BRRR, The Fifth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal

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.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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.  

Swimming on Vacation, The Fourth Week of the Second Year of the New Abnormal

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.

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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.  

Bargains Abound, Week Forty-Eight in the New Abnormal

I just deleted 129 emails from my inbox.  I’m not that popular, it’s simply that retailers with black Friday weekend deals want my money.  Some of the emails remind me that I looked at something I chose not to buy in case I need to see it again. I do not.  

Given the onslaught of emails one would think there’s no recession.  And, though I do appreciate a good experience, I’m less apt to go for more stuff.  I will not be purchasing one more well-being product that usually ends up in the back of the closet, if I haven’t yet donated it.   I imagine Goodwill volunteers grumble when they see yet another foot spa.  Clean socks and winter jackets are preferred items.  

I was so tired on Black Friday, but I also was afraid I’d miss an arbitrary sale.  I made my post-nap walk a destination walk, only to find that the sales were not hawking anything I really needed, Nor did they offer anything I wanted to give as gifts.  I’m sure I may have missed some bargains that offered a deal on the espresso spoons we lack, or the ice tongs we can’t find.  

We’re so fortunate.  We want for nothing.  Well, maybe we want some things.    The truth is we always want kindness, respect, and generosity of spirit.  That’s not something we can purchase at a retail establishment.  But they are qualities that will have me return to a store or online site, should the proprietors and staff possess said characteristics.  The emails may get deleted from depersonalized sources, but when customer service is accommodating, and when there’s a personal touch, I do become a repeat customer.  Because kindness and respect are invaluable.  They’re worth more than whatever needs purchasing.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • If something gives you joy, and it’s within your means, do buy it.  But check to see if it’s just filling a void and, if so, see if there is another way to give to yourself that is kinder, more caring.  
  • Support small businesses if they value you as a customer.  And, if you own or work for a retailer, don’t underestimate the significance of caring for and about your customers.
  • Thank you notes matter.  Graciousness is often a forgotten attribute.  Sending a thank you is a beautiful way to keep the giving going.  

Window Dressing, Week Forty-Six in the New Abnormal

I have always found great pleasure in walking the city streets.  Throughout my 43 years in New York City, I’ve seen a lot.  And, yet, I always find something new.  This past week I started to notice the ubiquitous iron work on so many buildings and railings.  There’s a long history, centuries old, of metal and iron works.  On closer inspection there are common patterns.  Chances are they’re cheap.  But not all buildings have the less expensive options.  There are stunning pieces of craftsmanship.  

Decorative arts can easily be underestimated.  In terms of New York buildings iron work tends to be architectural embellishment.  For me, they’ve usually gone unnoticed.  But to the trained eye, the metal works stand out as a separate entity.  A craft in its own right.  

Funny, but as often as I go to museums, a repeated walking destination, I have rarely visited the decorative arts galleries.  I’ve walked past them to see special exhibits, but like the iron work covering many brownstone doors and windows, I walked by them not giving them a second glance. 

There’s so much we don’t see.  Whether we aren’t in touch with our compassion and neglect to notice the pain of a bothersome neighbor, or we fail to see the beauty in the ordinary, as we continue to walk this earth we have so many opportunities to look again and appreciate what’s here in plain sight.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Go on a treasure hunt.  Look for beauty in places that you take for granted.  Notice what you find.  Enjoy the surprises that come your way.  
  • Check out decorative arts when you visit a museum.  It will be a quiet gallery with a virtual private viewing
  • As an act of body love, go over your physical being and notice it’s beauty.  It can be something small like a lovely crease on your elbow, the curves in your hair, or your hips, or you can look at your body anew, appreciating its presence, its strength, its capabilities 

Marathon Weekend, Week Forty-Five in the New Abnormal

The streets are brimming with runners.  It’s the first November weekend, which means daylight-savings-time along with the New York City Marathon.  Friday, while walking through Central Park, I came across a rally.  It was a celebration of all the countries represented in the marathon.  There were flags and delegates from 140 nations.  

            While I was passing, hearing countries being called out on the loudspeaker from Ecuador to Japan, I saw the proud representatives take in the cheers from others who had come half-way around the globe.  It was peaceful.  It was celebratory.  It suggested to me the very real possibility of getting along, no matter where one resides, or how different others might live their lives.  These are runners, and supporters of runners.  Each person wants to do their best.  They have trained and are ready to traverse New York City’s five boroughs.  

            I will be on the sideline, cheering my friends, and those I know, and shouting encouragement to those I will only see for a few short seconds.  Viewing the marathon is awe inspiring.  For most marathoners, running 26.2 miles is not easy.  But they’re game and they do their best.  There’s a courage in being inclined to make such a commitment.  I call it the courage of Yes.  They entered the lottery from a position of willingness.  They trained for months because of that willingness.  And now they are implementing a new courage.  The courage of grit.  

            Grit means giving one’s all, whatever it takes.  No one is compromising someone else.  Everyone is running together in harmony towards a personal goal known to each runner.  That takes determination.  That takes grit.  Witnessing the runners giving their all step by step, mile by mile, is truly inspiring.  It inspires us to be more generous.  It inspires good will.  All in all, it inspires the best in all of us.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Choose a small task.  It can be cleaning the bathroom, doing homework, organizing the sock drawer ,or anything else.  See if you can purposely focus.  As you do the task add a little positive intention.  This is a modest sample of grit.  
  • Find something that you’d really like to do that is out of your comfort zone or is something new to you.  See if you can commit to doing it, or if you can take a first step towards doing it.  This is a small example of the courage of Yes.
  • If you’re in New York City, try to come out to see the runners, even for a very short time.  You will be inspired.  If you’re not here, watch a snippet on tv.  Or watch a sport in which the players give their all.  Take in their commitment to excellence for a dose of inspiration.  

Halloween Weekend, Week Forty-Four in the New Abnormal

It’s Halloween Weekend and the city is ready for the many trick or treaters at every age.  As a child of the sixties our Halloween was comprised of a trip to Kiddie City to pick out a cardboard box with a clear window displaying the plastic mask with a thin mouth opening with two nostril holes for labored breathing that allowed for a muffled song of “trick or treat” at the door of kind home-owners who distributed candy, both great and questionable.  My favorite candy were plain Hershey chocolate bars, M&Ms, Twizzlers, or Good and Plenty.  I was not a fan of the chalky Necco Wafers or boxes of raisins.  We had plenty of fruit and raisins in our home, so I was on the lookout for forbidden treats that I would hide in the back of my closet.  

I’d bring one or two treats to school a day.  If I was in junior high, then they would be confiscated from the bullies that threatened to ruin an otherwise adequate day.  Nonetheless, the feeling of being rich with sugary sweets was intoxicating. 

The other aspect of Halloween I reveled was wearing a costume.  I loved dress up, and I delighted in playing other characters.  The first time I played someone else was in a Hebrew School Purim play at age five.  Sadly, I did not make the cut for Esther, but wearing a long- haired wig, and a toga, I was one of the other wives of King Ahasuerus.  It wasn’t as fun as Halloween, but it was a solid second. 

There were very little Halloween decorations in our neighborhood growing up.  A few Autumnal pumpkins, some adventurous jack—o-lanterns, but not much more.  Even so, a good costume, from my elementary school age perspective, whether it was Casper, a Disney Princess, or a witch, was a special experience.  Walking home, hitting all the houses on the other side of the street brought heft to my papar bag, and anticipation of portioning my candy booty for the remainder of the holiday season.  It’s been a joy throughout this week to see young children in their costumes on their way to Halloween Parties, proud to represent a character near and dear to them.  

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Halloween.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • If you’re not trick or treating, try some high-quality chocolate, one square a day.  It’s a small treat with big flavor.  
  • When someone says something that hurts you, simply ask them “Did you mean to upset me?”  it’s a way to communicate your upset without an accusation.   It will also give you information about what’s going on for them.  And they will know that they hurt you.  Of course, if they answer, “Yes,” then that gives you more information about being intentionally treated poorly, thus giving you a choice in future interactions. 
  • Relax with classical music.  We forget how impactful it is on our nervous systems.  It can soothe us when we are stressed, and lighten our mood when we feel low.  May I suggest Debussy’s Clair de Lune or Pachelbel’s Canon in D? 

Happy Jewish New Year, Week Thirty-Nine in the New Abnormal

The Hebrew Year 5783 is upon us.  It’s a celebration of new beginnings.  Sometimes called the great reset.  We have a tradition of bringing bread crumbs, which symbolize our sins, down to the river to release them so we can start anew.  For me the letting go of the recent past to move on is an unburdening.  It’s a kindness we can give ourselves in letting go of what we deem to be opposed to our values.  It’s a personal forgiveness so we can live better lives through right action.  

I love the symbolism in this act.   Not only do I affirm the wrongdoings of this past year, but it holds me to a higher standard, which I appreciate.  Even if I lose my cool when I get upset and don’t take a moment to pause, or I unintentionally hurt someone, I am still one step closer to learning from my missteps. 

Life is filled with lessons.  I have a friend who always reminds me when I get frustrated or upset with someone, that they are my Buddha.  That person is there to teach me if I’m willing to learn.  When I just want to be right, I have the opportunity to bring compassion for myself and others.  In those moments, I’m not so thrilled to embrace the lesson, but with time, especially on the eve of this New Year, I am motivated to try again.  

Self-Care Tools:

  • Find a way to let go of things you’ve done that you have a hard time forgiving.  Create a ritual that will assist you in forgiving yourself while learning from what was done.  
  • In place of being hard on yourself, or justifying hurting someone else, be gentle and kind to yourself, and in turn, to others, easing any internal criticism. 
  • Dip apples in honey.  The apples symbolize hope and abundance, while honey symbolizes sweet possibilities for the New Year.  

Exotic Minnesota, Week Thirty-Six in the New Abnormal

It’s cool, clean and sunny in downtown Minneapolis this morning.  I am taking my time this morning on this solo vacation.  Yesterday I went to the largest state fair in the country on the outskirts of St. Paul.  Wow! It was definitely not an experience to be had in the Big Apple, which made it a truly exotic experience for this New Yorker.   I entered in the morning and left as the crowds swelled in the early afternoon.  The grounds were sprawling, and I got lost any number of times leading me to impressive displays of award-winning crafts, deco buildings, and backstage settings.  

Everyone was friendly and respectful. There were long lines for fried anything including but not limited to corn dogs, alligator, twinkies, and a popular favorite in dairy country, cheese curds.  I chose to avoid lines and find my meal outside the fair gates.  Most impressive to me were the multiple exhibits of award fair award winners.  From hand carved canoes to creative sandwiches, there were ribbon winners in so many categories I couldn’t keep count.  Though, the butter sculptures were busts of some of the blue-ribbon recipients.  They were being displayed in the dairy building.  

After a slow stroll through the midway, I was ready to go.  The crowds were swelling.  Since I left New York City to get away from crowds, I decided to sacrifice fair sites unseen for a quieter walk through Minnehaha Falls Park in St. Paul.  This was another experience I wouldn’t have in Manhattan.  Yes, we have small falls in Central Park, but the majesty of the Minnehaha Falls, as well as the expansive network of pathways in the park are unrivaled in my city. 

My first day in Minneapolis was capped off by an impressive meal at Owamni by The Sioux Chef.  That was a very special meal I could only enjoy in Minneapolis.  It features creative Indigenous cuisine, much sourced from local areas.  A great way to end a long and far-off day.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Allow yourself to get lost on a walk or drive.  Then explore what you would never have seen or known had traveled the familiar path. 
  • Give a stranger a smile.  It may take a small measure of courage, but it can brighten their (and hopefully, your) day. 
  • Nap.  We are a busy society.  Taking time to rest is a kindness we can give ourselves.  

One Year Older, Week Thirty-Five in the New Abnormal

Today I turn 63.  In my 20s and 30s I wanted a lot of celebrating.  By 40, after I started my present career as a psychotherapist, low key became my preferred option.  Don’t get me wrong, I wanted recognition.  Sometimes, I say with some embarrassment, I demanded recognition.  But smaller became better for me.  Today I took myself to the Bronx to walk among the August flowers at the New York Botanical Gardens.  

Going in the morning was key.  I could walk for a good while without seeing anyone else.  The day was hot, but there are so many shaded spots that the sun’s early rays didn’t overheat me.  A couple of hours of simple pleasure was a wonderful gift. But it’s not the only gift. 

While social media is often scorned for the propensity of many users to err on the side of negativity, that was not my experience today. The outpouring of birthday wishes is a testament to the warmth in the precious hearts of those with whom I’m acquainted.  I am filled with gratitude.  The abundance of good will on social media platforms has the power to transform.  The well wishes took a simple day and layered it with kindness and care.  My heart is full.  Thank you.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • If you have a chance to enjoy time in nature, seize the opportunity.  The beauty and majesty of gardens, woods, sea, desert, and mountains can soothe our souls.  
  • Take in the positive posts when on social media.  It will move you and/or bring a smile.
  • Look up Don MacMillan’s comedy.  He is very funny.  We went to Stafford Elementary School together.  He was smart and funny then.  He’s only gotten better since those early years in Cherry Hill.  https://www.youtube.com/user/donmcmillancomedy

Scaffolding, Week Thirty-Four in the New Abnormal

Pre-Covid, I took a wonderful writing workshop with Emily Raboteau at the Key West Writer’s Workshop.  Not only was it a beautiful setting, but the guest speakers and the workshop itself were invaluable.  One thing Professor Raboteau taught us was the necessity of proper scaffolding to support the writing.  It took time, but I built my scaffolding.  It’s been more precarious than proper, but I worked with the materials at hand and I’m finding my way.

In terms of all types of scaffolding, New York City brick buildings must be inspected every five years.  If they need to have new bricks to replace the old, scaffolding goes up and the work begins.  Such is the case for our apartment building.  It’s a messy job that clogs air conditioners and gets dust between closed windows.  Nonetheless, safety comes first.  I’m hopeful the scaffolding is safe for the workers and protective for pedestrians.  Though It adds a dark, ominous feeling coming from and arriving home.  

Even so, as the many workers toil in the August heat laboring their way around the building, it has brought to mind the importance of creating scaffolding, not only for writing and edifices, but for our lives.  Supportive friends and family are great members of our scaffolding.  But the care we can provide ourselves is essential. Sometimes I do a better job than when I’m avoiding my feelings, or caught in anger, resentment, or victimhood.  Walking, meditating, reading, delicious, nourishing meals, are some of the nuts and bolts of my scaffolding.  Writing has become part of the foundation.  Laughing is a daily essential, though I forgot my sense of humor last night.  

I’m glad I noticed that so I can fix it today.  Just as the buildings in the city need inspection and improvements, my precarious scaffolding requires daily upkeep. Perhaps after a good cry, I’ll dance today bringing in music, while laughing aloud.  My scaffolding makes room for emotional variations.  Feeling those emotions is a crucial element of my scaffolding.   Let the progress continue…

Self-Care Tools:

  • List what elements of scaffolding you already have in your life.  Then add small supports that will augment your list.  
  • Remember to laugh whenever you can.  And, if you lose your sense of humor, do whatever helps to bring it back.  It will lighten your perspective
  • Thank workers for what they do.  Our lives are supported by all those who successfully do their jobs.