I’m having a freak magnet kind of a day. I can call it that only after long experience. When I was younger, this kind of thing might have made me feel special. I might have mistaken other people’s poor boundaries, or other serious red flags, for instant intimacy.
I’m sitting in a busy cafe. Within an hour, three total strangers have interrupted me and physically touched me. One of them also touched my purse.
This is highly unusual. Let’s acknowledge that. If I were Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s unlikely that other people would walk up and lay their hands on me, even if the song “Lay Your Hands On Me” were playing in the background.
I have to ask myself, is there something in this situation or in my physical presence that is drawing this odd behavior from others?
First assumption: I’m in the way.
If I were standing in a crowd, like at a parade or festival, I could assume that I would be pressed against. I’ve ridden mass transit for many years and I don’t necessarily mind being squished together.
Being touched by a series of strangers could also be a sign of low situational awareness on my part. Maybe I’m blocking a doorway or I keep wandering into other people’s paths.
Second assumption: Something is visibly wrong with me and people are checking on me.
If I were having some kind of dizzy spell, if I had just been hit by a car or knocked over, if I was bleeding from a head injury and didn’t realize it yet, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone to physically steady me or try to help me sit down. I assume that if I were going into shock or having some kind of episode, I might not realize what was going on.
Third assumption: I am the victim of a prank.
Maybe someone stuck a sign on my back. Maybe I’ve unintentionally walked out of the house looking like some kind of meme, and I’m too out of the loop to know it. In this scenario, people might be interacting with me because they can hardly keep from laughing, and making eye contact or sneaking photos of me is prolonging the fun.
Lord help me, I wish I could rule out that third option forever, but I’m still haunted by this kind of thing...
Fourth assumption: I’m in the kind of neighborhood where the cultural norm is more physical than other places.
It is true that I live in a beach community with very relaxed norms. Seeing people walk down the sidewalk barefoot, or wearing only a skimpy swimsuit, is everyday and unremarkable here. Maybe the locals are also huggers and I just haven’t noticed yet.
Fifth assumption: I look approachable and people are drawn to me.
This is likely, and also hilarious to me, because it’s both true and untrue.
I happen to be wearing a set of enormous noise-cancelling headphones. My husband bought them for me specifically because they are an ostentatious signal that I am WORKING and unavailable for casual chatter. This is because he knows about my freak magnet problem. I also happen to be wearing a Warrior Dash t-shirt, a garment I’ve worn to Krav Maga lessons, and the only accessory that would make me feel more intimidating would be my kali stick.
When I left my apartment, my sartorial messages were STAY AWAY and BUSY and I MIGHT FIGHT YOU.
At least three other people looked at me in this guise and thought, I should touch this woman.
Who were they?
One, an older woman, possibly old enough to be my mom. She grabbed both of my arms from behind. What?? She wanted to joke with me about another man a few feet away who was playing air drums. Okay cool.
Two, a young man, possibly young enough to be my son. He touched my arm and started talking to me until I took my headphones off. Then he asked if I would pull down the blinds. As I did, he put his hand on my purse and held it out of the way.
Three, a young girl, probably middle school age. She tapped my arm and kept waving at me until I took my headphones off. “Hi.” She wanted to know what I was doing (“trying to get some work done”) and tell me that she and her two friends had the day off from school.
When people physically grab my arms, they have my attention. I figure they’re telling me that the building is being evacuated, or someone is trying to steal from me, or my headphones aren’t plugged in and I’m blasting everyone with a wave of sound, or I’m foaming at the mouth and having a seizure. It’s never been that.
For some mysterious reason, random people just feel impelled to do anything to get my attention.
My family has had a joke for many years. Every time we go somewhere together, someone picks me out and asks me to take their picture. The joke is that I could have a very large stolen camera collection by now! Obviously consensus opinion is that I look trustworthy, approachable, and kind. Another way to put that is: small, female, and harmless. Never mind that I’m belted in two martial arts and I have special training in how to fight with hammer, screwdriver, pen, knife, and staff. I look nice enough, don’t I?
The thing about instant intimacy is that it’s superficial. Just because someone is ready to drop their boundaries on sight doesn’t mean there is any good reason for it. Someone who becomes emotionally open and vulnerable right away may have motives hidden even from themselves.
The truth is that I’ve had this “instant intimacy” issue since I was a baby. Or so I’ve been told. It was part of my socialization as a tiny child to listen closely and with sympathy when people start spilling their life stories. They may do this with literally anyone who crosses their path; I’m just the type to regard it with compassion instead of annoyance, shock, or dread. Oh wow, someone with serious boundary issues, tell me more!
People are right when they see me as someone who is safe to approach, to interrupt, or even to grope. Apparently. I’m never going to haul off and start beating someone up or shouting at them, although I am trained in these arts and I certainly know what to do. I’m also a Free Hugs person, experienced in social services and crisis management. These are empath problems.
There are probably people who come across as seriously intimidating everywhere they go. I imagine there are people who wish they had more friends and can’t figure out what unintentional signals they are sending out. I’m not scary! Come back! I wish I knew their secrets, just like they probably wish they knew mine.
It’s incumbent on us to figure out what to do with these surface impressions. I’ve had to learn to protect my mental and emotional bandwidth. I’ve had to learn to slow that roll and set up more limits and speedbumps and tests and boundaries with all the random strangers who are drawn to me. I’ve had to learn not to mistake every approach as friendship or romance. Instant intimacy is a red flag, a signal to slow down and ask more questions. Real friendship needs more time to develop. Real, ordinary friendliness and cordial behavior is plenty.
Interesting things always happen when you clear clutter, and this was no exception. My husband was going through a bag of papers, the last thing left from our move six months ago. Yes, a bag, a reusable shopping bag. Aha, he said, here it is! We’d been looking for this. The first financial plan we ever put in writing together.
In 2009, we made a ten-year financial plan. It turned up just as we were getting ready to do our taxes for the tenth year.
How’d we do?
Before I answer that, I should explain what is so significant about this ten-year plan and why anyone other than us would care about it.
What I didn’t know that winter was that my boyfriend at the time had already decided he wanted to marry me. We had been dating for nearly three years, living in separate cities the whole time, and I was perfectly fine with this arrangement. We had both been divorced, mine five years before his, and I didn’t see any reason to disrupt what we had.
I also felt like it was his decision if he ever wanted to get married again, because his divorce was much fresher and he had a kid. There was nothing to be gained from exerting any pressure on my end, especially because I value my independence and I need a lot of alone time. I had steadily been doing better for myself and I was proud of my progress.
Keep in mind that when we met, I was sleeping on an air mattress in a rented room, working as a temp, with no benefits. After I paid my student loan every month, I had about $30 of wiggle room in my budget. This boyfriend of mine, the one who was secretly contemplating marriage, had watched me as I consolidated my position:
The first raise. The permanent job offer, with benefits and another raise. The first promotion. Moving to an apartment of my own, with no roommates. Paying off two credit cards. Paying off a student loan six years early. Applying for, and getting, two promotional opportunities. Going on a proper beach vacation (without him) and paying for it in cash. Moving to a small rental house of my own.
I didn’t necessarily see myself on a clear trajectory at the time. I felt I was constantly pushing away from a very rough period in my life and recovering from the disaster that was my divorce. I still thought of myself as… temporarily non-broke. I knew I wouldn’t feel any kind of peace of mind until some later point, not one that I could imagine, but probably something like a hundred thousand dollars of savings, that or annual income. Why would I ever stop what I was doing when I felt the dark alternative in my bones?
When my boyfriend of nearly three years called and suggested that we have a financial planning meeting together, I was intrigued and excited. Sure, sounds great!
He came over to my mini-house. I loved that place! It was the first time in my life that I felt really proud of where I lived, the tiniest house in a safe, quiet, and upscale neighborhood. (It was really more like a servant’s quarters, to be honest, a granny unit on the same lot as a house that was 4x larger). I had built all my IKEA furniture myself, bought and paid for it all in cash, and although I was renting, my place was nicer than my boyfriend’s.
The financial planning meeting wasn’t too different from the New Year’s planning I had invited him to do with me for the last three years. I think that process opened the door for this. We had already had some practice being open and honest with each other, we’d already seen some of our plans work out, and we had been talking about money since before we started dating.
He worked the calculator and I wrote everything down on ordinary lined notebook paper.
Most of our discussion was setting the parameters for what would go into the plan.
We started with the assumption that neither of us would ever get a raise, a promotion, a bonus, or a windfall of any kind. That way, any successes of this nature would come as pleasant surprises, not baseline requirements.
We each have our own page. Our names are right at the top. We’re set up slightly differently, because at the time our retirement savings were structured differently and we had different expenses. I supposedly had a pension and a deferred savings account, while he had a traditional 401(k). He was still paying child support, alimony, and a note on his truck. (I had already gone car-free by then).
It took me a while to reinterpret the math, because almost everything I had written out for both of us was arithmetic, not notes or dictation. We were estimating our retirement contributions and savings. In his case, we were forecasting how much more he could save after he paid off his truck and no longer owed alimony or child support.
What we failed to anticipate was a couple of layoffs, major moves, and surprise expenses. *gulp* We also didn’t include consumer debt or my last student loan.
Oh, and, um, we didn’t include me quitting my day job a year later. *nervous laughter*
Or the wedding, since the entire topic of marriage had not come up yet...
Ten years is a pretty long time for anyone. It’s quite a long time indeed in the life of a love relationship. My first marriage was over and done in a three-year span. It was a little nuts for us to be forecasting this far, and we knew it at the time. WHO KNEW what the future would bring???
Trust, love, and optimism, that’s what it brought, along with the usual share of disruption, dread, and calamity.
When both of our ten-year financial forecasts were finished, a full page for each of us, we sat back and looked at each other. Wow! That was actually fun!
Just a couple of months later, he proposed, his decision already made. He chose the one who likes to crunch numbers and talk about money, the one who is a careful saver, who reads personal finance manuals and manages her own investments. The one who beat the market in 2008. He chose me.
I chose him right back. I could choose freely because I didn’t need him, I wanted him. I was doing fine on my own. It just so happened that we liked it better when we were together.
How did it turn out?
After ten years: roughly two thousand dollars ahead of forecast. That’s a 0.4% win, pretty much as close as one could get.
How about that? Not only do we still like each other and find each other attractive, we just found vindication of our decisions from a decade ago buried in a stack of papers. Our methods apparently worked.
Now it’s probably time to put together a new ten-year plan, since the old one just expired. We can add in the perspective we’ve gained over the past decade, with the assumption that the next ten years will probably include a long recession and the firm knowledge that we can’t expect a single thing in our lives to stay the same. Well, except for our ability to have rational discussions together about our plans. That part we get to keep.
Have you ever learned about something that suddenly snapped a huge part of your life into a new perspective? That happened to me the other day when I read about future faking for the first time. If I had known what it was twenty-five years ago, it would have changed the entire course of my life, and I am not kidding.
Future faking is a trick that manipulative people use to make us think they are invested in a relationship. They pretend they want to do something with you in the future in order to win your affection, attention, or whatever the heck it is that they want.
This kind of thing actually happens all the time to varying degrees. Most people do not regard casual statements as a firm contract. When we say, “we have to get together soon” or “I’ll send you that link” or “I’ll call you,” we’re expressing a sentiment that feels true in the moment. Today Me thinks Future Me is totally going to want to hang out!
Just like Past Me has committed Today Me to do all kinds of things, from donating blood to reorganizing the cabinet under the sink, Today Me never feels any more like doing those things than Past Me ever did. Ah, but Future Me, Future Me is the one with the motivation.
Future faking goes beyond ordinary over-promising and under-delivering. Future faking can be a conscious strategy of the unscrupulous.
Multi-level marketing is a classic example of this. There’s a huge amount of inspiration, motivation, visioning, and pumping up of aspirations. It’s going to be so great, business is booming, you’re going to get so rich! …in unsold and unsellable inventory and bitter experience. Even though 99% of people who sign up for MLMs lose money, they’re still allowed to operate. Sadly, getting duped by one MLM is not enough to convince everyone to swear off all of them, and the same individual may get swept up in the same type of scheme several times.
One of the hints here is to do a status meeting with yourself and ask: “Is this working for me, right now?” “Do I constantly feel uneasy about this situation… until Person X talks me out of it yet again?”
This works in romance, too.
I can give my ex-husband credit for a few things. One, he did a great job of erasing himself from my life after we split up, which is more than most people can say. Two, he always did his share of the housework. Three, he told me the brutal truth (meticulously, over several weeks) about why he wanted a divorce. At least I would never have to wonder!
Among other things, he told me that he had tricked me from the very beginning of our relationship. He pretended to be into the same things I was, because he wanted to go out with me. In fact, he said he was still attracted to me and would still date me, he just didn’t want to be married anymore. Strange but true.
He had the basic concept of marriage down. Marriage isn’t about two people who find each other attractive and want to save money by sharing rent. That was sort of what was on offer with my ex.
Marriage is about wanting to live the same basic lifestyle, on the same basic schedule, with compatible values and ultimate goals. My ex knew we didn’t have any of that, and furthermore, he knew it almost instantly from the moment we met.
He formed a deliberate plan to use his strategic advantage and manipulate his way into my good graces. He read me well, and quickly understood that I was oblivious to his position.
On the alignment chart, I’m a lawful good character. My ex was… hmm, I never really thought about it… ugh. Neutral evil? Honestly I don’t think he would be offended by that characterization; he might find it flattering. Why wouldn’t an intelligent person look out for his own interests?
I fault myself, although the mistakes I made were a young person’s mistakes of trust, optimism, and simple naivety. Poor little fool.
It goes basically like this:
I like walking on the beach. Oh my gosh, you do too?? Oh, look, we both have a scar on our chin! We’re meant to be together, forever!!! *harps and butterflies*
We give our hearts away, spilling a dozen details about ourselves, which any carnival employee could quickly note. It’s a straightforward matter of conjuring up a persona that shares those interests. We fall for it because we want to believe, because we believe in a vision of love, romance, and dating that is missing all the important steps of a long-term marriage contract.
Absolutely none of that can be determined at a faster rate than that at which a lovesick young fool’s heart falls for a certain sort of image.
Young Me had dreams of middle-class stability and home ownership. Young Me came up with a plan in which one of us would go to college while the other worked, and then we would switch. That’s what my parents did, after all, and my new husband said I could go first because he had no particular desire to go to school right then. It was easy for him. I made all the plans and dreams, and he nodded along. All he had to say was a formula along the lines of, “Yeah, I always wanted that too” - and I fell for it every time.
The truth was, I had no independent vision of what he wanted for himself, because he never offered one, I never asked, and I never got curious. I simply swallowed the bonkers notion that we coincidentally wanted all the same things. Didn’t everyone want to go to college and buy a house, after all? (No, actually).
Further, nothing in my ex’s past indicated that he had ever been on track for any of these plans. Just like me at the time, he was on the rebound and probably “between plans.” Most people don’t necessarily have any plans beyond avoiding eviction or job loss.
Future faking is no big deal when it involves tentative plans for lunch or dinner with someone. It may happen, after all, sometime within the next year. Future faking is definitely a big deal when it leads us to believe that someone is a completely different person than he actually is, a person with a different ideal life and different visions for what happiness looks like.
While I didn’t know what future faking was as a clueless twenty-two year old, and I didn’t have a name for it, I did figure out how to get around it. I started asking a lot more questions when I met prospective suitors. I also married my current husband only after we had dated for three years, when I pretty much had him figured out. Our future would turn out to be a lot more interesting than I would have guessed, and that’s because I chose a man, not a carefully plotted future fantasy.
Sugar might feel like a love language, but it isn’t one, but dang it sure feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it? My relationship with sweets is probably more nuanced and affectionate than my relationships with specific people in my life. It’s the bad-news rebound boyfriend and the great frenemy of my days. I know this, and I set decent boundaries for myself at home. Still working on those boundaries around others, particularly with my cake friend.
My husband and I used to have several food rituals when we first started dating. It felt like romance. One was that we would keep a package of Oreos in his freezer and eat them with the Very Vanilla soy milk. Another was to make root beer floats. That was separate from the giant waffles we might have eaten that morning. Part of how we lost 100 pounds between us was that we had to notice our patterns and agree, together, that we would replace them with something else.
It’s a lot easier when you both agree.
That’s not always as easy to do with more sporadic relationships. When it’s someone you don’t see as often, it doesn’t feel like a pattern - until it does.
Until you catch it in action.
Through a research and investigation process that included astrophysics-level mathematics, I figured out how to break my personal code on weight gain. I reached my goal weight and was able to maintain it almost effortlessly for over five years.
Then two things happened. One, I changed sports and took up martial arts. Two, I made a new friend - my cake friend.
Boxing made me ravenously hungry. My performance improved when I started eating more, and things were great for a while. I put on a bunch of muscle and had fun kicking people across the room. There’s this thing, though, called “dirty bulk.” You can add a certain amount of muscle by eating more, but it tends to bring a certain amount of adipose tissue with it, a.k.a. body fat. For women that tends to be in a ration of 1:1, so every pound of muscle walks in with its arm around a pound of fat.
It was all fine until we moved to a new apartment, downstairs from a family of chaos muppets, and suddenly I could only get half as much sleep as I needed.
I didn’t see it coming because I had been feeling so strong. Since I was doing something new to me, I felt like I had broken my pattern, and I didn’t realize it would happen again even though I’ve been through it half a dozen times in the past twenty years.
All the symptoms that, for me, are correlated with higher body mass came back. All of them! The migraines and the night terrors and the depleted immune system.
Suddenly I was getting sick a lot. That led to missing a bunch of classes. Then I couldn’t keep up. Just as I was in need of more and more recovery time, I was getting less and less sleep. Finally I had to drop out of my gym and try to take some time off to recover.
Did you know that? That working out in the 90%-capacity range too often without enough downtime will affect your immune system? It happens to endurance athletes but it didn't occur to me that it could happen from any sport.
Anyway, there I was, all dirty bulked and back in the same spiraling pattern that drove me to try body transformation in the first place. I knew - I knew through spreadsheets and years of tracking metrics and enlisting an engineer to crunch my data - I knew I needed to drop weight. I needed to be able to sleep, and I needed to corral my dirty-bulk eating habits. Otherwise I didn’t see how I could get back to any kind of fun or interesting workout again.
We moved, I started getting the sleep, I cleaned up my diet. I would drop two pounds and gain it back, drop two pounds and gain it back. Stalling and stalling.
Finally it clicked. I was nailing it in all areas, doing what I needed to take care of myself. Then I would literally lose all my progress because of this one particular loophole.
The cake friend!
I had to tell her. “I’ve gained weight.” “Me too!” “Nearly 20 pounds since we met.” “GASP”
“But we lose it so quickly!”
“*I* don’t! It takes me three times as long to lose a pound as it does to gain it. I can gain two pounds over a weekend and take the rest of the month to burn it off.”
Then we started talking about how much we love our favorite neighborhood restaurant, the one with the gorgeous glass display and eight flavors of vegan cakes. Every time we went out, brunch lunch afternoon tea or dinner, this is where we went, and we always got cake.
We agreed to stay out of there until we were both back on track, and we did. We tried a few new places. I went there with some other friends, all of whom were also doing the whole January thing, and lo and behold, no cake!
Then my cake friend and I went out again. The waitress brought out the dessert menu. I was *completely full* and cursing myself inwardly for not putting half my food in a box. I realized my friend was fluttering her eyelashes and looking completely stymied over the dessert menu.
“Oh! I see. You’re not going to eat dessert in front of me.”
“And I’m definitely not going to share it!”
We both laughed, and the waitress laughed, and then we both got desserts and we both ate them.
I was still full the next morning when I woke up, like Thanksgiving-dinner full. Granted, I ate a pound of Brussels sprouts, but still, it’s not the best feeling.
Why can’t I say no to you, my darling?
There are a bunch of answers to this conundrum. I’m extremely fortunate and privileged to be in this situation, rather than, say, an alcohol or heroin situation. I don’t have to shut down my friendship to save myself. I could invite her over to our place and cook at home. I could (rather easily) make a list of new places to try that don’t have a tempting dessert menu. I could ask to have half my entree boxed up and save it for lunch the next day. I could get a Sharpie marker and write NO! on my hand, since I can’t seem to get it out of my mouth.
Or I could do the more fun version, which is to start distance running again.
My cake friend and I have talked several times about run-walking together. I realize that I am the gatekeeper on this, and I’ll have to be the one to choose the time slot and get us going. We could both be running a 10k together by this fall, no problem, or maybe even this spring.
Then we can eat all the cake we want, which is probably the only situation in which you can really have your cake and eat it, too.
I had to take my husband to the emergency room on Friday night. This is the year that I turn 45 and he turns 52, so it’s unsurprising, right? Two middle-aged people in the ER?
What may be more surprising is that, as usual, we were in there for a sports injury.
Friday night is sparring at our martial arts school. Muay Thai. We also have an MMA team. The rest of the time slots are for organized classes, and sparring is the one time that students have license to fight “for reals.” My husband took a boxing glove to the surface of his eye, probably the thumb but maybe part of the strap. It happens.
That’s dangerous! I’m thinking it so I know that everyone else is.
It’s his body to ruin, though. Bodily autonomy means we accept one another’s right to get tattoos, donate blood, have cosmetic dentistry, and, yeah, sign the waiver to get punched in the eye if we want.
The guy who “did it” is my husband’s good friend. He doesn’t know yet that his errant blow put my hubby in the hospital. We probably won’t tell him because he would be horrified. He’s a middle-aged dad and he certainly didn’t do it on purpose.
The injury was a corneal abrasion. It will likely heal so completely that a couple of weeks from now there will be no evidence that anything ever happened. The copays for the ER visit and the antibiotic eye drops were under $100. No harm no foul.
We accept these types of outcomes as acceptable risks for our hobbies.
What’s strange to me is that most people would shy away from such a dangerous sport, and yet the likelihood of being in the emergency room on a Friday night is far higher for other, more ordinary, types of activities.
I would have assumed: bar fights, car accidents, maybe an overdose or alcohol poisoning?
It hadn’t occurred to me how full the room would be simply due to flu season. There was also a large notice on the door in red ink, giving special instructions to anyone who might have MEASLES.
Oh great. One of us gets punched in the eye wrong and now we’re both at risk of exposure to freaking measles because a bunch of our neighbors can’t comprehend the concept of herd immunity. Get your shots, people!
It seems obvious to both of us that infectious disease epidemics, or pandemics, are far more dangerous and deadly than a punch in the eye. It’s just that we’ve all seen a lot of action films but, in our generation, we haven’t yet seen many of our relatives, neighbors, and coworkers DIE from measles, whooping cough, mumps, influenza, etc. Not yet anyway.
The other thing it’s hard not to notice is that we are likely the only people in the ER who got there due to a sports injury.
In our culture right now, it’s almost impossible to say anything true and useful about my observations without risking an affront to someone’s sensibilities. Instead I’ll try to skirt around it.
At our age, nobody would be surprised, at all, if either my husband or I had to go to the emergency room due to a heart attack, stroke, or other coronary type event. I know that’s true because we hear about this kind of thing all the time in our social group, among our colleagues and neighbors. After age forty nobody is surprised by anything.
When we go to the doctor, they ask us what medications we’re on. I can still pass for somewhere in my thirties, so I can say ‘none’ without pushback. When my husband says ‘none,’ they always assume he didn’t understand the question. “NO, what PRESCRIPTIONS are you on??” “NONE!” Medical professionals can’t believe that my husband, in his early fifties, doesn’t take anything. At his age he’s supposed to be on statins and a raft of other stuff, at least five separate prescriptions on average.
With his heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol level, it doesn’t compute. They think there’s no way that a guy of his age group can have those results without medication.
I can also say that nobody is asking the right questions. I’ve been plant-based for nearly thirty years, since I was a teenager, and my hubby has been 98% plant-based for the past decade or so. It literally never comes up. Nobody is testing us, or enrolling us in any studies, or even asking, “So, what do you eat?” There are absolutely no data being generated about our lifestyle for the rest of the world to ponder.
We’ll just keep waiting. If he’s still practicing Muay Thai in his seventies, like our friend B, maybe then they’ll ask. If I’m still out trail running in my sixties, maybe then they’ll ask, but I sincerely doubt it because all kinds of people run ultras at well above that age.
The data come from the people with the worst outcomes. Data come from “patients,” not from healthy people. Not from men who can kick a target six feet off the ground in their fifties. Not from women who can crank out fifty full push-ups in their forties.
Why? Because people hate hearing about it!
I think this is because we aren’t able to connect emotionally with the image of Old Me. We can’t truly imagine ourselves being elderly. It’s also very, very difficult to extrapolate from our minor daily behaviors to any kind of decade-long trend line. We hate nothing more than the idea that what we do today can add up to trouble at a later point. It’s preachy! Stop talking about it!
When we think of bodily autonomy, and the concept that it’s “my body to ruin,” what we mean is “hey, everyone buzz off and leave me alone” as far as body image, habits, food intake, sleep schedule, how dirty my coffee mug looks, or anything else, anything else at all. I DO WHAT I WANT DO WHAT I WANT. It’s much harder to think of in terms of, “I have the full and total right to wreck myself doing burpees in the mud, sparring, and going on wilderness expeditions.”
We think exertion is more dangerous than what everyone else is doing. Though personally I’d rather go blind from martial arts than from diabetes.
One thing I did notice in the emergency room was that almost everyone had a buddy. A spouse, kids, grandkids - everyone had someone to call and ask for help. Everyone had at least one person who was willing to sit with them in the middle of the night on a Friday. Probably what is really dangerous is to become isolated, to refuse to connect or engage, to avoid ever asking for help.
It’s worth thinking about. What do we think is truly dangerous, and how do we structure our lives to include or avoid certain things because of our perceptions?
I knew something was wrong the moment I walked in the door. I had about three steps in the hallway to feel that sense of impending dread, and then I saw him.
My husband was sitting on the couch, head hanging down, eyes closed, with his hands in his lap. He was holding a napkin. I knew he was hurt. Because of the napkin, I assumed it was his hand. “What happened? Did you tear off your thumbnail?”
“No, it’s my eye,” he replied, and it was almost like a lever switched over inside me into Action Mode.
There were just a few problems: I was pouring sweat because I had just come back from my workout; it was dinnertime; and our dog had apparently been extravagantly sick in the bathroom.
The other set of problems: I was scheduled to teach back-to-back workshops at a conference the next morning, and I had planned to spend the rest of the evening running through my slides.
What I do in crisis situations like this is to start talking to myself. I ran through the next obvious steps and made sure I had them in order. Call advice nurse. Find health insurance card. Take dog out. Give him a dose of metronidazole. Cut the pill in half. Clean up disaster on bathroom floor. Microwave quick dinner, feed man. Take shower and get dressed. Write down instructions from nurse. Make sure we both have our wallets, keys, and phones. Call Lyft. Most of those steps hit the list in random order, as I thought of them, and I mentally shuffled them into their correct place in the task list. Somehow I had accomplished all of it during the 40-minute hold for the advice nurse.
I did a perimeter check and two bag checks, grabbed a protein shake for myself, and we were off to the emergency room.
My husband was effectively blind. He couldn’t even open his eyelid, it was so swollen, and if he tried to use his good eye, the injured eye tracked with it. When the admittance nurse asked him to rate his pain, he gave it an 8. “He has a very high pain threshold,” I added, because we had both had a casual discussion about the pain scale recently and we agreed that a 9 was “involuntary screaming.” I knew he would never claim an 8 unless he had to.
We got to the ER at 9:00 PM, in the midst of flu season. An injured woman took one look at my husband, leapt up, and offered him her seat. I found us two adjacent seats around 12:30 AM. Until 2:00 AM, I was still thinking about how I was going to make use of this experience as an anecdote to introduce my workshop on “The Organized Leader.” We got to see a doctor at 4:30 AM.
By that point, my dreams of glory had been let go. I was prepared for a series of outcomes, including an admittance to the hospital; emergency surgery; the loss of my husband’s eye; and permanent damage to, or loss of, his vision. I had run through fallback plans for each of these, thinking of next steps and calls to make. Of course I had the good sense not to tell him any of that. I know him well enough to know that he was doing the same, and also thinking, of course I would never tell my wife any of this. We wouldn’t want to scare each other.
We’ve both learned many of these planning skills together, through life lessons and by seeking out information for the advanced scenarios. We spent three weeks backpacking through Iceland together; we took first aid and CPR classes together; we went to martial arts classes together. We both recognize ourselves as leaders, and leadership only really matters in emergencies, such as Someone Might Lose an Eye Tonight.
It turned out okay. My husband had a corneal abrasion, quite large, and I got to see it enhanced with glow-in-the-dark dye under the special lamp. Oddly, both our dog and I had had the same type of injury in the past couple of years! What I had, compared to my husband’s, was like a small paper cut versus scraping all the skin off one’s knuckle. Our dog had to wear a cone for a week. In this situation, I had true empathy, because I had literally shared his experience.
It helped me deal with the frustration of having to let go of my big opportunity.
We got home at 7:00 AM. The sun was already up. I helped my temporarily blind husband up the steps and got him home, just in time to take our dog out again. The veterinary medicine had worked, so at least we had that going for us. Then I emailed everyone on my team and texted my director to alert them that I wouldn’t be attending the conference. We finally got into bed at the time I would have been finding my seat for the keynote.
I knew I would be missing a lot. I had scheduled a planning meeting and a group photo with my team, all of whom were volunteering in various slots. My workshops were the result of a month of campaigning to include a new category of topics on the slate. Not only had I succeeded in making my case, but I was chosen to teach them myself. Plausibly I would be called onstage for a minute for one reason or another. It was the four-year anniversary of my foray into public speaking, and I had looked forward to celebrating this, vanquishing a fear and turning it into a strength. I’d stride confidently into a ballroom and deliver the material I had been polishing all week. I’d change lives! I’d send my audience out, transformed and inspired to tackle tougher problems!
Instead, I graduated into a new level of leadership. I passed the test. I demonstrated the value of everything I had put into my slides. It’s not our stuff or our calendars that we are “organizing.” It’s our relationships and our values. I was able to keep my head on straight and get us to the hospital largely because I keep an orderly home and manage my mental bandwidth. I strengthened my marriage. I even remembered the dog.
One day, I’ll present my workshop. Maybe I’ll be asked to teach it more than once. The material will only be improved by this experience, and my motivation will only have intensified. Being organized isn’t about making pretty binders or choosing just the right paperclip tray. It’s not about getting promoted. It’s about mastering the situation, about knowing what to do even when everything feels impossible. Leadership is about realizing the infinite power you have to help others and work toward a better outcome.
It’s a simple question. Why him? Why this guy?
If you’re a hiring manager, I’m obviously asking you why you want to extend an offer to this applicant. If you’re a police officer, I’m asking why you think this suspect did it. Fair to ask, right?
If you’re dating a male person, and someone asks, Why him?
...shouldn’t it be immediately obvious? Wouldn’t you have a list of reasons?
Wouldn’t you also wonder why the question came up?
I can think of several happily married friends about whom nobody ever asks, why that guy? Why him above all others? That’s because you always see them laughing together. They have a happy home and, if anything, they’re maybe a little smug that they’ve found each other.
Unfortunately, I keep meeting others where it isn’t so clear. I mean... really... why him? Can you please explain what you like about him?
The toughest of these cases are when the guy is checked out. Either you never see the two of them together, or if he is there, he isn’t participating in the conversation. He’s making no effort to make friends, share anything about himself, be amusing, or maybe even grunt in response. It’s always surprising how many couples don’t like each other’s friends! Like, what, did you expect that when we got together it would be JUST US forever, no social life?
Worse is when the guy is rude. Pointlessly rude to basically everyone: friends, coworkers, waiters, innocent bystanders.
Worse still is when the guy is rude TO HIS DATE.
Do you ever notice this? When someone is dropping little snarky remarks and sarcastic observations, about the person they’re supposedly in love with? When you stop to think about it, you can’t recall a single nice thing this person has had to say?
Maybe it’s just me. I feel like this happens a lot, though.
What I’m looking for when I see a couple together for the first time is simply what kind of connection they seem to have. Most couples have a hidden language, where they don’t even need to make eye contact to communicate. They have body language and facial expressions that nobody else can read. They may not always agree, but they do know what the other is thinking. A lot of family members can do the same. If these shared signals seem to be missing, then maybe this couple hasn’t been together long enough yet.
The next level is any sign of mutual positive regard. In a good relationship (friends, family, and especially romance), they should like each other, respect each other, and love each other. That seems pretty basic, not much to ask, but in reality it’s not all that common. You usually only see two out of three, sometimes just one, and sometimes zero.
Like him. You enjoy his company and think he’s fun to be around. You find him interesting. His sense of humor works on you. You can talk to him about anything. Ideally he feels the same way about you.
Respect him. You believe he has a value system and that he lives consistently with those values. You may not share all of them but you have a pretty clear idea of what’s important to him and what he believes in. The more you know about him, the more impressed you are. You’re proud of him for at least one reason. You’re pretty sure he feels the same about you.
Love him. You feel affectionate toward him, you feel a warm regard and want the best for him, your heart swells a little when you think about him. No question, you know he feels it too and he’ll say it loud and proud.
It’s a match when you both can check off all three boxes.
What tends to happen when someone is in a bad match, but doesn’t want to admit it, is that they start making excuses and trying to explain away evidence that this guy actually kinda sucks.
Why is he never around? Wherever you are, he’s not there. If you go to a party he doesn’t come. Doesn’t he share any of your interests?
Why does he keep making those negative comments about you? Does he think he sounds funny? Doesn’t he realize we’re your friends and we don’t want to listen to him pick on you?
So uh, no offense but what exactly attracted you to him?
(Since he doesn’t seem particularly into you, and he also doesn’t seem all that nice, or charming, or funny, or smart, or good looking, or...)
Is it true that he still refuses to say the L word for some pretentious adolescent reason? Like the normal type of relationship that every other human being has is somehow beneath him? He’s capable of some rarefied and pure love from another dimension, only nobody has reason to believe it because he acts cold and withholding?
It’s honestly shocking how many dudes hold back the L word (for months or years or forever) and still get 100% of the affection and attention of a normal man capable of normal behavior. You’re not original, you’re a manipulator. Just say it. Or if you refuse, get a bunch of t-shirts printed that say I WILL NEVER SAY I LOVE YOU, EVER, I MEAN IT and wear them on your next two hundred first dates.
What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that a love match is about mutual connection. It’s about the other person’s behavior and how willing he is to engage, to reach out, to put in emotional effort, to communicate and build something just between the two of you.
It doesn’t matter what he looks like, what’s going on in his life, what job he has, where he lives, whether he’s a good cook or a talented musician or whatever. All of those things would be true whether he was single, dating someone else, or with you. The only thing that matters is what the two of you are like together, and it should be obvious. It should be obvious that you’re a good match together, that you like each other and you have fun together. You should be able to describe each other as friends.
When someone asks, Why him? What do you like about him? I hope you can say, He makes me smile.
There are probably a bunch of couples around the world who happen to be named “Harry and Meghan” - particularly because I doubt anyone refers to them as “Heghan” or “Megry.” There is, though, only one celebrity couple so I’ll assume everyone knows who I mean.
I asked my husband what he would do if he were Harry in this situation. Basically “paparazzi killed my mom, this is the most boring job on Earth, I never liked it anyway and now everyone is completely terrible to my wife, BYEEEEE.” What would he do if he were about to celebrate his first day as a free man?
Probably watch some sports and drink a (warm) beer on the couch.
We agreed that most guys would just do whatever their “thing” is, but that Harry probably never had a chance to even figure that out. What kind of guy is he? What would he do if he were born ordinary?
This is a man who may never have played a video game, stood in line at the movie theater, or made his own sandwich. What would it be like to have no idea how much mustard you like? Or what kind? Or if you even like mustard at all?
It’s fairly easy for me to imagine what I would do if I were Meghan. That’s because I live in Southern California. A lot of extremely famous actors, musicians, models etc have homes within ten miles of my apartment, and apparently there are several in the two-mile range.
This is the crux of the problem for royalists. Clearly the “wealthy California celebrity” lifestyle is preferable to the “British aristocrat” lifestyle. It must burn their collective bacon.
There’s something about the fantasy of aristocracy that really appeals to a lot of people. Note how many princess movies we have, both for kids and for adults, both animated and live-action. Gee, imagine, you get to have servants! And whatever gowns and jewels you want! And you get to have perfect hair and makeup all day every day! And live in a palace! Plus you’re in love with a handsome prince! *sigh* *swoon*
I mean, I got to live the princess fantasy in some ways. I threw a shoe at my current husband, making him fall in love with me, and he elevated me to the middle class. (I was on my way to doing it for myself, but it would have taken me several years longer to make it alone). We danced at our wedding and all that.
Then we won the game. We’ve had the incredible good fortune to be both married and able to live in perfect obscurity.
We can go anywhere we want, do anything we want, wear whatever we want, and behave in whatsoever manner we choose. The press never reports on us.
I don’t think people give enough consideration to this. We have something that money cannot buy, something that every celebrity wants, something truly enviable.
We have liberty.
If I were Meghan, I know what I’d do. On my first day of freedom, I’d wear my hair pulled back in a low ponytail. No makeup. I’d wear yoga pants and walk around barefoot. I’d read a book. Later, I’d go to the store and load up my cart and then I’d come home and put a tray of tater tots in the oven. Heck yeah!
The great thing about this particular dream of freedom is that I can literally live it every single day, and nobody is stopping me.
Nobody speculates about whether I’m pregnant, or takes pictures of my cellulite, or follows me around town, or suggests that I should wear high heels with jeans. I don’t have to read rumors about my marriage in the tabloids. Gossip about me and my life would be pretty low-caliber, and that’s okay. Amazing in fact.
What I dislike about the aristocratic lifestyle is... everything. All these highly posed group photos and extreme fashion guidelines. If part of the job of duchess is to wear pantyhose and pumps on a regular basis, I’m out. Everything royals do is in the public eye, and those public things they do are not things that interest me. At all. Nary a one. I’m not into that style of architecture, landscaping, or interior design either.
I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Aside from privacy and freedom from constant scrutiny, what I’ve wanted has always been BOOKS, comfortable shoes, and access to a wide variety of multicultural foods. Secret love affair with the interesting, mostly ordinary man whom I call husband. Messy pets. Ability to hang out with my wacky family, filters completely off, no dress code, and laugh until I snort.
My life is mine, not the community’s. I’m not public property. I have no concerns about Duty or Legacy or Heritage or whatever the heck those people talk about. Nobody follows me around with a gilded clipboard or a little bound ledger, reciting rules and regulations at me, and I don’t have a style guide. The only protocol in my life is dictated by my parrot, who has her own elaborate ways.
There seems to be a broad consensus, outside of SoCal anyway, that celebrities deserve whatever they get, that once you’re in the public eye then total loss of privacy is the price. Here, we understand that even famous people want to walk down the street, go to the airport, or have dinner with their families in peace and quiet. We know what famous life looks like, and that gives us sympathy.
History always comes around, and around, and around. Eighty-ish years ago Edward VIII abdicated so he could be with the woman of his choice, a decision that gets less and less romantic the more one looks into the details, but it was his basic right as a human being. A baby does not choose to become a family brand ambassador. All Edward and Harry wanted was to be in love and have jobs, to make their own money in the ordinary way.
All they wanted, in other words, was to have what we have. An ordinary life, an ordinary love, an ordinary job, an ordinary home. Just for a moment, let’s all pretend that we are abdicating royalty and that we’ve chosen this homely mess for ourselves.
Apparently quitting social media in some form or another is a common resolution at the New Year. Who knew? If this is something you’ve thought of doing, this is what it was like for me.
I didn’t make a resolution to quit Facebook. On the contrary. For a couple of years I felt really guilty for not spending more time there. I just couldn’t make myself. I tried forcing myself to make the occasional token appearance, but each time it would end the same way. Finally I realized that I was done and I should stop pretending I was ever going to treat social media like a commitment again.
My reasons for feeling ill at the thought of logging in to Facebook might overlap with yours, or they might not. Reasons for doing something else with your time can vary and cover quite a lot of categories.
I realized I was losing an average of two hours a day, and I’d rather spend that time reading
I kept seeing rants about unwanted game invites and it seemed ironic
I got tired of looking at pictures of meat and other badly lit, uninspiring amateur food photography
I started thinking that Mark Zuckerberg is a supervillain, that or a cyborg belonging to a supervillain
Ultimately I decided to replace the unsatisfying time I had been burning on Facebook over the past few years with in-person social activities instead.
The thing I dislike about Facebook the most is the way that people relate in text. The more time I spend away from what used to be a regular part of my day, the more I realize that people truly never act in person the way they do on social media. In so, so many ways is this true!
I would be reading through a thread on a friend’s wall, and someone would insult someone else. This happened countless times. There would be this perfectly reasonable, interesting conversation that might have continued for hours or days. Suddenly, someone would pop on and be really rude.
This is often the root of “unfriending,” a social phenomenon for which there was not even a word until Zucky came along.
It’s not so much that I cared about people insulting *me*, although it happened. It’s that it was so hard to read through a single thread anywhere, on any topic, without it happening. I didn’t even participate in the vast majority of discussions; as a rule, I would only comment if I felt I had something new and different to add, a point to make that hadn’t already been covered.
That’s actually another problem entirely - how many times someone would pop up to make a comment that had already been made by someone else. It proved they hadn’t read the whole thread, and sometimes what they said wasn’t even relevant or made no sense.
It seemed that out of all the people I knew socially, only a handful would moderate the discussions on their threads in any way. Almost all tolerated routine rudeness or impertinence.
I don’t think I’m being too sensitive in this, because as I said, it wasn’t being directed at me. It was tiresome to read through it even when I had never met the arguers involved.
This was by no means limited to political discussions!
People argued about dog breeds and travel behavior and brands of cell phone and wheat and a thousand other things of little to no consequence.
I didn't find it cute or funny. Well, sometimes I did. Mostly I just shook my head and wondered how such innocuous conversations could turn on a dime so quickly. What was making previously ordinary people suddenly so combative and belligerent?
Text-based conversations, that’s what.
What finally happened in my life was that I replaced Facebook with a social club. It could be anything at all, for others, like pickleball or a book group, a band or the dog park or a yoga class. In my case it was Toastmasters.
I started talking to more people face to face. That has always been hard for me, because I’m a shy person and I have struggled quite a lot with social anxiety.
It turns out that, at least where I live, most people are really pretty nice.
The great advantage of being a shy person is that it can make you into a great listener. If you learn to ask thoughtful questions, you can become a sort of interviewer and draw fascinating stories out of people. They flourish under the attention. Sometimes they say they’ve never told that story before, or that they hadn’t thought about it in years.
Storytelling is so much more interesting and fun than arguing!
One story inspires another. We get each other going. We laugh, we cry. We pull each other aside to share observations and compliments. We learn, eventually, how to turn even the most innocuous and minor incidents into well-structured anecdotes.
Example: earlier today I was walking my dog when a slice of toast landed on the sidewalk right in front of us. I looked up, wondering where it could have come from. Did a gull drop it? Then a woman’s head popped over a balcony. She started calling out apologies. She’d thrown the toast “for the birds” and didn’t know we were there.
I laughed so hard!
I could easily imagine myself doing the same thing. I wasn’t mad, I was amused and grateful that something mildly entertaining happened that day.
Without a storytelling group, I might never have thought to share that with anyone. Not the most fascinating story ever told, but I’m sure it has the potential to remind someone else of another story, and then we’re off.
I have never once, not a single time in three years, heard someone insult someone else in Toastmasters.
People do give speeches on sensitive topics, definitely including politics at times. Sometimes these are formal assignments in our program. Pick a controversial topic and try to persuade people of your position. I did mine on outdoor cats, and one guy still wanted to talk about it two months later. It happens. But, we laugh about it because we can see each other’s facial expressions. We can hear each other’s tone of voice. We have a history of liking each other and enjoying one another’s company.
Is that still true of your experience on social media?
Most of my social media “friends” are people I know in person. We friended each other because we met and we liked each other enough to stay in touch. In a lot of cases, though, I think we lost that affectionate regard because our online personas annoyed each other. We liked each other better before social media came along and messed it up.
In a few cases, friends have reached out to DM me, or text me if we’re close enough that they have my phone number. Some of them have arranged to come for a visit. This is part of how you find out who your real friends are, the ones who miss you and like you the most.
Mostly, though, you find that you care more about them than they care about you.
I traded my former Facebook time for a bunch of other stuff. I became a Distinguished Toastmaster. I started having board game parties from time to time. I have text message threads with my family. I also read a lot more books and started up a technology newsletter.
When I was active on social media, I realized that it put me in a worse mood almost every time. There would always be something that irritated me or made me sad. When I traded that in for hanging out with other people face to face, I realized that it left me feeling better every time. Laughs and hugs and food for thought, great stories and light hearts. If there was really a way to capture all of that through text, over social media, believe me, I’d never leave it alone.
I’m going to let you in on one of our private jokes. Every couple should have some kind of tradition or ritual or inside joke that doesn’t make sense to anyone else. It’s fun! It’s also a way to use teamwork to fight a persistent problem.
M.O.D. stands for Music of the Day.
It came about because I absolutely cannot stand Christmas music. When we were kids, Christmas decorations went up the week before Christmas and came down before the New Year. Now it all starts on Halloween. For those of us who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties, this makes no sense at all. Why spend two months on one holiday???
(And why isn’t that holiday Independence Day? Oh, right, because there’s no commercial tradition of gift giving or a $2 billion decoration industry involved. It’s called “the Fourth of July,” not “Patriotic Entire Summer”).
Commercial Christmas isn’t a winter holiday, either; it starts in mid-fall and actually ends shortly after winter begins. What the heck is going on?
I blame Mariah Carey.
I’m convinced that Mariah Carey is an extremely powerful sorceress who uses her octave-spanning voice to hypnotize people, and possibly also create weather conditions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Notice that she hasn’t aged in thirty years. Change my mind.
Anyway, all you need to know is that Christmas music makes me break out in hives, so I started trying to avoid ever leaving the house between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and this created an unfair hardship for my spouse, who likes socializing with me. How were we going to hang out at the cafe or go to the movies for two of twelve months every year, if I was going to run for the exits every time I heard sleigh bells?
This is how it works. We take turns choosing the artist, and then we text each other. We both listen to that band for the rest of the day. I keep my headphones on in the cafe, at the mall, in the back of rideshare vehicles, and I make sure not to schedule dentist appointments in December. My honey only listens at work or the gym.
M.O.D. works for us because we often go through stretches when we aren’t in the same city. On a few occasions we haven’t seen each other in two or three weeks, and a couple of those we only got 40 minutes together on an airport bench before we were separated again. M.O.D. connects us when we are in separate time zones, missing each other.
It all started one year, when I made a calendar with a schedule of secular, non-decorated things to do each day to celebrate or prepare for the New Year. One of those days was “AC/DC Appreciation Day.” I thought we could both hang out and listen to AC/DC.
I told my husband I was having AC/DC Appreciation Day and he was totally down. In fact he started listing off other bands that might fit on that playlist. I don’t remember which of us actually came up with the idea for “Music of the Day,” although I’m pretty sure he was the one to make it an acronym. It was something we could do with very little effort, no extra cost, and no commitment. It sounded awesome and we went for it, starting as soon as we got home.
Talking about something that sounds like a good idea is one thing. It’s entirely something else when you actually launch and realize that, wait, this is even better than we expected!
Sharing musical tastes is not a requirement for long-term love and contentment. Contrary to the belief of music snob pretentious boys everywhere, you can respect one another even if you loathe each other’s beats, because of this mystical 20th-century invention called “headphones.” If you’ve never heard of headphones, they are a technical innovation that goes on your head and both provides your own tuneage while protecting you from the inferior auditory crimes of others in your vicinity.
We are fortunate, though, my honey and I, because we enjoy a lot of the same stuff! Namely classic rock, glam rock, heavy metal, and Delta blues. We both also did our time in marching band, so we have an affinity for Sousa marches. Go ahead and laugh, we’re having more fun than you. Plus you can’t fight a man holding a tuba.
We have a seven-year age difference, so we each tend to be a bit better versed in a slightly different era. He went to high school during the golden age of hair metal, before I had ever bought a cassette tape of my own, and by the time grunge came around, he was a married dad with a career. This is a major advantage of M.O.D.: we use it to introduce each other to bands that the other might have missed.
Our technique on M.O.D. is slightly different. He likes the low-maintenance playlist method, where you just choose the artist and stream whatever comes up. If they don’t have that many albums, you can round out the day with similar musicians. If you only have a couple of hours of headphone time, you then spend it listening to the best of the best.
I like the more history-oriented discography method of starting with the earliest album, playing it in order, and then proceeding to the next disc in the chronology. This usually means they sound better as the day goes on. It also means I focus more of my listening time on tracks I may never have heard! One of the greatest thrills for me is hearing something by a beloved singer for the first time, especially after I was so sure I knew every note and every lyric of every track.
Playing M.O.D. for the month of December means we each get to choose roughly fifteen bands, many of which the other might have picked first because we both like them. It sounds like a lot until you actually start trying to choose your top fifteen music groups! There’s no reason to quit after one month, though. If M.O.D. works for you, add different bands to your list next year, or just keeping going for another month.
Here are some of the bands we’ve played, and if you don’t like them, I don’t want to hear it, just get your own.
Guns ‘n’ Roses
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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