Category Archives: Things to Ponder

Like the most comfortable pair of jeans ever.

I got my car back this week. It was in the shop for 28 days (supposed to be 10 days but who’s counting). For those 28 days I got to drive a minivan. It was new (only 20,000 miles on it) and had all the gadgets. The doors opened with a press of a button. There was navigation and music and it linked to my phone. Each kiddo had their own captain’s seat. There was a ton of cargo space in the back with the seat folded down. It smelled like nothing.

My car is 16 years old. It has been mine for the past 14 years. It has a lot of miles on it (way more than 20,000). It still has a tape cassette player and does not have keyless driving and the navigation system is me (or whomever else is sitting in the car telling me where to go).  There is plenty of cargo space. And it smells like a lot of things, old leather and rain and stale cheerios and mud and grass and kid barf and so on. And I love it. Getting back into my car was like slipping on the most comfortable pair of jeans ever.

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Everything fits. It’s smooshy in all the right places and my elbow rests on the window ledge and I can reach both kids from the driver’s seat. I fully recognize that I will need a new car some day (probably sooner than later). And I fully recognize that the new car I just drove for 28 days was really nice and had a lot of convenient features. But it was not what I knew.

And that is why it is so hard to make changes. That is why it is so hard to start new habits and step into new things or jobs or places or relationships. When you are used to something it is comfortable, like old jeans or your favorite sweatshirt or broken-in slippers. Even if you are presented with something new and wonderful it is so easy to want the old thing or to slip back into the old habit.

So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself that change is hard. It is so much more comfortable to stay with what we know. It is so much more comfortable to keep doing what you are doing (keep driving that 16 year old car or slipping into that old pair of jeans or doing that habit that really is not so healthy for you). But sometimes you cannot stay with what is comfortable and you have to grow and you have to make changes and you have to be uncomfortable. So today I challenge you to think about what has gotten too comfortable in your life and what might need to change. And if you decide to make a change I will be here virtually cheering you on from my broken-in, 16-year-old front seat that smells faintly of stale cheerios today.

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Join the club.

Join the club.

This week I was talking with someone who was very concerned about people joining a group she is part of now. She is worried new people coming into this group will cause it to deteriorate or decline or the new people may even harm her. She thinks the leadership of this group should stop all new people from coming into it. The interesting thing to me is that this person joined the group recently. The group has existed for a long, long time and she is a relatively new member. I was surprised, that as a new member, she was so strongly against more new people joining the group.

This conversation got me thinking about groups or clubs or things we join during our lifetime. Some groups we are born into, some we are entered into because of our families, some we enter into because of friends, some we choose to be a part of because we believe in something they believe in. Some clubs we choose and others choose us. Some groups are open to everyone, some are exclusive. Some you have to pay money to join and some are free. Some are very elite and small, while others are very big and inclusive. Some groups are based on geography, where you are born, religious beliefs, gender, shared interests, and so much more.

Some groups believe they are stronger when they are more diverse and they strive to extend their reach and keep their membership varied. Some groups believe they are stronger when everyone looks the same, thinks the same, believes the same, smells the same, wants the same.

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In light of this conversation, if I were my own best friend, I would advise myself (and you) to take a little time and think about the groups you are a member of currently. What do these groups say about you or about who you are? How did you become part of these groups? Did you have a choice? Do you want to be in these clubs? Do you believe what they believe? Can you get out of any of the groups? Are there other clubs you want to join and how would you do that? What kind of groups do you want to be part of? Do you think groups are stronger when they are large, inclusive, and diverse or when they are small, exclusive, and single-minded?

Friendship.

I have been thinking a lot about friendship lately and about different kinds of friendships and about how friendships form. Long-lasting, possibly life-long friendships. Brief but intense friendships. Work friendships. Similar-activities friendships. Your-kids-are-friends-and-you-become-friends friendships. Childhood friendships. Adulthood friendships. No-longer-friends-but-would-like-to-reconnect-again friendships. Neighborhood friendships. Friend-of-a-friend-so-you-see-each-other-often friendships. So many different kinds of friendships and they all serve a purpose in our lives.

What I have been pondering is a similarity between all the different types of friendships – they are all built on hundreds or thousands of little moments or little acts. Those moments all pile up and at the top of it all is this beautiful thing called friendship. The multitude of small things such as, hellos or goodbyes, walking by in the hallway and smiling, sharing lunch, chatting about the weather, dropping off cookies, watching your kids play sports together, running together, seeing each other after yoga every week, laughing at jokes together, remembering a birthday, sending a card for no reason, learning a new skill, taking an adventure, sharing a good bottle of wine… all those small moments add up.

So today I encourage you to celebrate the different friendships in your life. If I were my own best friend I would tell myself to be grateful for the many, varied people I count as friends in my life now, in the past, and yet to come. Through thousands of little acts they have made my life richer and fuller in ways I could not have imagined. Thank you my friends.

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In case you cannot fully read the picture this is what it says:

Friendship – a thousand little acts of kindness and compassion and time and love and laughter and smiles and being there and being present and sharing food or a drink or a hug and sitting quietly or being loud or taking on the world together over time of days or hours or years of lifetimes when everyone was there or no one else was there you were there to hold a hand or be a shoulder or clean up a mess or make a mess or fix a mess or have a fight or get over a fight or forgive or forget and be present and stand up if needed because friends are formed of a thousand different small acts all based on love

Perspective.

Bananas. Eggs. Watermelon. Tortilla chips.

Milk. Yogurt. Kale. Peppers. Cherries. Cabbage. Zucchini.

Half and half. Buttermilk. Bread. Limes. Lemon. More cherries. Nectarines.

In what universe does it make sense to put bananas (upside down and on the bottom), eggs (on an angle opposite the bananas, raw eggs), watermelon (on top of bananas and eggs), and chips in one grocery bag? There so many other options. So many. Sooooo many.

But that is what happened today. Woe to the bananas and the eggs. Woe to the grocery bag that held these smushed items. Woe.

But if I were my own best friend I would remind myself it was a damn good day since that is the worst thing that happened in my life today. There is no reason for woe. I shopped for groceries. I bought them and brought them home. I cooked meals in my home. I have a home. I have electricity. I have clean water. I am healthy. My family is well and safe. I am safe. I am truly blessed.

Yet as my own best friend I also might suggest to myself to bag my own groceries next time.

Step up. Be present.

A number of years ago I joined a moms-of-preschoolers group. The group was religious-based and I was not particularly religious but I thought it might be a nice way to meet other moms in the area with kids of a similar age. I grew up attending various churches depending on where my family lived but I had not been an active church-goer for quite a while (I am still not).

So at each of these meetings someone from the group would stand up and give a speech to the 100 or so moms gathered there. The speakers were usually women who had been coming to this group for a while or were part of the organizing core or who knew each other. The stories were sometimes inspirational and sometimes funny and generally related to some passage of scripture or some life lesson. The speech was usually about 10 minutes long and was just a small part of the overall meeting. But one of those speeches, or rather the experience of listening to the speech, has stayed with me for over 4 years now.

I don’t remember the actual content of the speech other than the speaker was talking about a hard experience she had lived through, either a loved one was ill or had moved away or had died, like I said I don’t remember the specifics. What I do remember though is that this woman was crying while she gave this speech and was really struggling to get the words out. The speech was prepared and written down and she was having to wipe her eyes with the back of her hand to see the words she had written and she was taking big deep, gasping breaths to stop crying and to speak. And that was not even the part I really really remember.

The part I really really remember is that no one went to her. No one took her tissues. No one walked up and stood next to her. No one held her hand or put their arm around her shoulders. No one propped her up as she beared witness to this event in her life that caused her such pain. No one.

Including me.

And ever since that day I have tried to be different. I have tried, when I witness someone in pain, to be there; I generally have no idea what to say or do but I think that’s OK most of the time. Most of the time it is just about being present. I have tried to acknowledge that I see the hurt. I have tried to provide tissues. I have tried really hard to not be that person who sits in the back and looks around waiting for someone else to step up and stand next to the person that is hurting.

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To this day I feel badly for not stepping up and standing next to that woman while she cried, alone, at the front of a room. I kept sitting there thinking one of her friends would step up, this woman obviously knew people in this room since she was up there speaking today. Or someone else sitting on the platform right behind her would hand her a tissue or a napkin since they were only 5 feet away and I was on the other side of a giant room. Or that I could not be the one to step up because I knew nobody in that room and surely someone else in that room would be a better choice than me to stand up. But in reality those were all excuses because I was scared. I was scared to walk up there and put myself out there (in front of a room of people I did not know).

But that’s the thing, if you see someone who needs help or needs a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on, if YOU see that, then why shouldn’t it be YOU who acts on that? Do you have to know the person to acknowledge they need help? Do you already have to be their friend to pass along a tissue to dry their tears? Do you have to know anything about them other than the simple fact that they are another human and need help in that moment?

No.

So, today I am bearing witness to the fact that I wish I could have done better that day so many years ago. I wish I had the strength in that moment to step up on that stage and simply stand next to someone I had never met and let them know they were not alone. And because of that day, I will continue to try and do better, to acknowledge and be present, even if it is uncomfortable to sit with someone else’s pain. Because at the end of the day what we really have in this crazy life is each other.

If I were my own best friend I would forgive myself for not acting four years ago and I would remind myself to continue to strive each day to simply be human. To recognize when someone needs to be propped up and to step up and do the propping (even if it is uncomfortable and messy). To be present.

A few updates.

I don’t have a specific topic today but instead a few random updates and thoughts.

  1. The squirrels – I wrote about the squirrels in my head a couple months back and the beginning of my adventures with meditation. The squirrels are still in there. And I am still meditating. And some days the squirrels are still as crazy as ever. But here is what I am finding about the squirrels – I like checking in with them at least once a day. On really crazy days I like checking in with them more often. And now, when I check in with them, they seem to quiet down a bit quicker and hang out a bit longer before returning to the land of crazy. Perhaps they are getting a little bit tamer?
  2. Two feet and the start of warmer weather – I still barely have two feet worth of patience. And now the weather is starting to warm up and we have added sandals to the mix of possible shoes in the mornings. Now, just to be clear, it is NOT sandals weather yet. We barely get above sixty degrees (Farenheit for all you non-US people) most days and it still rains on most days. But now I get to debate whether or not it is appropriate to wear sandals or shoes on a day when it is raining and forty degrees outside. Most days I nod and smile, let her put on the sandals and put more weather-appropriate shoes in her school bag. Most days she comes home in the other shoes. Am I enabling her by putting the other shoes in her bag to change into later? Or am I just trying to get out the door on time? Is she learning anything about picking out appropriate footwear? Or is she simply exerting her own opinions in anyway she can?
  3. The smell of quiet – Have you ever tried to smell quiet? Yes. I know quiet is something you generally hear (or don’t as the case may be). But have you ever thought about what is smells like for you? Does quiet have a taste? Does quiet have a feeling to it? The other night at dinner I said I wanted to smell quiet and the coolest thing happened. Everyone was quiet! So for me the smell of quiet was dinner (which happened to be pesto noodles) and my kids at the end of long day (a little bit muddy and a little bit like the outdoors) and chocolate (because there was a bowl of it near me). What does quiet smell like for you?
  4. A quote from Maya Angelou that has stayed with me for a few months and I keep referring back to it, especially on the rough days – “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

I wish you a beautiful rest of your day. Perhaps something in my updates will bring you a smile or cause you to reflect. Perhaps you will think about what quiet smells like in your life. Perhaps you will think about what a wonderful day it is today because it truly is one of a kind (even if it feels like nothing particularly special is happening).

Recharging my soul

I wish my soul had an indicator bar like a battery on a cell phone or other electric devices do. I wish that indicator would send me an alert message when I was at 25% or 10% of my capacity and then I would pause and “recharge.” If my soul sent me an alert that I was at 5% or 1% I could immediately stop everything and rush like a crazy person into a frenzy of soul-recharging activity, similar to what people do when they see their cell phone batteries are at 5% or 1% or less. The frantic rush to an outlet or a charging pad or running in between offices asking if anyone has a charger that can be borrowed – I am sure we have all seen it or experienced it with a cell phone or a laptop or a tablet – the single-minded pursuit of recharging and not letting the battery on the device die.

What if we did that when our souls were running on empty? What if we actually took the time to recharge to 100%? Can you imagine people suddenly realizing they were running at 5% of their capacity and rushing to a spa for a massage or a hike to a beautiful waterfall or resting in a field watching clouds float by? What if you were sitting in a business meeting and the person next to you suddenly jumped up and said “gotta run, my soul’s at 5%” and they rushed out the door to camp for a week and knit hats? How awesome would that be if we took care of ourselves like we take care of our electric devices?!?!

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So if I were my own best friend I would really listen to my own advice this time and recharge my soul to 100% (or as close to 100% as I could get). If I were being totally honest (and why not be totally honest) I would say I am charged to about 20% most of the time. I dip down to 10% (and become a bit cranky, ¬†sorry people who live with me) then find a way to claw back up to 20% or so. But I cannot remember the last time I actually charged myself back to 100%. I believe I should treat myself, my soul, as good, if not better than my electronic devices. So I challenge you to check in with yourselves – how “charged” are you these days? Are you at 100% most days (if so, way to go!)? Or do you hover in the lower numbers most of the time, feeling a bit empty or run down? What could you do to recharge yourself? What could you change in your life to consistently run at a more “charged” level? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions – just food for thought as you go about your day.

Wishing you a fully charged life!