk and the manager for their help, and then he thanked me. “No problem,” I said.
But that’s a lie because right now, with the recession, getting the proverbial short end of the merchandise stick is a huge problem for many of us. Do large corporations have bean counters hidden in basements calculating how many people will stand up for themselves and more importantly, how many won’t? By close monitoring, have they determined that if they (they not being limited to Best Buy but to many stores that in the past most of us have trusted) ignore us long enough, the majority of us will sit down and be quiet?
No matter what they sell us, whether it works, or how well or long it works, can they plan on us retreating and eventually going away?
A lot of ten dollar bills add up to millions of dollars. For people like this nice young man, ten dollars could be a lot of money. The cost of a new dryer is a significant purchase for me. I don’t want to give anyone the short end of the merchandise stick but I don’t want it placed on or in me either.
I’ve been collecting stories over the past several years.
I have my eyes on several businesses that strongly believe The Customer Is Always Wrong hoping we’ll disappear. On the other hand, good, honest businesses that treat customers well are out there too. State Farm is one. CVS is another. There are many more and I’ll give respect where respect belongs.
I’m fully aware that I’ll likely lose Best Buy as an advertising affiliate. At least I hope I do. The only reason they haven’t been removed from my site yet is I’ve been extremely busy trying to get my dryer fixed and my clothes dried because I don’t like wearing them wet. I don’t want to advertise for Best Buy anymore (not that losing my business will bother them) but for me, it’s about putting my advertising space where my trust is.
It takes sometimes inordinate amounts of time to stand up for ourselves with businesses. They create it that way (you’ve seen the commercial with what’s her name, Helen? In India). Phone calls. Digging out receipts. Jumping through hoops. On occasion I’ve had to make many trips to the store and still don’t have the problem resolved and it’s been over two years and this is for a several thousand dollar purchase involving Home Depot and Capital One (the credit card that always stands behind us). The reason they’re standing behind us, I learned, is because they’re hiding.
Between Best Buy and General Electric, seven service calls have been made on my brand new dryer, a dryer that still doesn’t work by anyone’s standards. It doesn’t dry clothes that are damp that I put in it. The General Electric repairman showed up on time for the last appointment. He did some testing, and then told me it was an electrical problem and not a problem with the dryer. He also said he’d be in the area for another couple hours. As it happened, a professional electrician worked close by. In less than ten minutes, he fixed what he called “an odd electrical problem.” The circuits on the circuit breaker dedicated to the dryer had been swapped out. He switched them back. Problem solved.
The General Electric technician, who also appeared to be a nice man, reacted with surprise when I called him within ten minutes with the good news that the electrical problem had been completely solved. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe me, but it sounded like he doubted that I knew what I was talking about. However, he kept his word, returned, and sure enough the electricity to the dryer worked the way it should. Ten minutes later he discovered another problem, this time with the dryer.
I told him that the General Electric female supervisor I talked to said he had the power to decide to give me a new dryer and that’s what I wanted. I said I no longer wanted this dryer that had been taken apart and not fixed so many times. He said he didn’t have that power. He had to order the parts, parts he didn’t drive around with in his van. He’d have to schedule another service call. I told him I didn’t stay here full time during the winter, and that it cost me a substantial sum of money to have people at the house waiting for him during the four-hour appointment window.
What had originally been about a $450 dryer now approached $1,000 in what it cost me and it still didn’t work. That didn’t include the money I spent at the Laundromat drying my clothes. He said I didn’t need anyone to be at the house. They’d deliver the parts with no signature required, and then he’d install them in the dryer housed in an outside laundry room. I didn’t need anyone at home to listen to why it didn’t work this time (I added the last part myself). This would be the eighth service call made by either General Electric or Best Buy. I would appear more foolish than when I used to believe that alcoholics wouldn’t drink without treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous if I believed that the dryer would work the next time a repairman appeared. Even if it works, I don’t trust it to continue working and further, I don’t want it. It isn’t a new dryer anymore. It isn’t worth the money and time I’ve spent on it. I have every reason to believe that if it works once or twice, I’ll be calling the technician again. And again. And again. Until I break down and do what the woman from General Electric suggested – buy another General Electric dryer. Buy two. One should work. Right? Wrong.
I don’t know what part this nice man could possibly order because every part in that dryer has already been replaced.
That’s the story about the birth of How to Stand Up For Yourself When the Rest of the World Wants You to Sit Down and Be Quiet.
Readers, friends, General Electric – this isn’t a personal vendetta. It’s about conducting good business. We deserve to get what we pay for – dryers that dry, coupons that are honored, whatever it is we’re buying from a reputable merchant with our hard-earned dollars.
We don’t deserve either end of that stick.
I’m not going to stop until prominent businesses do what they say they will. I’ll blog about other topics too, but this will be an ongoing and intermittent project that I hope eventually impacts the way businesses operate in today’s world.
My first choice would be if I didn’t have to. I’d prefer it if these businesses we’ve put our trust in would treat us with respect and sell us products that work. I’d love it if people did what they said they would the first time around, without us having to beg, plead, cajole, and ask thirty times. Wouldn’t you? I have to play by the rules – not that I don’t want to. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I didn’t.
All I’m asking is that the people we do business with – whether it’s a large corporation or an individual — play fair with us too. The customer isn’t always right. Some customers can be a pain in the butt. But most people are fair and decent.
Businesses, that’s what we want from you. Maybe if stand up together and make a loud enough sound, this dream will become real and we’ll live in a world where all businesses do what they say they will.
And pigs and monkeys will fly too.
It wasn’t long ago when I blogged about searching for a new washing machine and dryer. One reader commented she felt strange thinking of me as just a normal person shopping for a good deal on appliances, like everyone else.
I said that’s because, despite what some people may want to think, that’s all I am – a normal person trying to live life the best I can.
I spent over a month comparing prices, studying ads and visiting different stores in person and online. Finally I decided that a General Electric Washer and Dryer from Best Buy would be my best bet.
I can’t remember a time in my life when General Electric wasn’t associated with good, reliable products – ones that worked. They cared about customers and customer service. GE had a good reputation and so did their customers. They were one of the businesses that believed the customer was if not always, at least most of the time, right.
As the years passed and new buying outlets opened, Best Buy came along promising the best prices plus they sold extended warranties in case something (God forbid) went wrong.
Nobody sold me an extended warranty on Best Buy and GE’s corporate malfunctions, though. Nor was I advised to take my extended warranty to an attorney and get a legal opinion before I bought it. I felt certain I’d be treated with integrity and respect. After all, this was General Electric and Best Buy, as American as apple pie and the flag.
So I bought a GE washer and dryer, along with an extended warranty, and paid to have them delivered and installed. A few complications caused me to have to run to several stores to get the right products to hook up the dryer. I didn’t mind the extra hundred miles or so this put on my car or the hours of my time I spent running from store to store after someone on the phone told me they had the product but when I got there they said they hadn’t seen anything like what I was looking for in months.
Finally the washer and dryer were assembled, installed and plugged in. Eureka! My quest was done. Only one problem crept up, one of those sneaky ones that every night you go to bed thinking, “tomorrow this will be gone.” Only it never was.
The brand new General Electric dryer I bought at Best Buy only worked several times.
I called Best Buy. They said my next course of action was to have the Geek Squad make a quick trip out and fix it. I hoped it would be quick. I had a pile of wet sheets sitting on my sofa and no place for clothes lines to hang them to dry. I needed a solution fast.
What complicated matters is that my family comes to the desert each winter. I have a small place in Desert Hot Springs where I hang with the family, making a trip to my other home now and again.
The Geek Squad came out once and delivered a product. The dryer worked once. It hasn’t worked since. I’ve called Best Buy, over and over. The solution, they insisted, was sending the Geek Squad out again. On several occasions, because of conflicting appointments, I had to hire someone to be at my house to show the Geek Squad where the dryer is. People in LA don’t do things for free. The cost for my dryer began to add up. So did my anger. I bought a new washer and dryer but my dryer didn’t work.
The Geek Squad has been to my house four times now. They said they’d come again – sometime but they weren’t certain when. My dryer – the new one – still doesn’t work. It’s been used at most five times. It hasn’t been abused. It hasn’t been dropped. Nobody’s tried to turn it into a meth lab. I’ve only attempted to use it for one reason – to dry my clothes, towels and linens, one reasonable load at a time.
Finally I called General Electric and told them I wanted a new dryer. They told me someone would have to come out and examine the situation. It would, however, be a week before they’d come. Today, fuming, I called General Electric.
I broke through the denial that had been keeping me calm. At first I got a recording that wanted to know if I wanted to cancel the appointment. After pushing “O” and then waiting for about twenty minutes, I eventually got a human being on the phone.
The person was a woman. I thought she’d understand the importance of a washer and dryer. I also thought she’d understand that it’s disappointing to buy a brand new dryer and have it work only five times in seven months. “I’m sorry our dryer doesn’t perform to your satisfaction,” she said.
Her comment reeked of a snippy tone. “It’s not about performance standards,” I said. “A dryer is supposed to dry clothes. The laundry goes in wet. It comes out dry and warm. That’s what dryers do and that’s what my standards for a dryer are.”
“Hold please,” she said.
“Now General Electric will tell me they can’t take responsibility for a dryer after workers she didn’t know may be the people responsible for the malfunction,” I said to a friend, visiting at my home.
It’s not a matter of passing the buck. Everyone cashed their checks and went home. The buck is long gone. It’s left the building and won’t be seen again.”
The woman declined to commit to replacing a new dryer that worked for the new General Electric Dryer that didn’t work. She told me that it may not be General Electric’s fault that the dryer didn’t work if the people from Best Buy fixed it wrong.
I suggested that it was General Electric’s responsibility as they had an agreement with Best Buy to let Best Buy sell their dryers. She didn’t agree. Just because they let Best Buy sell their merchandise didn’t imply responsibility on GE’s part. The dryer worked when it left General Electric. It wasn’t their problem it didn’t work now at my home.
It confounds me in this time of civil rights that I can buy a new product that malfunctions almost immediately, that nobody can fix, even though it’s under warranty, and now nobody wants to replace. They claim I used the wrong warranty, thereby nobody is responsible for fixing or replacing it. Warranties have to be used right. I had a three year warranty with Best Buy, plus the dryer was still under the manufacturer’s warranty. But as far as both businesses are concerned, the two warranties cancel each other out.
Both Best Buy and General Electric appear entirely comfortable with selling me an expensive product that doesn’t work. What with the recession and all, that’s a good deal for them. They can sell anything to the public, whether it works or not, then brush off our complaints by saying, “We feel that should be good enough.” Then they get to keep all the bucks.
I’ve got to give the female supervisor some credit, though. She offered to sell me another dryer at a discount. When I regained my composure, I asked her how she’d feel if this happened to her.
She didn’t answer.
I understand. She had only two choices. If she lied, she’d sound ridiculous and she’d lose her job if she told the truth.
General Electric will be coming to my home again. Probably again and again. But I still don’t have a dryer that works. I can guarantee you this: they will not be coming to my home to install another General Electric product that I purchase from them. I won’t be making purchases at Best Buy either. It took me a while, but I finally caught on. Best Buy and General Electric have changed their motto.
The customer is always wrong.
(Part of a series of essays for a book entitled How to Stand Up for Yourself When the Rest of the World Wants You to Sit Down and Shut Up.)
Buyer Beware Solution: When purchasing a product, talk to both the store manager (not a clerk). Ask what you should do if the product you bought doesn’t work when you get it home. Get the name of the person you talk to and write it down. Then, before leaving the store, call the manufacturer. Ask them what you should do if the product doesn’t work when you get it home. If the two stories vary, take the product back immediately and go to another store. Follow the above procedure until the stories match.
Sorry for pulling a disappearing act again. I’ve been working hard, studying for a huge career change.
Studying hard but feeling like I’m going nowhere.
This isn’t a good feeling. Let me rephrase that. I don’t like how I feel. Feelings aren’t good or bad.
Under this sense and reality of being stuck is my greatest enemy yet sometimes my best friend: fear.
What am I afraid of? I just did my “miracle activity” list. The things I’m afraid of are too numerous, too common, and too – just too much – to write in a blog. For a taster, I’m afraid of failing and I’m afraid of success. I’m afraid I’ve made a bad choice and that I’m trying to do something that’s not my calling. At the same time, this is how I felt when I started my writing career. But does that mean anything? No two moments, as my friend Ginny says, are alike.
Although what I want to do next is a continuation of what I’ve been doing – writing scripts – it’s different from what I’ve been doing and it scares me to death. The fear is paralyzing or at least it feels that way much of the time.
I’ve known this in my head for a while but intellectual knowledge of what I’m feeling is different than putting it in writing. It’s different than consciously sharing it with others, God and myself. Most of all, knowing is different than feeling this feeling and all the other feelings that go with it. Rarely does an emotion occur all by itself.
What accompanies fear and feeling stuck is often lack of confidence, feeling abandoned by God, lack of confidence and incredibly low self-worth plus about fifty other thoughts and feelings. It’s the proverbial Pandora’s Box.
But that’s the good news.
At the end of Pandora’s Box – after all the bad stuff comes out remains one thing: hope. I’m not there yet, but by being honest with myself I’ve come closer.
A little honesty goes a long way but a lot of honesty goes further.
Before writing this blog, I had ideas of about three more I want to write next, but right now – and now is all there is – I can’t think of anything else than this and where I am, who I am, right now.
Everything comes to pass. My question is: When?
Slowly, quietly, I hear the whispers of my Higher Power. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Everything does come to pass but not until I surrender to who and where I am now. Feelings are only emotional energy — critical and insignificant at the same time. Life is cyclical and that’s different than going in circles like a dog chasing its tail.
People often say, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” I say, “It will, if you’re living with someone who wears two shoes and he or she has only taken one off.” It’s how Life goes.
Fear has so many faces. It can warn us of impending danger, remind us of things long past, be the invisible boogey man in the night, cause us to go fetal or help save a life.
A good night’s sleep. The sun rises. Another day begins. Change will happen whether I want it to or not. How much impact do we have on the course of our lives? Sometimes a little; sometimes more. It’s time to write new goals, visualize, and then act. It’s time to be more honest with myself. It’s time to do the things I know connect me with my essential power and my Higher Power.
I kid myself sometimes by pretending if I work harder and faster, I’ll get where I want to go sooner. The truth is that slowing down and doing what I know works — even though it takes more time — removes the dimension of time and space and gets me where I’m going now. Is it Einstein who said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once?”
This much I know. When it comes to the past, I still indulge in euphoric recall and this doesn’t apply only to romantic relationships. It applies to all of Life. Remembering the past, everything seems to have happened so easily, organically, so naturally and fast. That’s not how it happened. I struggled and it hurt then too, like it does now.
So many problems can be solved by taking a deep breath. Then taking another one. And another one after that.
So many problems can be solved by being honest about who we are.
So many problems, once we release our fears, aren’t problems at all.
An act of God contrary to natural law or the laws of man Encarta Dictionary, also in my computer, gives as the first definition of miracle. An extraordinary, unexpected event as in “It will be a miracle if Beattie ever does the book reviews she promised “or “My daughter cleaned her room” rate second in Encarta’s list. (The examples are my own.)
An absolutely marvelous example. No, that doesn’t refer to my examples above. It’s third on Encarta’s list of definitions for this wondrous, marvelous, sensational act of God, for instance TiVo represents a miracle of modern technology.
It’s also Encarta’s last stab at explaining a miracle to us.
The Vatican submits any event claimed to be a miracle through a rigorous series of exams and tests. The experience, placed under the world’s largest microscope, must completely pass all tests before the Pope, Vatican, or Catholic Church will use the word to describe something that happened to someone – usually something the receiver considers a huge and wonderful, phenomenal, marvelous and sensational gift.
After serious consideration that took less than thirty seconds, I made a judgment call. I would not refer to myself in the third person in this, the first of my book reviews as I – the writer of both the book and the review – attempt to objectively assess it (the book). Impossible for an author to objectively review his or her own writing? Probably. But who wants an entirely objective assessment anyway? We want at least some personal and prejudicial opinions, some humanity and emotions in what we read. At least I do.
But this may be the only review I do of a book I’ve written. It puts me in a compromised position and depends on my place on the manic-depressive scale most writers slide around on. Some days I abhor my work; other days I like it. Sometimes I’m simply willing to live with it.
Most of the time I wish I could ask the FBI for a new identity.
It’s part of what makes writing, like relationships, so much fun. It’s the old love-hate, can’t live with and can’t live without it syndrome that while we buy billions of dollars of self-help books to cure, we really like the roller coaster ride when all is said and done.
Don’t get me wrong. Many problems (such as codependent behaviors) can and do need to be solved and we’re better off once we discover the solution. Other times, as a society, we go way overboard in trying to sterilize and sanitize the ongoing and proverbial human condition.
With all that written, it’s time to focus and get to the point. Who do I think I am, anyway, writing a book that claims we can make miracles? Not only can we make them, we can do it in 40 days? Those are the questions that prevented me from writing the book, Make Miracles in 40 Days.
I learned the technique or exercise I teach in the book way back in 1978. I learned it well. I learned it completely. For the most part, I shut my mouth and kept it to myself. Until I began to make the transition from book author to screenplay writing. I looked closely at any principles I needed to further explain in books, any clarifications or modifications of books I’d written. I wanted to finish my author business so I could, with a clean conscience, move into the next phase.
That meant I needed to write two books (actually three but that’s a long and boring story so I’ll stick to two for purposes of this blog and review). I needed to clarify what I interpreted as people’s misinterpretations of what I’d written in Codependent No More by writing The New Codependency.
I also needed to share, in detail, what I’d learned about making miracles – maybe not the marvelous, extraordinary kind that the Vatican investigates, but the kind that make a phenomenal difference in our daily lives. I knew how to do it. Life had shown me and you’re free to substitute the words God, Higher Power, Guardian Angels or Dead People for Life.
I had a recipe that I felt duty-bound to pass on.
The first publisher queried on this book, Simon & Schuster, got it. Not only did Simon’s acquisition editor understand the concept, it excited him. He loved it. This response enmeshed me even more in the process of writing that book.
Fine. I signed the contract. Then began the arduous process of procrastination.
For the record, I don’t believe in procrastination when it comes to writing. I don’t believe in writer’s block either. I do know that sometimes writers try to write the wrong book or write a book before they have all the necessary information. They try to take the cake out of the oven before it’s done and it doesn’t work. The cake looks and tastes awful. They call it writer’s block but what they’re dealing with is impatience and not trusting Life, God and the process. It’s a mistake I frequently make.
I realized, with the help of an assertive, semi-controlling friend that before I wrote this book, I needed to do a workshop on the principles I intended to include in it. Her pushing me to do a workshop of any kind illuminated the subject. I realized that writing a book on making miracles meant climbing out on a shaky limb. Writing this book without having completed a study that included more people than just me saying, “Hey, this works and you ought to try it” meant more than climbing out on a limb. It meant me hanging onto the top branch of a high tree by biting a leaf and hoping the grip of my teeth on this leaf would prevent me from falling down.
Whether I wanted to or not, I needed to do this group. So I did. The deadline for turning in the manuscript had passed some time ago so I needed to hurry.
While I call Los Angeles home, when it comes to things of creativity: books, music, scripts or yoga classes, the audience will be brutal and unforgiving. Either you have something solid to offer or you didn’t. If you don’t, GO HOME.
This workshop would show me and potential readers that the miracle exercise works for more people than one. Or it wouldn’t. It would prove my idea wrong. Either way, I needed to do it. Simon & Schuster graciously extended my deadline.
In two weeks or less, the slots for the six-week workshop filled.
For many reasons, teaching this workshop challenged me. Recently recovering from a highly-invasive spine surgery, walking and standing hurt horribly. So did breaking down the steps to making miracles in 40 days in a clear, concise way that other people could understand.
But I did it – got to the workshop and broke down the idea into clear steps.
At the end of the six-weeks, 38 of the 40 attendees had their miracle. More accurately, 39 of the 41 attendees had the miracle they wanted if you count me as one. Of the two people who didn’t get their miracles, one left and didn’t return after the first class. The second person claimed to have received a miracle but I didn’t believe what the person said.
The principles in this book work or I wouldn’t have written it. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to spoil the book by giving away the activity. Readers shouldn’t either, by hurrying or skipping to the end. It’s critical to work your way through the pages and do the warm up exercises as you move along.
If you do, you’ll find a simple activity that takes less than ten minutes a day that will work in any situation you find yourself in the rest of your life. It will also go against the grain of much of what you’ve been taught or more accurately, what you think you’ve been taught. That’s as much as I’ll give away.
One nasty reviewer at www. Amazon.com criticized the exercise, calling on God to be on his team while he blasted the book. However, the book incorporates one of the most profound and powerful spiritual principles that exist. More specifically, it asks us to do something God says we should if we want a good life.
While I’m not opposed to criticism, some people criticize because they believe it defines them. I believe the person who wrote that review at Amazon falls into that category.
The activity also incorporates profound therapeutic principles, including Gestalt therapy and others. Again, I don’t want to give it (the exercise) away. It would make it too easy to dismiss it, which is usually our first response when people say, “Hey, want to make a miracle in 40 days?”
The writing in the book uses my journalism skills. Written succinctly, tightly, and in an orderly way, the book doesn’t waste words. I pack it with examples of exactly how to do the exercise because many people, including me, respond to an activity by thinking, “I’m not doing this the right way.”
The activity can be done once daily. I recommend doing it first thing in the morning. However, you can do it three times a day if you want and once your miracle juices get flowing.
With my friend Chip’s help, we constructed a website at www.MelodyBeattie.org devoted to this book. People can write in with their questions and I answer, usually within 48 hours or less. I’m not touring on this book. I’m not pushing it or promoting it too much, although I am doing a review on it here. You can also see people’s comments on the book at the above website.
I’m not naïve enough to say or think we can have whatever we want. We all know we can’t. But we can have more than we think we can. This book also provides a marvelous way to become unstuck whenever we find ourselves lost, confused and in a rut and clueless about what to do next. I argued with the publisher to bring the book out in trade paperback. I lost. It’s in hardcover, e-book and audio book now. The paperback version comes out the end of the year. You can buy it at all bookstores and it’s in libraries too.
The cheapest way to have your own copy is to download a Kindle version (you don’t need a Kindle to read it) right into your computer and then print it out. That way you can purchase the book for ten dollars and some odd cents from Amazon.com.
You may not create any miracles submitted to the Vatican for examination, but then again you might. Whether the miracles you create are big or small, extraordinary or some ordinary help we need but can’t conjure, Make Miracles in 40 Days – if you do as the book suggests – will change your life. You’ll say, “It’s a miracle” whether the Pope agrees or not.
I don’t discuss people-pleasing much anymore. Not much new to say about the subject. Right? Maybe not.
Either external, internal, or a combination of both forces motivate our behaviors. When we do what we do to please others, it’s called people-pleasing. People-pleasing isn’t right or wrong. Often, by pleasing others we’re at least initially striving to please ourselves. We hope that by doing what we think other people expect or want, they’ll like us more, not abandon us and ultimately we’ll get what we want.
We may get what we want for a while depending on our finesse in carrying the people-pleasing behaviors out. If we people-please in a needy, groveling, extraordinarily annoying way, our people-pleasing behaviors will tick people off and drive them away.
How do you feel when someone attempts to please you, but the delivery is so obtuse, annoying and grossly irritating that it overrides the actual act of receiving what you want?
Presentation is everything.
Delivered with diplomacy, perhaps a charming joke, smile or a favorite latte along with a quick exit and lack of annoying and endless chatter can make the person attempting to be pleased, pleased. And well pleased at that.
Many people out there in the forefront of society have learned to be therapeutically correct.
While people have falsely accused me of coining the word codependency and even if I had, which I did not, doing so would not make me proud because when we hear the word, it doesn’t tell us anything. It’s an obtuse and awful word.
Words should sing, dance. The sound of them should transmit something about what the word means.
Codependency does none of that. You have to go through the pain, agony, victimization, self-hatred and subsequent years of recovery before the word means anything. Then we’re still not entirely sure what it means although we have a sense of what it means to us.
Even a monkey (well maybe not a monkey) but most people have a good idea of what therapeutically correct means. We can deduce, based on the relationship between that term and politically correct that neither is something we should aspire to be. Being therapeutically correct implies we’re doing something we believe we should to make others think we’re emotionally and mentally healthy whether we are or not.
Being therapeutically correct is a people-pleasing thing, but we’re attempting to please a large and sometimes unknown group of society instead of a specific human being. Being therapeutically correct isn’t a good thing. It lacks integrity, gives false appearances and keeps us doing behaviors that don’t work and ultimately hurt other people and us.
With pride, I can say that although maybe someone else used the term therapeutically correct before I did, I never heard them, read it, or have been made aware of it. I gave birth to a phrase (or was used by the Great Creator of All Words, Ideas, Things, People and Stories) to bring it into being.
It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t caught on because I like the what the term communicates. Most of us know that people-pleasing isn’t therapeutically correct. But the question this blog presents is, are we doing it (people-pleasing) or not?
Sometimes people-pleasing is in the best interests of our relationship – whether that relationship is with an employer, colleague, friend, lover, family-member, spouse or someone we do business with. It shows that person we care. However, if we’ve given the behavior that much thought and then decided to do it with awareness anyway, it’s probably not people-pleasing in the negative sense.
The tough thing about codependent behaviors is two people can do the same thing and one person is behaving healthy and the other – not. Codependency is a list (our own) of behaviors we do to survive. Codependency protects us until we learn other ways to take care of ourselves.
Codependency isn’t a bad thing. I’m not saying that to take away stigma and sell more books. Well, maybe to take away the stigma that can accompany that awful word.
Now, to my point and the point of this blog. I’ve missed writing to you these past months when I’ve spent most of my time redoing my websites (with a friend) or creating new ones: www.MelodyBeattie.com, the home site; www.MelodyBeattie.net and the Healing Gifts Shop, the grief site; and www.MelodyBeattie.org, the site that goes with the miracles book. That (missing you) is why I’m extending our time together in this blog. I know all things that have a beginning have an end and I’m trying to postpone the ending by taking side trips and avoiding making my point because that’s when this story ends.
It’s good to be back, and I will now get to the point. As those of you who have been swapping healthy behaviors for codependent ones know, when we change it often ticks people off. Codependents are temporarily convenient to have around. They cater to us, put us first, take care of almost our every need, and if well-trained learn to do it magically – without us saying a word.
It’s like having a genie in a lamp or bottle, even if it’s an annoying one.
When the genie no longer does what we want, isn’t at our beck and call, and the magic lamp no longer works, first we try to make it work, then we get upset. Remember the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and so on. Losing someone who caters to our needs qualifies as a loss.
If you read the introduction to Codependent No More, the first book I wrote about codependency, you know that I decline the role of guru or expert. I continue to decline any such pedestal. My only aspiration is to write in a way that speaks to some.
While there are many books on how to write, there aren’t many on how to handle success.
When I wrote as a journalist, I was invisible. I liked it like that. My words counted. My story mattered. Then codependency happened and people shined the light on me. While I side-stepped it as much as sanely possible, some public appearances became an important part of my work.
Whether it’s journalism, authoring a book, or restructuring a screenplay, I consider my writing service work. While I matter, so do you. You’re important to me. I enjoy being gentle, kind, and nice to you. Most of you, anyway. At book signings, I watch for people who deliberately position themselves to be last in line. It’s a red-flag thing that I won’t go into deeply now but it makes all sorts of warning signals go off. But for a long time, I still spoke nicely and kindly to that person, even though he or she was manipulating and in some cases, stalking me.
The more public relations for writers has become an internet thing, the more interactions with my readers has increased. That means, theoretically, more people are positioning themselves at the end of the line. When the proverbial light came on and I tired of being kind to people who positioned themselves last in line, when I tired of overriding myself and stopped treating the last person in line any differently than anyone else and became honest with them instead, it surprised them and me.
Unhealthy people-pleasing means overriding our deeper desires when we spend time being nice to someone when what we really want to say is “bugger off.” Our people-pleasing no longer pleases us.
Sometimes not pleasing others can really please us, although it may take some time. But usually it immediately leaves the person on the other end of the non-people pleasing interaction disappointed and surprised. People didn’t get what they wanted and they don’t like that.
In those sticky interactions, someone will be displeased. We can override our desire to tell someone to bugger off and continue to treat them the way they want us to and then we’re the person who’s displeased. Or we can stop people-pleasing and let the other person be unhappy.
When we first stop people-pleasing, we may feel uncomfortable initially as waves of false guilt and uncertainty ripple through us. We may wonder, “Did I just say that?” Plus we need to deal with the aftermath of other people being angry and upset. Afterburn, I call it in a book. Not to worry. Afterburn will pass. Awareness of what it is helps and ultimately we will be pleased by as much as sanely and reasonably possible, saying and doing what pleases us – whether that includes pleasing others or not.
But people we stop pleasing aren’t pleased with us anymore.
Integrate this. Write it on your hand, if you need to. Stopping people-pleasing isn’t an emotional thing. It’s math. Two people. Each wants something that conflicts with what the other wants. That means one person will be happy. One won’t.
Who’s the happy person going to be?
If we want to keep our job, and the person we’ve been people-pleasing is our boss, we may want to find a diplomatic and sane way to cease unhealthy people-pleasing behaviors. We have to weigh consequences. What do we really want – our paycheck or the momentary pleasure of denying the person what he or she wants?
Deciding to people-please in some situations may not be unhealthy, if we’re aware of and take responsibility for our decision to please someone else. But doing something that causes us to feel unhappy for a long enough time ultimately becomes unhealthy too. In other words, start looking for another boss.
Recovery is an inside job.
Much as people – and that includes publishers, people who interview me for media purposes, or writers who interview me for information for their books – want me to give them rules for what’s codependent and what’s not. I won’t. The list doesn’t exist. I won’t because it defeats the purpose of recovery, which means learning to trust ourselves instead of trusting someone else including me, another author, or even a therapist about what we should or shouldn’t do – although getting information helps.
We are the only person who knows what’s going on inside us. We know why we do what we do once we let go of denial and strive to be conscious and aware. We know if we’ve taken responsibility for our behaviors and choices. This means we’re the only person who can decide if what we’re doing is unhealthy, right for us right now or not.
Even in glaring cases of what appears to be codependency, if a person chooses to survive with codependent responses to the environment, that’s not necessarily unhealthy unless it becomes a way of life.
The only true test for whether a behavior is codependent or not is: Are we overriding ourselves? Do we want to say something that pleases us and stop saying what the other person wants to hear? Have we begun to override our desire to speak our truth in favor of pleasing someone else, and doing so no longer pleases us?
Who’s going to be displeased? The other person? Or us? If we’ve habitually pleased others instead of ourselves, we can reasonably expect people we stop pleasing to feel surprised, disappointed, and then angry when they don’t get what they want. It’s how people are.
You’re strong. You can weather that anger, surprise, and disappointment storm.
Remember, it’s nothing personal. It’s math.
Here’s a bonus. When we stop people-pleasing, people will know we’re someone they can trust because we speak our truth. When we’re nice to someone, it’s because we want to be. We like them and we like ourselves.
It’s good to be back.
PS: I remember my commitment to write some book reviews; I haven’t forgotten. I’m not going back on my word. I just needed to warm up first and take time to say I miss and love you. Just not the stalkers and those who deliberately position themselves last in line. Book reviews to follow.
That’s how stories begin, right? People talk about the night and the weather. The truth is, I’m sure it was dark because it happened at night, but I don’t believe there was a storm going on — other than the one inside my heart and house.
I’d been married then for almost ten years, or was it nine? It could have been on my honeymoon, because other than having our children, things in our relationship didn’t change. From the moment I said, “I do” I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. He said it was me. I didn’t trust him enough. I didn’t believe him when he told me every Sunday that it took him six or eight hours to go from newstand to newstand trying to buy a paper.
Oh, suspicious me.
I was working a program of recovery for myself. It told me to take my inventory, so all it took was hearing something like that from him to trigger my all-time favorite feeling: feeling guilty.
I hoped we’d achieve intimacy, grow closer through the years. But from Day One of our marriage the journey we took was of two paths getting farther and farther apart. I admired his goals, or what I thought his goals were: being a chemical dependency therapist, helping others stop using drugs and drinking. My hope was that our marriage would be about more than him and I. I wanted our marriage to mean something to the world.
Then one Sunday at church, the minister made an announcement. That evening a man would be speaking about a subject, something involving codependency — whatever that was — and something about the second surrender that happened to people trying to work on themselves.
I don’t remember much about that dark and stormy night except the church was packed and one sentence spoken by a stocky man stood out — stuck in my mind. “If the marriage is dead, bury it,” he said. The words resonated through my mind. A light went on about a dream I had in which there were two coffins next to each other — I was in one and my husband was in the other although we weren’t dead individually; we were very much (in the dream) alive.
“That’s what that meant,” I thought. “Instead of counting the days until he dies from drinking (he could help others but not himself), I should probably get a divorce. It would be a much more loving thing to do.”
That started or triggered awareness of an even larger journey I had been on for a while, one that resulted in me understanding that whatever was wrong with the women in family group at the treatment center where I worked as a family group facilitator was also wrong with me. I vowed if and when I understood how to heal from it, I’d write a book about how WE –not the other person — could get better.
Every year for five years, the goal went on my new goal list until I wrote a book entitled “Codependent No More.” I joke about this but I mean it when I say my only dispute when the publisher, Hazelden, who graciously gave me a $500 advance wanted to use the above title. Although brilliant for marketing purposes and rather catchy, how about something along the lines of “Codependent Not As Much” or as others suggest, “Codependent Once More.”
I thought the book would likely sell about as many copies as my first book had. Nine hundred. I wrote that book not to make money, but to share what I’d learned about helping myself. Yes, that’s the subject — helping myself, not the other person, feel better.
It’s interesting how one person’s life and one sentence spoken can change our lives and set it on a new course. That’s what happened to me, one dark and stormy night in Stilwater, Minnesota.
The man who spoke those life-changing words was Earnie Larsen.
If anyone quietly and in a spirit of service began the codependency recovery movement, it was Earnie who did it.
I received an email yesterday that Earnie died at age 71 from pancreatic cancer.
Some people’s lives symbolize a coming of age or rite of passage. That’s how it was with Earnie. He lived in Minnesota, but started an idea that spread like a California wildfire.
Has that much time really passed? Yes, Melody, it has. In a strange way, my vision for my marriage — that it would be used to help others — did come true, just not the way I wanted. But then that’s how most things unfold. I like being surprised though, but the surprise about my marriage really hurt. I wanted two things: to stay sober and have a family.
I was granted my first wish. Like I told the children at the time I divorced their father, “We’re still a family.” I specifically told Shane, “You are not the man of the house now. Your job is to be a child.”
He did until 1991, when he went skiing, fell, hit his head on a mogul, knocked his brain stem loose and then died in less time than he took for me to type this sentence.
Family is something that has slipped consistently through my hands. After Shane’s death, I tried to convince my daughter that we’d still be a family. She didn’t buy it.
Although we have our times of being extremely close along with mother-daughter issues, we were a family. Are a family. Only we weren’t a very happy one for quite a few years. I miss my son and Nichole misses her brother.
But in that convuluted way dreams have of coming true, the genie did come out of the bottle and grant my second wish. Over the years, as I’ve written book, built websites and tried (sometimes harder than other times) to surrender not the second time but over and over and over, I discovered that I do belong to a family — the family of the world. There’s you, and you, and then you and you and you. I may not know you’re names, but you’re all my sisters and brothers. We may not always agree, but then what family members do? Underneath it all, we have a deep, abiding love and respect for each other. At least I do.
Is it just me or are a lot of people passing lately? Earnie, did I tell you that your what you did for changed me, and then helped me touch others? If I didn’t tell you back then, I’m telling you now.
Your work saved my life.
I know there’s a special spot for you up in heaven. We’re not an easy lot to devote ourselves to as we can be needy, clingy, and expect others to have the magic at times. I’m sure that’s how I acted when I was around him. He graciously took time to speak to those who stood in line to thank him, and he looked people in their eyes. His beautiful wife Paula helped him. My heart goes out to her. I’m glad she married such a good man.
It’s not really goodbye Earnie. What this blog is about is saying, “See you later.”
Love and much thanks,
a grateful reader
It’s not so much the addresses I need anymore, the physical street location of where people live. With E-mails, tweets, navigation systems, people-finders, and all the rest, the act of finding a person’s home ranks low on priority lists, especially in Los Angeles where distance apart is measured in hours it takes to get there, not miles.
The phone numbers aren’t that important anymore either. For one thing, talking on the cell phone while driving is illegal. So why would I need to keep charging and finding that itty-bitty phone when I could talk on my regular phone when I’m at home? I agree with the law. With changing radio stations, digging in my purse, drinking a coffee, and God knows what else, where’s the extra hand to turn the steering wheel? That’s with two artificial discs in my back that make it a challenge to turn full around, which the law says I must do, when backing up?
I can say not with pride, but humility and embarrassment that I don’t twit (or is it tweet) while driving but that’s only because I don’t know what twittering means, except when I lived at the Blue Sky Lodge by the drop zone when I was getting my skydiving license and my roommate Andy (and jumpmaster) woke up every morning threatening to get a gun and shoot all the birds that twittered him awake the moment the sun lit the sky. That’s the only twittering I know. Oh, and sometimes I’ve heard the word “twit” used as a disparaging adjective to describe an annoying person who lacks common sense. (Or did I get the vowel wrong?)
Anyway, none of the above is the point. We’ve made it through the majority of the holiday season intact. Nobody I know died or killed him or herself (or anyone else). (I’m referring to the actual Holy Day, not the year.) People I know didn’t go overboard with commercializing this season. They embraced the true meaning of the holiday and instead of plying people with gifts they put in the garage until their over-active conscience lets them either re-gift them, hoping they don’t confuse the giver and give the gift back to that person, or finally become able to throw the useless, unwanted thing away — many people this holy-day season helped out families who didn’t have a roof over their heads, or people sick with a terminal illness who faced not only losing a home, but also anything to eat because they have a virus that many people point and claim is God smoting (smiting?) them with due to their sexual preference instead of telling the truth: sometimes people get sick.
My address book is important and I need it because it is how I keep track of my appointments (if I can find it). I know many more technologically savvy people than me keep appointments in gadgets, then complain when the gadget falls into the toilet or they lose it somewhere and need to start over, from scratch. I admit, for the whole world (or at least the five people who read my blog) that I use an old-fashioned day planner – the big bulky kind. The reason for that and for another revelation I’ll make is that, like an overweight person who continually sees him or herself as fat even though they’re now thin, I still think of myself as dirt poor even though I make enough money to pay the bills. However I still not only buy the big, bulky, inexpensive day planners, I buy the ones where you have to write the days of the week – and the dates – in by hand. I know, I know. Read your own books, Melody. You deserve a nice day planner. But who takes advice from themselves? I’ll barely take it from anyone else.
I need my day planner. It’s bulky, full of chicken-scratching I can barely read, and I have to write in the days and dates and I still can’t remember that rhyme, “Thirty days hath ….” I still don’t know which months have thirty and which months have thirty-one days – except for December. I think it has thirty-one. Either way, we’re now at that time of the year when I need my address book and day planner for important reasons.
The older I get, the more attached to rituals I become. One that’s important is the one that happens now. After Christmas, but before New Year’s Day. I reach into my wallet and dig out the four dollars and ninety-five cents (plus tax) for the new pages and insert them into my day planner three-holed notebook.
I then write in all the days and dates of the coming year in the appropriate spaces, hoping I don’t get them wrong. If I’ve made appointments for the New Year, I enter them in the right place.
Then comes the spiritual part. I look through my names, phone numbers, and addresses. Now you may think, “That’s no big deal.” But it is, to me. Looking over the list of people, phone numbers, and addresses triggers a personal inventory. Is there a name in there, someone who makes my heart flutter but I don’t have what it takes to tell the person how I feel about him, or ask him for a date because I’m clinging to that saying, “If a man loves a woman, he’ll come and get her – no matter how far he needs to travel, no matter where he needs to go or endure?”
It’s a lovely romantic illusion I cling to that prevents me from having to become involved or even go on a date – the very idea of which is artificial and I abhor.
Then I come across the numbers I don’t need to transfer because that person (and this year it wasn’t “person” it was “those people”) died this year. They aren’t here anymore. The line is disconnected. Someone else lives where they lived before. This has been a brutal year when it comes to death. People have been called to the portal and jumping to the other side in record numbers and I’ll freely admit that I’m using the tool of denial. Some years the losses are too much to take, at least all at once. So I pretend that I’m “busy working on a book or web site and when I have time, I’ll call that person and talk to him or her again.”
But that isn’t true. I can’t call them on the phone. I can communicate with them on the other side – when I’m ready to admit they’ve passed. But please, let’s gloss over that. I don’t want to cry. (Note to self: work on denial about loss; be aware you’re going through the stages of grief regarding those five, six, seven, eight, or nine names.)
The worst though – the numbers that do the most damage to my soul – are the ones I see and my gut get tight. Angry, resentful thoughts flood my mind. That person did me wrong. Maybe they betrayed me, at least from my perspective. Or they borrowed money from me then forgot it (the loan) and me (I was their best friend until it became time to pay). Something happened that created one of those nasty, spiteful, and to my way of thinking justified resentments that turn, over time, into grudges. (Note to self: Let your resentments go.) I don’t want to become one of those curmudgeonly old ladies that walk around shaking a cane at people, snarling at dogs, and making mean faces at little children. That’s what happens, you know.
Can we talk? No, not you, dear reader. I mean “me.” Mel, you’ve learned a few things over the years. Some aren’t true, and I’ve had to unlearn them or learn them a new way. Some are truth. Many people say that resentments don’t hurt the other person, they only hurt us. NOT TRUE. Resentments can hurt the other person, and they hurt us too. They’re damaging little buggers who grow and get bigger every year. They block our creativity, diminish our ability to love others and ourselves, and get in the way of good things we’d like to give, receive, and do. Then why is it so hard to let go of them? They’re nasty things – the thoughts, feelings, justifications, and the litany of what that person did to wrong me stick to my psyche like glue.
I may not be able to remember the name of that actress, the one I like so much. Or I can’t remember the name of the author of that particular book. But when it comes to resentments and my “who done me wrong list,” suddenly my mind develops a clarity that could get me a spot on the Tonight Show. I come into equal standing with Memory Man. I’m gifted in my ability to recite every detail of what a particular person did or didn’t do to me, why, and when, and why they deserve to bear the wrath of my resentment and bad feelings.
It’s always the longest list in the book, although this year it’s a nose-to-nose tie with the category “people whose deaths I deny.”
The title of this blog, for those of you who may have forgotten (I honestly do not know if I have five readers or ten and I don’t keep a counter here) is: Living in the Mystery. That term describes a way of living that’s been drilled into me by life and circumstances. It’s about trusting what I don’t know, trusting what hasn’t happened yet, and realizing the sheer nonsense of having hope.
I’m aware that the last statement may have jarred you. I’m aware that my name is often linked to hope. But hope is cheating. Hope says, “If I just close my eyes and hold my breath today, tomorrow will be better.” Faith? That’s something entirely different. Faith is brave, Superman kind of stuff. Faith says, “I’m present for this moment. I clearly understand that right now is as good as it gets and I’m able and willing to surrender to and be at peace with that. I trust that this moment is perfect – no matter how I feel – and even though I may not understand how anything in my life will play out. But that’s okay, because I do not concern myself with tomorrow because tomorrow doesn’t exist. The only thing that’s real is now. This moment. Not today, mind you. We can live our entire lives one day at a time, holding our breath, and waiting for tomorrow to come. Present moment living says I’m right here, right now, and like it or not (it runs about 30/70 percent—the liking and not liking it), this is what I get. It’s Life and I’m me. Yes, we have the power to change things – but not by sitting on our sofa, hands folded, waiting for tomorrow and our dreams to come true so we can finally be happy the way we unrealistically think other people are.
Present moment living isn’t for the faint hearted. We hurl ourselves into each moment, feeling whatever comes our way, dealing with what comes up (except for those deaths that right now are too much but if we’re absolutely honest we know the person has passed, we can’t call them on the phone, they’re on the other side. We just don’t want to cry, not now. We’ll save it for later. Maybe it’ll help me create a scene in a script or a moving paragraph in a book but I don’t want to say goodbye or see you later yet.)
Living in the Mystery, trusting what I don’t know, my day planner? Melody, what are you talking about? The best inventory-taker workbook I’ve ever encountered is the address book in my day planner. As I go through the ritual of re-entering each name and number (if the person has passed dial 1-800-HEAVEN). See who answers the phone. Ha!
Who do I resent? That’s the most important list. What grudges am I holding, what wrong-doings (to me of course) am I clinging to, relishing? Which bad thoughts am I harboring, possibly hiding, even from myself?
The address book doesn’t lie.
In all my years in recovery, or attempting to consciously walk a spiritual path, I’ve found only one way to successfully treat resentments. It’s by getting even. (Not really, that was a test to see if you’re paying attention or just skimming this blog, waiting for it to end.) The only way I’ve learned to cure resentments is to ask God to bless the person I resent whether I mean it or not and obviously if I resent the person, I don’t mean it. I want God to smote (smite?) the person at least half as much as God has smitten me. What I honestly want is for God to teach that person his or her lessons. Yes I know I’ve used this line before but it’s a favorite. “Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord,” my daughter said, “but I sure envy His job.” Sometimes, so do I – especially concerning the names on my resentment list.
But there’s real magic in that old recovery saying that tells us to pray for those we resent. That doesn’t mean pray that they see the light, pray that they see the error of their ways, pray they realize how much they’ve harmed us, and then let them, for the first time in their lives, actually make an amends to us and finally admit what they’ve done wrong. It means pray that God rain down, pour, blessings on that person, make him or her happy and fill the person with joy and peace. Let that person realize abundance – win the lottery if he or she plays. Win a big one, too. Or at least win at bingo and not have to share with ten other winners. Every time that person’s name or the situation passes through my mind, pray good things befall that person and that they stay out of harm’s way. Then take the exercise one step further. Pray for blessings on the people that person loves, too.
It’s spiritual ditch-digging. Hard work. It’s taxing and it hurts. But one day – and I never know when that day will come – I find myself meaning it when I ask God to bless that person. I’ve dug the ditch. The resentment is gone. Now I can bury it.
Not so ironically, the barrier or block to what I’ve been unsuccessfully attempting to do also disappears. It went to that special place, wherever in the universe that resentments, blocks, and barriers go – the spiritual junkyard. What do you know? My Higher Power is blessing me too and what’s even better is that I feel so peaceful, I don’t notice because by practicing this exercise I’ve been allowed to live in a State of Grace.
With all its nasty twists and turns, and keeping in mind that nine out of every ten people are untrustworthy, lie, will steal or commit fraud, and acknowledging all the other negative things that exist, Life remains a rich, blessed gift. See! See! I could tell you what he or she did wrong to me, but I can’t remember the name of that movie that would fit here perfectly. Wonderful. That’s one word in it. Oh, yeah.
It’s a Wonderful Life. Happy New Year, all.
Thank you, friends and loyal readers. Thank you, family. Thank you, people who will become friends but I haven’t met yet. Thank you, names in my address book. Thank you, people who have passed. Thank you, people who have not yet been born but are on their way (Congratulations – and you know who I’m talking to).
Thank you, Higher Power. I call you God.
Thank God that I only need to change address books once a year.
Some of you may have read about my complaining when I jumped through all the Google hoops so that I could have NetFlix for an advertiser on my grief site at www.MelodyBeattie.net. I really wanted movies — and the ease that Netflix makes it possible to rent and return them with. Then, after hoop-jumping, NetFlix turned me down.
I was bummed.
I’ve learned something over the years. Twenty publishers rejected Codependent No More. Six months later, one changed its mind.
I wanted to work at a daily newspaper. Every week for almost six months I went there, begged for a job as a reporter, and got turned down because I didn’t have a college degree. Then one day the phone rang. I got the job.
When I apply for advertisers, I try to be discerning. I look at advertisers not so much as a way to make money on my sites, but as part of a service. If one turns me down, I think about it. Do I really want this advertiser? How important is it to me? If it’s a so-so situation, I let it go. But if it’s someone I really want, I write a letter, ask them to rethink their rejection, and plead my case. After complaining about my rejection by Netflix, that’s what I did with them. Without a doubt, I wanted them. About that much, I felt clear. So I wrote and told them how badly I wanted them and why.
Today I received an email from NetFlix. They changed their mind. I now have them as an advertising affiliate. I’m thrilled! Movies helped me so much when I fell into the bottomless pit of grief. I couldn’t read. It required a part of my mind that didn’t work. But movies helped me heal. Some people are the opposite; Life isn’t one-size-fits-all. But I wanted NetFlix for people like me who couldn’t read books but liked to be told stories by watching movies that spoke to their hearts.
It also helps me remember something that occurred when I was in treatment for chemical dependency. As part of the program, I had to inventory myself — the good and the bad. The latter was a breeze. Finding anything good about myself? A huge challenge in 1973. Finally the clergy person who listened to my inventory list came up with one good point he saw in me: persistence is what he called it. (Maybe what he saw was obsession?) I hung onto that asset for years.
I still do.
For many of our defects, all we’ve done is cross a line. Take a few steps backwards, or redirect the energy and it becomes an asset. It’s not that we have to change ourselves, we only need to make a shift in how, when, why, and where we apply our energy.
The trick is (for me) that I have to be brutally honest. It has to be something I really want and the desire needs to come from my heart. My motives need to be clear. Unthought, random obsession doesn’t work.
If you want something — really want it — and you know why and your intentions are good, go for it. Could be the universe is testing you. Or maybe the rejection was computer-generated. It’s hard to know exactly why.
Know yourself. Know Life. Then be true to yourself. Take some of that obsession. Turn it into persistence and passion. Then go after what you want. The defect becomes power.
Good luck. May the Force guide and be with you. Let me know how it goes. (The only place this may not work is in relationships.) If there’s a person you really want to be in relationship with, you may need to change your tactics or you’ll drive him or her away.
Be more subtle. Don’t just know what and who you want. Learn to dance with the universe.
Take those defects and turn them into assets. Surrender to what is. Going after what we want shouldn’t substitute for denial or refusal to surrender to reality — right now. Throw in a little “letting go.” Then see how it works.
It’s one recipe for getting what we want from Life. Bah, humbug to that saying, “Be careful for what you ask for because you might get it.” If you get what you want, good for you.
You’re learning to tap into essential Power and align with the Plan for your life.
That’s it for today.
Melody Beattie from Desert Hot Springs, CA