needs a philosophy. A simple line you tell yourself that instantly
curbs the desire to say or do something that you'll regret.
I dated someone once whose philosophy was:
never say never. Or, as I saw it: create false hope. Nothing was
ever definite. And anything's possible. He'd swear he didn't want
to get married again. Then he'd add: "Although, who knows?
I never say never." What he really meant was: "I may
get married again, just not to you."
My friend Heather had a great philosophy:
enjoy the moment. The problem was, she kept pushing it on me.
I have enough trouble living in the moment. I have to enjoy it
too? But she was determined, and the more she expected to enjoy
the moment, the less it happened. So now she has a new philosophy:
That's the beauty of having a philosophy.
When it doesn't work, you just adopt a new one.
I don't know what my personal philosophy
is any more. It used to be: question everything. But that was
exhausting. Plus, it annoyed people. Besides, it's already my
nature to be suspicious. I don't need a philosophy that makes
life more complicated.
Next I tested out live and let live. If
someone did something that bothered me, I reminded myself to let
it go. Unless they broke a plan at the last minute. Or kept me
on hold while they took another call. Or forgot to return an e-mail.
So much for live and let live.
I've gone through a bunch of philosophies.
Most of them didn't stick. I'm currently trying out: do unto others
as you would have them do unto you. The other day was a good test.
My friend Jack called in a panic. Sounding hysterical. He left
a message on my voicemail at 7am. "You will get an e-mail
that says 'For Amanda' in the subject line," he said. "Please
do not open it. It's private."
I sat at my computer and stared at the unopened
e-mail. As someone with a predilection for snooping, this was
like heroin. It would be so easy to take a peek - he'd never know.
What did it say? Who was Amanda? What could have provoked this
mild-mannered man to sound so terrified? He's a soldier. He's
been shot at. Yet the thought of being emotionally vulnerable
had him gripped with fear.
I began to think of reasons he wouldn't
want me to see it. Maybe he confessed he was a spy. Or gay. Or
even better: a gay spy. Why wouldn't he want me to know that?
I wouldn't care. It had to be something else. Something I would
care about. Maybe it mentioned me. It was excruciating and I was
desperate to read it. But I called him back and promised I wouldn't
"That doesn't mean someone else couldn't
read it," Liza said. Meaning I could have forwarded it to
her, let her read it, tell me what it said, and still have respected
I briefly considered this option. But then
I thought how, if it were me who had inadvertently sent an e-mail,
I would hope that a friend wouldn't open it. So I pressed delete.
Of course, if it did happen to me and I
was told that it had been deleted unread, I'd still wonder if
they were telling me the truth.
And therein lies the one philosophy I always
return to: trust no one.