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Archive for March, 2010

What Would Janet Do?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Hello Out There In Cyberspace!

Yes, I am still doing my advice column. So if you have any personal problems you want aired in public, I’m your gal! Feel free to ask me anything about love, sex or marriage and I’ll try my best not to humiliate you!

Dear Janet:

I’m a 37-year-old male. I just completed a Ph.D. in History. When I told my parents, my father questioned why I’d get a degree in something that “didn’t matter.” He wanted to know when I was going to grow up and get a real job again (I was in corporate finance for ten years). Ever since I left my job to pursue my true passion, he thinks I’ve lost my mind. How can I get him to see that I’m happier now and that this is a good thing for me?


El Granada

Dear Ted:

You can’t. Only he has the power to accept you. Your job is to learn how not to care what he thinks of you. Sorry. I know it won’t be easy, but it may be your only choice. Apparently, you never saw this side of your father, but it was always there. This issue hasn’t come up before because you were doing what he wanted you to do. You probably made your choice to be in corporate finance, not because you were particularly interested in it, but because you wanted his approval. Which is normal, we all want our parents’ approval. What your father doesn’t understand is that you are a separate person. He doesn’t understand you or your passion. Nor has he apparently taken the time to learn who you are. He sounds pretty closed off. For some reason, he thinks that you won’t be able to take care of yourself in your new path. Since he hasn’t separated from you, it really means that he doesn’t have much faith in himself. Your choices challenge his belief in his own limitations. He might have had a dream once upon a time and didn’t believe in himself enough to pursue it. Or his parents didn’t believe in him. Lucky for you, you’re finding out this new information about your father when you’re 37. Thankfully, your father believed in you for most of your life. Which gave you the strength to get that Ph.D. Which is clearly better than his parents did for him.

You need to learn to get your approval from yourself. And your colleagues. And all the other people in your life who believe in you. You may never get it from your father. But you don’t have to take his crap, either. When he attacks you, stand up for yourself. Tell him to back off. That you’re a man and it’s your life now and you don’t need his negative input. If he continues the battle, leave. If he won’t back down, then release yourself from your expectations of his behavior and accept the loss. Learn to accept your father for who he is, blindness and all, and try to love him anyway. If you have the fortitude and tenacity to achieve a Ph.D., you can handle your father. Believe in yourself, stand up for yourself, continue to pursue your dreams and everything will be fine. Oh, and congratulations on the Ph.D.

Dear Janet:

I’ve been dating a great guy. We’ve been together about six months. Only problem is, he left about a month ago on a sales trip and I’ve only heard from him about once a week. We saw each other every day for six months and now he’s only calling me once a week and the calls are rushed. When I asked him if it was over between us, he nearly lost his mind. I got two bouquets of flowers and candy and he even sent me a really nice necklace. But since he’s been having all this trouble with his cell phone company and doesn’t have a cell phone and I don’t know where he’s staying, I can’t reach him if I need to. Do you really think he loves me and is serious about me?

Missing Him

Letter to website

Dear Missing Him:

Yes, I think he loves you. No, I don’t think he’s serious about you. Your “great guy” is married. Yak herders in remote villages in Asia have cell phones. Seven-year-olds have cell phones. Sales people can’t do their jobs without cells. He doesn’t want you calling because he doesn’t want his wife to get suspicious. Sorry. Hire a private detective and find out who he really is. Even if he’s not married, he’s up to something. You don’t need drama, suspicion and trust issues. And definitely not six months into a relationship. But you need to know the truth. Think Tiger Woods. You might be one of many. Or maybe he’s got a legitimate excuse. But I doubt it. Good luck, honey.

Dear Janet:

My neighbors used to keep their yard up and their lawn mowed, but about six months ago, they started getting sloppy. The lawn wouldn’t be mowed for weeks, their recycling would spill and they wouldn’t clean it up right away. Their place is really looking trashy. I’ve talked to the city and they said they have no jurisdiction if the yard isn’t a health hazard. I want to sell soon and these people are bringing my property values down. I saw the woman who lives there and tried to talk to her, but she waved me off and rushed away. How do I get through to them?

Upset Neighbor

Letter to website

Dear Upset Neighbor:

Has it ever occurred to you that they may have experienced a family tragedy? Sounds to me like something happened to them six months ago. I understand you’re concerned about your property values, but if only one house on the block looks bad, it shouldn’t affect you. Have some compassion. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Since you obviously don’t know them well, you don’t know what’s going on. Someone could have cancer. A child could be sick. They may be losing the house. These are difficult economic times. Now, more than ever, we need the support and kindness of our neighbors.

©2010, Janet Periat

The Secret To Happiness

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last night, I watched the movie Julie/Julia. For me it was a shining example of what’s wrong with our current culture and why people are so miserable. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is a juxtaposition of two lives. A thirty-year-old blogger in New York who, in one year, cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and of Julia Child’s twelve-year-journey to create the cookbook. The movie highlights the differences between two paradigms: our current system-dependent, consumer culture versus a model that focuses on personal fulfillment, discovery and self-reliance, and how the models differ markedly in producing happiness.

Julie is a woman of 30, lost, self-centered, blocked and miserable. She is the epitome of the unhappy, dependent consumer and part of the unfortunate Self Esteem generation, a monstrous creation of parents my age. When we went to school in the sixties and seventies, all the emphasis and attention was on the boys and high-achievers and the rest of us were pretty much ignored or maligned. Our parents were more interested in cocktail parties than parenting. So many of us came out of the school system feeling alone with low self-esteem. We thought over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives would help build self-esteem and would help them accomplish more. We thought that by giving our kids trophies for “participating” we’d make them feel good about themselves. We thought shoving them into endless Chinese lessons and ballet lessons would make them accomplished. We thought by tethering ourselves to our kids via cell phones and helping them make all their decisions would make them strong.

What we didn’t realize is that we undermined them more. We became a hyperextension of an already flawed paradigm. We reinforced the idea that kids can’t do things on their own. We gave them a skewed version of accomplishment. We gave them inaccurate mirrors of reality. We forgot that our children are individuals with unique talents and gifts that they need to learn to explore on their own. They need to be free to make and learn from their own mistakes. They need to be encouraged and supported in their interests. Not our interests and wants. Not what our consumer-driven, dependency-oriented society wants.

As a result, our kids are even more unprepared for reality than we were. All we’ve done is create an entire generation of deluded people who can’t solve problems on their own. Like Julie.

Julie wrote a half of a novel and because she couldn’t sell it, she never finished the book. She quit because she didn’t get an “A” for participating. For the first time in her life, she faced the real world. She ended up with the message that if you try once and don’t succeed and your parents can’t fix it for you, give it up. This illustrates the basic problem with our society today: the emphasis on dependence on the system. The message that we can’t do anything ourselves. The emphasis on buying something rather than creating it.

We no longer celebrate long-term efforts. Everyone wants to get rich quick. Julie is an example of this. She didn’t go to cooking school. She didn’t work forty hours a week for twelve years writing a book. She spent one year cooking and working a dead end job and whining about it on her blog. And this is what got her a book and movie deal. Why? Because this “accomplishment” resonated with her audience. Many people who saw the film couldn’t see difference between Julie and Julia Child.

Consumption is being mistaken for accomplishment. Which is how a “celebutard” like Paris Hilton has become famous. If you’ve never accomplished something like writing a book, you have zero understanding of the grit, determination and astounding amount of energy and hours it takes. Julie had little appreciation for the work Julia Child did. All she did was whine at the end of the story about how Julia Child wouldn’t recognize HER accomplishment.

Unfortunately, our current culture is producing far more Julies than Julias. It was recently reported that in America, 70% of people are dissatisfied with their lives and jobs. This is because we have ignored the fundamentals of human fulfillment. There is only one way to happiness: discovering your unique gifts and working hard to turn those gifts into mastery, completion and accomplishment.

Because we’re socialized to be consumers, not creators or initiators, America is in decline. We are stuck in a parent/child paradigm with the underlying message that if we’re good girls and boys and follow all the rules and trust in the system, we’ll be taken care of until the day we die. As a result, we have vast numbers of unemployed people waiting for someone to come along and give them a job. They aren’t thinking about creating a new job for themselves or others. They’re waiting for someone to come along and save them. And as most of us have started to realize, no one is coming to our rescue. We’ve been sold a false bill of goods. We are being called upon to take care of ourselves outside the system and we haven’t been given the tools to do it. Which is making us all terrified and miserable.

The movie illustrated this concept perfectly. Julie was whiny, fearful, unhappy and had complete meltdowns during her “year of accomplishment.” Julia Child laughed and loved her way through her entire life. Sure she had setbacks, but she just got up, dusted herself off and got back to work again with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.

We have the power to change our way of thinking. Our country was founded and built by a nation of Julias. And we can be great again. Celebrate your unique gifts. Develop them and share them. Believe in yourself, be in your corner and work hard for what you want. Your happiness and the future of this country depends on it.

©2010, Janet Periat

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