A foreigner’s first impression of the U.S. is likely to be that everyone is in a rush -- often under pressure. City people always appear to be hurrying to get where they are going, restlessly seeking attention in a store, or elbowing others as they try to complete their shopping. Racing through daytime meals is part of the pace of life in this country. Working time is considered precious. Others in public eating-places are waiting for you to finish so they, too, can be served and get back to work within the time allowed. You also find drivers will be abrupt and people will push past you. You will miss smiles, brief conversations, and small exchanges with strangers. Don’t take it personally. This is because people value time highly, and they resent someone else “wasting” it beyond a certain appropriat e point.
Last summer, I returned to visit Nikolai. He made me tea... and did the dishes! We talked while sitting on his couch. Missing the Olympic Team the previous yeas had made me pause and reflect on what I had gained ── not the least of which was a quiet, indissoluble bond with a short man in a tropical shirt.
Nikolai taught me to have the courage, heat, and discipline to persist, even if it takes a billion tries. He taught me to be thankful in advance for a century of life on earth, and to remind myself every day that despite the challenges at hard, “Now must be love, love, love.”
We wanted to avoid the mistake made by many couples of marrying for the wrong reasons, and only finding out ten, twenty, or thirty years later that they were incompatible, that they hardly took the time to know each other, that they overlooked serious personality conflicts in the expectation that marriage was an automatic way to make everything work out right. That point was emphasized by the fact that Gail's parents, after thirty-five years of marriage, were going through a bitter and painful divorce, which had destroyed Gail and for a time had a negative effect on our budding relationship.
Soon after he volunteered for military service, he had received a book from this woman. A letter, which wished him courage and safety, came with the book. He discovered that many of his friends, also in the army, had received the identical book from the woman, Hollis Meynell . And while they all got strength from it, and appreciated her support of their cause, John Blandford was the only person to write Ms. Meynell back. On the day of his departure, to a destination overseas where he would fight in the war, he received her reply. Aboard the cargo ship that was taking him into enemy territory, he stood on the deck and read her letter to him again and again.
My father died from "the poor man's friend", pneumonia, one hard winter when his lung illnesses had left him low. I doubt he had much lung left at all, after coughing for so many years. He had so little breath that, during his last years, he was always leaning on something.
I remembered once, at a family reunion, when my daughter was two, that my father picked her up for a minute -- long enough for me to photograph them -- but the effort was obvious. Near the very end of his life, and largely because he had no more lungs, he quit smoking. He gained a couple of pounds, but by then he was so slim that no one noticed.
For her first twenty-four years, she'd been known as Debbie --a name that didn't suit her good looks and elegant manner. "My name has always made me think I should be a cook," she complained. "I just don't feel like a Debbie."
One day, while filling out an application form for a publishing job, the young woman impulsively substituted her middle name, Lynne, for her first name Debbie. "That was the smartest thing I ever did," she says now. "As soon as I stopped calling myself Debbie, I felt more comfortable with myself ... and other people started to take me more seriously." Two years after her successful job interview, the former waitress is now a successful magazine editor. Friends and associates call her Lynne.
For many people, the root of their stress is anger, and the trick is to find out where the anger is coming from. "Does the anger come from a feeling that everything must be perfect?" Eliot asks.
"That's very common in professional women. They feel they have to be all things to all people and do it all perfectly. They think, 'I should, I must, I have to.' Good enough is never good enough. Perfectionists cannot delegate. They get angry that they have to carry it all, and they blow their tops. Then they feel guilty and they start the whole cycle over again."