No one could have prepared me for the beauty of Ecuador. Wherever I turn the vista is extraordinary. The pictures barely capture the awe that we’re experiencing. Going on vacation is the refresh I so needed.
As if the landscape weren’t humbling enough, I faced my fear to ride a horse to a rushing waterfall. While approaching the cascade, having dismounted the mare, I slipped on the mud. My ego was wounded the most, the slide slightly slowing me down in the afternoon. Nonetheless, I have no regrets. The landscape is gorgeous. The hospitality throughout has been most accommodating.
Sometimes we need a touch of humility in paradise.
If you can go on a vacation, enjoy the surrounding beauty. If you’re not able to get away, travel blogs and far-off location books can transport you for moments or hours.
Do something that scares you a little, but not so much that you’re terrified. As you partake in the activity, notice how the fear can be mixed with other emotions, including pleasure.
Even if it can feel uncomfortable, when appropriate, admit when you’re wrong. It can feel like a release from silent defensiveness.
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
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.
Whenever I find myself feeling righteous for some reason life humbles me, reminding me that in so many ways we’re all in this together. I had staved off Coronavirus since February 2020. I felt proud of my record. When Omicron came on the scene I started wearing masks indoors and out. I felt mostly protected from the virus and the cold. All was well. That ended a couple of weeks ago when I contracted the virus and was put out for days.
I don’t know why they call them mild cases. True, I was fortunate enough to stay at home, but it sure kicked my butt. I haven’t remembered being that sick for years. It felt like the worst flu I ever had and then some. Luckily, I’m on the mend. I knew I was getting better when I had the wherewithal to start complaining.
Funny how feeling ill softens my edges. And at the first sign of feeling physically better I leaned towards pessimism. As much as I loathed being under the weather, I think the simplicity of life while healing will serve me well now that I am well.
Rest Up. We easily neglect down time. The rest is what keeps us going.
Leave small notes of affirmations in drawers, on the mirror, or anywhere else in your home. You can write post-its saying things like, “You’re Awesome” or “Be Curious” or anything that has meaning for you.
Try making a new soup. Simple if you have no time or challenging if you want to expand your repertoire.
I made plans months ago to get away this past week. I was heading to a conference that was cancelled last January. Looking forward to warm weather and outdoor dining, Omicron thwarted our quasi-vacation. Instead, I am in my apartment lamenting my unrealized trip.
Most of us have had to reroute our former intentions. The only traveling I did this week was mostly by foot. Though I did take one jaunt by ferry to Astoria Park to enjoy the opposite view of the East River. Not quite the coastline I had pictured, but the one closest to home.
I’m hearing about Covid fatigue left, right, and center. Without recovering from the initial stall of all that we knew to be our lives, we are plodding through the ever expanding unknown. Here and there we enjoy bright spots. But just as quickly we are easily agitated by small disturbances. At least that describes my experience.
I’m still making tentative travel plans, ever hopeful for shifts in the health of our world. I may have missed the boat, or rather, plane, this time, but I’m not giving up on future travel. For now, I have books to take me to new places.
Clean out old emails. If you’re anything like me, unless it’s junk, I keep some emails just in case. This weekend, I’m purging old emails. I invite you to join me.
Take the time to unsubscribe from unwanted solicitations. If that’s too much, start with one a day.
Have a plan B. If and when plans shift, you have something else you can enjoy in the meantime.
Welcome to 2022. There are a lot of surprises in store. I’ll be surprised along-side you. I’m calling it the “New Abnormal” due to the fact that it’s been abnormal for awhile. A new normal doesn’t resonate with me since there have been too many tectonic shifts these last couple of years. Although this new abnormal is, well, new, I am no stranger to abnormal.
When I was 9 years old I secretly played with Barbies. Under our ping pong table in the basement, I created a world that entertained me for hours. I quickly came to understand that my third-grade classmates were not still playing with their Barbie dolls. At least no one admitted to it. They had moved on to more sophisticated toys like the Zig Zag sewing machine or the totally cool walkie-talkies. But I relished my alone time away from my three siblings to do as I pleased, inventing new roles that my small dolls could inhabit. Even later when I was to learn that Barbie was no friend to feminists, I silently appreciated those precious years when they provided me with a gateway to my creative mind.
As much as I loved those solo hours under the table, on Sundays my Grandpop, Sam, would play ping pong with me, my Barbies far from underneath the table in the appropriate cases tucked into the basement closet. My Grandpop was quite athletic. When he played ping pong, he played to win. I only learned the game by trying to keep up. He usually won. But he never gloated. He was a humble man, who taught me the importance of doing a good job for oneself.
At school I was relentlessly teased for my frizzy hair, my hand-me-down wardrobe, or my socially awkward demeanor. To certain kids at Stafford School, I was abnormal. It felt like an unwanted burden as a tween. As an adult, especially in this time of Coronavirus, I have come to understand that having had a tough beginning was the introduction I needed to get through difficult times.
As we enter 2022, we all have a sense of what it takes when the unexpected comes. We’ve had plenty of practice these last 22 months. Abnormal times require abnormal qualities. I may have been unpopular playing with my Barbies, but being able to entertain myself for long periods of time in my own company has served me well. Plus enjoying the company and sportsmanship of my Grandpop has given me an ease with quiet focus. Let’s rejoice in what’s distinct from others. Celebrating our inner abnormalities may just get us through this new year.
Laugh a little. Watch a Betty White clip on YouTube or elsewhere.
Clean out something simple as a signal for a fresh beginning. It can be a drawer, a pencil holder, a room, your refrigerator or freezer, your oven or a closet. Throw out what doesn’t serve you anymore. If you can recycle it or repurpose it, great.
In what ways have you known yourself to veer from the crowd? If it’s something that gives you pleasure and it doesn’t harm you or anyone else, allow yourself the grace to appreciate and enjoy your “inner abnormal.”
I find it incredibly annoying when I’m upset about a person, place, or thing, I’m on a rant, and the individual listening responds by telling me I should be grateful. It feels like a dismissal of my complaint, valid or not, and a recommendation that I pivot to a “soft music inserted here” blissful moment when I see how lovely life is and how wrong I was to find the awful in this grand world we inhabit.
I see the benefits of complaining. I find it helps me to release my frustration, as well as other unpleasant emotions, so that I can find that blissful place on my own. I am all for being inspired, but I am not a fan of skipping the messy parts so that I make it easier for someone else.
Conversely, in moments of awe and wonder I enjoy the wave of gratitude that envelops me. And, in times when I experience hardship and my family, friends, acquaintances and/or strangers offer their support, I am forever grateful. Kindness is taken in and helps me to grow. My heart softens.
When I listen to award shows, I feel badly for the winners who only want to share their special moment by acknowledging the countless others who allowed them to reach that stage, but the orchestra music plays to interrupt them. Though I won’t name names here, only because I am apt to miss some, I am forever grateful to my relatives, friends, teachers, mentors, therapists, co-workers, colleagues, classmates, and others who have shared their thoughtfulness. It has inspired me. Their acts of kindnesses have been invaluable whether they remember them or not.
So, if for a short time I complain, it is only so that I can unload on my own terms, allowing me to get back to a place in which I am genuinely grateful for all the times I’ve been the recipient of your and others’ generosity of heart.
Find a person to whom you can share your complaints. In the absence of a neutral listener, write down your complaints so they are not swimming in circles in your brain.
Remember times in which you were the recipient of arbitrary kindness. Check in with how it feels to recollect that time.
Write a thank you note. We have lost that art, and they are so appreciated.
A few years ago I was at a networking event when I spotted an old acquaintance. I was happy to see her, filled with memories of the two of us with mutual friends enjoying parties, volunteering, and talks in the mid-80’s. When I approached her and reminded her who I was, in a cold tone she responded, “Yes, I know who you are.” I felt hurt and dismissed. I thought about those early years in New York City when I couch-surfed and lived hand to mouth. It was a hard time, and I was not always my best self. I had thought warmly of this person recalling her dedication to friends and of her strong work ethic. Her taciturn words indicated she thought less of me.
At first I blamed myself, thinking I must have been pretty bad for her to have that reaction. Then I thought, yeah, I may have done some crazy things, but I have worked hard to grow and change. I thought how sad for my younger self that I put such a rude person on a pedestal. And then I was proud of myself for my ability to appreciate the positive qualities in others. It doesn’t mean I want to befriend everyone. But it does mean that I can respect others and the gifts within them.
This past week I was fortunate enough to celebrate another birthday, though new aches and pains may suggest otherwise. The outpouring of messages and love means the world to me. I feel abundant, filled with gratitude for friends and family who took the time to send thoughtful messages. Taking in the goodness of all of you enriches my life in ways that are difficult to articulate. All I know is that I am better due to you giving your best. What good fortune to be in such good company. I apologize to my younger self for giving authority to those who were unkind. When we’re unseen we cannot be known. I see you and I appreciate you with all my heart.
Change it up. Donate to a new non-profit, one aligned with your values but previously not on your radar.
Provide a simple act of kindness to a stranger. We all need a lift.
Forgive your younger self for making errors in judgement while he/she/they were learning how to appreciate those who appreciate us.
When I was a child our family would pack into our Ford station-wagon and head out to Pennypacker Park to watch the fireworks. We played in the playground or chased fireflies until the moment when it became dark. Then the night would light up and we cheered with delight as we gazed skyward. It felt magical to enjoy a hot night of colorful pyrotechnics. The crack, pop and whiz of the fireworks foretold if we’d be seeing a Roman Candle or a burst of high-definition pink chrysanthemum. My favorite was the waterfall, cascading sparkles in the sky.
Tonight I may skip the fireworks. Fortunate to live in New York City where the Macy’s fireworks grace the darkness over the East River, I am reticent to stand among so many on the East River Promenade to catch a glimpse of the larger displays. It is not only that we are making our way out of a pandemic, it’s more that I don’t like myself so much when I jockey to find the right spot and stake my claim. I become territorial and highly suspicious of my fellow humans. Some come with young children, and I turn into an angry older woman afraid that they will block my view by placing their toddler on their shoulders. Those moments as I wait do not showcase my best self. I am greedy about my space, selfishly competitive to those who only seek an evening of summer recreation.
After spending so much time these past fifteen months learning more patience, enjoying moments of solitude, I think stepping away from the fireworks will be an act of kindness for myself as well as the nameless strangers who I might secretly hold in contempt. I’d rather bask in my young memories. I was less cynical then. That child in me still feels the awe of the seven-year-old in Pennypacker Park. The sparkle of a childhood recollection reignites the magic of an earlier time.
Think of the ways you’ve grown during the pandemic and find ways to foster that growth as we transition.
Take a mental health day. If you can’t take the day off, perhaps you can give yourself and hour or two. And, if you don’t have any time to spare, take a minute to touch base with yourself.
When things didn’t turn out how you would have liked, remember to say to yourself, ‘it’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I’ve got.’ Sometimes it just keeps it real.
This past week I posted a birthday wish for my 22-year-old child on FaceBook. So many share the downside of social media. And, yes, there are downsides, nonetheless, my most recent experience has been one of kindness and care. In the past I’ve been reunited with friends near and far with whom I had lost touch. Some have since passed away. And, social media, namely FaceBook, gave us a chance to reconnect, reminding us of the moments that have shaped us.
This past week I came out as a parent of a trans child. He has been out for years throughout the transition process. I stayed silent for the most part. I had much to learn from Alex and the community, and I didn’t feel ready to speak while I educated myself and grow as a parent, therapist and human. I have friends on FaceBook who share different religious beliefs. I have friends who live very different lifestyles than that of our urban world. Yet, the outpouring of love, support, care, and good will was extraordinary. I felt meaningful connections rather than disparity.
There are many times social media can seem like a window into a polished world. One in which I can find myself feeling a good deal of envy for milestones or experiences I haven’t achieved or may never know. It’s imperative that we live our own lives without measuring our successes based on others. Yet, I find that challenging, and often fall short. The responses to my most recent post remind me of the generous hearts far and wide.
Sadly, I can get caught up in the behavior of annoying strangers or hateful acts in the news. It’s easy to feel despairing of humankind. However, when I take in the love shared, I am filled with the healing power of kindness. My friends and family have reminded me that thoughtfulness is natural for most of us, and it always behooves me to live in that truth. I will endeavor to focus on the good will I see. And when I stray, much as my thoughts can stray in meditation, I will bring myself back to the reality of pervasive good will.