Your life in five questions

Friday, July 22, 2005

We all get them from our friends -- those 30-question e-mails to fill out and return plus forward to our friends with the intention of all learning about each other.

Because of my cursed high level of self-absorption, I love sharing stuff about myself with other people in the hope that they'll be interested. Maybe they'll care that yes, I have been in love, or that my favorite flavor of ice cream is peanut butter and chocolate and I'm the oldest child in my family.

There are probably fewer questions that would tell you a lot more about the people your friends are. So I spent a couple of weeks developing a list:

1. What's the hardest lesson you've ever learned?

2. What's the answer to most problems?

3. What's the most personally significant piece of art in your home?

4. What song always makes you verklempt?

5. What was your favorite class in high school or college?

After I sent those out to a bunch of people, I realized that there was a sixth question that would have been great: What's your best attribute? But alas, it was too late.

Another problem with my list: A lot fewer people than I thought know what "verklempt" means. I learned it from "Coffee Talk with Linda Richmond," a Mike Myers sketch on "Saturday Night Live" where he'd dress up as a Jewish woman and have guests on a talk show. If Linda got choked up about some particularly moving subject, she'd say, "Now I'm verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. Discuss."

Here are the answers from my friends to three questions:

The hardest lesson I've learned was: Sometimes things change but always for a reason.

You have to stand up for yourself to get the respect you deserve. You only get out of something what you put into it. Love everyone -- even the ones who are mean to you. Listen more than you talk -- you'll get in a lot less trouble that way. What you say about someone will get back to them. Student loans must be repaid. Don't take those around you for granted. Be yourself or be miserable trying to fit what others expect you to be.

Perfection is a fantasy no one gets to live out. People will be there for you at times, but ultimately you've got to fight your own battles.

The next one got a lot of the same answers -- and not the ones I'd necessarily have given. See? I learned something.

The answer to most problems is: Go with your gut. Don't do anything hastily. Work through it, talk it out and compromise if you have to. Pray, believe in yourself and your ability to do what is right, and trust God for the answer. Wait -- yes, a knee-jerk reaction is essential in a crisis situation, but long-term problems usually need thought and investigation. Time -- haste is not the solution unless there's blood involved. Honesty -- it may hurt for a while, but the only antidote is truth. Relax and think, what would Gandhi do? Work harder, communicate more.

The song that makes me verklempt is: "What a Wonderful World" by Louie Armstrong. "A Good Year for the Roses" by Elvis Costello (originally performed by George Jones, but I love Elvis' version). "Through the Fire" by the Crabb Family. "Closer" by Keb Mo. "That's What Makes You Strong" by Jackie Winchester. Anything by Journey. "Saved the Best for Last" by Vanessa Williams.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.