Zen and the Art of Bogus Resolutions

Happy 2017! Here’s my latest article for OTV Magazine. Hope it helps to motivate you to hold strong with your own New Year’s Resolutions. 

No Complaints

no-complaints-again

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

At age 39, I resolved that I would not be fat and 40. I managed to keep that resolution the day I turned 41.

Last year, I vowed to never go to bed with even one dirty dish in the sink. And, true to my word, there never was just one.

This year, I’ve got the perfect resolution.

It’s simple! It’s doable! It entails no physical labor!

I resolve to stop complaining. Complaining is the most time wasting, counterproductive, depressing activity in which a person can engage. I know this because I am a master complainer.

But for 2017, I vow to stop comporting! I vow to stop compiling. Stupid autocorrect! I promise to stop cinplsumibg! Crap! Crap! Crap!

Why does autocorrect only correct what’s already correct? Who am I kidding? I can’t even finish writing this resolution without complaining!

So how about this: I resolve to stop complaining in public. I’ll resist the urge to whine and moan that the table next to me already has their food when I was clearly here first. Instead of grumbling, I’ll politely smile and give a slight shrug to the waiter to let him know, ever so gently, that the basket of stale bread he is holding better be for me because no other table should get a refill when I am sitting here starving.

But now I see that this place serves their bread with olive oil and not butter. Who decided that oil was better than butter? Has anyone ever protested that bread was too delicious with a nice pat of salted butter?

No! I don’t care that the grape adorned bottle of oil is irresistibly charming. I don’t want oil. I may take the bottle home with me, but that’s beside the point.  At least I should be offered the choice of butter or oil so I don’t look unsophisticated when I request butter.

I am very sophisticated! Bread belongs with butter! It’s as simple as that.

I think I’ve set myself up for failure.  It’s hard to quit complaining cold turkey. What if I ease into my moratorium by only complaining about life’s little annoyances while banning tirades about the big stuff?

The big stuff is everything I have no control over, like trade deficits and nepotism in Hollywood. Why complain when there is nothing I can do about it?

Though, to be honest, that big stuff is the good stuff.  The stuff I cannot change is complaining gold. I love to go on and on about big problems; Guantanamo, that pungent smell of urine on the subway, the Kardashians. I can complain and complain with the satisfaction of being right and righteous while not actually having to roll up my sleeves to fix a thing.

Apparently, my fool proof resolution will be more challenging than I’d anticipated. Who invented the New Year’s resolutions, anyway? Why should any of us believe that just because the calendar ticks from one year to the next, we should be expected to make grandiose changes in our lives?

What if I don’t want to change?

I’m a happy person and I’m happiest when I get to complain. So, this year, instead of changing myself, I resolve to redefine my favorite pastime: I don’t complain;  I offer Targeted Audible Observations, or TAO for short. And this year, I will spend my time honing my TAOist skills.

I am no longer a master complainer; I am a TAOist master on a path to living in harmony with all the daily crap that life dishes out.

Now where is that waiter? My water glass is half empty.

No Complaints

Of Pot Roast and Politics


 

What do pot roast and politicians have in common? Read my new article in OTV Magazine to find out.

pot-roast

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

When my mom was first married, she asked her friend Marilyn how to make a pot roast.

Marilyn said it was easy, all she had to do was take a three-pound roast, cut about 2 inches off the end then brown it, season it and throw it in a Dutch oven for a few hours.

The instructions seemed simple enough but why, my mom asked, did she have to cut off two inches of perfectly good meat? Marilyn said she had no idea. That was just how her mom always made it so that’s what she did too.

Marilyn had been using that recipe for years and since dinner came out perfectly every time, it never crossed her mind to wonder why. That night, Marilyn called her mom and asked why it was so important to cut the end off the pot roast before cooking it. Was it to keep the moisture in? Was it to create a more even cooking surface? Her mother remained silent at the end of the line for quite some time.

Marilyn called my mom the next morning hysterically laughing.

It turned out the pot roast recipe never called for two inches of perfectly good meat to be cut off and discarded.  The roasting pan that Marilyn’s mother used to make her pot roast, the one that was passed down from her own grandmother, the one that had lots of sentimental value, was very small.  The pan was so small, in fact, that the only way for a pot roast to fit in it was to simply lop off a chunk of the end of it.

So every Tuesday night for her entire childhood Marilyn watched this ritual, and when she herself got married and began cooking for her own family, she did what her mom did. She didn’t question the method. Why would she?

And had my mother not asked, Marilyn would have gone on for years and years wasting perfectly good meat for no reason whatsoever. Had my mom not asked the simple question “why?”, she would have followed Marilyn’s recipe and I, to this very day, would likely be hacking the end off of every pot roast following my mother’s tried and true recipe.

I think about Marilyn and her unfortunate pot roast this time every year as I gird myself to enter the holiday season, a time of year that is loaded with family rituals and traditions.

We carve turkeys, sing carols and light candles because, well, because that’s what we did last year.  That’s how we do our holidays. We exchange gifts, we gather with friends and family, we eat a lot. But why?

Sure, there are some traditions that are steeped in religion, that harken back to a time or a story that we want to remember. But a lot of that stuff…the lights, the over-consumption, the arguments…are more about habit than logic. We rarely question why we do things, we just do them. And for the most part, there is no real downside to how we spice our eggnog or roast our chestnuts. But some of our traditions might do well to be re-examined.

I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest one.

If you are an American, no matter your religion, no matter your political beliefs, no matter how you choose to spend your holidays or what state you live in, there is one tradition that you likely cling to, year after year. As a nation, we are steeped in the tradition of re-electing our politicians. Did you know that 96 percent of politicians who run for re-election are in fact re-elected?

Every two years, we hold national elections in which every seat in the House of Representatives and 1/3 of those in the Senate are up for grabs. But we as a collective, march to the ballot boxes and without much thought, check the same box that we checked in the past. Our system of government guarantees that our president can only be re-elected once. This is a good thing, since we sent our last 3 presidents back to the oval office. And I’m guessing we’d continue to re-elect the same person a third time if left to our own devices.

So, if you love your local representative, if you know what s/he is fighting for, if you are happy with the work s/he is doing, then by all means, keep your voting tradition alive and well.

But, if like Marilyn, you are voting for a lopped off piece of pot roast whose name happens to be listed in the column that you always choose, I implore you, I implore all of us to ask the question “why?” Why this person? And if the answer is anything other than “Because this person is the best person for the job”, then let’s vote them out and throw some fresh meat into our government.

And, may I suggest, if you look around and do not see the best person for the job, maybe that person is you. Why not start a new tradition? If Marilyn could do it, there’s still hope for the rest of us.

Click here to connect to the article on Open Thought Vortex

 

GAME ON!!

I stumbled upon the Encouraging Dads Project on Twitter. It’s a lovely site that does just what it’s name implies: It invites contributors to write short memories of how their own father, or father figure influenced their lives.  Here’s an article I wrote about how my dad never let me win at anything….Enjoy.

catcher

Game On

When I was six years old, family friends gave us their old ping pong table. On day one, my dad handed me a paddle and it was game on. Games were to 21 and in the beginning, he would spot me 19 points.  That meant I had to score only 2 points before he could score 21.  He won every game.  As I got bigger and better, he would spot me only 10 points.  And still, he won every game.  By the time I was 10, there was no more spotting of points but still, I could never beat him.  The battles were fierce and I would often take the lead.  But I would get so excited or nervous when I was about to win that I would inevitably miss a serve or send a slam halfway across the basement instead of straight down onto his side of the table.

It wasn’t just ping pong. My dad taught me how to body surf in the ocean before I was five. We would catch the same wave and see who could ride it farther. But even when my belly scraped up onto the sand after holding my breath for the impossibly long ride, I would look up and there he was, always in front of me. When we played cards, Gin Rummy or Casino, I would lose every game.

Seen from the outside and certainly through today’s “everybody wins” mentality, my father’s unsentimental thrashing of his child in every arena might be seen as harsh or even psychologically damaging. But that’s not how I see it. My dad was just having fun.  And it was simply more fun to play ping pong against a 6-year-old when the stakes were set so that he could only lose 2 points. And wave riding was way more fun when he could look back at his competition and know for that one moment, on that one beach, for that one wave, he was the best in the world.

As a girl growing up in the 1970’s, before Title IX, before Flo Jo dominated in Seoul or Mia Hamm lead her team to victory in Atlanta, I was included.  My father never let me win but he always taught me how to play better, think smarter and want to win. It never crossed his mind to exclude me.  Why would he?  He wanted to play and I was always willing and able to join him. Simply by including me, by not telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate, my father taught me to stand tall.  In the 4th grade, I was the only girl to play in my town’s basketball league. In college, I was the only woman on my intermural softball team.  I have never shied away from raising my hand in class nor stating my opinion in a business meeting.  I grew up never questioning my own right to pursue any of my dreams and I never feared the hard work it took to achieve them. So, if I may make one request to dads of girls everywhere it’s this: Please take the time to hand your daughter a ball, a paddle, or a deck of cards and say “Come on.  Let’s Play.”

Game On

How Fat Monk Syndrome Changed My Life

Here’s a ridiculous article I wrote a few months back and forgot to upload here.  Oops.  Enjoy!

I read an article the other day. No, I listened to an interview on the radio the other day. It was about a new study being done to understand why a certain sect of monks in Thailand, or maybe it was Taiwan—I don’t think it was Tibet—are suffering from obesity at an alarming rate. I could Google the place they are from, but so could you if you really want to fully understand the plight of the aforementioned fat monks. This particular essay will in no way provide any useful understanding of the topic.

Fat monks in Thailand

This essayist is not so interested in the how’s and why’s of the pitiable state of those poor suffering monks. Though, from what I gathered, despite the fact they are eating a controlled diet, fasting often, and meditating all of the time, these particular monks are obese. To be honest, I couldn’t hear the whole interview because my kids were in the car with me and were arguing about whose turn it was to kick the back of my chair.

Maybe those super smug hot yoga junkies aren’t the pinnacle of health and fitness they seem to be as they ring out their sweat-soaked towels. Apparently it is a low protein diet coupled with a ridiculously sedentary lifestyle that leads to their tragic weight problems. There may be other contributing factors, but my children staged an all-out whining mutiny imploring me to change the station when the lady on the radio began to describe the diabetes and subsequent leg amputations that are often associated with Fat Monk Syndrome.

The condition is not actually called Fat Monk Syndrome. At least it wasn’t called Fat Monk Syndrome, or FMS for short, but after this article hits the mainstream media, I have no doubt that the use of the term FMS will become as ubiquitous as PTSD and LMFAO.

I’m not sure how much time and resources have heretofore been dedicated to the FMS issue or how long the study is to go on. But the point is, there are fat monks out there. Fat Monks! Unhealthy fat monks!

These are the folks in our world that are supposed to have it all figured out. They have devoted their lives to a higher power. They spend their time doing the things we are all supposed to do: they meditate, they contemplate, they practice extreme self-awareness all while breathing deeply into their navels. These poor individuals have not spent their lives docked in front of flat screen televisions plying themselves with football and nacho cheese sauce. These humble humans have not Supersized themselves at the drive through. No. The fat monks of Timbuktu have spent their lives dedicated to something larger than themselves (and clearly that something must be really, really large to keep ahead of those monks).

How then is it possible that there is an entire population of monks that are extremely obese and extremely ill?

The moment I became aware of FMS changed my life. Just before I yelled back to my kids, “Can’t we ever listen to something that I want to hear on the radio for minute? I’m the one spending hours a week chauffeuring you to birthday parties and oboe lessons all week! Is it too much to ask that I get to finish hearing this story?” I had an epiphany.

Unfortunately, while I was yelling, I missed the explanation as to what is being done to ameliorate the devastating impact of FMS. But luckily, my epiphany was about me, not the monks per se. So for the purpose of my thesis, I had all of the information I needed for a massive revelation—an enormous, if not altogether fully informed “ah ha” moment: all of a sudden, those monks represented every enviable lifestyle that I, for my entire adult life, could only dream about and deride myself for being too weak and too unfocused to ever embrace.

And it was at that moment, for the first time in decades, that I learned that I may have been right all along to avoid such aspirations. If these holy monks were victims of FMS, maybe they weren’t the only ones. Maybe FMS is a worldwide epidemic afflicting all extreme lifestyle practitioners! Maybe those super smug hot yoga junkies aren’t the pinnacle of health and fitness they seem to be as they ring out their sweat-soaked towels in slippery locker rooms across the globe; maybe they too are unhealthy and silently suffering from FMS.

And maybe all of those marathon runners, with their ice packs and knee braces, should be pitied, not envied. What about the raw vegans and the PTA presidents? How about those people who manage to save all of their receipts for tax purposes or those who get up and make their beds every single day or remember to get their dogs vaccinated every year?

These extreme humans used to represent for me the unattainable. I used to read about them in magazines that I’d skim through at the checkout line at Walmart. I used to hate those people. And I would have gone on hating them had I not been made aware of the underreported epidemic of severely overweight religious devotees across some swath of Asia or Africa. Now, I just feel bad for them all.

I am almost tempted to start an FMS awareness campaign, but that sounds like an awful lot of work.

How Fat Monk Syndrome Changed My Life

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW LOVES CODENAME CUPACKE!!!

 

midwest-book-review

Here’s what they said about it………

“Codename Cupcake” by Jillian Green DiGiacomo is a deftly crafted and absolutely entertaining satire that reveals the author to be an extraordinarily gifted and original storyteller with an impressive gift for wit and humor. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections

Here’s the link!!