Secret of Adulthood: Sometimes, You Have to Work Hard to Be Lazy.

From Further Secrets of Adulthood.

I feel this way often. I need to schedule time to be unscheduled, I need to force myself to wander, I have to reassure myself that staring into space is as useful as staring into my laptop.

I guess the idea isn’t so much “laziness” and “leisureliness.”

I love the quotation from Gertrude Stein, from Everybody’s Autobiography: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

It easy to assume that goofing off, play, and relaxation  should be spontaneous. But I’ve learned that if something is important to me, I should find a way to put it on my calendar. That way it happens!

That’s why I have some odd habits — such as to kiss my husband every morning and every night. I use the Strategy of Scheduling to make sure I make a habit of the things I want to do.

On the weekends, I schedule time to read for fun. There’s never enough time to read!

Why It’s a Bad Idea to “Interview for Pain.”

One of my favorite parenting books is Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill’s Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understand the Social Lives of Children.

Like most good parenting books, the advice turns out to be just as useful when dealing with adults as it is when dealing with children. (I think about Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s brilliant How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk more often in the context of adult than of child interactions.)

As I was reading Best Friends, Worst Enemies, I was particularly struck by Thompson’s warning against “interviewing for pain.”

He describes a situation where your child complains about another child’s behavior, and then every day, when your child returns from school, you ask, “So, honey, was Pat mean to you today?”

Thompson points out that children are quick to realize that bad stories about Pat will be a good way to get your attention, and that they may seek to satisfy you, and present the facts in the most attention-grabbing way. Also, Thompson writes,

“I believe that we live the story we tell ourselves–and others–about the life we’re leading…If you constantly interview your child for pain, your child may begin to hear a story of social suffering emerge from her own mouth. Soon she will begin to believe it and will see herself as a victim….

“Please understand that I am not advising you to disbelieve our children, nor am I saying that you should not be empathic…But…don’t interview for pain, don’t nurture resentments, and don’t hold on to ancient history. Kids don’t.”

And although Thompson doesn’t make this point, it also seems to me that by asking this question, we focus a child’s attention on that part of the day. Instead of thinking about the happy interactions that took place, the child tries to remember painful interactions.

Not “interviewing for pain” seems to me to be excellent advice for dealing with children–and also adults.

For instance, I can imagine a well-meaning friend or spouse or family member asking at every meeting, “So is your ex-wife still as awful as ever?” or “Is your boss still so difficult to work with?”

Now I remind myself not to interview for pain. Yes, stay open to a discussion, if someone close to me wants to talk about something painful. Not to be dismissive, not to be eager to avoid the subject — but also not to shine such a spotlight on a difficult situation that everything good fades out.

Have you ever interviewed for pain — or perceived that someone was interviewing you for pain?

“It Seemed to Put One Part of Him to Sleep and Wake Another Part Up.”

“Setting the gently sloshing tank on the dresser, Ellsworth sprinkled in some food and spent a few minutes watching the little fish dart up and away from the surface, over and over again. Like always, it did something to him, that movement, something he could never quite figure out. It seemed to put one part of him to sleep and wake another part up, the part that sent ideas bubbling up and out.”

— Janet S. Anderson, The Last Treasure

A few months ago, my younger daughter got a beta fish. I’ve never had a fish before, and I’ve been surprised by how gratifying it is to see Esther swimming around in her tank. That bit of life.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for May 2015.

Before I get to the fun of recommending some good books to read for May, here’s a quick bit of book-self-promotion: Mother’s Day is coming up on May 10. If you’re looking for a good gift for a mother in your life, may I suggest…you guessed it…Better Than Before.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

In a Mirror by Mary Stolz

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

Lately, I’ve been doing some good reading on airplanes and in hotel rooms, while I’m on tour for Better Than Before. I just finished Jane Gardam’s The Hollow Land.

Speaking of my own book…things are going very well for Better Than Before: it was an instant bestseller, has received a lot of great attention in the press, and I’ve been able to talk with many readers as I’ve been on tour. Thanks as always, readers, for your enthusiasm and support.

If you like the book, and you have the time and the inclination, it’s a big help to me if you write a review or rate the book on the online bookselling sites. Readers really respect the views of other readers. As a big reader myself, I know that I often see what other readers have to say, before I head off to the library or bookstore or click “buy.”

Happy May, and happy reading! So many good books…

Need a Good Gift for Mother’s Day? Guess What I’ll Suggest.

Next Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a mother in your life, may I suggest my new (bestselling) book, Better Than Before?

I’ve heard from a lot of people who are giving the book as a gift. I offer free, signed bookplates, to make books more special, but because I’m traveling on my book tour, I’m not sure I could get those back to you in time for Mother’s Day. But I’ll try, or if you’re willing to wait a few extra days, you can request bookplates here, and I’ll get them to you as quickly as possible. (U.S. and Canada only, sorry–mailing costs.)

If you’d like to read an excerpt, to see if you think the book would be a good gift, read here.

If you’re considering giving the audio-book, listen to a clip here.

I love all my books equally, but a surprising number of people have told me that of all my books, Better Than Before is their favorite.

I know some people think that days like “Mother’s Day” are artificial and forced, but for myself, I find it helpful to have reminders to think about the important people in my life.