boot on man's head, maggie mcreynolds blog

I Feel Your Pain

Um, no thanks.

I don’t want you to feel my pain. I don’t want to feel your pain. And, in fact, we shouldn’t, because if we start feeling each other’s pain, processing the other’s emotions in the mistaken idea we are being of help, we are both lost.

Point of clarification: there’s a big difference between being present for someone in trouble and taking on their pain. Being present doesn’t mean being cold and unemotional. It doesn’t mean withholding support or tenderness. It doesn’t mean not feeling sad when someone you care about is hurting.

But your sadness is yours, and their pain is theirs, and understanding the distinction is crucial. When you make someone who is already suffering responsible for your sadness, you’re asking them to comfort you and make you feel okay. No fair. Not their job.

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I Feel Lucky

I feel lucky, I feel lucky, yeah
Think I’ll flip a coin, I’m a winner either way
Mmmmmm, I feel lucky today ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to ye. Or maybe, in a nod to the country song above, I’ll amend that to “ya’ll.”

Weird thing is, the “luck of the Irish” is kinda misunderstood. Holy Cross prof and Irish history expert Edward O’Donnell points out that the Irish have hardly been lucky; their country has endured over 1,000 years of invasion, colonization, exploitation, starvation and mass emigration.

The somewhat more positive phrase actually originated in America—and it wasn’t meant to be flattering. Seems that during the Gold Rush, some of the most famous and successful miners were Irish or Irish-American. When jealous would-be millionaires sneered of “the luck of the Irish,” what they really meant was that the Irish—not warmly admitted to this country—were such overwhelmingly stupid oafs that any success could only be explained by sheer, blind luck.

What is luck, anyway? Is it something that falls from the sky upon you, in the form of either blessing or curse? How many of you feel that others around you seem inexplicably and undeservedly lucky, while you, equally undeservedly, struggle? How many of the following statements sound familiar to you?

Some people have all the luck.
I just can’t seem to catch a break.
Maybe someday I’ll get lucky.
She got where she is by pure, dumb luck.

Me, I’m with Shakespeare, who famously wrote that “nothing is good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” And I’m also with the divine Mary C. C., whose song essentially says that you are as lucky as you feel.

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Hey, Waiter!

You get what you order—so make sure you ask for what you want.

I was a restaurant critic for ten years, so believe me, I know dining, both fine and—well, let’s just say otherwise. Back when I was eating out three nights a week and writing reviews, I sometimes found restaurants with exhaustive menus really overwhelming. So many choices. So many ways things could go wrong. And sometimes, the consequences of making the “wrong” choice were pretty significant. (Ask my partner at the time, who contracted salmonella poisoning three times over the course of that decade.)

waiters, maggie mcreynolds blogLife offers almost an infinite menu of choices, too. And, yes, it can be equally overwhelming. But in my years of taking friends to restaurants, I learned some common pitfalls that get between you and getting what you actually want. Recognize yourself in any of these?

“Just bring me something good.” Points for optimism here, but note the neat transfer of power from yourself to another. And what is “good” to your waiter (Sweetbreads? Liver and onions? Chicken tenders?) may not be what you want, at all at all at all.

“If you loved me, you’d know what I want.” Passive-aggressive much? No matter how loyal a regular customer you are, expecting a waiter—or a loved one, or the universe—to magically intuit what you want is insane. And it sets you up to blame someone else when things don’t work out. Or maybe that’s the point? Bingo!

“Bring me whatever’s on special.” Did you know that most restaurants’ “specials” are concocted out of whatever ingredients aren’t selling and are about to go bad? Don’t be fooled by going with what’s popular, what looks bright and shiny, the stuff that has flashing lights around it. It’s often fool’s gold.

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