Losing people

As we age, people we’ve known, people we’ve laughed out loud with, people we loved with all our hearts, and people we failed to say I’m sorry to–they will leave us. Life gets crowded with its typical stuff, and there are times when we get lazy, and times when climbing various social and career ladders begin to stipulate how we advocate our time. Thus, drifting apart is often quiet and goes unnoticed.

So we lose touch sometimes. Not necessarily because we’ve lost common ground but because time is limited and life is complicated. With that, even the deepest of relationships can get sidelined and we lose people, and long before their deaths. We drift in directions that make maintaining a genuine connection too demanding. Truly, not much can be done when life’s flow directs our path before we have time to see that it has led us into a deep labyrinth.

This holiday season I experienced a few “this is a first,” in the midst of discovering that an uncle passed over Thanksgiving. Yet again, I am reminded of this time in my life when I will, more often than not, begin to experience losing people. And the melancholy thing about this is that in most cases I will not have had the chance to say good-bye.

I’d not seen my uncle in several years. He and my mom’s sister were no longer together, but I couldn’t imagine him not being one of my uncles. We were more visible in each other’s lives from an early age until perhaps my early thirties. Through holidays and various milestone celebrations we’d sit and chat. Although I vaguely recall the experience, my sister and I were flower girls at the wedding of my aunt and late uncle.

An intelligent man, my uncle had a mind that was as sharp as a brand new razor blade. His depth of reasoning was something to awe. Our debates began as early as my 10th grade year of high school. We’d never give in to each other’s side of an oftentimes engaging disagreement. Frankly, he was much deeper than me.

I really liked my uncle. It would be disingenuous to say that I’ll miss him since we rarely saw each other in recent times. Still, knowing that he will no longer be a part of our family dynamic is something my senses will, from time to time, react to.

Because I have lost others this year, I know this to be true: from time to time, some odd memory will pop into my head about something absurd my uncle said or did. Or I will reflect on words of wisdom he’d offered years ago, and come to see, with hindsight, that the nuances of his conversations pierced into my psyche in ways each of us, with our superficial ways, rarely pays attention to. My uncle played some part in how I process my thoughts. I can now see that I’d been mentally elevated by some blunt comment he’d made decades ago.

When people we’ve known are lost to us–however quiet or intense that loss is–we take a piece of their spirit with us. Because we’ve not honored it doesn’t mean we don’t retain a fragment of their essence. Each human being that dwells in our space and shares an interlude with us will leave something behind. Yet on a human level, we aren’t aware of how precisely something about us has changed.

 

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What is the quality of your gratitude

This time of year, particularly in America, is our seasonal reminder that we should be grateful (or thankful). It shouldn’t take one day of the year, which has been commercialized anyway, in which we “give thanks” and get together with loved-ones to overindulge in food. Less than 24 hours later we go buckwild using credit cards for material consumption.

In Los Angeles, where I live, along sidewalk after sidewalk are homeless tints. The space reeks of marijuana, being poor, deprived, and broken. You cannot live in parts of L.A. and not see this on a daily basis. Yet there are enough of us who have become so immune to it we hardly notice it as we pass by. It’s now so common that it blends in with the symbolic palm tree, or the perpetual sunshine!

If I alone could pull a compassionate act on behalf of God, I’d turn the tide, and as Tracy Chapman sings so passionately in her hit, “Talkin’ ´Bout a Revolution”–(poor) people would rise up (and take their share)! However, in some cockamamie way, we need reminding that there is something very wrong with this country. And blatant depravity is an inescapable mnemonic that we are no longer in Kansas.

The homelessness in L.A. is a part of a larger political and social issue, and a shameful, bitter truth: this country’s immense social divide. Many of us look away; we don’t want to face that the world has become chaotic, and so-so many are struggling in some way or other. Perhaps by their own careless design, or because life happens to us in ways we cannot stop by sheer will alone.

Each day, when I pass any number of streets with clusters of homeless people–and it’s getting despairing, to watch one’s hope decay–I pause. I take a breath. I say a pray. I’m aware that could be me. And I know this as deeply as I can sense it running through every inch of my body, I’m profoundly blessed.

And yet I fail to honor the awareness of being blessed.

All of my adult life I’ve had options. Doors were available for me to walk through. College, a career. But I feel that less so these days–having options. Life is demanding. We work both longer and laboriously, and receive less. Even with an education, there’s no surety of a career that offers livable wages.

When I read The New York Times or any other informative media outlet whereby a trustworthy journalist breaks it down in minute detail–the pros and cons of 21st century life–I’m still unable to make sense of why the world has become so fucked up. So one-dimensional. I’d love to put most of the blame on technology. Yet that seems scapegoatish; even absurd.

It’s us. Society. Humanity. It begins with a small thought from one individual. Over time, it augments. Each of us has the choice to decide differently from the herd. I see no other way for the pendulum to shift. Too many of us lack the resources to elevate the collective conscience. We don’t have the right type of Friends on Facebook. Let’s get real–it’s so much easier to be superficial.

Thanksgiving is only one of the days in which I attempt to be grateful. I put aside time to seek some level of meaning or purpose in whatever trials or tribulations I encounter each day. These days, though, attempting to make amends for not being brave enough or kind enough or patient enough seems unavailing. This blog was birthed on the concept of each day finding a reason why you are here, and in doing so you will live your life with some level of purpose. I struggle with that ideology now.

In fairness, I’m no different from the many. I, too, wish not to face the weight of the world and let it rest on my shoulders when I walk out the door. Of course it would be nice to travel to amazing places more often, and have a plethora of choices. Living large is not who I am, but to live in a McMansion and not have to worry about the details could put me in bliss mode (for a minute anyway!).

I would stop drinking coffee cold turkey if it meant I would never have a single doubt ever again. I’d prefer to trust–have blind faith–that those in government will do the right thing and for the greatest good of all the people. And I’d prefer to trust that every sentient being is inherently good.

It’s insanely antithetical for businesses to profit from a single holiday in which its basic theme is accessible 365 days of the year. Capitalism is dying. And why should we put aside a day to express gratitude? We are so removed from the original honoring: Pilgrims’ celebration of the good harvest. Ultimately, if our gratitude resonates from the heart, there’s no cause for a day off to celebrate something that is–or should be–our basic human nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pay it foward

Back in 2000, I read a hugely successful novel, Pay It Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. There’s a reason why such books of this nature excite readers–deep within us there’s a level of hope that the world will surprise us.

Enough times in this blog I’ve suggested that it takes a movement, a catastrophe, something that the country or the world responds to, in which our decency decides to shine. But a collective, fleeting response is merely cursory. Our humanity shouldn’t depend on trending, or because famous people answered to an acceptable crisis.

It’s not a simplistic thing, to incorporate sincere compassion throughout our day. It takes a training of the mind to seize moments in which we can do a “pay it forward.” Unfortunately, not all of us has a tender heart, and we aren’t quick to reach out or be personable or solicitous to strangers for various reasons. We are caught up in, let’s just say, life. Unless it comes naturally, our minds aren’t generally sharp enough “in that moment” to reach out, to be selfless. What is sorrowful is that so many of us don’t get it: in reaching out to others, our own stuff becomes less poignant, because activating a good deed does something to the brain.

Generally two things urge us to respond to a stranger: being inherently kindhearted, or an elevated mindfulness that has been developed over time. This, again, isn’t about the collective reaction to a high-profile city being attacked by terrorism, or a broken individual shooting randomly at people in a crowded venue. This is about honoring another human being by reaching out, and without letting the world know what we did. True empathy is quiet, anonymous–it’s sincere.

The basic premise of Pay It Forward is about a young boy whose social studies teacher hands out an assignment to his young students. He instructs them to think of something to change the world and put it into action.

I, myself have gotten so caught up in the intense distraction of daily living that I scarcely notice the face of a brokenhearted person. Instead, I’ve begun to roll my eyes or let out a harsh sigh when I’m confronted with the idea, yet again, of the need to exercise compassionate. This was not me one brief year ago.

This morning I acknowledged that I am becoming increasingly impatient, and borderline indifferent. After taking a nice walk around the hood, I jumped into my car only to discover it wouldn’t start. I called for roadside assistance. No sooner than the service arrived, traffic enforcement made it around the corner. She rolled down her window, and with a cheery, “Good morning!” proceeded to say, “How long you think this’ll take? It’s street cleaning! Sweeper’s two blocks away. I’m supposed to ticket you even though you’re having car trouble.”

The roadside service guy said, “It’s a jump! About five minutes.”

She waved and said, “I’m gonna extend you ten!”

Once my battery was charged, I headed for a familiar shop in the area.  After checking the battery, I was told it was no good. Since I was there, I asked if the mechanic could check my coolant, because the day before a red light flashed indicating that my coolant was low. Once the mechanic topped it, I inquired as to how much I owed and he said, “No, no,” with a wave of his hands. “It’s okay. Take care of that battery.”

The battery issue completed, I felt the need to return to the auto shop where I’d had my battery checked. I’d failed to thank the mechanic for refilling my coolant free of charge, and for advising me to return my battery since I’d only had it less than two years. Without his advice, I’d have purchased a new one, unaware the old battery was still under warranty. The mechanic said, “It was nothing. Have a good one!”

Later in the evening, I stopped at Trader Joe’s. Upon returning to my car, a guy was walking toward me, and I made the assumption that he was going to ask for spare change. I was pulling out my wallet when he greeted me with, “Hey, by chance do you have jumper cables?”

Laughing, I shared my earlier-in-the-day dead battery story with him and said I’d do what I could to help him out. However, I warned, I didn’t own jumper cables. I added, “If you can get jumper cables, you can use my brand new battery to charge your dead one!”

Not as often as I once did, I honor the rhythm of my day. Once upon a time I was fully aware of it from start to finish. This particular day I was reminded that there are times when it all flows and I can see the goodness, the kindness, the generosity in people I don’t know. And this is the accessible version of pay it forward. Small acts of decency can spin the day your way. It’s not simply a Universal Law, but the evidence is there whenever you take a moment to create a trickle effect.

Compliment the barista; wave to the stressed-out UPS guy; show some love for the single mother who’s working a full-time job as she stands on a crowded bus; or make way for someone trying to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic. When we yield and extend compassion, we are in effect creating a pay it forward movement. And while it might be subliminal, our brains–and even our hearts–create a space to do a good thing.

 

 

 

Live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way

A friend and I were walking through Pan Pacific Park, just a crosswalk east of L.A.’s popular Grove. My friend stopped to play with a dog, its owner a young woman we would come to discover was unemployed but walked dogs to earn cash.

My friend is the type to strike up conversations with anybody and everybody, and before I knew it we’d learned every personal detail about the dog walker. She had a boyfriend that my friend and I both agreed, she needed to dump. He discouraged this young woman. A Lift driver and a waiter at a Santa Monica café, he spent all of his money on weed and all of his free time on social media.

We did our best to inspire her, advising the young woman that she had the potential to do something meaningful and purposeful. But she was down on herself. She’d dropped out of school so as to find a full-time job. Which she’s yet to acquire.

After hearing the comment that she was “ordinary,” I stepped in. My friend talks to strangers about superficial stuff–the latest episode of The Walking Dead, to some strange looking new dish she tried at Whole Foods. I’m good for exchanging small talk, especially with strangers. Yet, when the young woman kept speaking about herself as if she was unworthy, I needed to say something.

“There’s nothing wrong with an ordinary life,” I told her. She dropped famous names and shared how much she admired them. I said, “Fame has nothing to do with being extraordinary.”

Indeed, some famous people, like the former president and the former first lady, the Pope, Steve Jobs–yes, their panoply of ingenuity earned them the label Extraordinary. We have been awed and amazed at their remarkability; they captured the imagination of the masses in a positive way. Still, every single one of us, I advised her, has the potential to do extraordinary things even while living ordinary lives.

My friend stepped in with, “You need to go back to school. Yeah, the loans will be the death of you, but you need to finish.” She further advised, “And dump that boyfriend! Who wants to sleep with a guy who doesn’t support your passions or your ideas or your awesome-ness! Dump him.” She looked straight into that young woman’s face and added bluntly, “Toni Morrison said, ‘you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down’!”

When the young dog walker told us she couldn’t afford to go back to school, we reminded her of all the people who have stunned the world and likewise couldn’t afford an education. This added fuel to the fire. The young woman broke out in an emotional sob.

My jaw dropped when my friend took this poor young woman into a kindhearted, tender embrace and said, “It will all work out.” Her concerted effort to encourage her was genuine.

Wiping snot from her upper lip, she thanked my friend. The dog walker said in a somber voice, “I didn’t move to L.A. to be ordinary.”

No one sets out to be ordinary. And the last thing I wanted to do was to go preachy on this dog walker. Still, I couldn’t stop myself. This deeply melancholy woman was lost and scared in a town that lacked patience, and is heartless to thin-skinned personalities.

The dog walker is also uncomfortable with being alone. She can’t imagine being without her loser boyfriend. Attractive, slender, but not one to stand out, the young woman wasn’t trying. She was merely tackling whatever the day challenged her with. From that mind-set, and with a failure attitude, she stood no chance of becoming extraordinary.

When I was her age, I received sage advice from those older and wiser than was I. Paying it forward is something I apply to daily life, and so I said, “I have decades over you. Life is never going to be perfect. There will always be something that will block your path. You have to learn how to manage your way through it. Self-pity won’t get you to extraordinary. We all have a boo-hoo story. Frankly, people might always see you as ordinary.” I knew that wasn’t something she wanted to hear said aloud.

I ended with, “It’s not so much who you are in life but what you do with your life. Ninety-nine percent of us are ordinary, but of that 99 percent, I’d guess 55 percent are making the effort–in their ordinary-ness–to do extraordinary things. I swear–and I sincerely hope that you hear me–what you do with your life, that’s huge!”

 

 

 

Comfortable with chaos

There are no exceptions, we all face periods of disquiet. When I was in my early twenties, I had no clue that anxiety would ultimately become something I generally had to face in life. I imagined real adulthood came with superior self-esteem and unshakable confidence. My conversations would be worldly and broad in scope.

Even though I was reasonably comfortable in my skin when I was in my twenties, I had my share of doubt about who I was, where I wanted to go, and the things I wanted for my life. Even if I thought I had it all figured out, at some point life would put me in my place.

The older we get, we tend to seek deeper meaning, even if we aren’t completely connected to it. Eventually, uncertainty will find us grappling with life’s bigger questions. My own life has demonstrated that in order for us to discover ourselves, we have to find our way through a maze of wilderness.

We will live through getting hurt by someone we believe would be our forever, to the friend that will inevitably betray us or the one that in time outgrows us. Life has a way of making us feel insecure, confused, and a suspicious nature kicks in. Consciously or unconsciously, we doubt whether we can find our way out of a labyrinth of darkness.

Particularly at the end of the third decade of my life, I sensed a great deal of ambiguity. I began to notice the lights and shadows; the capricious nature of living. This came from a number of angles. I hadn’t experienced my twenty-first birthday when I began to feel the first inkling of rough terrain, obstacles, and deep disappointment. I see this in hindsight. But so much wasn’t happening and everything else was.

I thought a lot about this when a friend asked me, “How does one reinvent themselves?” This friend is originally from Saint-Barthélemy, and we met while I was living in Connecticut. Because her first language is French I would attempt to speak French with her to enhance my fluency.

Just weeks before I moved from Connecticut to New York, she met someone. Her decisions were swift, and to some extent reckless.  She was short of twenty-seven at the time. She’d only known the guy a few months. She moved to London because she was “very in love.” We kept up via e-mails that, after a while, grew infrequent. Recently, we started texting a few times a week. Her texts were often random in nature, and at odd hours. She sounded both depressed and hopeless.

Her marriage having fallen apart, she was back in the States with her daughter. Confused, she posed questions like, What do I need to do? Where do I start? I suggested that this was a good opportunity to reacquaint herself to American culture, but those words fell on deaf ears.

She had so many thoughts–most negative–bouncing around her head. “I’m drowning in chaos,” she’d said a few times. “I’m drowning .  .  .”

The word chaos struck me when I heard it. But later, as I reflected on my friend’s urgency to find a cure for her despair, it occurred to me that even in some of my insane and troubling times, I have managed to find some level of comfort in the midst of ongoing chaos. I also learned that the chaos is more in our minds and less in our lives. It’s a hard sell so I dare not expect anyone to buy that line when traumatic events are chasing us down.

Whatever our belief system, it’s a given that life will catch us off guard. What typically follows is the test. Many of our tests appear when we’ve met a dead-end or hit a brick wall. It’s important, when this occurs, to rethink life and the way we filter through stressful circumstances. Too self-involved, it’s unrealistic to assume we can assess what is really going on. So many of us react to it rather than to learn from what is happening. Perhaps where we’re trying to go requires a different way of seeing and believing.

It could be that we need to trust. Life challenges us to grow, to evolve. In order for that to happen we have to face stuff we don’t like. Inescapably, Life will place obstacles in our path so we have little choice but to focus elsewhere. I read many years ago that when God is trying to get your attention, he might start out using a feather. But if that proves inefficacious, ultimately He throws bricks.

It’s not a simple thing to ascertain–when Life demands that we go deeper. However, a spiritually mindful practice, or engaging in a purposeful path, can lead us there. I, myself have developed an instinct to get through this process. I can perceive certain roadblocks and hits and misses. I now have the tools to lead me out of manic distraction. For any life-engaging or ambitious person, the hardest thing to do is do nothing.

Yet, if we let go and allow the Universe to work its magic, the chaos–the noise–will gently recede.

 

Trusting unfair

Years ago I read a book by Julia Cameron, and at the end of each chapter the author presented the reader with a question and outlined an exercise. At the end of one chapter, the author posed a question to the reader: Who would you take to war with you? This inquiry demands deep reflection.

Cameron was engaging the reader with a thought-provoking question in which the reader needed to seriously consider who would not only be trustworthy, but deeply mature, dependable, and capable under the most extreme circumstances. A friend I spoke to this morning is one of those “take to war” people.

Alone and six months pregnant, she moved to New York after college. As strong and as independent as I am, I could never have chosen that path. In my early twenties I was one-dimensional and closer to selfish than I’d care to even own out loud. My friend, who has been painting since she was in sixth grade, trusted with her heart and soul that New York was the place for her to make it as an artist.

She landed a job as a receptionist for a major record label and later moved up to being an executive assistant to a VP. I think they were calling them “secretaries” back then. Since I’ve known her, I cannot recall her ever expressing even a scintilla of doubt, a negative attitude about life or struggle, or how hard it is to make it as an artist.

If I need a pick-me-up, she’s the first person I consider because she never, ever sees anything as “unfair.” Her advice is typically supportive, but most of all she appears to manage her life by seeing each experience as a mosaic–life reflecting art.

A few months prior to my leaving New York, she had an art exhibit. Beautiful, imaginative, prolific artistry which I couldn’t afford was strategically hung or leaned against exposed-brick walls; each portraying a story about New York. She spent months preparing for the show. Sipping wine and listening to Marvin Gaye music, the mood in the gallery was generously upbeat. When people left they were Ooh-and-Aahing.

Irrespective of the repeated compliments and overflow of people, not one observer purchased my friend’s work. Her boyfriend of 15 years would lead people off the bustling sidewalks and no one turned him down. Yet not one painting was sold. Amazingly, my friend laughed and chatted with people mingling and silently judging her tireless efforts. I sensed she  was genuinely optimistic and happy to have her work displayed in a Lower Manhattan gallery.

While my friend is first and foremost an artist, and she has persistently followed what she believes to be her signature expression of love, she has earned her livelihood from work that doesn’t fulfill her. She and her actor-boyfriend can barely make their $3,700 rent each month.

When I resided in New York, they were living on the Upper Westside. A truly charming walk-up with large windows and room for my friend to paint. But they had to give up a two-bedroom my friend had been living in since 1989. Now, they live an hour outside of Manhattan because the city is no longer remotely affordable to the average person.

This friend has been through so much. From losing her once-reasonably priced Manhattan pied-à-terre, to being laid off and unemployed for over two years at the height of the downturn. To make matters worse, she began to face one medical issue after another. Prescription costs were beyond what she could afford. Her actor boyfriend has had bit parts but not enough to sustain the lifestyle they once had. He’s been working as an actor for decades, but acting jobs are no longer reliable.

His attempts to get 9-5 work that offers a livable wage and benefits has become utterly futile. He’s in his late 40s; no employer is interested in him because he’s spent far too much time working as an actor. He does part-time work as a barista at a swanky coffee bar in TriBeCa, and the occasional “mid-life” character roles. It’s not enough to make ends meet.

There’s something to be said about believing in our artistic expressions, which we trust will someday earn our keep. I am always in awe of someone like my friend, and her boyfriend. It takes sincere faith to walk in the dark. The cost of living is amazingly high now, and earning a living through creative expression has always been difficult to achieve. But neither has ever stopped, or complained about it. Not in front of me.

My friend, and her boyfriend, started out decades ago trusting the process. Even when outside influences taunted them, they persevered. An artist’s rite of passage is to struggle, and struggle and sacrifice go hand-in-hand for the creative. Although one shouldn’t have to struggle a lifetime, and sacrifice, in time, is supposed to bear fruit. All religious and spiritual texts hint at this, if not proclaim it outright.

I would have seen a lifetime of struggle as unfair years ago, but it’s the way things are now. What is left for someone like my friend and her boyfriend but to trust the unseen, the quiet possibility, the assiduous hopefully. What was once their conviction has now become their fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Will you watch my stuff . . .

Sitting in a coffee bar a while back, I was struck by someone standing over me and asking, “Will you watch my stuff . . . I’m running to the men’s.”

So I cringed when just days ago, I sat in the Pasadena Library at a crowded table and someone across from me removed a bud from his ear and stated, “Watch my stuff, I’ll be right back!” Each one of us at the library table looked up, most likely out of politeness, to see who the man was asking to “watch his stuff.” While curious eyes bounced around the table, the man with one bud in his ear walked away.

The person at the table he actually directed “watch my stuff” to shrugged. Nothing about this woman’s body language indicated she would or wouldn’t, although from my observation she was honest-to-god apathetic. There were six of us at the table. If I were the type to ask a total stranger to watch my stuff, I’d have directed the request to no one in particular and said something like, “Hey, is anyone comfortable watching my stuff for a few?”

The young blonde gathered her books, Mac and tumbler and got the hell away from our table. Deep, deep down, I wanted to jump up and follow her. She was my kind of girl! She dared not take responsibility for a stranger’s belongings. And I cringe whenever someone says to me in that passive way that strangers do: Can you/Will you/Do me a favor . . . watch my stuff, I’ll be right back, thanksomuch!

When the woman swiftly departed our table, all eyes followed her until she reached another area of the animated room. Her rather peeved departure from the table gave me the impression she refused to get involved with that guy or his stuff! While in some circles “watch-my-stuff” is just a sneaky way of trying to pick someone up, that didn’t appear to be the case here.

Several people at the table looked perplexed by the young woman’s abrupt departure, as though her reaction was out of context to what was happening. Jumping up out of her seat and gathering her belongings in such a huff, according to the expressions of my table buddies, was an overreaction.

I’m not altogether sure that I believe she owed the man a, “No, I will not watch your stuff.” However, it would have been audacious of her had she spoken up for her right not to be responsible for a total stranger’s belongings. Instead, her behavior came across as contemptuous, which might be what my Pasadena Library table buddies reacted to.

I was disappointed by how she handled the situation. She dodged a confrontation, but that didn’t mean she stood her ground. Instead, she avoided dealing with the spot she’d been boxed into. Perhaps she wasn’t good at expressing herself. Potentially, too much was going on in her life to deal with petty things like watch my stuff.

Even while I’m a person that holds out hope that the world will become kinder, more present, and wholeheartedly engaged with each other; more like the Danish, who live a lifestyle known as Hygge (pronounced hue-guh!), it’s beginning to feel like hope against hope. It would be sublime–although not necessarily a perfect world–if we could be just a bit more genuine. More hygge.

When I was sitting with a few people talking over wine, I thought it would be good to hear what they thought about “watch my stuff,” so I told them about the incident at the Pasadena Library. I was taken aback just a tad because everyone reacted as though the young woman was rude, inconsiderate, and too uptight!

“Come on!” someone blurted out. “What was her problem?”

“What a bitch!” another said. “She could’ve lied. Said ‘yeah, I’ll watch your stuff.’ It didn’t mean she had to.”

Someone I’d met for the first time that evening offered, “Everyone does it. It’s not a commitment. Besides, no one’s really expecting you to be accountable for their stuff. It’s . . . it’s just–hey, keep-an-eye-out (if you can ) . . . ”

“Okay,” I butted in. “If no one really expects you to be accountable for their stuff,  why bother to ask someone to ‘watch your stuff’?”

“When I sit in Coffee Bean and someone asks me to ‘watch their stuff’, I nod with a sure, yeah. But I don’t really watch their stuff.”

“Right, right. Watch-my-stuff is a thing,” someone clarified. “Soon’s they walk away, I’m back to my own thing. I don’t care about their laptop!”

“Anyway, some of us get distracted . . . We even forget about a stranger’s  stuff.”

“So why not just say I don’t want to watch your stuff?” I was curious to know.

A friend said, “You–and that chick at the library–take this watch-my-stuff thing way too seriously!”