Time for a Marathon, Week 28 in the Time of Transition

Time is a funny thing.  If we sleep late this morning we wake up at our regular time due to daylight savings time.  The fall back of the time change here in New York City is particularly fortuitous for the NYC Marathon runners, in the event they could sleep at all. 

Today I’ll be cheering from the side lines.  I am always moved by the determination and grit that it takes to run a marathon.  I am deeply inspired by each marathoner.  The early runners are great athletes who race to win.  The Achilles Club athletes, some accompanied with guides, always move me, often to tears, because they transcend physical and mental barriers to get through the 26.2 miles to the finish line.  And the other runners, joggers and walkers who complete the 30,000 total NYC marathoners this year trained to be able to move through the five boroughs of our city. 

Image from NYRR via Getty Images online

A shout out to my friends Julie, Jeannette, and Debbie, who I will be tracking to cheer them on at East 87thStreet, close to my office.  They all trained for two years since the only options last year were solo, virtual runs.  This year they’ll all start from the line up at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.  Their first step carrying them through all that follow.  

I am proud to have run the NYC marathon six years ago.  I was not a runner.  I learned to run slowly to manage physical limitations, including shortness of breath.  It was hard to find a trainer for this type of running since most marathon trainers focused on minimizing running times while emphasizing form.  So, without formal training I found the best way I could do it, slow and steady.  All those cheering from the sidelines gave me the stamina to keep going.  I am eternally grateful to my friends, family, and the strangers whose enthusiasm provided me energy.  

Whether we can make it out to the marathon course to cheer the runners on, or whether we encourage those in our lives to follow their dreams, we may never know the full power of our support.  Again and again, we hear of those who have had major accomplishments thank parents, teachers, mentors, and friends for the support they received from them.  Let us all take the time, in much of the USA we now have that extra hour, to support someone in reaching his, her or their dreams.  And, whether you’re running a marathon or reaching for your marathon equivalent, have the courage to ask for support.  It will move you forward in countless ways. 

Self-care Tips:

  • Run around the block.  Run slowly.  Notice if this run feels different than the other ways you move.  
  • Take one step to start something new today.  Observe what it takes to take that first step.  You may be pushing yourself.  Take note if this step feels productive.  Do you feel you accomplished something?  Do you feel hopeless that you can keep moving in the direction of completing it?  And do your feelings tell you something about it that is useful?  
  • Find the people or circumstances that inspire you.  Pursue ways that you can regularly feel inspired.  It awakens something deep in us.  

Funny Thing About Gratitude, Week 26 in the Time of Transition

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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.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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.  

Simple Pleasures, Week 40 in the Time of Coronavirus

I was listening to early Joni Mitchell this early morning as the sun rose.  Lucy and I were out for the first walk of the day.  The weather is warm for December, and lovely in the tranquil dark.  It was quiet with the occasional runner or dog passing us as they started their day.  

It’s easy for me to recognize how special these moments are.  As we make our way through this pandemic I find that these ten months have worn on me.  At this point I really don’t want to do anything.  Which is all the more reason I am appreciative of every small pleasure I encounter.  This morning it was being next to Lucy as she sniffed and I watched the day begin.  Now it’s sitting down to write this as I enjoy a rare moment alone.  Yesterday it was sitting with Alex.  We didn’t speak, we just enjoyed the company of one another.  Earlier yesterday I was with Larry as sunset approached.  

Although I am inclined to do less rather than more these days, I can go from thoroughly exhausted to deeply moved.  My work day is filled with inspiring courage from those in my practice.  Coming home from work I find an unexpected gift from a dear friend.  Or I open up a holiday card happy to think of the care that it took in sending it.  There are so many moments of grace.  As I reflect on these last months I easily access the passionate emotions I’ve been navigating.  My anger is fierce.  My sadness pronounced.  My foggy brain a constant.  And, my appreciation of all the small pleasures, day in and day out, is pervasive.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.  You have given me the perfect gift in this time of the coronavirus.  

Self-care Tips

  • Soup.  It can be so soothing.  I recommend Ina Garten’s lentil soup recipe.  Or, if you don’t like to cook, try a chicken broth with a touch of lemon juice.  
  • Try a new chap stick.  I found one in from Cococare that’s lovely.  It helps our lips in the winter and it will feel soft under your mask.
  • Thank someone today.  It can be for something small like moving out of the way on the sidewalk.  Or it can be a bigger thank you.  
  • Listen to the music that started you loving the singer, musician, piece, or group.  It’s so nice to revisit the awakening you had when you first heard it. 
  • If you spend time with others, find a quiet moment to savor.  If you live alone, see if you can connect with someone who makes you smile.  

Thanksgiving, Gratitude & Disappointment, Week 37 in the Time of Coronavirus

There’s no doubt that this is a Thanksgiving like no other.  Many will spend Thanksgiving, if it is being spent at all, without loved ones.  In a large number of cases, it will be the first holiday without someone because they died, either of Covid-19 or from other causes.  It’s hard to feel thankful for these facts.  We can embody gratitude for what we’ve had in the past.  Or we may feel grateful for not having to be social when we’re not up to seeing anyone.  However, that’s a far cry from the delight of festivities of past years.  

Gratitude and its cousin, appreciation, can feel like a burden in times of fear, sadness and loss.  I am all for gratitude journals, and gratitude as a tenet of living a deeply satisfying life.  But we must come to this on our own terms.  When Thanksgiving comes around, I find there’s a collective social desire to manufacture gratitude on top of hardship.  A kind of “fake it ‘til you make it” premise.  I propose that we are tender with the losses and disappointments of 2020.  In telling the truth of what we have and what we don’t have any more, or what we never had, we can find compassion for ourselves in these times.  And if we can be grateful for anything it is for our capacity to heal.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Enjoy laughs. David Sedaris’s new book The Best of Me is just what we need in these times.  Hearing him read it in the Audible version adds to the pleasure. 
  • Consider the Buddhist tenet “we are not our thoughts.”  When you are having thoughts that you don’t like, or are uncomfortable, do a mental separation.  Touch your hand and say, “The is me.  That was a thought.”  You may have to repeat it a few times.  
  • Listen to jazz standards or other soothing music.  I can recommend Natalie Douglas, Diana Krall, or Nancy Lamott.
  • Hydrate.  We tend to forget to drink water in the colder weather.  
  • Purposefully take a day off.  If you can’t do that, take short breaks, even if it means going to the bathroom alone and taking a couple of breaths before resuming your responsibilities.