Friend, Human

The unexpected death of a friend

Of course there’s not much joy in death, especially an abrupt passing that gives no one time to prepare. Grief and mourning are natural and necessary. No one ever said a joyful life wouldn’t have moments of sadness, moments of outrage, and moments of despair. We each go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and at our own pace. That cycle is needed to get back to joy.

And there is joy, hiding behind those clouds. We celebrate our friend’s life. We see how the gap created from the friend’s sudden passing starts to affect those of us left behind. We feel our friend’s communities draw closer together. We are reminded of how precious our lives and friends are. We strive to think better, to do better, to be better, in our friend’s name.

It’s like little sparks of goodness, created from the friend’s transition, are now fanning out into the world and land on people to nudge them a little closer towards happiness and bringing joy into the world. (Fans of The Good Place will recognize this idea.)

Find those sparks and cherish them, and look for them in the darkness.

Friend, Human

Gifts

Both giving and receiving gifts are paradoxical activities. On the surface, they’re signs of generosity and gratitude. However, forced-gift-giving events (birthdays, Christmas exchanges, house warmings) can be troublesome.

When you’re the giver, you have the time pressure of buying something before the event combined with showing that you give a damn.  That adds a lot of unwanted pressure to your life and a chance to miscommunicate.

When you’re receiving the gifts, you don’t want to inflict that same pressure on your friends. Many of us have so much crap in our house already that adding more things just means more targets for a KonMari sparks-no-joy cleansing down the road. Invitations for birthday parties occasionally state “no presents except your presence” as a way to remove that pressure.

But sometimes. Sometimes, you receive a gift, and it’s so thoughtful, or above and beyond what you were expecting, that it warms your heart. And sometimes, you find the perfect gift, and the look of joy once the present is opened is immensely satisfying. Both are enough to make up for all the gift cards and useless tchotchkes cluttering your space.

Here’s to giving and receiving more of those joy-creating gifts.

Athlete, Father, Friend, Husband, Marketer, Musician

Self-care and recovery days

There’s a lot on the calendar some weeks. It could be fun stuff like holiday celebrations and gatherings of friends. Or it might be a nonstop schedule of family chauffeuring. Sometimes it’s long hours at the job for a crunch week.  Sometimes it’s an array of previous commitments (choir rehearsals, weekly basketball, networking events) — chosen responsibilities that individually are worthwhile but eat up a lot of combined time.

Even for those of us who love being active as much as possible, over time all that activity adds up, like sleep debt. That’s when self-care comes into play. It’s up to us to take care of ourselves so that we don’t devolve into a harried state that prevents us from enjoying our chosen activities.

Over time, we learn where our limits are. Over time, our limits start to pull in. Over time, we begin to recognize when we need a power nap, a day off to vegetate, or a quiet weekend to recharge our batteries.

Be joyful whenever you have the luxury to take that hour, day, or weekend of self-care to recovery.

Fan, Friend

Adding stakes

Sporting events, such as the NFL playoffs, are fun to watch with a crowd, especially a crowd of friends.  But one way to add much more excitement, especially if you weren’t particularly rooting for one team or another, is to encourage everyone to make cheap bets with friends while everyone’s watching together.

“One dollar says they convert this third down!”

“You’re on!”

ohhhhhhhh…. Ohhhhhhhh….  OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-AHHHHHHHH-Awwwwwwwwwww…..

Dollars are exchanged. General merriment and hilarity ensues.

Suddenly the audience is no longer a passive actor. Each of us becomes an active participant. There is shouting and clapping and cheers and laughter. There is joy.

It’s amazing how much any event, sporting or otherwise, becomes more interesting when there’s some small personal stake at risk. In the end, no one walks away more than a few dollars up or down. But when you have something to win or lose attached to these otherwise random outcomes, you care more. You stay involved. You’re no longer a bystander. Suddenly, it matters. All for maybe a $1 here and there.

What if we made more every day things matter?

Friend, Homeowner

Hosting your friends

How do you feel when you host a large gathering? Do you feel anxious that everything is going to go as planned? Do you feel put upon that you’re in charge of entertaining everyone? Do you feel crushed under the weight of preparing the house? Do you feel stifled because of the crowd in your home?

My wife and I rarely deal with those emotions whenever we invite a crowd over. Partially because we’ve hosted so many gatherings of close friends that it’s become second nature. We don’t have something prove or a reputation to uphold. We aren’t typically throwing a fancy dinner party, or trying to impress anyone. We just want to hang out with our dear friends.

It helps that we’re extroverts, so we gain energy from large gatherings. My idea of heaven is a big room with all my friends there talking and laughing. Though to be fair, our more introverted friends tend to enjoy the gatherings as well, because it’s with people they know.

To the introverts, I hope you find the joy of being with the people you’re comfortable with, on your terms.

To the extroverts, I hope you find many excuses to host shindigs and give others that chance for joy… and skim a bit of joy off the top yourselves.

Friend, Human, Marketer

Small world

The world is smaller than you think.

Even with billions of people on the Earth, our paths are constantly crossing with people we know in unexpected places.  It’s because of the many trails we leave: past friends from living in previous cities, former colleagues at old jobs, buddies from school, or activity groups.  We run our lives in smaller universes than we realize.  The LinkedIn / Kevin Bacon / degrees of separation game is very real.

It can be dangerous, if you forget to treat people well. More than one job applicant has been denied a position because word got around of his low performance three jobs ago, or because she made enemies who then found the ear of her hiring manager.  Of course the solution to that is pretty straightforward: do a good job and don’t step on people on the way.

It can also be delightful, when coincidences lead to chance meetings.  For example, my wife and I were up in Maine, hours away from home, celebrating our 17th anniversary.  While huddled around a firepit making s’mores, another guest peering over the flames said to me, “Are you Jeff?  Jeff Foley?”  It was my former coworker Victor, whom I hadn’t seen in almost two decades.  My wife burst out, “You took the very first picture of us as a couple!  We framed it and had it on our piano for years!”  It was true: one of the last times we saw Victor was on what was probably our third date, a going-away cruise marking an important transition for our company as it was acquired by a competitor.

These stories are always remarkable.  The guy whose new boyfriend turns out to be the neighbor’s best friend.  The dinner invite turned down that a couple realizes, a decade later, would have caused them to meet two years earlier than they did.  The Facebook “wait, how do you two know each other?” moment in which you learn a best friend from kindergarten went to grad school with a trusted coworker.  All because the world is smaller than you think.

We re-live our impact on others again and again.  (Just in case any of you needed more motivation not to be an asshole.)