Growing up we wore rubbers or rubber boots, gently stretching them until they covered our shoes. It was a hassle taking them on and off. But to keep our leather saddle shoes somewhat dry, we sported rubbers over our two-toned oxfords. These days my low rubber boots are the only shoes I need when it’s wet outside. They keep the water from soaking my socks and allow me to walk about in the rain.
It’s been a rare occurrence that we’ve had two rainy days on a weekend. This weekend we’re soggy and a bit chilly. Lucy, our dog, isn’t inclined to go out, and neither am I. I danced in our living room for a while moving to international music, happy to be in the flow, not so happy to feel the aches of muscles waking up after being dormant. Weekends usually mean at least one long walk. Sometimes it’s a great time to walk when it’s raining. The sidewalks are less crowded. Everyone wants to stay inside.
The rain inspires me to slow down. I like that. Of course, other than a few errands, I was not required to work outside, so the impact of the rain is minimal. Rain in the city, at least when it’s not flood conditions, does not impact us in the same way as it does in more natural settings. With proper rubber boots and waterproof outerwear, we can navigate curb rivers and downpours. We may be soggy, but we’re not deterred.
Make sure you have shoes and clothing for the rain. An old Scandinavian saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.” Being prepared is self-care.
Notice how different weather affects you. Respect the weather’s impact so that you are attuned to yourself in relationship to your environmental conditions.
Dance. Play the music you like or find a playlist. Even if you feel achy, it fires up muscles and brings joy no matter the weather.
I just heard that The Museum of Failure in Brooklyn opened last week (https://museumoffailure.com). It’s primarily a collection of product fails through the last 5 decades or so. I’m happy to be celebrating failure. Their slogan is “Innovation Needs Failure!” I’m not so sure I can say I’ve been innovative, unless one considers resourcefulness as an innovation, but I can say with absolute certainty that I, too, have a history of failures.
Though certainly not my first or last, but within vivid memory, is my failed first driving test. I remain an anxious driver. Lucky for me and other vehicles on the road, I live in Manhattan, have not owned a car since my late teens, and rarely drive. At the time, I was 17, did not want to take the bus to high school anymore, and was horrified that I failed. I didn’t want to drive so much as reap the benefits of being a driver, but I could not face my friends and classmates admitting to this personal and social failure.
It’s taken me long time to own my failures. When I was younger, I was horrified to share any failures. Either I was afraid I’d get in trouble, or I was afraid I’d be judged poorly. Though I experienced both, it was my own self-judgement that was harsher than anything I endured by others. Luckily, the long line of mistakes I’ve made in this life have allowed me the opportunity to soften my judgement, and simply see mistakes as part of the human experience.
Hopefully over the years I’ve learned from my mistakes. Sadly, some mistakes hurt others by over sharing, or needing to fulfill some personal need rather than understanding that it would harm some else. I lost friends given my poor judgement. But I’ve also had friends who had a forgiving heart and understood I was lost or misguided, forgiving me, and allowing me to do better. It is those friends, therapists, and family members who fostered change and growth. I will always be grateful to them. And I am now grateful to those who walked away because they didn’t want to be hurt again. They taught me to do better and be better and to treat myself with care rather than look to others to validate me, especially when vulnerable.
I look forward to making the trip to the Museum of Failure. There’s something comforting in knowing it’s out there.
When you’ve failed at something, write in a journal how it feels, and, when possible, what you learned that will help you in the future. Try as best you can to be gentle with yourself, appreciating that the failure is part of the journey.
When speaking on the phone purposely smile. There is research to suggest that smiling lightens one’s speaking tone allowing for a more positive interaction.
Throughout the day repeat the phrase, aloud or internally, “I am Enough.” Experiencing ourselves as enough releases the pressure to be more, better, or different.
I left my passport at the hotel two and half miles from Reykjavik. I was leaving for JFK the next day. We had had a magnificent trip, and my passport was in the safe where I left it along with U.S. dollars I wasn’t going to spend in Iceland. Our driver, an adventure tour guide in his own right, was going to drop off some guests and pick up passengers to bring back to the capitol city the next morning. He would be happy to bring back my passport and drive us to the airport. The magnificent experience continued.
I next called the hotel. They got back to me to let me know they had secured my passport and money and it was in an envelope at the front desk waiting for our driver. This was all done with ease. The Icelandic vibe was “no problem.” It seemed inherent to them to be kind and considerate. They did not communicate any extra effort, nor did they indicate I was putting them out in any way. I was beyond relieved.
Surprisingly, I also didn’t berate myself for my forgetfulness. Not that long ago I would have been so hard on myself for not being uber aware of everything. This time, though, my mistake led to a greater appreciation of the kindness of others. To be the fortunate recipient of thoughtfulness was another gift of the trip. Not only did we enjoy natural wonders, but we also took pleasure in naturally wonderful people. It was good fortune, indeed.
See if there is an easy way to give to another. Offer your seat on public transportation, open the door for a stranger, pay for someone else’s coffee, or create your own thoughtful act. Be part of an enduring act of kindness.
Let someone know how much you appreciate their kindness. Whether you mention something having witness a kind act, are in touch with someone from the past who was good to you, or you give a warm thank you in the moment, your appreciation perpetuates kindness at large.
Identify aspects of nature you most enjoy. If you’re able to visit, great. If not, perhaps you can find items or scents that elicit your enjoyment. It can be sea water, flowers, cut grass, or mountain air. Whatever your pleasure, breath in the satisfying aroma.
The small, Nordic island country of Iceland is around 5 hours away from New York City. It’s a magical place with other worldly terrains and natural wonders. We left the city for a long weekend with the hopes of at least getting a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. We were not disappointed. And we got so much more.
On our Icelandair flight we saw the Northern Lights dance above the clouds. I love sitting by the window, and I kept my shade up on the off chance I might view something. And, yes, swirling above the cumulus cropping were green lines of other worldliness. The trip was off to an auspicious start.
We booked a place in Husafell, having read that they have some of the best sightings of the Northern lights. We found out it has to do with the wind in the volcanic valley that clears the air, along with the territory’s moisture combined with the chill, creating the air quality that makes for fertile observing skies.
We thoroughly enjoyed a trip to volcanic baths, naturally heated from the hot springs. We were alone in a volcanic crater in a warm outdoor pool in the middle of Iceland. Fabulous and surreal. We also took a tour of a huge lava tunnel. Beneath the earth was a fascinating as above. The rest of our weekend will be spent in the small, welcoming city of Reykjavik. So glad we came.
Sometimes I have to get away to come back to myself.
When having self-critical thoughts, rather than continue the loop of degradation, treat the criticism like an overly tired child. Tell it to go rest. It needs to take it easy. Be gentle but firm.
Access you inner explorer. As in our younger years, take a magnifying glass and view surfaces and objects for a closer look. Wood grain is great, as is a blade of grass or a stone. So much fun to see from our inner child’s eyes again.
Unlike many recommendations for sleep hygiene, I do not go to sleep the same time each night. Some nights I work late, some nights I enjoy the theater or other live entertainment. Some nights I’m reading, while others I’m catching up on a television show. I do my best to listen to signs of being tired if I’m at home, and I put myself to sleep accordingly. Inevitably, this leaves me in a perpetual state of never quite catching up with the shows I enjoy.
Then, in the morning, I look out my window to determine if I will catch the sun rise. Often, I’m too tired to move and I get back under the covers. I’ll even admit to being relieved some mornings when it’s too cloudy to enjoy the colors of the dawn. And, then there are the other days I put on some sweats and walk across the street to take in the sunrise over Queens across the East River.
Our minds like rules. I spent too many formative years not admitting that I prefer to assess what I need in the morning, evening, or at any given time of day. I followed some rules, but privately, I’ve preferred to check in with myself to see what I want. It’s an imperfect system. Sometimes I struggle to make a decision about capturing the sunrise. Other mornings it’s very clear that I will either make the short trek to the East River Promenade, or I will return to bed to meditate and read.
In any event, this blog has been a motivation to get out before 6:30 am at least once a week. I like taking pictures. But there is also something to be said about appreciating the spray of colors from my bedroom window without documenting it. A private moment of a universal phenomenon.
If you are attached to your routine, see if in one instance you can change it up. See how that feels. Are you afraid of not being safe? Does it feel freeing? And, if you are doing something as a routine that does not bring satisfaction, look into alternatives that may support you in a kinder way.
When you have an urge to do something impulsive, stop for a moment. Ask yourself if this is what you want. If so, then enjoy. If not, see if you can pause until you know what might be a better action.
When you have a chance, take in a sunrise or sunset. They have the power to soothe the soul.
Years ago I had a phone book. It looked like a fabric-covered hardback, divided by letters of the alphabet neatly cut into tabs descending on the paper’s edge. Often the pages were outlined in gold ink. I’d get an updated one every few years and I’d transfer the names, addresses, and phone numbers into my new, usually colorful, phone book. These were also the days in which long distance phone calls were a big deal and we were reminded to speak quickly since we were being charged by the minute. Phones had cords and were strategically placed in one or more locations in our homes. A bygone era. Yes, I have become a senior stereotype.
Yesterday I sent an email, as it seemed easier to document information rather than make a call. However, my contacts, somewhat mimicking a phone book on my MacBook, is not explicit in terms of who has which cell phone number or email. Given my age and my history, I have to relearn to put each individual in his/her/their own contact file. This way I am calling, texting or emailing the correct family member in a given household. There have been more than one occasion in which I sent an unbeknownst partner a text intended for a friend or family member. Oops!
My current contacts deserve an upgrade. There are many repeat inserts, as well as quite a few names I don’t recognize. But it’s tax season and I must focus on that first before tackling the contacts albatross. It’s a daunting task so I’ll be breaking it down one name at a time, breath by breath.
There is no life hack that I know of for having to relearn updated systems. And it’s hard to throw out what we’ve known to take in the new. But as technology continues to move ahead, I don’t want to be left behind. At least I want to stay current on the tools that support my life in the present. To do that, I have to create mental space. The trick for me is to appreciate my memories of things past, telephones on the wall and phone books for example, while not holding onto those memories when I’m learning how to use a new iPhone or edit a PDF file. I’m doing my best to ensure my personal history make way for my present-day life. It comes with mixed success.
Slowly but surely clean out your contacts. It feels great to search for a name and contact information without a crowded field.
Identify the items in your life that continue to serve you even as new models get introduced. For instance, some people love their old address books. It’s simple and it keeps things streamlined in these complicated times. What do you still use? I continue to enjoy my compact, one-step coffee maker.
Remember to acknowledge yourself when you learn a new skill. I will be doing a happy dance once I learn how to insert my comments into my tax PDF file. Hopefully that happy dance will be later today.
Wow! I just went out to walk Lucy. It sure is cold out there. A good portion of the country is very cold. New York City is no exception this weekend. Just taking Lucy out for a short walk means bundling up for a solid five minutes to make sure the least amount of skin is exposed to the frigid air.
Although I had insulated gloves with added glove liners, my fingers would not get warm. Add to that the couple of times I had to take those sub-par gloves off to pay the brave vendors at the farmer’s market, or to give Lucy a treat. Not my favorite moments this windy day.
The thing about the cold is that it really highlights our priorities. As much as I prefer not going out at all, happy to move to music inside, I do want to support the farms who service us year-round. And Lucy, whom I adore, is not likely to be able to endure a day inside. This is her weather as a Tibetan Terrier. She doesn’t want a doggie jacket, she just wants to feel the wind on her face and the cold air on her hairy body. She has hair rather than fur.
I curse under my breath when she gives me her usual signs that it’s time to go out. Though she waits for me patiently as I don layer after layer until I’m ready to face the elements. Thankfully I have a bevvy of face masks that I wear happily knowing that my nose and lower face are covered from the elements. Grateful for my protection from the cold.
It’s unbelievable I was strolling on the beach a week ago. Now, miles to the north that recent memory feels like a long time ago. Weather is a constant reminder of the transient nature of life here on earth.
Find the coziest clothes to wear. The cold can feel so uncomfortable. When the fabric’s surface gently soothes our skin, it can add an extra benefit aside from simply keeping us warm.
Dance inside. Even if it’s for one song. Enjoy the freeing experience while keeping you actively warm.
If you have to go out, walk in the sun. It’s a good reminder that even when we deem the weather to be bad, there are no absolutes. It can be beautifully sunny and still gratingly cold.
I swam for an hour, my head submerged in the warm pool with tiny, wavy prisms, iridescent in the sun-drenched water. The luxury of having a pool to myself is priceless. Being able to move seamlessly underwater, thanks to my swimmers’ mask, allows me to stay beneath the surface, enjoying what I’d describe as a meditation in motion.
We’re on vacation. That in and of itself is a gift of relaxation. I had become rather snippy the first weeks of January, which is always a sign that I need a reset. I’m still noticing some sharp edges that have yet to be smoothed completely, but the warm air, the sun and the tranquil atmosphere are working their magic.
There’s a simple ease to being in the Caribbean. Being able to swim with my mask adds a layer of delight as this vacation kneads the knots of stress from my body, mind and soul. Sometimes in life there’s a simple fix that changes an experience from okay to wonderful. That is true of my swimmers’ mask, a device that looks like an outer space unicorn. It takes up the entire face, so unlike a snorkel, I can breathe just under the surface of water from either my mouth or nose. There’s a stop at the tip of the hose at the center that prevents water from entering. And the hose at the center means that swimmers like me can stroke our arms without hitting the tube. All in all, I am so grateful for this wonderful addition to my swim.
Life hacks can really help us when they make life easier or more enjoyable. Years ago, Larry taught me that having the right tool for the right job matters. He showed me how a well sharpened knife makes a huge difference in the joy of cooking. Or the correct screwdriver can shorten a belabored task. Now I have my swim mask, less a tool that a piece of equipment that provides a panoramic view of the pool or the ocean. A few more swims and the last of the sharp edges will disappear. At least for now.
Check to see if there’s an easier way to do your chores or activities. A silicon spatula is helpful to scramble eggs while being gentle on your pan. A group or family calendar is useful for scheduling. And a small packet of wipes in your bag or car are good at any age.
If you feel overwhelmed, rather than power on, take a short break. Walk around the block, meditate, take a power nap, or stretch. Breaks help us to refocus.
When on the phone, smile while speaking. It brightens our tone and communicates a softer nature.
I was preparing dinner as I do many nights. Last night was pesto glazed salmon and garlic-marinaded skirt steak with sauteed spinach, garlic bread, and a spicy salad. Thanks to Marion Zinn, my mother-in-law, I have the best marinade for the steak. She was a wonderful hostess and served many delicious dishes. Conversely, my mother would get anxious when hosting guests. Nonetheless she deserves a shout out as an excellent baker. All three of my siblings and I have fond memories of annual birthday cakes baked from scratch, stored on a glass cake plate with an aluminum cake dome. I used to cook and bake regularly, but as life’s responsibilities expanded, my domestic duties dwindled.
Sometimes, though, I want to have a home cooked meal. I shopped at the farmer’s market gathering some ingredients for dinner, and foraged the refrigerator for the rest. Even as I began the prep work, I remained hopeful for a nice dinner. Inevitably, by early evening, I was forgetting one thing or another, and my hope slipped to a tepid aspiration for a good enough meal. Perhaps it’s this feeling along with my full schedule that diminishes my fondness for cooking these days.
I realized, which might mean I’m late to the game, that planning, and subsequently serving, dinner is a process that mimics the complications of caring for oneself and perhaps others. First there’s the consideration of taste. What do I like? What does Larry like? Are there foods that appeal to us as the same time? If not, what variations do I make? Will I challenge myself with a new recipe or will I rely on the tried and true? Not only does flavor matter, but so does nutrition. I’m not a stickler that every meal meets the daily requirements of a balanced meal plan. However, I do like to have a variety of tastes, textures and basic health guidelines met.
Now and again meals are more fly by night, others are indulgences, and more often meals are simple and easy to put together after jam-packed days. I always enjoy good food. I’m flexible in that I truly enjoy an array of possibilities from vegan to Omakase, and so much in-between. I prefer local and organic, but I also shop at Trader Joe’s appreciative of their vast and changing selections. One thing is for sure, I prefer choices, as I do in so many parts of my life.
In getting dinner together, last night and previously, I’ve noticed the range of feelings I experience. I start out hopeful, I have moments of frustration, periods I feel relaxed and trusting, and times I get annoyed, wishing I was being served rather than doing the serving. And I challenge myself to get through the feelings of anxiousness closer to putting the meal on the table. All in all, it replicates the processes I go through in other areas of my life, which include the original idea, the thought process and the execution. So much stuffed into a quotidian endeavor.
Recipe for Marion’s marinade: ¼ cup olive oil, just less than ¼ cup cider vinegar, 3 Tablespoons or more of soy sauce, ¼ cup honey, lots and lots of chopped garlic, ½ teaspoon grated ginger (can use fresh, jarred or dry ginger if that’s what you have) Enjoy!
Take an everyday activity and break it down, checking in to see the array of feelings you have throughout the process. Can you insert kindness and care when it feels uncomfortable? Are you able to go with it when it feels pleasant? If so, acknowledge yourself. If not, see if you can make room for whatever comes us.
Chapstick. It’s a great way to get through the winter. Choose from a host of aromas, flavors, textures and ingredients. Find the one that’s good for you.
A couple of days ago I installed an iPhone update. I find this new format annoying. I get it, things change. But sometimes the changes come all at once and too fast. I just wasn’t ready for a new change, small as it is.
I often hear from spiritual leaders, meditation teachers and self-care gurus that change is inevitable. Just this week I was listening to Dan Harris and Anushka Fernandopulle speak of the impermanence in life on the Ten Percent Happier App. I meditated in it. And I was as calm as I could be following each mediation. The idea of impermanence is appealing. It helps us accept whatever comes our way. At least that’s my philosophical take. But when I encounter change in real life, as much as I apply the concept of perpetual change, the reality feels very different.
One would think that my spontaneous side would embrace change. And when it’s a small change, I’m okay. But when it’s a small change like an iPhone update in a time of big changes, it feels less okay. I’ve been agitated. I overshare. Truthfully, it’s more over-complaining than sharing. And my self-care is more on the impulsive side rather than a thoughtful consideration of what’s needed given these changes.
As we shift into holiday mode, which can upend our regular routines, I will do my best to be patient with myself. Yes, change is inevitable, and living with change is unescapable. Feeling my irascible emotions while going through change is my challenge. I’ll do my best to bring patience and kindness in those moments. And, when I don’t, I will have many more opportunities to learn how to cope with kindness since change will predictably show up again and again.
As the holidays approach, make a list of what you enjoy most and what you can change that will bring some ease to the holidays. Feed the joy of the season, while letting go of the parts that rob you of that joy.
Remember to thank those who have been generous of heart. Sometimes small acts make a huge difference. Saying thank you perpetuates kindness.
When feeling frustrated or upset in the face of a change, stop, take a breath, and ask yourself what you need. If you’re able to give that to yourself, great. If not, then see if there is anything else that will bring ease at that particular time.