When You’re Discouraged, Encourage Others

I crashed one car into the other in my garage. It was an accident. I was trying to do something but I forget what now. The details are hazy.

I had two choices. Go back in the house and explain to my wife what happened. I could then play with my two tiny girls while my wife checked the damage.

It was ugly. Both cars had huge dents. Maybe one car wouldn’t drive anymore.

There would be work involved. Payments. Trips back and forth. People with greasy rags circling around and saying, “what the hell happened here?”

Then there was choice #2. Which I took.

Without looking back I walked about 6 blocks towards the river. Waited about 45 minutes. Got on the train into New York City. And checked into a hotel.

I didn’t answer my phone for a few hours. Then I picked up. “I’m sorry, I had to go to work,” I said.

The rest of the discussion I don’t remember. It wasn’t pleasant. I apologized. It was my fault. I know a lot of time and effort would now have to take place.

Anyway, now we’re divorced.

The day we officially separated (a few months after the garage) I put an ad on Craigslist.

I was staying in a hotel on 44th Street. My favorite diner was right next door. It was called “The Red Flame”. I would occasionally have meetings there.

“Is the Red Flame some kind of gay dungeon?” would be the question asked of me 100% of the time by out of town people who I wanted to meet there.

“No,” I said, “but they have a good milkshake.”

I put the ad on Craigslist and said, “I had the flu and when I woke up from a near coma I had psychic powers. Send me a note and I will answer any questions about your future.”

Then I went to the Red Flame. It was Thanksgiving. My favorite waitress served me a turkey sandwich.

“Today’s my last day,” she said. Even though, after four years of her being my favorite waitress I thought I would instantly get divorced and marry her. Also, this is the first time we ever spoke.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Be a teacher. I love kids.” And that’s the last time I ever saw her.

When I got back to my hotel room there were about 200 emails. I deleted all the emails from men and started responding to the emails from women.

I became Facebook friends with many of them. Unless they’ve unfriended me they are still my friends. I did try to date at least three of them.

“Are you really psychic?” one asked via email. She couldn’t be sure from my responses.

“I don’t know,” I said but I knew.

I was less than psychic. But I was happy to answer questions. Everybody had guy questions and career questions.

I was going to visit a friend later that night. But she wrote me, “you can’t come over. My daughter googled you and saw that you’re married and said, ‘Mom, why do you always go after married guys?’ “

“I’m separated,” I wrote back.

“Sorry,” she said.

I spent all afternoon and night emailing back and forth with people. Like I said, I even made a few friends. Did I end up dating anyone? No. Who would date a lying married broke-with-two kids fake psychic.

But I felt connected to people. Maybe for the first time in a long time.

When you are feeling down and discouraged, sometimes the best thing is to encourage others.

Nobody knew who I was and I don’t think anyone believed my ad. But I was sad and lonely and many people wanted to email.

You would think the opposite: only encourage others when you are high up.

It’s the reverse that works.

Dress for the job you want. The reality is: when you’re feeling discouraged, the best way to lift yourself up is to encourage others. Then you see your possibilities, instead of being buried in your miseries.

I didn’t feel very good about myself. I didn’t feel worthy of anything.

But I wanted to connect. “I’m a psychic and I can help.” The discussions lasted all night — I couldn’t stop typing, the emails and responses were coming in so fast.

When I eventually fell asleep I felt better about myself. I had fun. Maybe for the first time in a long time.

When I walked out of that garage, having damaged both my cars in a matter of minutes, I thought, “I’m in trouble now” and I was scared. So I just walked away.

Was it wrong? Was it ethical? No. Nothing I did was. Do I regret it now? Probably. It was a long time ago.

Even the lights in those memories seem overexposed, too bright to look straight at.

I don’t think anyone is perfect. At some point we become someone else’s story: “can you believe he did that?” That’s ok. It happens when we’re feeling messed up.

The only thing consistent from day to day is the blank piece of paper that we start with.

Every day we get to type a new story on it. Make it a real page turner. Make people feel happy.

At some point it will end.


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(Photo by Francis Mariani)

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