Since nine years old, I watched others’ actions and interactions. On meeting people, I had a sense of what they were like, and I rarely shared those feelings with others. But on one occasion in kindergarten, I did share my thoughts. My friend Daryl was friendly with a vicious girl named Marsha. In class, I watched Marsha walk up to classmates and repeatedly open and close a scissors in their faces. She never did it to me; perhaps she knew I disliked her and might have punched her if she had hurt someone. Being small in stature never stopped me. I loudly asked Daryl why she liked such a "mean" girl. I wanted Marsha to hear. I kept a mental record of such types and I stayed away from the ones I didn’t like.
By 7th/8th grade, my perceptions became pronounced. I had an inner sense of what made certain kids tick. I knew their motivations - their insecurities - the ones who were cruel to others to make themselves seem important or stronger. There were days when I knew in advance who was going to talk to me and what they were going to say. I accepted my intuition, even though it confused me. When I met someone I thought was a “bad” or mean person, I wondered why others didn’t know that too. I also wondered why they put up with them.
In high school, I focused on boys, dating, and homework (in that order), and I started to ignore my intuition. That ignorance led to mediocrity. Issues I should have placed on high priority list took a backseat, or no seat at all. I didn’t know I needed to pay attention to my intuition if I was going to succeed in life. No one ever told me about that. Most people don't warn children of anything they could use later in life.
But I naturally loved helping others. I remember standing up for a girl on the playground in fourth grade. The girls wouldn't let her join our group to jump rope. I talked to her and decided she was a good person and should not be excluded. I demanded the girls let her join us. They backed down and accepted her, which of course made me happy. I had accomplished something kind and worthwhile. Unfortunately, I didn’t continue on that path. Like most children, I started focusing on myself.
My desire to help others didn’t reappear until I was 17, a freshmen in college. On my dorm floor, one by one, girls knocked on my door to see if I had time to talk. I had no clue as to why they chose me, but I became the floor psychiatrist. I was more naïve than anyone, but they trusted me to hold their secrets, and I did. I listened, and miraculously, my innocent and positive comments helped them feel better and see things clearly.
Once I graduated, I veered off track again. I was interested in a fabulous career and making myself. I wrote editorials at CBS (the opinions of management). Interestingly, in each workplace I joined, co-workers chose me as their confidant, just as the girls in college. I held their secrets, with or without them asking me to. I despised gossip and the girls who engaged in it. I still do.
Naiveté can hurt people. But hiding from reality doesn’t help either. No one is all good; no one is all bad, but people seem to have a propensity toward one or the other. It’s up to us to see which side comes through and to stay away from those who exhibit behavior you abhor. Birds of a feather DO stick together, and people will benefit by knowing they will be judged by the company they keep.
I grew up with a mother who "knew" people. I didn't understand how, but within two minutes of meeting a person, she could later describe their personality traits. I would say to her, "How did you know that? You're psychic," to which she adamantly replied, "No, I am not. I'm just perceptive." Time proved all her opinions about people to be true. I was amazed at her ability (she was not a people-person), and to irritate her a bit, I would call her a psychic. As I experienced more in life, as I observed a person's every move, listened to every word, delved into the person's motivations, I developed my own brand of perceptiveness.
I knew when a person was lying. I could sense a person's inner sadness. I became so confident in my ability to see through individuals, I began testing it. At networking events, I engaged people in conversations and I could weed out the BS, the inflated truths, the outright lies, and the arrogance covering their insecurity. I am not psychic, and I now understand why it upset my mother to be called that. It negated her ability to listen intuitively and to observe. Judging is not a popular word these days, but judging is exactly what we do when we meet a person. Is she boring? Is he arrogant? Does she think she's the only her opinion matters? Is he narcissistic? We form opinions with every new person we meet, and when done through careful and cautious observation, I think "judging" is a good thing.
Judging tells us when to beware. It guides us to good people and steers us away from the bad. The alternative is to go into relationships and situations blindly. We wouldn't buy a house without a reputable inspection. We wouldn't sign a contract without careful legal review. Why would we enter into a relationship without careful observation and judgment of that person? Too many people leave relationships (business and personal) in shock at the person's behavior. If they had paid attention to every word delivered in all communication modes, the betrayal and the shock would not have happened. It's called living life with eyes wide open, which means PAYING ATTENTION. Pay attention to everything. We use very little of our brain power--not a good way to experience life. Being naive is great at five, appropriate at 10. As adult, being naive is dangerous.
College doesn't teach the skill of perception or intuition, but that doesn't mean adults shouldn't learn it. Start opening your eyes, your ears, your heart, and tune in. Pay attention to all you encounter, to all who surround you. Perception is the greatest and most helpful gift you will learn. It doesn't come magically as it may to psychics; you will have to work to achieve it, but when you do, you will see all it offers.
It's important to get along with co-workers, and people often make friends with others in the office. Just remember you are at work, not at a club with members who come and go. That means jobs take precedence and getting ahead can be part of that process. And that means competition.
You may think you'd never edge a co-worker out of a position, but when you and a co-worker want the same job, competition enters into it. You may both agree to interview for the job, but now your true nature will be revealed. Who will you decide to be?
Have you revealed secrets in confidence that could now be exposed? Trust is always an issue because even though you "hang out" with a co-worker/friend, you don't know what that "friend" will say to get the promotion or a raise. I worked at a company where two young females vied for the same position. One of the so-called friends became cutthroat and back-biting when the other one edged her out of the position. The one left behind hid her anger but planed her triumph over her friend. Little did the winner of the job over know that her friend had planted ideas in the president's mind, pointing out her mistakes and weaknesses on the job. You may think this would never happen to you, but no one knows just how much a person can hide.
Be careful what you say and to whom you say it. Be careful what you admit. There'a a reason to never say anything negative about anyone at work. Unless you're a psychic, you don't know what the future holds.
By Alfie Novak, assisted by Lindsey Parker Novak
One of the most serious writing problems people have, which I think will lead to overall communication problems, is word choice. For the past decade, people have been overly concerned with being politically correct. They agonize over choosing the right word – the one word that will skirt around the issue, say it politely, and offend no one. People have made word choice so difficult an exercise that it seems they think political correctness is more important than honesty. In that search for just the right word to ease the reader into the possible bad news or unfavorable situation, the writer sacrifices clarity, and more important, honesty of the message.
Call it naiveté, but I prefer honesty. As a dog, I am nothing but honest. When I love, I wildly wag my tail and my behind. When I am scared, such as when my mom, Lindsey, wants to bathe me, I drop my head and rush to hide under the bed. She’s a gentle bather, but I can’t help it – I just hate water. When I am hungry, I howl and sing for my meals. When I want to be petted, I nuzzle her hand or leg, or whatever I can reach, so she knows I need to be touched right then. The point is that I always show my feelings. I don’t hide my joy, my fear, my anxiety, or my desires.
And yes, I call her my owner. I know just what you are thinking. Calling her my owner is not politically correct. Well, I say “rubbish.” That’s right. All this political correctness is dog poop.
Extremists are demanding that people call themselves “pet companions.” Frankly, I want more than a companion, I love her and I want her to own me. I want someone to take responsibility and take good care of me. I want my owner to tell everybody that I belong to her, that I am her dog and no one else’s. That tells me she is dedicated to me. That tells me she will give me the kind of committed love I want and deserve. To feel that type of love and loyalty, “owner” is clearly the proper word.
She is not some pet companion who happens to occasionally take me for a walk. She is mine as much as I am hers. She feeds me breakfast, lunch, dinner, and healthy snacks because I am adorable. And because she knows nobody likes to eat a hunk of food at one time and then starve for the rest of the day. She is responsible to me and for me, and that comes with ownership. We love each other deeply, and of course, she is my companion, too.
But “companion” isn’t strong enough. I don’t want people to think they can borrow me or think that I am a casual friend, or worse yet, someone who is paid to be with me. She wants to be with me, and that is the best choice she has ever made. I am her dog, her possession, and yes, she owns me. If someone tried taking me, she would tear out after the person, knowing I am hers and hers alone. I would never go off with any other human no matter what the person offered me. We keep an eye on each other.
What if someone heard her refer to me as her pet companion? This person might think I am available and try to lure me away with biscuits or any other form of edible treats. If I were like our neighbor’s dog, a real chowhound, any form of food might be used to entice me to run off with another woman. I am simply not interested. I prefer the obvious and proper word of “owner,” because with ownership comes warmth, love, loyalty, and responsibility. I want her to feel a sense of ownership. I am not just a ship passing in the night. I belong to her, and she belongs to me.
Words have many connotations, but staying away from the words that “say it like it is” is a mistake. Communication needs to be straightforward, clear, and concise. My owner, which I plan on calling her for as long as I live, often chooses other choice words to describe me, and I lap it up when she refers to me as prince of pooches, love bunny, honey bunny, baby cakes, sweet pea and myriad other names of affection. She even refers to me as “my king of the house.” So with titles such as these, a handsome dog like me would be a fool to object to her saying she owns me. I howl “Hurrah for being owned and down with political correctness.” Now, if we could get everyone else to use the proper words when writing, we would not have the communication breakdowns that seem to affect us all.
Alfie Novak by Lindsey Parker Novak
Alfie’s favorite word is “massage,” which means his silky, silver-gray hair is going to be brushed with a luxurious natural bristle brush. His least favorite word is “bath.” Alfie has a multitude of sounds that stream out when he experiences the delight of a new and healthy treat, and follows those rolling notes with a giant smile. He learned his vocabulary from Lindsey, who is committed to him for life.
Every year we make a fair number of decisions, some more important than others. But what about the decisions that we somehow make without our knowledge?
At each year-end, I reflect and realize that, without intention, I had made the decision not to have children. Year after year would fly by, and though I did not consciously say I did not want a child, I made no decision to have one. Suddenly, making no decision turned into the making of quite an important one. To wake up 40-something, single, intelligent, practical, and childless is to realize that the decision has been made for me.
Numerous articles explain what can be medically done for pregnancies labeled high-risk (over 40), but few or no articles deal with the reality that rearing a child is an exhausting, sometimes rewarding, sometimes tedious, and immensely expensive proposition for a single mother. Apart from the number of divorces, children of once-married couples will at least have the knowledge they have two parents who hopefully love them. Not so for the child of a single mother.
Those were the thoughts that repeatedly race through my mind when I get that sinking feeling I have missed out on the most meaningful experience a woman can have. No matter how much pain and suffering a pregnancy can cause, no matter how much time and trouble a child can take, there is also the reoccurring pain that haunts me that I have made an important decision without realizing I have made a decision.
Of course, a life without children leads one to experiencing a totally different set of circumstances and situations, and who’s to say which life is better. It seems that many mothers fantasize about the life they would’ve had if they had remained single and childless. Friends have envied me for my freedom, my independence, my lack of responsibility, and even for my solitude whenever I wish. But with that freedom, independence and solitude comes a very heavy price. A decision that is as permanent as the decision to have a child.
At 30, postponing children was not serious. We retain the thought about having another ten years, and we will just see what happens. Even at 35, we quietly remain smug with the knowledge we can change our situations and our minds at any time. But 40 creeps up faster than one can imagine, and in our 40s, it isn't so easy to give up a free-and-easy lifestyle, knowing we are to trade it in for one filled with diapers, toilet training, school decisions and problems, belt-tightening, baby-sitters, and the overall knowledge we are now responsible for two lives instead of one.
Yes, it is a heavy price to pay whichever decision we make. I just wish I had been around when I was making it.