Train Delay, The Twenty-First Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

The Q train came to a halting stop.  An announcement immediately came on asking “Who pulled the emergency cord?”  At the end of our car, a good citizen thinking there was a request to pull the cord, got up from her seat, pulled the cord, even as the train stood idle.  She sat back down returning to her book.  A hardcover, old school, though she looked barely 25.  

I was slightly annoyed to have my short trip home delayed.  We were in-between the Union Square and 34thStreet stops.  The tunnel between the stops is a mile of tracks and darkness.  The lights were on in the train.  As I looked around I saw eyes meeting strangers’ eyes, a rare occurrence in the subway.  Seated neighbors started to talk.  I remained quiet, looking to see if anyone was panicking.  Surprisingly, everyone was in a good mood and remained calm.  Perhaps that had more to do with it being 9:30 pm on a Friday night, the start of a three-day weekend.  

A seasoned older gentleman, well, probably no older than me, was reassuring a group of tourists that he had been through this before and we’d get through this.  Others mentioned this had never happened to them before.  Personally, I couldn’t remember a time the emergency brake was pulled on a train.  I’d been delayed in my 42 years traveling underground, but this was new for me.  

I looked to see that my phone battery was full, settling in to read downloaded articles.  I barely finished the first short read when an announcement proclaimed we would be starting shortly.  I assumed the vague phrase meant something different to the crew than to us passengers.  However, within three minutes, around fifteen minutes in total, we were again on our way. 

It was a meaningful quarter hour.  Strangers supported one another.  Everyone remained composed, and we all clapped when the train moved forward.  Rather than ruining a terrific evening, it elevated my night, giving me hope.  Witnessing this sliver of kindness and respect reassured me in a city that is known by many as dangerous and cold.  Given the opportunity my subway car-mates chose kindheartedness.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Offer assistance.  Sometimes we see someone struggling, and if we open a door, help them cross the street, or give of ourselves in way that is not a hardship, we feel uplifted.  We get when we give.  
  • Practice calming habits, whether it’s a breathing exercise or tensing & relieving muscles, having a tool in a potentially stressful situation will be invaluable when that tension-filled time comes.  
  • When in a public place, people watch.  See if you can observe an act of kindness or a moment of care.  You, too, may find it reassuring.  

Micro Adjustments, The Twentieth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

I just heard about micro adjustments. I’d never heard the phrase or the concept before. It was introduced as a mindfulness practice to adjust our perspective from getting lost in our thoughts, or external circumstances, to coming back to the present moment. It connotes adjusting our consciousness from distraction to mindful awareness.  This may not be a new concept, but it’s new to me.  

I love the idea of micro adjustments.  They are slight but meaningful.  I plan on implementing micro adjustments when listening, or writing, or simply when walking and viewing the city.  When I catch myself drifting away lost in a thought loop I can micro adjust to enjoy the moment again.  

I tried it this rainy morning while baking banana bread.  I was half-way through the recipe when I started looking through the cabinets wondering how many spices and various ingredients I was never going to use.  Too many, that’s how many.  So, I started to get the foot ladder to make room on the top shelves.  Then I caught myself sidetracked, again.  I stepped down from the ladder, turned around, and then continued mixing the dry ingredients into the wet batter.  

It felt so good to go back to my original activity.  I completed the mixing, the pouring into the pan, and the clean-up before returning to the cabinets.  It’s a quotidian moment, home tasks, easily diverted, then going back to start over again.  I’m easily distracted. Having a phrase that quantifies that instant when the shift takes place bringing me back to the present is terrific.  Micro adjustments are my new favorite contextual idiom.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • The next time you find yourself readjusting to the present moment, remember you just performed a micro adjustment. Acknowledge yourself. 
  • Name something you know you do well.  Smile, and take a moment to appreciate your gift.
  • Look in your cabinets, refrigerator or pantry and get rid of anything beyond expired, or anything you have that you privately know you’ll never use.  Then enjoy the space created.

A Full Moon, The Eighteenth Week in the Second year in the New Abnormal

It was a full moon this week.  I love looking up on a clear night and viewing the magical, mystical moon between the high rises.  Ever since I was a child I’ve found the moon an enchantress.  Myths have their place, and for many years I counted on myths to justify my outsized love of a full moon.  In times of feeling invisible I felt seen by the moon.  

The lure of the moon as a symbol of feminine energy resonated with my earliest feminist leanings.  Now at the foreseeable dawning of my senior classification, I am still drawn to the phases of the moon.  Perhaps it is the passage of time that resonates with the lunar cycles.  Or maybe it’s my propensity for relying on my imagination to improve on everyday life. 

Whatever the case, I am grateful to be able to look up at the night sky.  It’s guidance, imaginary or otherwise, will continue to fuel my dreams and capture my heart.  Given my friends, and referencing the arts, I know I am not alone in this.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Do the stars and the moon speak to you?  If so, write about it.  It will strengthen that connection.  
  • Do you have rituals or habits unique to daytime and night?  If so, try to change them up.  See if that gives you a new perspective.  It might have a new insight when you shift your routine.  
  • Shop your closet and drawers to find the clothes that have soft and soothing fabrics.  It could be a scarf or a swatch of cloth, if not a piece of clothing.  Keep the clothes or fabrics in an accessible location so that when you need soothing you have a perfect garment to wear, or a piece of cloth to rub for comforting.  

Our Relationship With the Weather, The Seventeenth Week of the Second Year of the New Abnormal

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.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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.  

Let’s Do Better, The Fifteenth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

I came home late last night after seeing a beautifully moving theater piece by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Public Theater.  Retrieving our mail, I saw a broken glass and a brick on the lobby carpet.  Apparently, a group of teens were told to leave the area while smoking. So one of them in anger threw a brick through the window to show ‘them.”  It created more work for the porter and super who had to clean up and make immediate repairs on their weekend off. Needless to say the super and porter were nowhere near the incident when it happened.  

Too many people of all ages have little or no control of their expression of anger.  The honking in the city is out of control.  People are emotionally abusive in the workplace.  Or we’re ranting on social media.  There is a huge uptick of violence throughout the United States, and certain other parts of the world.  We are unchecked.  

I think we were so excited to leap past the couple of years of the pandemic that we forgot to heal from the losses, the changes, the pain.  Now we’re feeling the backlash.   So many are acting out because we didn’t do a great job learning and teaching how to care for ourselves when things are tough.  And if we’re not attending to our own needs, we’re not in a position to think of what our behavior will do to others. 

I’m doing my best to understand that when I’m reactive and harsh something is going on internally.  I may not understand it, but I can appreciate that I and those around me are impacted.  As Sharon Salzberg, Judson Brewer and others advocate in Loving Kindness mediation, “May I be free from inner and outer harm.”  Let’s care for ourselves with kindness and care.  Enjoying peace is an active intention.  

Self Care Tips

  • Though it’s not the season, this short video of David Bowie & Bing Crosby is uplifting.  We can use that now,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCpXMy5GalI.  
  • Try a brief Loving Kindness mediation as practiced with Sharon Salzberg in which you repeat the ideas, “May I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be peaceful and live with ease.” Then, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful and live with ease.”
  • When difficult emotions arise and you’re feeling powerful sadness, fear, or anger, rather than blame yourself, others, or try to shut down your feelings, tell yourself you can get through this.  Think what will soothe you.  Remember these strong feelings come in waves, so it will subside.  In short, bring kindness and care in those difficult moments as opposed to acting out.  

Tattle Tales, The Fourteenth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

I grew up with three siblings.  If you grew up with siblings, as I did, you are familiar with the age-old enterprise of tattling.  My younger sister, Susan, now Chova Sara, was the tattletale.  She was the one that thought it important to report to my parents, usually our mom, whatever misadventures we were enacting.  When I was six to her four, she ran to our mom to say I wasn’t letting her play with my Barbies.  This was true, but only because she cut their hair and drew on them with crayons.  Nonetheless, I had to release more dolls to her based on “fairness.”  This made no sense to me, but she got what she wanted, and it spurred her on for years.  

When I was fifteen she couldn’t get downstairs fast enough when she rifled through my drawers and found my almost full pack of Eve cigarettes.  I was no smoker, but I did purchase a 75 cent pack to try and smoke at high school socials.  I, a frizzy haired, acne prone teen with a penchant for musicals, wanted to seem cool.  I imagined cigarettes was the entry point.  I coughed more than I inhaled, thus ending a two-week foray into the impossible road to being a cool, cigarette-smoking kid.  But I kept the pack just in case I could offer an Eve to one of the true cool kids. 

Our mom, a former smoker, who coughed if she even thought there was smoke around her, was furious. I was grounded.  My explanation had holes.  Not only did I own a forbidden pack of cigarettes, but I was going to share an unhealthy habit with someone else.  While our mom lambasted me, I got a glimpse of Susan’s righteous smirk.  I imagine that same smirk on each of the mouths of all the tattlers online.  We have morphed into a culture of telling on others. 

When did we learn that telling on others was a better strategy than speaking in a respectful manner to said perpetrator?  We gain so much from having thoughtful dialog.  We may disagree, and in many instances, we may not come to a resolution, but there is a chance to connect rather than divide if we speak to one another rather than tell on each other.  

I believe when we feel we lack personal power we resort to public ranting or gossiping.  We dump our righteous opinions on the masses where we hope to receive positive reinforcement for negativity.  However, real confidence comes from being courageous enough to speak up without shaming someone else. In this way there’s a possibility you both might learn and grow.  Perhaps we can build our self-worth not by being righteous, which only strokes our egos, but by privately harnessing our emotional responses and caring for ourselves as we process those emotions. By looking inward instead of pointing fingers, we thoughtfully take steps towards positive change.   

Self-Care Tips:

  • Muster the courage to speak with someone with whom you disagree.  Let them know you want to understand their thoughts and actions.  Be open and think about what they tell you.  Monitor your emotional response.  And share your perspective, not to convince, but because you both matter.  
  • Stop! If you are about to rant with someone(s) who is/are not your friends, take a beat, write in a journal, but withhold from adding to the public negativity forum.  
  • Hold your own hand as if you’re holding hands with yourself.  Notice what that feels like.  Do you feel your own warmth?  Allow you to be there for yourself with this small gesture.  

Unexpected Kindness, The Eleventh Week in the Second Year of the New Abnormal

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. 

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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.  

Greetings from Iceland, The tenth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

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.

Self-care tips: 

  • Go away.  If you can’t physically take yourself to another vista, whether it be a neighboring town, a lake, a park, another city, or the beach, then check out photos on the National Geographic website to enjoy another perspective.  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/pages/topic/best-of-2022
  • 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.  

Be Gone the Bygone, The Eighth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

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.

Self-Care Tools:

  • 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.  

I Quit! The Sixth Week in the Second Year of the New Abnormal

I was walking downtown listening to a light novel, a quasi-romcom.  It had started off well and then it took a nose-dive from there.  About halfway to my destination I turned it off.  I simply wasn’t enjoying it anymore.  I had wanted a break from heavier subjects or professional readings.  This was not the break I needed.  

Growing up I often heard the adage “Losers Never Quit, and Quitters Never Lose.”  In this case, I was losing time and joy if I didn’t quit.  For so long I had always finished the books I started, I didn’t cancel plans unless there was an emergency.  And I stayed to the end of plays, movies, television series and concerts rather than leave at the intermission if I wasn’t enjoying it.  The pleasure of maturing, or at least being older is that I do not have to berate myself for quitting.  

Stopping when something is not right for us is a gift, not a determination of failure.  I win when I consider my needs.  Of course, this is not a recommendation to simply quit whenever we want.  Reading a book for pleasure means that I am seeking pleasure in reading it.  When it’s not pleasurable, then quitting and finding something that I do find pleasurable meets my goal of a pleasurable read.  When I’m meditating and I get uncomfortable, I don’t quit, I observe what’s happening and fold that into the meditation practice.  Mediation is about making space for whatever is happening.  So I am not betraying my goal by resisting quitting in the middle. 

It’s not always easy to choose whether to carry on with an activity or whether to quit because it’s not in our best interest.  When I was younger, I was stuck because I thought quitting spoke of a weak characteristic in me, and I wanted to avoid that.  Accepting ourselves by not living dogmatically allows us to assess when to quit and when to keep going.  I am more apt to find my way forward when I’m not forcing it.  When I take away the “shoulds” it’s easier to make the right choice for any given time.  Onto a new book.  Making that choice is enjoyable.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • What “Shoulds” have burdened you?  Any chance you can let them go?  If that’s difficult, ask yourself, “does completing it serve me, or am I defending against some idea I have about that particular “should?”
  • If you find you regret something you quit before you had a chance to achieve a goal, ask yourself if you can go back.  It can be great to pick up dancing when older.  Or, try learning the language through an easy tutorial or class that you started in high school.  
  • Find soaps for your face and for your body that have a texture and aroma that you find pleasing.  It makes such a difference when we wash ourselves and it feels soothing.  Your senses of smell and touch will feel well taken care of.