Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Secret of Being Grown: The 98 to 99% rule.

 Warning: Random rambling ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

"If you like it, I love it."

~ Deanna Draper

I'm a huge fan of grown people finding the things that make them happy and doing them. Like defining their own happiness and carefully going after some version of that happiness regardless of what someone else thinks. Yeah. I'm a fan of that. A huge fan, in fact. That is, if said grown person is able to do at least 98% of whatever that is without great inconvenience, dependence or cost to some other unwilling party.

Maybe even like 99% of it.

And let's be clear about something --  I said without depending upon some UNWILLING party. I raise my glass to you if you have somebody in your corner poised and ready to put their money or time or whatever on the line for you to get a little closer to your dreams. There sure have been points where I've had those people in my corner. But, see, those cheers turn into jeers when big epiphanies that cost money and sacrifice aren't made with careful consideration of every person who will be either affected or expected to do something different.

That is, once we are GROWN.

My willing parties

Let me explain with an example. A grown person who has a fantastic job has become disgruntled with their career. That person decides that he or she wants to scrap it and give some other dream job a go. Which is fine and actually kind of bad ass if you ask me. So far, so good, right? And it stays good as long as a couple of things happen. First, if said grown person has money saved up and they're prepared to live a little skinny off of their own savings until things get right? Beautiful! The second option would be if the person is fortunate enough to have supportive loved ones who are willing to financially back what is likely to be a costly pursuit. And sometimes it's a combination of these things--which is cool.

You with me? Good.

But here's what isn't cool: Deciding to make a pivotal decision without those two things clearly in place. And just assuming that asking for forgiveness instead of permission or better yet forgiveness instead of at least help up front is the better way to go. It's not. That approach is fine when you're like. . .I don't know . . .ten years old. Otherwise, as the Grady elders say, "That dog don't hunt."

No, it don't.

It's not always financial stuff either. Sometimes it's time. Like a person deciding to take on an activity that will take them out of the house a lot or demand more time or even something like expanding a family -- and assuming that a grandparent will man the kids to make that happen. And the key word there is assume. Because many, many grandparents would be DELIGHTED to help with grandkids but from my experience with my own (amazing) parents and my (wonderful) mother-in-law it has to be on their terms. And those terms should always, always be laid out before any trigger gets pulled.

Unless, of course, the person is fully prepared to adequately manage 98% (or even 99%) of it without the assistance of someone else. At which point they can do whatever the hell they want.

This is how grown people can keep other grown people out of their business. Simple. By being able to manage 98 to 99% of it yourself. You feel me?

See, the older I get, the more I realize that managing your OWN 98 to 99% is pretty exhausting. So exhausting actually that by the time you finish doing the stuff you need to do for your own 98 to 99%, you don't have time to be worried about what somebody else is doing. Especially if it makes them happy and it isn't wreaking havoc somewhere.

So yeah. Like, if someone likes to drink whiskey from sun up to sun down but they get arrested, get the lights turned off and become violent, that doesn't work so well, now does it? Because that affects somebody else and starts to push beyond the limits of the 98 to 99%. But if that person instead has decided to eat a raw food diet and sleep standing up and only wear UGG boots everywhere they go? So long as I am not the one having to eat raw food every day with them or the one sleeping with them? Chile please. Have at it. And as for the UGG boots, as long as they aren't a medical student or a resident taking care of patients with me in the hospital? I say go for that, too.

Or as Deanna used to say, "If you like it, I love it."

Which was her way of saying, it's your life and you have to manage the majority of it. And if that works for you in your life and doesn't affect mine too much? Have your way, Pookie.


And, of course, it can't be, like, some horrible injustice that someone is committing in the privacy of their own home like intimate partner violence or abusing children or neglecting an elder. In those instances, it's all of our business.

In those instances. Not all instances.

See, the more people rely on others to navigate their 98 to 99% the more say those people get in their affairs. Like the twenty eight year old who lives with his mama and is screaming in her face to "get out of his damn business?" Yeah, Pookie. Move out. Get your own house. Manage your own 98 to 99% with your own money and guess what? You can do whatever you want. And your "damn business" will be yours to protect. But until then? You have opened the door to let somebody have some say. And that person is probably yo' mama.

Mmmm hmmm.

I say it's kind of like shareholders. When a company goes public and parcels out pieces? Those folks who buy those pieces get to say what they think. That's just how it works. Life if pretty similar. Don't you think?


So, to me, the 98 to 99% rule is also one of the secrets (if not the main secret) of happy marriages. Recognizing that, once you're part of a committed duo, it is impossible or unfair to unilaterally apply the 98 to 99% rule in your decisions. Unilaterally. The first jolt of marriage is understanding that nearly everything you do will affect the person you married, too. Even tiny things. Which makes me think of something my late grandmother, Ernestine, once told us on the eve of our wedding day:

"Marriages fail for one reason and one reason only: Selfishness. Not helping out with things? Selfish. Spending all the money without regard for how the other person feels or is affected? Selfish. Not participating with the chil'ren? Selfish. Not wanting to make love? Selfish. Doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it? Selfish." 

And yes. That was one of MANY times that my grandmother advised me about the importance of "making love" and not withholding the hanky panky. Which is a whole 'nother blog post for whole 'nother time.


So yeah. I think when you're married or otherwise boo-ed up, the 98 to 99% of life kind of blends together. That doesn't mean you don't get to still be your own person and pursue the things that your heart desires. But it does mean that you can't do those things like you're an island. You just can't.

The key is to find someone who loves and respects you enough to make room for you to pursue some individual interests and be yourself.

Whew. I'm getting warmed up now. Let me just unpack this a little more.

I recall in my first few weeks of marriage that I beat Harry home one day. He walked into our home (which we'd just begun sharing) and had some take out from a soul food restaurant. I looked completely puzzled when I saw him with those bags.

"What you got there, Mr. Manning?" I asked.

"I stopped and got us some rosemary chicken from that spot you like. I was trying to call you to see if you had something here but I knew you were on service at Grady."

"Oh. Okay. I actually ate something already. I wish I'd gotten your call."

"What'd you have?"

"I brought home some Mediterranean Grill that was left over from our conference today. You know how much I love that place."

He nodded his head and smiled. "Cool. Then I can just save this for tomorrow. What did you bring? Chicken kabobs or what?"

That's when I froze and realized that he was referring to me as if I was a wife who'd thought about bringing home some falafel, chicken kabobs and hummus for more than just one. Turns out I was not that wife. At least, not on that day.

"Oh shoot. I wasn't . . .errr. . . I didn't think. . ..umm. . . I thought maybe you'd grab something."

"So you had Med Grill and didn't bring enough for two?"

And all I could do was drop my head. The sad trombone music played simultaneously in my ear.


Dude. That's when it dawned on me that with even the tiniest things like grabbing leftovers from a luncheon, somebody had now been folded into my 98 to 99%. And that someone had already inserted me into theirs.

And so. That's it. That's the secret. To being grown and being (mostly) okay. And probably to being in a happy marriage. Figuring out what the necessary elements are for your happiness and figuring out a way to manage 98 to 99% of it without completely upsetting somebody else' apple cart. Also, as couples, the same applies to big decisions. They need to be manageable mostly by y'all. Unless help has been clearly, willingly defined up front.


Deanna always put it so plainly. "If you like it, I love it." Nothing could be more true. If everybody would focus on managing their own 98 to 99%, they'd be left with no time to jump out of their lane to render opinions (or pain) on somebody else' decisions or life. This would also work beautifully for our politicians who spend far too much of their 98 to 99% worrying about aspects of others' personal lives that WON'T AFFECT THEM OR ANYONE ELSE. But would instead make them happier and more productive citizens.

I'm just sayin'.

I guess my point is that the old adage "live and let live" is more than just a cliche. It's a doctrine for grown folks like us to try our best to follow. It's a goal for us to get our children to reach ultimately and I know for certain was always one that my parents had for us. The more we can successfully and independently manage our own "live" -- as couples or individuals -- the easier it is for those around us to let us.


That's all I got this morning. What y'all got?

Happy Wednesday. Hump DAAAAAAY!

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .


  1. You need to file a claim with Aetna, because you just gave me a whole big piece of advice.

    1. And here it is Thanksgiving and I forgot to say thank you. So here is your official thank you.

      Your grandmother was spot on. Every marriage I know that has ever split , selfishness is at the root of the problem.

  2. all of it so true and something I have been working on....if people (including me) would take care of their own business first they wouldn't have time to worry and talk other people's business.

  3. Whoops, shit just got REALLY real!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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