Joy

I have spent some time thinking about what happy feels like versus joyful. They feel different. I believe they come from different places, and our ability to increase them in our lives might be done differently as well. Noticing where and how they occur in my life was the first step to understanding the components, factors and juju involved.

Happy is good. I think happy is something that happens based on my response to external factors and how I choose to see them. My choice in how I see them is based on my biases, expectations and internal rules of the road. What I mean is those factors help grow or inhibit my happiness. An ability to see the silver linings, see set-backs as opportunities for growth or learning instead of a perceived failure, are some of those factors. The sense of play that can be teased out of almost any situation and grow a culture in it with friends and family is another component. Like attracts like, so if I only see rude people, or misery, it is a reflection of where I am in life, and if I see humor and kindness more than anything then I am reflecting that. This does not mean that I dismiss the ugly things that happen but I look to the learning, the action towards helping, the meaning and move toward the solution and underlying causes rather than focus solely on the problem.

Happiness feels more external in my response and reaction to the world, with how I focus my lenses in life. I can grow it by my actions, by my gratitude and practices. Things like exercise, meditation, naps, time with friends and being alone to play and reflect help cultivate the happy gene. One major factor science shows us is time in nature, even 20-30 minutes a week in nature, helps alleviate stress and enforce well-being. All of these factors and components we choose to build in our lives help us to cultivate happiness.

Let’s break this down more in the practical sense:  Make a list of five things you love to do. They can be small like taking a nap, or larger like travel, it doesn’t matter just make note. Then next to each thing write when was the last time you did it, and if you have to estimate it do that. Then notice how often you invite things in your life that make you happy. Notice if you make time for things you have passion for. Look at the reasons you have not made time, created space. Even risked looking foolish to try something you haven’t done in years. Don’t judge just notice, and then decide what one small thing you can do this week. Then plan when, put it in your calendar, tell someone so you are accountable or better yet invite them along. Then go do it. Then do another, and another… as a practice it take motion, emotion and reflection and repeating the cycle.

So what about joy? Joy feels very different to me. Joy wells up from inside like a huge warm wave of love, being one with the world, of appreciation and feeling whole. It is a soul connection and an inside job for sure. We in a moment of observation, reflection or happenstance are swept away in emotion that brings tears to our eyes. It is connection to source, to light, to love that wells up from our roots and fills us in awe and peace.

Increasing joy has been a tougher nut to crack. I think because a small part of it is driven by the external factors but mostly it feels organic and out of control, a little like a 7th grade science project with a volcano bubbling out on the linoleum floor. It comes from our relationship to ourselves, to self-love and connection. Happy sets the stage for joy; it creates practices that raise our mood, our vibration and wellness. It creates an atmosphere where we notice miracles, great wonders and love all around us. Then we feel joyful, we feel connected.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

Living from our soul, our light and our love means being willing to look foolish, leaving fear behind, and opening to the world. It is wholehearted living, being vulnerable and willing to suspend judgement and listen. It is lightening our load by dropping expectations, being in the moment and appreciating deeply the gift of life, those around us and opportunities we have. It is about helping others to achieve their dreams and us living ours if only by simple acts of kindness, compassion and play.

So we start with happy and graduate into joyful in our practices. Find ways to let things go, to not judge yourself and others too harshly, find things that make you feel good, loved, successful, peaceful and full of purpose. Make connection to those you love and build moments of laughter and memories. As the holidays are bounding in, be mindful of how you want to spend them. How do you want to be during them, what actions, words and behaviors are going to define you? What are you going to give to this one beautiful life as you go tripping through it? Pay attention, notice, look for the love, laughter and build your joy bank for short days and long nights. Choose love, choose light, choose something decadent or funny or uplifting and bring along everyone around you for the journey. Cheers and make mine a nog!

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Posted in Being Open, celebrate, Change, choices, Gratitude, Happiness, Health and Wellness, holidays, intent, Joy, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take it Easy

I probably have ten to fifteen conversations about over-thinking with clients, students, co-workers, friends and myself at least weekly. That number might be on the low end really… What does this mean? It means over analyzing everything; living in our heads; editing our action based on what we think others will want, will judge us harshly for; trying to find the “right” answer, path, choice; any and all of the above. We crunch on things over and over: what did that remark, look, tone, gesture mean? We get stuck in loops in our heads playing out scenarios, playing detective, projecting, constructing myths. All that is just fiction, myth and ego— plays all written with fear. Based on these fears we sometimes choose our actions, our beliefs and our lives.

We have control over what we think. Sometimes it does not feel like that, but it is true. We default to revisiting or playing tapes in our heads and we feel compelled to stay there. Instead of listening to what someone is telling us we choose to focus on what they think of us: do they like us? Should we talk? Should we express our needs and wants? We edit our actions based on whether we believe they will be received well. We edit ourselves to fit accepted molds and stereo-types we have seen. We edit ourselves to be liked and loved, to be valued or just not to be shunned. This editing only makes us smaller. It does not make us better, more worthy, more loveable. It creates a persona we put on like a bad ill-fitting coat we don as we walk through life.

Stopping the loop, the crunching on data can be difficult. It takes practice to reach for a better thought, creating a practice of redirecting our thoughts to the present and now, instead of the past or future.  Recognizing we are spiraling and caught in that crazy loop is the first step. Pulling back, knowing we are over-thinking and in our head helps us choose something better.

“Don’t let the sounds of your own wheels make you crazy” – Jackson Browne and Glen Frey

The sounds of our own wheels, our own fears, our own thoughts, spin around and around in our heads getting distorted and mythicized. This is the crazy-making process we indulge. Having a bag of tricks to pull tools from to halt over-thinking and stop the chatter is key. Paying attention to the things that self soothe, things that make us feel better, more sane, grounded and lighter. Coming out of obsessive thought is a practice consisting of reaching for a better thought and stopping the flow downward. Of doing instead of thinking. Of letting go and letting God, The Giant Space Monkey, The Void, Chance, or whoever we believe in, take over.

Years ago my sister Chris said to me, “Your head is like a bad neighborhood, you can’t spend too much time there alone. It’s dangerous.” Though she has reported I said that to her we have co-writing credit, like Browne and Frey I guess.  Learning to extract myself from my bad neighborhood of over-thinking and practicing doing it regularly has given me an arsenal of tips, tricks and tools. Most of them work most of the time, sometimes none in the moment but always over time.

Here are a few things I do to try getting my brain unstuck.

  • Take a short walk and only focus on my senses. If I can’t see it, smell it, feel it, taste it, hear it, I can’t think about it. I try to immerse myself in my surroundings.
  • Recognize I am doing over-thinking and take a breath and move onto a better thought.
  • Do something that I have to concentrate on that requires my full attention like cooking, painting, writing, Pilates.
  • Call someone who makes me laugh.
  • Watch or read a comfort movie or book that helps me shift my perspective for the better.

Things I don’t do because they exacerbate the voices or my crazy are equally important

  • Journal, it seems in the moment to give more voice to the voices in my head and gives them a bigger stage to obsess on.
  • Drink alcohol, it is a depressant and just grows monsters
  • Sit still
  • Eat
  • Call someone and go over and over and over whatever I am obsessing about for the billionth time
  • Look at “evidence” in old journals, emails, photos, social media, etc…
  • Looking backward or forward is bad, bad, bad in this instance

I do my best to remember this is a practice, a process and a way of choosing to be in the world. By stepping away from my mental monsters and behaviors of over-thinking, editing, and justifying I can break the negative flow. It is taking steps toward doing, being and playing more. It is not letting the sound of my own wheels make me crazy and learning to just take it easy.

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Rebels

A client was looking at her dating life and asked, “Why do women date bad boys, or rebels?” I took a breath and said, “It is easier to date a rebel than be one.” I didn’t miss a beat to her question and her reaction to my answer was to bolt upright on the sofa, her mouth formed a little O and she rapidly blinked and nodded as though she was sending Morse code. It seemed I hit home. I think dating the “bad boy or bad girl” goes across the board for the sexes. We know opposites attract but I am not sure they sustain, unless there are common core values between partners.

I think that we sometimes seek out people that appear to be exotic, bold, and dangerous; they do things we would want to do but are afraid of doing. They are outspoken, brave, reckless, careless, passionate and full of life. All the things we have on our To Be List’s. Many folks instead live vicariously through others in a pale substitute for living. Finding our sense of self, our confidence leads to our own voice, and subsequently our own rebel within. I believe it is our calling to be authentically who we are, in all we are both shadow and light. That wholeness and humility comes forward to celebrate for this small time and space we are here. Not editing who we are but embracing all of it, the good, the bad and the crazy.

I have lived an unconventional life in many ways, some being that I have had many careers, lived in lots of places, never married nor had children. I dance to the beat of a different drummer, badly at times but it is my dance and I own it. I own it in all its herky, jerky movements, the fits and starts with staccato transitions and prat falls all leading to self-satisfied stillness in my weirdness and freedom. I like who I am. It was hard won over hellish years of wandering in search of what lie within. When younger I was looking for that sense of self outside, in the faces of the men I loved, the friends I connected with and the challenges that I chose.

As most folks of a certain age can attest to, we find love, happiness, fulfillment, kindness within. In fact most things in life are an inside job. We cannot give others what we don’t give to ourselves.  We also cannot get to our rebel voice, our sense of true self, without stopping, reflecting, feeling and fully living in the moment. We cannot get to our rebel, ourselves, without making a massive amount of mistakes, and having one embarrassing moment after another. We find the things we feared most not only don’t kill us but were so much smaller then they appeared. Not unlike side mirrors on a car, a distortion we have been warned about yet never really fully process in real time. As one of my editors told me “fear is such a bullshitter.”

Leaning into your rebel self, finding passion, purpose and play on a daily basis creates a wonderful life. So how do you start? You start by getting to know who you are, not who you have cultivated to fit into the life you think you should lead, or the partner you think your significant other wants, or the person who you believe society has asked you to be. You take time and really get to know what you like and don’t like, what feels good and what feels shitty. You unplug from social media and social circles that dictate what we should do and instead create space for you to flex your true self muscles. Though it may feel weird and shaky, like a foal taking its first steps that is just fine. That is what new feels like. Just try it on your own, mess up, try again and learn from what it feels like. Don’t think too much: your brain can hinder this process in a big way. This is something we have to feel our way to, not think our way to. We become an anthropologist or detective in our own lives. We use those internal tuning forks in our gut and chest that pull us towards the things that resonate. Then leave the things that don’t resonate and don’t judge. Just make note. Just notice.

The first step is just about noticing, being present, letting go of fear or letting it lapse just a little. Letting go of the fiction of perfect and normal is key.  Come on, would you sit next to someone who was either perfect or normal at a wedding? Hell no!  There is no there, there…. Just steep in what feels good, moves you forward and creates space. Laugh at yourself and give yourself lots of kindness and a massive amount of curiosity about the world and how you move through it. This is called nurturing, creating an environment for you to grow, to thrive and become the force of nature you were born to be and letting your inner rebel out.

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Practical Magic

When I was small I believed in magic. All kinds of magic, like fairies, spells, witches, dragons (which we know from the Game of Thrones are real), spirits and ghosts, pixies (but not the band). I believed there was more to life than met the eye, and with that adventures in faraway lands that were not yet mapped. I still hold true to those beliefs and have been readying myself for a journey to one of those lands that is not yet mapped. In order to tell this tale I think I need to go back and start with the purple frog first to make sense of nonsense.

When I was around six or seven years old I was very much focused on magic, not just the Disney stuff we saw on the World of Disney on Sunday nights but real magic. Real magic was what I wanted to acquire, some practical magic skill sets to help me be successful in life. Success at that age was making sure I could find my mother’s hiding spot for the “good” cookies, control of the TV for when The Mike Douglas Show or The Monkeys were on, and getting a horse of my own on our suburban quarter acre lot on Long Island. My logical progression for learning magic was creating something out of nothing, which lead to hundreds of hours of me trying to manifest a purple frog in my hand every time I sat on the toilet.

Yea I can hear you, “Really, the toilet? Do need to know about this?” No you don’t, but you don’t need to know about waist trainers and Kim Kardashian, which filters work best for what on Instagram, or the jingle for Nationwide Insurance commercial, but you do ….

The bathroom practice of prestidigitation was a necessity: I was not only practicing as I sat but the toilet was the touchstone (for lack of a better phrase) to try to make my purple frog appear. It was the small private space of the bathroom that mattered most for my work. Our house felt close: a jumble of arms and legs, mouths going, hair flipping and doors kicking people.  There were my three growing sisters, my parents, who held a certain amount of gravitas, and my generously proportioned grandmother; we can call her the anchor.  It was crowded. The bathroom was the only room that I did not share for any period of time, so it was a natural laboratory. As to the frog, green would have been good but for some reason my frog had to be purple. The rationale was to prove that the appearance and its purpleness were nothing short of spectacular magic of the highest order. Not that I was doing much magic at the lowest order or any for that matter. I thought that if you are going to pull a frog from thin air, it can’t be harder to make it purple. I still stand by that logic, really it is flawless.

I never did get my purple frog. The practice morphed and faded into other desires, other practices of the improbable and impractical over time. In junior high there was a stoner bully, yes an oxymoron but what can I tell you? Things played out in a junior high lunchroom where anything unappetizing and unlikely can thrive. This girl picked on me every time I was in there. She was tougher than me, which was not difficult: though I was tall, I was quiet and shy, not smart enough for a nerd just beige enough to stay out of the fray. I was safe until something about me made it through this chick’s lunchtime buzz and she started busting my chops, as we said in the day. At one point I got up my nerve and warned her off. She wanted to know why she shouldn’t mess with me, and before I knew it I told her I was a witch. Not only was she high, but she was not the sharpest knife in the cafeteria. I am also an excellent liar, or was in the day.  She was in awe and I gave her examples of all things witchy, which I garnered from every TV show and movie I ever saw (and there were many), not just beloved Bewitched but Bell Book and Candle and beyond. My white lie was enough to give me space to eat lunch, avoid attack and build an odd bond and alliance with a different crowd. It turns out telling people you have magic powers creates the end result of having magic powers. I didn’t get beat up or harassed which was what I wanted magic for.

Years later I lay in bed after an argument with my boyfriend, thinking he is a pain in my ass and I need to get out of NYC.  At the time I was fixing the first Mac’s from Apple, this little renegade computer company. I was sick of the city and I strongly wanted to be audacious and independent. My dream in that moment was to leave the city, work at the support center Apple had in North Carolina, and to buy myself a big-ass red truck. I smiled at that dream; it calmed me so I could fall asleep and promptly forgot all about it. I didn’t have a license or drive at the time; I had only been fixing computers for about six months. Women, especially Long Island girls, didn’t drive trucks in those days and I never lived anywhere but New York State. It was just the boldest thing I could conjure and it felt good, hence the sleep. The next day the boyfriend said nice things, I said nice things, and we dysfunctioned-junctioned down the road.

Flash forward five or six years later, when I remembered that dream, that audacious “I’ll show you” dream.  I was stunned, as I remembered it out of the blue. I was stunned because I was driving a big red truck on my way to work at Apple as a tech support engineer. I had not thought twice after the moment of inception that the perfect future of audacity would come to its fruition. I was not focused on making it happen; I merely was more approachable to my future as it sidled up to me.

The long road was that the boyfriend and I moved to California outside of Tahoe National Forest and built a cabin. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my, but those adventures are another story. I was still fighting with him after moving when I remembered a friend from the now-closed NC Apple Call Center, now moved to a new one in CA, said to call him if I ever wanted a job. I did, I got it, I needed to drive something, got a deal on a year-old/new red truck on the Nissan lot, and the rest is history. The bad boyfriend was there for the beginning of the move but long gone by the end. It seems I didn’t have to focus on or practice daily much less on the toilet for the magic of prestidigitation to work. To master manifestation, I just had to dance in the direction of the music. Dance on the edge, dance into the fear and the unknown.

As the years go by I have seen this over and over. I have done this over and over and almost always didn’t know what was at the end of the journey, the lands we cannot see with the eye and the parts of us that are unmapped. It is magic when we trust, we move forward and inward with a prayer on our lips, and smile in our hearts and fear nipping at our heels. So my view these days is at the last mapped land of these past nine years in San Diego, of Spirit Work, of Teaching, Coaching, Fitness and Health…. I feel a pull to parts unknown again, stronger and stronger over the past year or so… that doesn’t always mean moving but it does mean crazy change and transformation. Where I go next I do not know, I do know I am scared as usual, I am excited of course but the journey and lands unknown are calling and it’s time to dance.

Posted in Being Open, Change, Faith, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, Magic, Manifestation, mind shifts, Practical Magic, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cluttered

I feel pretty cluttered. I seem to have too much stuff in my head like an attic of someone who tends to save things. A lot of things. Someone who is ancient and fearful with parchment hands and long blue veins running close to the surface.  A person who holds on to things they might need one day, only most of the time those days don’t come. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of room, not even to turn around and survey what is in those tippy stacks of odd shaped ideas, memories, bits of flick and flack. I understand they are my things, and it’s my attic, and though I am not ancient, there are times I feel it. Not in my bones too much but in my heart, in my head and my eyes.  Sometimes my eyes are the most tired.

I need to lighten, to unpack, and just toss things, both inside and out. I need to find clarity.  As time goes on I seem to like to travel lighter and lighter. I started with my closet and chest of drawers. I thought doing this physically might help the metaphysical, the spiritual and the social-emotional arenas as well. I am someone who cleans out drawers and closets a few times a year, but wanted to go deeper and really peel back the layers of attachment. I started with my pale chiffon pink skirt.  I love it, but only have worn it once. It just does not do either of us justice; the shape and the color, nothing works. It’s okay, but together we are less. I have had it almost 15-20 years which is a crazy amount of time for me to think about. I have almost given it away many times but held on because the silk waistband to the pleated chiffon swirls beneath is just beautiful.  It makes me sad to finally give up on it, but I am guessing it will be someone else’s beautiful soon.

Writing about that skirt makes me wonder how many times I have held onto someone else’s beautiful for too long.  Do I do that with relationships, jobs, ideas, ways of seeing myself that are outdated or untrue? I don’t know, but this is great food for thought. I think since life is one transition after another it is inevitable we hold on too long. Self-assessment and feedback from people and the Universe try to give me tips and bread crumbs to point the way to growth. Then there is ego chiming in and the Bossy Betty in my head, so with the racket in there it can be difficult sorting through what to jettison and what I need to keep.

I worked my way from the closet to the drawers, where every piece of old lingerie, and uncomfortable, complicated or unflattering dresses were pitched in a pile; any kind of fat-sucker-500 or restrictive fancy bullshit was gone in a blink. Impossibly soft old tees were all tried on and only the ones that felt best were kept. The tee-shirts from vacations past were ruthlessly edited. I have pictures I don’t look at for memories, why was I holding on to the tee shirts too? The vintage Apple tee-shirt that is at least 30 years old is now in rotation again for the first time maybe in 28 years. What was I saving it for?

Mid-point as the day heated up, I pulled out two old fans to run as I moved about the apartment, their whir whisking away stale air and kicking up dust.  I stopped after my bedroom closet and chest of drawers to take a breath. My eyes wander down the hall to the closet filled with placemats and table clothes I don’t use anymore, old sheets and napkins, I sigh. I need so little of these things’ I think, shaking my head. In fact I need very little, so maybe that is where I need to focus as I move through my head and my apartment. What do I need?

I understand there is a time I needed to hold on to that pink skirt or tee shirts from trips. Those things represented memories, things that were embedded in the vignettes of my life. The reality is they don’t enhance my days or bring me joy in any way. I rarely see them: I look past them or through them like the ghosts they are. As I get ready to step into August and my birthday month and another fall semester, I plan to take time each weekend and go through a closet, a drawer, under my bed and edit. I also plan on pulling out my journal and looking at what do I really need? What matters to me, who matters to me, and try my best to keep it simple. My wants can come much later; my needs are the focus now. I think it is time for bigger changes for all of us. I want to be more deliberate, a little reckless yet conscious in how I live and what I do with my time and love. What that translates to is not known now but gives me a month, a bunch of giant garbage bags, a journal, some long walks and maybe some champagne for break time, and I think I might have some room in my attic.

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Chasing the Edge

I have noticed I seem to resemble a shark, not in the eating seals or surfer’s way but in the constant motion. I started thinking of it as chasing the edge. What this means to me is I am wildly curious, restless, and continually looking to be better, do better and just scare the crap out of myself on a regular basis. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it is how I have been most of my life. It is like one part of my brain says, “Cool: great job, good money, nice house, just breathe and enjoy”. And I do for a little bit, and then I start to itch, not in the goat-girl three-day marinate way but under my skin, deep in my core. The itch turns to a twitch, then to investigation or research, then to moving on, up, or out to something new. I then land in a new place, an uncomfortable place, feeling awkward and fourteen again with arms and legs akimbo stumbling about at a new edge yet again. The edge is past my comfort zone, knowledge, and feeling of safety all rolled into one, but there is exhilaration too, and a powerful pull.

Sometimes this looked a lot like running from the law. At one point, I lived in five states in ten years. I had friends asking if I was running from something, so I took a long look at that to see but alas it seems that for the most part I was not; I was instead wandering, testing, learning, seeking out, and soaking it all in. I constantly look at my life and evaluate it through being self-reflective, talking to others, studying, and more than I would like taking the train to crazy town. Obsessing is part of this, not a good one but one I work at trying to keep it in check. Though keeping it in check is at times like trying to herd 33 willful kindergarteners on a bus after visiting the Jelly Belly factory, having made their lunch of the free samples.

My penchant for chasing the edge does not mean I can’t sit still and just be. I can, but my mind is whirling and it takes a great deal of work for me to slow it down. I have to remind myself that this might be a time to pause, look, listen, and gestate what I have learned and absorbed. It is the hardest part of my process and the most humbling. You would think trying out the new scary stuff, like, uh, standing up on top of the Pilates reformer  for an exercise where your legs are moving in opposite directions on that crazy contraption and praying that you don’t go ass over teakettle taking out that row of the agile unwitting in front of me. Nope, that is humbling, but nowhere to the degree of humbling as looking at your life and knowing something is coming; you are preparing for a new adventure but not knowing for sure. I sometimes have an idea what it could be and maybe what to do next but because of the timing I am just simmering at the edge. It feels like I am waiting for the window to open and the opportunity to appear. I am mulling over things and I am restless; itchy and now living in crazy town as a permanent resident.

I understand the concept of patience. I work very hard at trying to be patient. I also stand in front of the microwave and yell at it to hurry the fuck up. So there is that – I have that going for me too. I also understand I am deeply flawed and just human, which I really, really hate. That whole feeling: my feelings thing, finding balance, resting and being thoughtful all play havoc with a good to-do list. I understand when I can relax into the pause it helps. I also understand given my shark-like nature that giving myself other things to focus on while someone is building that door or window of opportunity helps. It helps me to learn something new, take on other challenges, and keep the 33 kindergarteners in my head hopped up on sugar busy while other parts of me are doing the hard work of growing. The tough part is that growing only happens from the inside out, so sometimes we don’t see it or see evidence of it at first. This can be frustrating and kind of sucky. This type of inside work I am talking about is about being present, seeking answers, growth, and a naked wonder about life. It is a search for clarity and being honest with myself. These elements pull me to the next edge. What I always forget is that I have to be quiet and still to get to those moments, those elements, so I can know what direction the next edge is at…. Drats!

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Summer’s Signature

The first summer cocktail I invented came from necessity, as most good things do. My sister, Chris, was visiting some years ago over the summer and we watched Grey Gardens or part of it. She has to this day never made it all the way through the disturbing documentary of the two reclusive formerly upper class women; a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, part of the Bouvier clan. We decided to retire outside after a bit to the back forty, which is a cement pad in back of my apartment building, for some late afternoon sun in beach chairs. In prep, we decided to glam up like the crazy Beale’s in the documentary. So there we were Chris and I sat wearing all the jewelry in my house, red lipstick, dark sunglasses and toasting to life and the absurd with An Evening with Edie, the cocktail I concocted for the evening. Our beach chairs tilted our view to the sunset above the row of trash bins, that moment began a summer ritual and a way to be or see life differently. The ritual of creating a libation each summer and a way to be in being able to look above the rubbish to see something beautiful; both exist in the same landscape but choosing what to focus on is important.

That was five years ago. I have kept the ritual of creating a new libation and a way to be in summer alive and well in my repertoire. The next summer I moved away from working with vodka as I did with An Evening with Edie, a berry version of a Cosmopolitan with a heavier base note and decided on checking out tequila. I wanted something lighter, more refreshing so in turning to tequila I added cucumbers, mint, club soda, and Rose’s lime juice and out came the Flying Nun. Here was my lighter, quirkier way to see what my summer brought, looking at things from above seeing the improbable and the impossible unfold, all good lessons to take forward.

The next summer during conversations with an old friend and former student, they recommended I use PIMM’S. PIMM’s No 1 Cup as it is known,  is popular in England and used to make PIMM’s Cup: a drink that is a staple for Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show, neither of which I have attended. I was up for the challenge: I bought some of this reddish brown, citrus-herby-boozy-hell and started working. I started with ginger beer and then moved to pineapple cider and more crazy concoctions with each shake and stir. What should have been more fun wasn’t and my starter of PIMM’s was not to my taste.  It took weeks and with each revision of the drink I sent the recipe to my friend to try out. They and their friends gave me feedback. I worked hard, it was tough stuff but eventually I paired it with some Limoncello Italian liquor and Italian blood red orange soda, and with a little fresh lime the Bloody Brit was born. I went through at least 3 or 4 total overhauls in trying to work with PIMM’S. What I learned there was not to assume I would always start out at a good spot or a level playing field.  Sometimes I won’t, but I can still get to where I want as long as I use my imagination, tenacity, and of course, have a good cocktail and friends along for the sometimes arduous climb.

The following summer I wanted an easy start and I had a fairly intense interest in moonshine. I would think a sentence like that would have appeared in a whole other type of writing.  The kind of story that Tennessee Williams, Fannie Flag, or Pat Conroy might have written in a coming-of-age tale in South Carolina perhaps?…but I digress. I did a little research and found a cool looking bottle of moonshine with good reviews. What surprised me was how smooth this stuff is…wow! I had some ideas around a slushy style libation and a bad choice of a not-too-ripe watermelon answered the call of duty. I cut up the little bastard and threw his bits in the freezer. I took watermelon, some of the left over Limoncello liquor, berries, Rose’s lime juice, and moonshine and mixed it up in a blender for a freezy-breezy-summery treat. The worst part of the drink was the name I picked, Summer in a Glass. Bland name for a delicious treat; I don’t know why I picked the name but never renamed it when I could and so the name lives.

There are rules to my rituals, traditions, what-ever-the-hell-this-is… I started with some things born out of curiosity, i.e. moonshine, an un-ripened fruit tossed in the freezer out of necessity, and lack of imagination when it came to the name. What Summer in a Glass showed me is with a little curiosity in the beginning helps even things out, and even stupid names and a lack of imagination in the moment can lead to something good in the end.

This leads me to this summer: year five of this tradition. I looked at what I had in my house and chose what I wanted to work with. I had a sparkling rose wine I like and that sounded like a good base. I never look to see what professional bartenders are mixing. I just try stuff based on what I have, what might taste good or if someone offers up an interesting idea i.e. hello-goodbye PIMM’S. This year I went back to vodka as it was still on the shelf from An Evening with Eddie and thought it might go with the rose wine as well as other things. I started to mix away on Memorial Day weekend with diligence. I am writing this the weekend after and I can say I am pretty close to what I want. There is a martini start, as in stirred not shaken, for cranberry vodka(the vodka from An Evening with Edie wasn’t quite right), some of that leftover bottle of Lemoncello swirled around ice and poured straight up in a cold glass, and finished off with the sparkling rose wine along with a few frozen blackberries. I think some Chambord might appear but so far no. I could switch out for the limon liquor. I try not to buy too much for these concoctions, and the cranberry vodka was an unseen purchase. Though as I started to work as a mixologist in the supreme amateur status, I can honestly say, “I wanted it, I really wanted it,” and gave in.

This year was simple yet complicated, each piece, every component really had to make the whole better, no digressions. I wanted it clear, shades of pink, effervescent and refreshing, just like I wanted my summer. I learned that sometimes simple things take a lot of tweaking, thought, and work; little things matter when it comes to clarity. That it takes focus in seeing the rosy side. That levity and light are sometimes added after the fact. I named it after a scene in a great old movie “Steel Magnolias” for two reasons: the first is a scene in the beauty parlor when Julia Roberts is asked what her wedding colors are and her mother played by Sally Fields says, “Pink and pink.” Julia Roberts comes back with, that pink is her signature color and these are two of the most beautiful shades of pink, blush and bashful. I was working with pink and shades of it and that line always comes to mind when I think pink. The second reason is that, like the movie title implies, these beauties are as strong as steel, and their beauty can be deceptive. My summer cocktail is pink, clear, and effervescent: pretty, albeit deceptive in that it is all alcohol and packs a punch. I am not sure what that means for my summer other than it might look pretty and there may be hidden depths, beauty, strength, and craftsmanship ahead. Cheers!

Posted in celebrate, Creativity, curiosity, drinking, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, mind shifts, Play, Summmer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What I remember

I have been thinking of a story my sister, Chris, reminded me of the last time we spoke.  I had forgotten it completely but it seems not to the level of her remembering. Years ago we were having a conversation about the book Beach Music by Pat Conroy. A favorite read for both of us and a beautifully crafted book for a myriad of reasons. During that conversation Chris was trying to remember who played the main character in the movie based on the book. I said, “Nobody it was never a movie.” She was emphatic that not only was it a movie but we went and saw it together. She then pulled out her phone and went searching for the movie and the actor she was trying to remember.  What she found was that it had indeed never been a movie so her memory of seeing it and seeing it with me was fiction. She had not only cast the movie in her head but produced, directed and released it. Then of course was the memory of us seeing it together and the details that went with that set of events. She was stunned, especially since all the memories were so rich in detail.

So what does this mean, besides Chris has a vivid imagination and rich inner life? It means we create stories about things we believe, events, people and well everything. We then hold them as fact, as lines in the sand, as ways to live, as whatever we need that story to be. I don’t see this as good or bad unless we don’t understand that it is our nature to do this. It is part of our nature to find meaning, or look for understanding in the chaos around us. So yes memories can be benign and fun like in Beach Music being a movie or they can hold us prisoner. How would that look? Maybe we remember a conversation with a parent where we were shamed, or being rejected by a lover, a teacher who told us we were stupid. Perhaps we got left out of parties, or passed over for a promotion we thought was ours. These things we can make up stories about, embellish, or misinterpret to fit a narrative in how we define ourselves. Then it becomes dangerous.

Voltaire said “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.”  Being certain our “stories or memories’” are wholly true, pure fact, might be a dicey bet, not unlike eating gas station hot dogs. I am not advising throwing out our stories or memories or carving them in stone. I just have been thinking about what stories I use to define myself and which ones no longer serve the life I live now and who I have become. What did I invent or massage over the years to fit my narratives of self? What ones have you invented? I think just noticing where our stories come up, what we use them for and what we are certain about could be interesting.

The times I am certain of something is when I have been the least open. This is true especially when it has been around painful memories, or stories. The times when I have not invited in the pink elephant of doubt to the table in the moment, and not after the moment in the retelling sets me up for a greater fiction. Knowing I was wholly in the right in a fight or even in a disagreement where I felt justified in my action is particularly dangerous ground. Hindsight usually shows me I was generally partly culpable or responsible for things going south and other times much more. So building my life on memories, stories of what may or may not have happened seems like a less stable foundation. Perhaps instead just considering them part of the fabric of my life not fact or fiction but stories that illustrate who I have been and what has mattered to me over time might be truer and more beneficial.

In adapting this approach I am not stuck in the realness, the point of order but rather in the spirit of the tale and what it gave me in its inception and life. That does not mean there is not truth in our stories, and there can be fact as well. Both exist in those stories but treating all of the memories as gospel is where we run into ego. So maybe we need to think more of our closely held beliefs about ourselves and others as mutable, flexible and try to be more open about inviting in doubt.  Try to remember with the lenses of kindness, compassion and humor what is painful, playful and purposeful. The certainty we want may leave us too rigid for the long run and we might miss the best of our stories and others stories. By relinquishing certainty to invite in a little doubt, we garner the opportunity to see a movie that never existed but should have and we had a hell of a time seeing it.

Posted in Being Open, choices, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, Listening, mind shifts, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Goodbyes

Saying goodbye is an art. My dad was awful at it, his goodbyes lasted 30-40 minutes in the driveway of uncles or family friend’s houses. We’d start in twilight and it would be well past dark by the time we got in the car, my mother heaving a heavy sigh. Saying goodbye is difficult I think. The situations run from leaving a party, to the big goodbye when someone dies. Each of those acts has societal norms stamped on them; most of the norms are cultural, and subjective yet can bring folks to flash judgements. I don’t believe there is any right way to grieve or say goodbye I think there is just our right way most especially when there is a death.

Between the middle of March and the middle of April two men I knew by the same first name died. Neither were intimates but I knew them well. In dealing with all that comes with my goodbyes and watching those around me deal with it, I noticed that we all do it differently. What I mean by differently is that each relationship is unique and complicated. Relationships are not all good or bad, they are a blend.  So when someone we have been angry with, perhaps estranged from or working our way through forgiveness with, suddenly dies, there seems to be this chaotic tail-spin attached to the process. There is a wobble there in addition to our feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, as we second-guess each one of those states. We feel like we have to justify how we feel to ourselves and frequently others. This is hard stuff; there is no rule book on how to feel when someone we have a complicated relationship with dies. It feels even more unfinished in a way, like walking into your home after a burglary and it is all pulled apart and then having to live in the dishevelment of what is left going forward with no chance to neaten it up.

As I walk through this I can tell you what has helped me. The first thing has been checking in with others who are also walking through it and with others who are not attached or involved. Those who are grieving as well are comrades in arms and one type of conversation happens there. Those not attached give perspective, are non-judgmental in just listening and being a thoughtful sounding board. Both types of conversations help in different ways. Taking time for myself in quiet reflection, sorting through my beliefs and feelings and even spending time to play back conversations help me. Writing, whether journaling or this type of writing helps and others I know have written letters to those they have lost. Physical activity helps with the anger and frustration. I like to match a feeling with an activity; for example if I am angry a soak in the tub does not feel good.  I need something that matches the dynamic feeling and vibration of anger I am in need of releasing. that is active. Sadness is more of a tub event as are comfort movies and books. Bringing in activities that historically signal healing and soothing feelings help. So does spending time in nature, whether it is a park, the front steps with coffee or a slow walk around campus; it all helps.

One thing I notice is sometimes there is a belief that letting go of pain, diminishes the love, the importance and the relationship with our loved one. That is not tru: we want to let go of the pain but keep the love, the memories, all the good stuff. Healing is not a disingenuous act here, it is merely letting go of the pain to some extent if at all possible. Sometimes that is not possible and that has to stand as what is at least for today. We can try again tomorrow and the day after. Then there are times we forget and are brought to laughter, or gallows humor overtakes us in dealing with what can be horrible. I can remember covering my mouth as a guffaw broke loose and feeling shame, confusion and yes relief. How can I laugh at a time like this? The reality is we do laugh, we release, we cry, and we are numb, sometimes all at once. Mostly we want it to be over, to feel better, or to go backward, many things that frequently will not happen or not yet. It takes time. I cannot will my broken leg to heal faster no different than I can tell my broken heart to heal faster. What I can do is create the best circumstances for that to happen and wait and work towards feeling better and wellness despite my breaking.

I think being kind to ourselves as we walk through this helps. As we know, berating that broken leg is the least likely way it will heal, as is keeping the cast on forever so it never breaks again. We just have to practice our goodbyes and make peace that these experiences are part of life. And sometimes it will still be twilight when we are done and other times it will be way past dark.

Posted in Change, Faith, Fear, forgiveness, Health and Wellness, life and death, love, Uncategorized, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I Hate That

 

How many times a day do you think, feel or say, “I hate that?”  Usually it is small things that break a relationship, the one small oversight or transgression that builds to epic proportion in our heads and makes us blow. It was just such an event with my 9-year-old DVD player. It started out skipping small things in the beginning, a line of dialog, small but meaningful gestures. I let it slide; we all do in the beginning. It’s me; I expect too much, I’m too picky, too demanding. Then it began to skip whole scenes, lose plot points, and check out for whole sections of what made my evening good. I still let it go; I would cajole, curse and push all of his buttons to no avail, the rat bastard. Finally it was a friend who brought it to my attention that this was an easy quality-of-life thing to fix. I knew it, but had chosen to muddle through, be a big girl and make it work. Unfortunately I was the only one. My DVD had no such plan and I was paying Netflix to watch 2/3 to ½ of all the movies I was renting. I was a dolt.

The fix was a new DVD but I was putting it off because it felt like a luxury expense and not a daily quality-of-life issue. What I did over the years, as this went on, was minimize its impact. I love movies, documentaries, episodic TV series and all types of film. Film is a way I learn, relax and explore; they are a healthy coping mechanism and they bring me immense pleasure. I was spending half my night fighting with the remote, cursing like a truck driver, bringing up my blood pressure and making myself a cranky old thang. It sucked. It was a small thing I had control over and put it off not realizing the fix would have a huge impact on my life. It did.

But then there were the 20-year-old mugs. Ugh. Tea and coffee stained scratched glass I could not make clean no matter what I did. They still worked so I hated to give them away.  It was just a mug after all, why the big deal? Why did it make me frown to pour my hot morning beverage in something ugly? What can I say I am aesthetically driven and they were an eyesore, that and I am a shallow wench.  To replace them or even just one with a special mug for my tea or coffee seemed so small and self-indulgent that for 5-6 years I just thought about getting a new mug.  Not even a set mind you, just one and I still never got around to it. One day in Marshalls for $2.99 I found a lovely little mug and remembered my promise to myself and kept it. I would smile every morning I filled it, it was bright, clean and made me happy. If someone told you that you could make an investment of $2.99 to start your day with a smile instead of a frown wouldn’t you do it? The point it took me 5-6 years to do it. Why? I thought the small things were small and did not make or break an experience, my minute, hour or day. I did not take the time to adjust my life to me. One size does not fit all folks!

I started to pay attention to all the little things in my day that annoyed me, that made me think “oh I have to fix that”, “I hate that.” I started to realize it was not the big things that made for a good day or a bad day but the little things because that is what life is, small little moments strung together. Yea sure there are big days in there, promotions, moving, falling in and out of love, but it’s everything in between that we forget to examine. We look forward or we look back but fail to recognize exactly where we are at this moment and that that moment is all we have. Why not make it great?

After those last two incidents I got a pad out and sat down to figure out what other little annoyances ticked me off during my day. I sat, and sat and got nadda at first. I left the pad on the dining room table and went on with my life. Then as my day and evening wore on I would get tweaked by something and walk over to the table and write it down. These things can be so small, so fleeting we don’t always remember them but they pop up every time we go to do something.

Here is the sticking point: you need to have control over it to fix it. That doesn’t always mean throwing money at it either. One item that went on my list was my filthy car; I live in a flight path, on a city bus route and park beneath where Pterodactyls nest. Back east it rains so god washed my car. Here it doesn’t rain near enough for me to get in and out of my car without feeling icky about the crust, dirt and dust, and that is just on the inside.  The outside is a hundred times worse depending on what the Pterodactyls ate. I have taken to washing it once a month. This was prompted by a friend who put on a HAZMAT suit to drive with me. He made me realize that I had let one more thing bug me yet not fix it till it was way over the line.

So get a pad and write down 5 small things that you have control over that get on your nerves every day. Your partner chewing with an open mouth is not a good one choice for a few reasons; you have no control over them is one. As to your partner if they have resisted learning the closed-mouth-chewing skill till now you best forget the duct tape option and choose to sit next to them rather than in front of them when they masticate. Or leave the room when they eat. However, if when you get dressed in the morning your closet is jammed with clothes and you can’t find anything you want, are tripping over shoes, etc. that is a lousy way to start your day and something you have control over. Think about taking an evening or a Saturday morning, put on great music make a cup of fabulous tea and clean and organize your space. Make it an event, not a chore. Hell, invite a friend who has OCD like me and open a bottle of wine. Life is meant to be enjoyed why not inject fun everywhere you can?

Start to look at your life and how to make every experience better. A great example is sitting in traffic. That was the first thing my sister thought of to fix. I pointed out we were looking at things she had control over and that traffic was not something she could control but she could have influence over the experience. I suggested trying books on tape, lectures or a specially mixed CD made by my niece just for her commute. She could pick up a favorite beverage and sip it on the road planning her evening in the quiet of the car. Though she cannot change traffic she can make sitting in it a better experience.

So the exercise is to get that pad out and pay attention to the things that tweak you during your day. Think about how to make things better. Can they be removed, replaced, organized, and improved upon? Doing so will raise your overall mood and quality of your day.  I recommend starting small, like my mug. The payoff is big no matter what, so keep it simple.

Life is full of choices, putting your head down and pushing through “this is the way it is,” your “have to’s” and “it doesn’t matter it’s just a teacup” is one way. Why sit there waiting for those great moments instead of making them? Why spend your time living for your weekends, evenings and the ‘good times’ when the other option is ditching what doesn’t work.  And for what has to stay: reframe it. Think about how to make it better, think “Ah hell might as well dress that pig up and teach it to dance.” Again except if it’s your partner then it best to pay someone else to give them lessons.

Posted in Being Open, celebrate, Change, choices, Fear, foundation of change, Gratitude, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments