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Cul-de-Sac

by Alan Fox 0 Comments
Cul-de-Sac

I live in a house on a cul-de-sac, so I’m certain that every car driving South past my house will eventually turn around and head North back to the main street.

For the past forty years I have lived in a house on a cul-de-sac.  When I was walking in my neighborhood last weekend I wondered about the implications of that choice.

First, I don’t like the sound of traffic.  Whenever I stay in a hotel in Manhattan, I think that there must be a lot of fires or sick people there because the annoying sound of sirens is nonstop.

Second, I prefer my home to remain private.  No salesperson or Halloween trick-or-treater has ever knocked at my door.

Finally, all of my mail is directed to my office.  At home I only open the mailbox once a month to clear out the flyers and junk mail.

I realize that in my life I work either at 100% of capacity, or 0%.  There is no in-between, no second or third gear. I’m a little like my Tesla that accelerates from zero to 60 mph in three seconds.  At my office I’m always moving at 60 mph.  At home I pretty much remain at zero.

When I was growing up my father had a work of art above his desk in the den inscribed with the saying, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man.”  Perhaps the location of my home allows me to live by those words, written by the poet Sam Walter Foss more than a century ago.

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Alan

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How to Get What You Want Every Single Day

by Alan Fox 1 Comment
How to Get What You Want Every Single Day

Spoiler alert:  I will reveal the most important secret near the very end of this blog, so it’s your choice — either skip to the conclusion or read all the way through.  It depends on whether you like to enjoy your journey or prefer to arrive at your destination quickly.

Either way, I will keep it short.

During the past week I realized that, like many of us during the pandemic, I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling sorry for myself some of the time. Members of my household have even asked me, “Are you okay?”

Like my dad, I always answer that question with, “Everything’s fine.”  This past week has been no exception.  While I gladly solicit the opinions and help of others in business, I do not complain about my personal life unless it has become pretty grim.  But I have been grumbling to myself lately, giving myself an “Ain’t it awful” message instead of the more uplifting, “Isn’t this fun?”

But I’ve changed my internal message.  While my daughter and I prepared the stuffing for our Thanksgiving dinner, I focused on the joy of cooking together and found myself looking forward to an intimate dinner for four rather than the usual throng of twenty.  It will be different, but variety is a good thing, even though I do like certain traditions.

The real trick of getting what you want every day is to realize that, as much as we try, we can’t control what happens to us.  Bummer.  But we can control our reaction.  So all you have to do to get what you want every single day is to reframe your perspective and define the outcome as “exactly what you wanted”.

If, on Thursday, someone spills the cranberry sauce all over the floor, I’m planning to tell myself, “Thank goodness.  Now I can concentrate on the turkey and stuffing, and eat fewer calories.  I don’t like cranberry sauce anyway.”  (Of course, that’s only if I can’t find my secret stash of cranberry sauce in back of the pantry.)

Happiness is when there is no gap between what I want to happen and what actually happens.  I have trained myself to accept reality, and to label it, “That’s exactly what I wanted.  I just didn’t know it yet.”

Of course, after Thanksgiving dinner I would buy more cranberry sauce to enjoy with the leftovers, which is the best part of Thanksgiving anyway.  And with only four people at the table, there will definitely be more leftovers.

Yum.

Alan

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A Trophy Dad

by Alan Fox 0 Comments
A Trophy Dad

This morning I noticed a wastebasket in the hallway outside my office.  In it were six or seven trophies my dad had won at lawn bowling tournaments.

By now all of my dad’s “stuff” has been sold, given away, or discarded, with the exception of several pieces of art that are in storage and eight boxes resting in a small space outside my office door.  A few weeks ago I asked a friend to sort out the contents of those boxes, and I’m guessing she decided to trash Dad’s trophies.

I immediately rescued them.

My dad died almost 18 months ago at the age of 104.  One cord that still connects me to him are my memories.  Just yesterday I shared with one of my sons a story about going deep sea fishing with Dad when I was fourteen and both of us caught our legal limit of albacore.

“I’m never going deep sea fishing again,” he said as we loaded our “haul” (20 albacore in burlap sacks) into the trunk of his car.

“Why not, dad?”

“Alan, it could never be better than today.”

True to his word, he never went deep sea fishing again.

Dad played racquetball until he was eighty, the same age that I am now.

“Too many gashes on my head,” he said when he quit.

A few years later he took up lawn bowling.  I remember that he and the two other members of his team once played a match in which they earned a perfect score, which is even more exceptional than a perfect 300 in regular bowling.  It was so unusual that the feat was reported in the local newspaper.

Another cord that still connects me to my dad are his possessions.  His wallet rests in my desk drawer at home.  Copies of the two books he wrote are displayed on a shelf in my dining room.  And his trophies . . . I will not let them go.  Maybe I’ll give them to his grandchildren at some point, but for now I want to keep them.

I have no idea about the names, let alone the lives, of my great grandparents, and I do not expect that my own great grandchildren will remember much about me.  But even though I may be loyal to a fault, I have become more attached to my memory of Dad, and to a few of his possessions, as the fact of his actual presence in my life is attenuated by time.

In the words of Frank Sinatra, thanks for the memory.

You are a Trophy Dad.

Love,

Alan

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