Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sorry Not Sorry

"Sorry seems to be the hardest word." - Elton John

With all due respect, Sir Elton, I disagree. Saying sorry has become way too easy. 

Remember this post that I wrote back in 2016? In case you don't remember I proclaimed that going forward I was going to stop using the word deserve. I'm happy to say I've stuck to my plan and rarely use the D word.  

And now, I think it's time we all stop saying the word sorry or at a minimum we should significantly reduce the frequency with which we are saying it because it seems that many of us are in a constant state of being very, very sorry for everything.

Women especially always want to tell you how sorry they are. Sorry for being late, sorry their house is a mess, sorry they didn't call you back, sorry the phone was on the charger and they missed your SMS, sorry we don't have any sparkling water, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Men on the other hand are never sorry for anything or if they are, they never bother to mention it.

I believe that it's o.k. for men and women alike to be sorry about certain things. It is o.k. to say sorry if: you bump into someone, you hit someone with your car, you feed someone peanuts and they are allergic, or if someone you know has lost (as in died) a friend or relative. I feel strongly that we should save the word sorry for the moments when we are truly sorry.

Instead, most of the times when we say sorry, we really aren't sorry at all. We just want the other person to reassure us and let us know that we shouldn't be sorry. We should ask ourselves why we are fishing for so much reassurance. 

Men apparently don't need any reassurance because they know everything they do is great. 

Let's imagine a scenario for a moment and no this didn't happen to me...it's made up. 

Let's imagine that a man and a woman live together in the same house. Let's imagine that the man was out walking the dog and the woman ran out to do an errand. Somehow, when she left the house the door locked and the man, when he returned with the dog, was locked out. He calls the woman and she rushes home to let him in. She jumps out of the car saying, "sorry, sorry, sorry, the door must have locked, I didn't lock it, how long were you waiting, etc. etc. etc." She says all this as she runs, yes RUNS over to the door and unlocks it to let the man in.

Now reverse the situation, the woman is walking the dog and returns home to a locked door. She calls the man and he comes home and unlocks it for her. The man, I can promise you will not say he's sorry. He might possibly say that there is something wrong with the door or the lock that caused it to lock unnecessarily, but more than likely he won't even comment on the situation. He will casually get out of his car, smile at the woman, saunter over and unlock the door. He is Prince Charming saving the day and there is nothing sorry about that. If he does speak, he will make a comment about a topic totally unrelated such as, "wow I saw a bad car accident out on route 12."

And you know what...he's right. The world is an imperfect place. Doors lock and sometimes when they do people find themselves on the wrong side of them. No one purposely locked anyone out and the person who shut the door didn't mean any harm. It just happened. 

And funny, I realize as I'm writing this that I've obviously been in America a while now because if you're living in a secure fortress in Joburg, this door locking scenario makes no sense at all.

My suggestion to curb all of this sorriness is to think of other things to say instead. Going forward if I find myself in a situation that I'm truly sorry about I will say "I apologize" which I think makes the statement more genuine rather than saying sorry which at this point is more of a habit than an expression of actual emotion.

Here are some examples of how not to say you're sorry.

Scenario                                                           What to say instead of sorry
You're late to meet someone                             Thank you for waiting. I apologize.
You miss someones phone call                          I missed your call earlier
We don't have any club soda                             We don't have any club soda
You forget to do something that someone 
asked of you                                                      I must have forgotten to....

I'll let you know how it works out. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Until I spent significant time living outside of America, I could not pinpoint and as easily identify qualities of American-ness. Having been back in America for nearly two months, I find myself in a unique position to objectively notice American qualities and trends and yet, I'm still an insider and still very much American. 

Disclaimer: These observations are generalizations and don't apply to all Americans as America and the people living in it are vast and diverse. Obviously.

1) Americans can't get enough sparkling water/club soda. It used to be back when I was a kid that club soda was for a) mixing with booze b) making an ice cream soda or c) drinking with piece of lime or lemon when you were at a party, on the wagon and didn't want to call attention to yourself. Now, it's completely different. Sparkling water which is a fancy name for club soda is ubiquitous and available in a massive amount of flavors. This observation comes from not only noticing what the friends who I've been staying with have at their homes and are drinking but also from peering into other people's grocery carts, one of my favorite pastimes.  My theory for this love of bubbles is that Americans are very focused on hydration because everyone, me included, knows that most ailments and a general feeling of malaise can usually be chalked up to dehydration. Unfortunately,  hydrating, through the drinking of regular flat water is boring. Sparkling water gives Americans the feeling they are doing something healthy while enjoying a little extra zip.

2) Americans are afraid of being poisoned...sort of. Favorite American topics of discussion are things or people that are toxic, the presence of toxins in the environment and in the body, methods of cleansing and detox.  If you are American and come into contact with something or someone toxic or just know you're being exposed to toxins through everyday life, then you need to cleanse and detox. This can be done by a) drinking large amounts of cold pressed juice but eating no solid food for days at a time b) making and eating (or is it drinking?) bone broth c) going to a spa or a retreat and having various kinds of treatments d) doing Keto, Whole 30 or some other extremely restrictive diet where you are not allowed any sugar (very toxic) booze, carbs, dairy, meat, you name it e) sweating excessively and drinking lots of water....but not sparkling.

I've also noticed at the grocery store that there is a lot of fear about the frightening yet real possibility that toxic groceries might come into contact with those groceries deemed to be non-toxic. Multiple times at the check out I've been asked if it's o.k. for the cashier to put my laundry detergent in the same bag with a food item. I always say that it's fine because a) I don't like living my life controlled by fear and b) the laundry detergent has a lid on it.  Apparently this is a big deal though because the cashiers seem afraid of making a mistake, putting something toxic next to something non-toxic and being held personally responsible for poisoning a customer. Just now, I was at the store and the cashier checked with me to confirm that it was o.k. for her to wrap my already plastic wrapped chicken in plastic. Plastic, by the way is toxic...but raw chicken juice, well that's the shit that killed Elvis.

What's funny is we are only afraid of toxicity when it suits us. We are happy to eat greasy chicken wings, drink beer, burn fossil fuels, hold a cell phone next to our bodies at all times, wear make-up, get our nails done, get our hair dyed, pour a shit ton of chemicals on our lawns, etc, etc, but shudder at the thought of placing an unopened bottle of Windex in the same plastic bag as an unopened box of not clearly non-toxic fish sticks.

3) Speaking of words...Americans love to say the word literally. Literally I cannot tell you how many times I literally hear this word in a day. Here's a sample conversation between two people that I made up to prove my point.

Friend 1: "So literally I'm standing online at Whole Foods and the cashier literally puts my 7th Generation granite counter top cleanser in the same bag as my Pirate's Booty so I'm like, "can you please keep the cleaner separate from the food?" I mean, do they not train these people? 

Friend 2: (Oh and we also often reply having completely missed the point) "How does that 7th Generation stuff work? Is it good?"

Friend 1: "It's o.k. I really don't like to use toxic products around my house."  I'm trying to limit our exposure to toxins."

Friend 2: "Yes, I know. I literally HAD to tell the kids the other night that I'm no longer buying them Hot Pockets because those things are literally full of toxic chemicals. And I had all the carpets removed from my house because not only are carpets made of toxic fibers, they literally trap dirt and other toxins from the air."

Friend 1: "I love Hot Pockets. Especially when I'm hungover."

Friend 2: "Yeah, me too."

Friend 1: "Hey, do you want something to drink?" 

Friend 2: "I'd love a sparkling water, I literally sweated gallons at the gym this morning. I'm literally so dehydrated."

Friend 1: "Oh good for you. I love sweating out the toxins."

Friend 2: "Literally, the other day I was so dehydrated that I thought I had a brain tumor. I had such a headache."

3) Americans are very generous. I'm not just saying this to make up for all of the things I just wrote. It's true. according to the Philanthropy Roundtable, "between 70 and 90 percent of all U.S. households donate to charity in a given year, and the typical household’s annual gifts add up to between two and three thousand dollars. This is different from the patterns in any other country. Per capita, ­Americans voluntarily donate about seven times as much as continental ­Europeans. Even our cousins the Canadians give to charity at substantially lower rates, and at half the total volume of an American household." 

Recently, I told a group of friends in Boston about a 17 year old boy who attends the Diepsloot Combined School. His parents passed away a few years ago. He is a very good student and is at the top of his senior (matric) class. My friend Meghan wrote a detailed blog post about him and his life which you can read here.  Earlier this year, due to an error, he mistakenly didn't receive the award for being a top student at the school.  I had spoken to one friend in Boston about the situation a few weeks ago, and then she and I told our other friends to see if we might be able to gather some items to give to him in an effort to try to reward him for his good grades. 

Literally, my friends in Boston open their hearts, their closets and their wallets and gave the most beautiful gifts to this young man. In addition to a very generous amount of cash, they found, bought and gave clothing, much of it with a Boston theme, with enthusiasm and love.  Two friends even gave a baseball which was caught at a Red Sox game. One of them told me she had been keeping the ball in her car, waiting for the right moment when the right person would come along who she could give it to. This boy doesn't know a lot about Boston or baseball, but when we explain about the sports teams in Boston, how the baseball was caught, and how this group of people are all rooting for him to succeed in life I think he'll understand a lot about America. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Hashtag Grateful

"And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass"
 - Counting Crows, A Long December

At the suggestion of someone close to me, someone who I trust and admire, I started reading a book called, "The Magic."

As likely became clear in my last post, just because I've decided to return to South Africa, doesn't mean I'm not the "same old me." Clearly, I'm still vain and somewhat superficial. And, I'm still skeptical about many things, things such as higher powers, the healing powers of reiki and of course magic. 

Even though I'm practical, rational and have never cracked open a self-help book until now, I am learning quite a bit from "The Magic." I find myself thinking about the book often which means it's worthwhile and interesting.

The premise of The Magic is that there is a riddle in an ancient text, which until now has never been understood or revealed. The book claims if you understand the riddle which advises incorporating gratitude into your life, your life will change and transform for the positive. Your health, your financial situation, your relationships, everything will improve. That's the part that makes me go hmmm. But the meat of the book is practical advice and specific assignments for the reader every day for 28 days all focused on becoming someone who is truly grateful. 

The tone of The Magic, reminds me a little bit of a chain letter circa 1982. Remember those? They were all worded similarly stating something along the lines of "what could be easier, mail copies of this letter to eight people by this date and good things will come to you." But if you break the chain, and don't mail the letter, "well then....we hate to tell you this but the last person who broke the chain died. And she didn't just die, just got hit by a train and smashed to a million pieces, in fact we are still finding her body parts, and then her entire family died in a freak house fire."

Bold and unafraid even back in the 80s, I always broke the chains.  So I don't believe as the book insinuates that if I'm not grateful I will miss out on the magic and good fortune promised to those who follow the steps suggested. But I have learned there is a right way to experience gratitude and strangely enough it's not the way I was doing it prior to reading the book. My former method of gratitude was to remind myself, similar to the way a nagging friend would, how great my life is and how people live in shacks in places like Diepsloot without running water and electricity and to tell myself that the fact that I accidentally brushed up against a dirty car and got a mixture of road salt and dirt on my pants really isn't the end of the world.  I have also learned that there is so much to be grateful for in life. More than I ever considered.

As I've been in America for the past six weeks, something sort of magical has started to happen. I've begun to appreciate my unusual and somewhat unsettling situation. My limbo has transformed into something slightly magical. 

The last time I lived in America I was working and when I worked work was all consuming. Work came first. It came before fun, it came before relationships and it came before friendships. I am not sure I knew any of this at the time but in hindsight it is extremely clear to me. I can remember that even when I wasn't working, I was thinking about work and squeezing my entire life into my non-working time.  Looking back, there were too many times when I decided I couldn't go somewhere or fully enjoy something because of work. Whether I actually had to work or whether I preferred to stay home and recover from or prepare to go to work, I don't know and it doesn't much matter now. 

Now, I find myself with endless opportunity to spend time with people who are important to me. I've visited friends and family up and down the eastern seaboard over the past six weeks. I've reconnected with friends from all different stages of my life, many of whom I haven't seen in years. I've stayed with some friends at their homes for days at a time, and others I've met for just a few hours. I've been to a baby shower, a 50th birthday party and a Passover Seder. I've met the children of some of my friends for the first time. I've gone to work and grocery shopping with friends.  I collected sea glass with a friend on a cold beach in Massachusetts in February and sat on a warm beach with another friend in Florida in March. I danced to 80's tunes with a group of friends and then performed "The Gambler" for them. I braved danger and personally investigated when a tree fell on my friend's house during a snow storm. Recently, when I spent time with my parents, I had the rare chance to go to Pilates and yoga with my mom...both in the same day and then I perfectly organized the food in their new refrigerator for them. What fun! 

I am grateful. 

I am grateful that I have so many interesting, fun, unique and special people in my life who love me and have welcomed me back with such enthusiasm. I'm grateful that due to my weird circumstances that I can spend meaningful time with so many people. This opportunity will never happen again...unless of course it takes two years for my paperwork to be approved, then it might happen quite frequently, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

A friend of mine who I've known since I was ten, and who has no idea I'm reading The Magic, summed it up perfectly in a text message she sent me after we met one day. 

"It was so nice to see you today! On one hand I do not like that you are having to go through the not knowing how things are going to work out for you. On the other hand I am glad that we have been able to reconnect..."

So am I. 

About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.