How To Get Out Of Your Own Way

The other day I spotted a friend, standing a few feet away. She was just past the security turnstile at work. So happy to see her, I practically ran through.

Only problem - the two or three people right there. Who I was blocking with my big hug. They couldn't exactly squeeze by.

Politely my friend pulled me over. A pitying look on her face.

"Sorry," I imagined her saying to the ebb-and-flowing crowd, "my friend has no spatial perception."

It's true. Getting out of a cab, I'll hit my head. I do bump into people, trying to figure out which way to walk in oncoming foot traffic.

Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my own way too.

As a little girl I said once, to my mother, "I'm happy." My dad and my aunt were in the room.

Immediately three forefingers stood poised at attention, slicing at imaginary oncoming swords.

"Shhhhh," they collectively said. "You're going to bring on an ayin hara!"

In Hebrew "ayin hara" means "evil eye" and my parents disagreed about everything except precisely this: G-d's punishments come to those who are happy. There you are, swinging on the swing at the playground, then thwack! 

Just because you laughed, you'll break your ankle.

Post-Holocaust, they told us, just keep everything to yourself for good measure. The sticking-out nail gets flattened.

Happy, sad, good, bad, trouble, not trouble - whatever. Don't make noise. Just keep it down. (It's like we're all Anne Frank, still hiding in the attic from the Nazis.)

In eighth grade we took a class trip to Monsey. We were studying the religious way of life.

The only thing I remember? No pictures in the house. "We don't take photographs - of anything."

Photos were a form of idol worship, they said. Where you stared at the image endlessly.

Thirty years later I know the problem: Photos make us happy. And the fear is that when happy, we will forget to think about and serve our Creator.

How many times has this happened to you? A friend says they have had it:

"I'm going on a diet right now," they will exclaim. "I mean it. I'm gonna keep it off."

Literally - sequentially - directly after the previous sentence, a pause, and then:

"I could really use some ice cream right about now."

Most of us are scared of formal public speaking. In my version I get a frog in my throat.

It seems the more I look around the room and realize I'm next, that the microphone is headed my way - the worse that very real croaking.

But if you get me to talk on the spot, it's fine.

A really good childhood memory is skiing.

Disembarking the ski lift, I panicked at first. To the instructor:

"I changed my mind. Next ride down please."

Laughter, immediate. "There is no way back down."

"Go!" my classmate said.

And she pushed me, just like that.


The feel of the wind. My freezing face. The silent clacking of skis against snow.


It's 2013, for heaven's sake. Doomsday can still come. Lots to worry about for sure.

But worrying isn't the solution.

Tonight if you can't sleep, try this instead of solving problems in your head: Just do nothing. 

Before you know it it's the morning.

And you can choose to have any mood of your own making.