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29th October

I have solution for your problem

One evening in the mid-eighties during a cocktail party in Mexico City, the correspondent of the Soviet news agency Tass took me aside. He guided me to a quiet part of the room where we sat down. When he pulled his chair a bit closer to mine and bent forward so that our heads almost touched, it was clear that something important, perhaps even secret, was going to be discussed.


‘I have solution for your problem’ Evgeny said in a whisper. It immediately occurred to me that everybody knew that I wrote too few pieces, that I should spend more time preparing my broadcasts and that I should travel to warzones more often. Even here at the Foreign Correspondents Association, word had gotten around that I was lazy, that I could do more if only I wanted to, just as was written on my first report card when I was six years old. And apparently Evgeny knew how to fix this character flaw.


But then he started to explain that in Moscow they would equip me with an artificial hand so that I could function like everyone else. Travel, operation, lodging—all expenses would be paid for by the Soviet state. 


I was greatly relieved that he had referred to my hand and not to what I considered to be a far greater defect. I thanked him for the kind offer but told him that I was perfectly fine the way I was.


Thirty-seven years on the feeling that I could do so much more still lingers. It doesn’t make any difference how many art projects I start, how many books I write, how many HIV initiatives I support, how many hours I sweat on the cross trainer. I still feel that I’m lazy. It's a kind of mental anorexia completely disconnected from reality.


I have made some progress though; I’ve learned that when I don’t pay these thoughts any mind, they go away by themselves. It’s just as when our dog Lucy, who often sits under my writing desk, taps her paw against my leg to get my attention. By not reacting, which isn’t always easy because I thoroughly enjoy playing with her, she soon goes away and finds something else to do.


Ignoring the thoughts that tap for my attention requires a bit of awareness. And that, I think is the real solution to my problem.

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