A three-minute walk from our apartment stands a small lone cherry blossom tree. It’s located behind a dull brick building. On this seemingly empty city block the tree feels like a sign of hope. Hope that beauty can hold up in the face of asphalt and concrete.
As I walked on, I saw so many volunteers planting bulbs, clearing paths, and cleaning up both Carl Shurz and Central Parks. There is a friendly buzz among the volunteers as they give of their time and dedication to bring natural beauty to our city.
I am so grateful for the rare flowering tree on the curb side of the sidewalk. And how enchanting it is to walk through the parks and gardens that provide an abundance of natural splendor. The garden boxes on windows and the landscapes of certain buildings also provide color to our lives.
The city in springtime is a panoply of beauty, we just have to look to take in these delightful seasonal palates.
When outside, see if you can find and focus on new blooms. Notice how it feels to purposely take notice of what may have been background previously.
Bring flowers into your home. Do you like potted flowers or cut, or both? Where do you like to put them?
Find inspiration from this season. What might you enjoy now that’s different from other times of the year?
Life isn’t linear. I had always hoped I’d solve what I considered to be my problems, and then live a quality life. The truth is that we revisit issues time and time again. Even when we think we’ve beat it, it will show up unexpectedly. Perhaps it’s why the movie Groundhog’s Day resonates for so many of us.
We are trained early to think that we’ve failed if we have to repeat lessons. In school if we fail a grade, it must be repeated. We are not taught that relearning is nothing shameful. It would be much more helpful should we be told that repeating grades can be as useful as moving ahead. Can we learn that somethings bear repeating?
I have a difficult time learning steps. Dance classes did not come easily. I much prefer workouts that don’t include dancing. Yet, I love dancing on my own, when I can move my body to the music. In some cases, not on the beat, but with the mood rather than the tempo, I feel joyous. That joy is robbed when specific steps are introduced. I go into my head and my physical attunement goes out the door.
That doesn’t stop me from trying to learn. Luckily at this age I can laugh at my difficulties, at least as far as dancing is concerned. Of course, there are other lessons that I continue to struggle with, even if I understand what might help make it easier.
I put together a Seder for our small family. I didn’t over prepare. And I kept telling myself that I should write a list. I never did. I had forgotten to open the horseradish, which I then couldn’t find. I looked everywhere in the refrigerator. Larry kindly volunteered to go out and get a new jar. He had to walk a few blocks since we don’t live close to a food store. This all happened when we were about to begin our short Seder. During clean-up we found the horseradish on the counter where I left it to open it before the meal. Also, the spinach remained in the oven forgetting that, too.
It all worked out. We enjoyed the spinach yesterday. But I know myself. Through the years I’ve come to find that I am well-served keeping lists. Yet I refused to create one for Passover. The forgotten foods were a needed reminder that lists help me.
I will continue to face issues, big and small, that seemingly repeat again and again. While I used to berate myself for what I could or “should” know., now I am grateful that I can learn from ostensibly familiar mistakes. It may seem like the same old issue, but it is new in this never lived before time and space.
Try something that might seem difficult for you. See how it feels. Follow it by something that seems easy, and compare the sensations you experience, and the emotional response to what comes easy as opposed to what is more challenging.
Keep lists if you like. They are a terrific tool. It feels gratifying to cross thigs off your list as you complete them
When faced with a familiar life lesson, keep it in the present. In the same way you have never breathed that breath before, see if you can be in the moment with something that tends to take your mind into the past. Notice what is new or different in this
In my mind this weekend was filled with activity. I was going on long walks, I was starting to prepare for Passover, reading as research, writing, walking Lucy, finding items to give away, cooking for the week, and everything else that involves time and effort when not at work. I forget what is required to get so much done, especially when a nap is in order.
Even after over two years of a changed world due to the Coronavirus, I am still learning that I need more rest than I had a couple of years ago. That’s not exactly true. I probably needed more rest back then, but I thrived on the steady pace of work, perpetual plans, and a never-ending to-do list. Now, however, my to-do lists alone exhaust me. I aim to get so much done on the weekends, but I forget that I need more time to rest.
I am humbled by my limitations. They let me know that I am not super-human, I am simply human. I was never-super human. But due to my low self-esteem, I acted as if I had to justify my existance. To whom? I’m not even sure. Having high expectations for myself no longer serves me. Having realistic intentions helps me move forward towards my aspirations, slower than I’d like, but in the right direction.
My challenge is to continually adjust to the slower pace. I need to cooperate with the circumstances rather than going full steam ahead. I’ve learned that being busy may have suited my energy level at one time, but that is no longer the case. Leading a full life is not a series of crossing-off to-do list items. Full means being in the moment. Enjoying a sunset. Delighting in the spring flowers. Sharing meaningful conversations. Stopping to rest.
Rest. Your body and mind will thank you
When feeling overwhelmed, slow down. Take a moment to check in with yourself. If you’re able to take a break, do so. If not, be patient so that you can get through whatever is required of you.
Plan less. Having open times allows for creative thinking.
It was the summer of 1979. Thanks to a student loan I was in Paris studying French, which I didn’t retain and Art History, which I preserved with many future visits to museums. I felt so cosmopolitan sipping a café au lait while enjoying a freshly baked croissant before classes began. We sat at a café off of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Half the day was spent in classes. By afternoon I was walking for hours getting to know the city of lights.
Those were the highlights. Yet there was so much I didn’t know. Back in our dorm room we had a bidet. I was too insecure to ask how to use it or what it was for. I thought, since we were in a women’s dorm, that it was a douche. What I knew about douches I learned in Summer’s Eve commercials back in New Jersey. When my roommates from other college exchange programs asked if I knew how to use it. I lied. I said, “Yes.” Not knowing seemed as if it wasn’t an option for me.
As memorable as the summer of “79 was, I recall my insecurities as much as I remember the amazing gifts of that European summer. Over 40 years later and I still recall what my wonderful art history professor taught us every time I go on walks, recognizing the architecture. Or, appreciating a painting in a gallery or museum because of what she imparted in our classes and tours. I’m also currently enjoying the marvels of a bidet in our New York City apartment. It’s not a separate structure as it was in Paris. It’s attached to our toilet, a wonderful addition from Tushy. I use less toilet paper, reveling in the simplicity of continental hygiene. The focused stream of water cleans up beautifully.
I may now know what a bidet is and how I can use it effectively, but over the years I have learned to admit what I don’t know. I’d rather learn and grow than pretend that I’m more knowledgeable so someone else won’t judge me. We lose ground when we make believe we’re smarter than we are. I compromised my learning curve and the breadth of joy while in Paris because I couldn’t admit what I didn’t know. Thank goodness I know better now.
Think of something you have wanted to know or learn. Look it up. Or ask a friend about it. It feels nice to understand what we didn’t know before.
Make time to laugh. Do it purposefully. And laugh with abandon.
Be open to be inspired. Keep an open mind and go about your day. Whether you anticipate it from a known teacher, or whether it comes in an unexpected moment, being willing to be inspired is the open invitation to wonder and awe.