THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Hard as it may be for those who know me well to believe, I get a lot of phone calls and e-mail and, “Hey, Larry B, can I talk to you a sec?” stops on the street from people asking for advice.
And, also hard as it may be for those who know me well to believe, I very seldom give any.
I love the sound of my own voice and the concept of my own wisdom as much as anyone, but good sense is good sense. It’s clear-cut and easy to recognize. (Except, of course, when it’s not.) And good sense dictates several reasons for this policy:
One reason for this is my aversion to gurus, even if I’m supposed to be one of them. My experience tells me that no one ever really learns anything from anyone else. We know what we know because we discover it for ourselves. All a teacher can do is help us walk that path of self-discovery.
Another reason I try not to give advice is based on the fact that I’ve already got plenty of responsibilities and telling someone else what to do or how to live makes me feel responsible for the outcome—if he or she takes the advice—and for the whole rest of that person’s life even if he or she ignores it. (A “You had a chance to help that man, Larry B. All you had to do was push a little harder!” kind of thing.)
A third reason is that since I’m the only person I really understand, and I’m only at the tip of my own particular iceberg to begin with, how can I presume to tell anyone else anything that would be of true value? What I say could really mess ‘em up, and that’s not something I can live with.
Recently, though, Norma, the daughter of Delly the Interstate Trucker got through my defenses. Off she’d gone to college, eager for the great adventure of higher learning. But what she found—or, maybe, what she thought she found—was the biggest disappointment of her young life and sent her skedaddling home.
“The other kids in the dorm weren’t there to learn,” she told her mother. “They were there to party. Everybody was up all night, carrying on, and getting madder and madder at me because I wasn’t joining in. I had to leave school…but now what do I do?”
“You could get a job,” Delly pointed out.
Norma furrowed her brow. “Doing what? Wasting my DNA as a clerk? Or a bagger? What’s going on in the world? How does anybody ever achieve anything? How does anybody feel good about themselves?”
And then she looked straight at me. “Waitaminnit,” Norma said. “You’ve done it. You’ve used your God-given talent to have a career. And you smile and enjoy life. How do you do that? What’s the trick?”
Instead of asking for advice, the young woman was asking me to tell her something about myself. And if there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s the chance to yak on about my virtues.
So I thought about the question. And I replied.
“You’re struggling with big issues,” I said. “By their very nature big issues are overwhelming. I acknowledge that the Big Questions are out there, and I’m always trying to find the answers. But I don’t conduct my life in terms of them. Instead, I break everything down to its smallest possible piece.
“All in all, I’d have to say I’m happy because usually I succeed. And I succeed because I’m pretty happy. I’m proud of myself. Proud of everything I do, even if it doesn’t seem like much to anyone else.
“I say things to myself like, ‘Hey, you woke up this morning! Much better than the alternative. Way to go, Larry B!’
“And, ‘You made coffee and didn’t set the house on fire! Good for you. Take a bow, Larry B!’
“And even, ‘You didn’t fix the fence and the dog got cut up, but you got to him in time and you’re restringing the wire now. You’ve learned your lesson. Nice going, Larry B!’”
To prove my point, I gave myself a little round of applause. Norma stared. “Um…can I say something, Larry B?”
She threw back her shoulders. “I think you’re as crazy as the kids in the dorm.”
“You could be right,” I replied.
But I said it with pride.