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.
I would much rather have a small sample of something I really like than to substitute it for an alternative. If ordering a dessert when I go out, though I rarely go out presently, I prefer to order a dessert I want than to order the fruit salad or an equivalent. I can enjoy one or two spoonfuls, savoring the texture and flavors. Just a little bit goes a long way. It’s not just desserts I prefer in small doses.
This week I took two quick visits to The Metropolitan Museum. Both in the morning. As a member I can go on many abbreviated visits, allowing me to go through exhibits a few times to take them in. Or, I can stop by a little gallery within the mammoth structure of The Met. I love the small bursts of art on a weekday. I am so grateful to be able to take quick peaks at great works.
If it’s hard for me to get out for a satisfying long walk, then going for a shorter walk will do. I always enjoy walking. And, though there is something mesmerizing about an extended walk, a short walk can scratch the motion itch. When I do get out for a short walk, I purposely move in the direction of a park. The flowers, the hidden paths or the greenery nourish me.
So I will continue with small bites of what I enjoy. Relishing those little moments collectively add up to a good life.
If you find you don’t have the time for something you enjoy, can you allow yourself a piece of it? Perhaps go for an amended walk, pick up a delicious snack rather than a meal, or read a couple of pages rather than the entire chapter or story.
Look up. Sometimes taking a peek at the sky is all the tiny reprieve you need.
Listen to a new song, perhaps recommended from your music app, or music loving friend. Do you like it? If so, you can always go back later for more from that artist or group.
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.
Though award shows don’t hold the same cache as they did in my childhood, this weekend is the Academy Awards. Fraught with politics and self-promotion, the awards have lost some of their shimmer. Yet, while growing up I wrote and rewrote my acceptance speeches. It was my fantasy of ultimate success. If I felt insignificant or hurt, my bright future would prove to the world I was somebody. My bullies would see I was special. That was my secret revenge.
I can tell you that the bullies probably don’t remember me, even though that cruelty is etched in every child who was ever bullied. Children who’ve been bullied often have a significant fantasy life. Mine, like a cliché, was a girl singing show tunes into my brush handle in front of the mirror. Thank goodness for my RCA portable record player. It got me through some rough school years.
Now, I’m ages away from those award-winning dreams. But I do find something meaningful in rewarding ourselves for the wins in our lives. And even if it’s not a public speech, acknowledging those who have been supportive are important to recognize, too. We enjoy celebrations during our milestones, like graduations and special birthdays. Perhaps we can find a way to receive an award when we go above and beyond, instituting courage to gain a win. It can be small. It’s simply a nod for our personal wins. We can get stickers, or a new kitchen utensil. Calling a friend and sharing in our happiness multiplies the joy. It gives us a chance to say we matter. And we do.
If you choose to watch Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer host this year’s Oscars, have fun. Perhaps enjoying the show can be a reward in itself. If I can stay up I will think of my younger self. Though now I have little interest in a red carpet, I’m simply satisfied to watch from my living room chair.
Write a list of what you’ve accomplished, big and small, this week. Draw a star or a symbol next to each to congratulate yourself for a job well-done.
Create a thank you speech for those who have been good to you over the years. If possible, send them the written speech so they can know they made a difference.
Don’t forget to put on some music and do a happy dance. If you want to do that in front of the mirror, go for it.
Hello spring, you couldn’t come soon enough. We’ve all needed to lighten our loads. And what better way to start than by taking off our parkas? Like the shining moon hidden under the clouds, you’ve come from behind the cold for renewed hope.
The warmer weather feels like a gift. Being able to meet friends outdoors has been invaluable. Being comfortable because it’s no longer freezing, simply warms my heart. Walking this past week felt like a welcomed activity as if I haven’t been walking all along. Nonetheless, there’s an ease with Spring in the air. The city comes alive. The quiet streets are now a recent memory.
It can be a fickle season. Rain is abundant, storms are coming, and the warmth can be fleeting. But for today, I am grateful for the simple pleasure of Spring.
Clean Your Windows. Spring cleaning is a great start to the season.
Take a walk and see the new blooms
Grow herbs and/or flowers on your windowsill, in your garden, or even in a pot on a table. It helps to connect with nature, wherever you are.
We just hit the two-year anniversary when our lives changed in unimaginable ways. At least most of us never imagined this. Although I had plenty of professional experience doing trauma work, that usually meant implementing tools to get through a time-limited traumatic event. We could count on the passage of time to dull the immediate impact of the trauma. This was much different. We had to live through uncertainty and constant change while continuing to navigate other, more personal hardships.
We found out we are resilient. We faced our vulnerabilities. There was acting out. And there were multitudes of kindnesses. Relationships were under a microscope. We lost friends and disconnected with family members. New friendships were forged. Old friendships were rekindled. More often than not, differences were highlighted. We experienced division. For some heartier individuals we worked through differences to find connection. In other cases, it was apparent hard work would not bridge the divide.
As for me, I am tired and grateful. The last two years wore me down. I also found unexpected gifts through walking, conversations, posts, and streaming. Life feels more precious, if also more tenuous. Spending less time with distractions it’s easy for me to see areas in need of growth. I can also better recognize a well-honed habit of self-criticism. I had thought I was further along on my spiritual journey. I was arrogant enough to think I actually knew what that looked like. But I am here, now, and it looks like this. Thank you for your part in accompanying me in this journey. I also appreciate you welcoming me on your journey. For my part, I couldn’t have done this alone.
Be sure to thank those who have supported you. We all appreciate being thanked.
Smile when you feel inclined. We have missed smiles with masks on. And, if you are wearing a mask, smile. Remember, a true smile is in the eyes. Let that warmth melt someone else’s pain.
Review what lessons you’ve learned or how you’ve grown in the past two years. It’s important to acknowledge what you’ve been through.
This past week has been jubilant in some ways. First, thanks to Larry and his friend Alan, we enjoyed our first indoor concert in over two years. Elton John, his band, and crew did an amazing job of giving music and lifetime memories to their audience. I was so happy to be there, even as I was overloaded to be among a mass of people.
We are now visiting a few dear friends in California. It’s wonderful to reunite with a few special individuals. Seeing them in person is a true gift. Going to the airport and traveling was a surreal experience. A series of glitches culminated in an upset, which was unpleasant, but let me know that I took too long for a much-needed vacation. And here we are, in chilly southern California, yet warmer than NYC. Happy to be away. I feel replenished from social isolation. And yet….
I also am overwhelmed. I know I need alone time. Time to clear my head. Time to rejuvenate. I am doing what I can to nap, walk and meditate, I was looking forward to swimming, but when it’s cold, and the pools are not heated as they are in Iceland, swimming is not as calming as I like.
I have made one positive choice to see dear friends while recognizing the need for quiet time. Life these days doesn’t provide the time for both socializing and rest in equal measures. I accept that for now with a bit of umbrage.
Making choices often means there can be a sense of loss for the unchosen. Honestly, I hate that. There are still traces of deprivation that show up when facing the choices I make. I will miss the friends I didn’t get to see. And I already feel negligent for the rest I will not get. Such is life. Having choices is a privilege. For that I am grateful. And, yet, having privilege doesn’t mean that I am perfectly content. For the moment I will choose the option to enjoy whatever contentment comes from the choices I made.
Practice micro-meditation. Take 30 seconds, one minute, or three minutes to breath and do a quick body scan. It can help when there is little time available for longer stretches of self-care.
Make time for a visit, whether it be via phone, Zoom, or in-person. Reconnection brings depth to our existence.
Choose whatever mask habits work for you. It’s so easy to be influenced by our surroundings and those in it. Only we can make a choice that is right for us, situation by situation.