Category Archives: Things to Ponder

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.

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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!

Do turtles jump?

Well, do they? Do turtles jump? Can they jump? Do they want to jump? Have you ever seen a turtle jump? If you do a quick search of the mighty web you will probably find a few videos of snapping turtles lunging and hopping and it looks an awful lot like jumping. You may also find various sites that talk about turtles not being able to jump because of the weight of their shells (the equivalent of a 250 pound backpack on a full grown human) and their overall physiology and other limiting factors. The general response on the internet is that turtles do not jump, unless they are snapping turtles and then stay the heck away. (If you are a turtle expert and know otherwise, then please let me know!).

“OK, so…. what?” you are probably thinking right now. Why is she writing about turtles? And jumping? OK, bear with me. Imagine you are a turtle. Imagine you are hanging out in your turtle space with a little water and a little grass and some fish and some flowers and some bugs. And you are sitting in the sun while a soft breeze blows through the grass, half asleep after your big turtle breakfast. You have a good turtle life. THEN… a frog jumps by and your whole world turns upside down and you think “holy moly that is the coolest thing I have ever seen I have to do that right now. I do not even know what that is but I know it is what I should be doing. It is what I want to be doing.” So you try to jump and you cannot. You tell your turtle friends about what you want to do and they all laugh at you or tell you cannot do it. You tell your turtle parents and they tell you jumping is not for turtles and you will get a respectable job crawling thank you very much. And so it goes.

But you keep trying to jump. Yes, you are a turtle. And yes, you should not be able to do this. But. But. But…

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So, if I were my own best friend and I were a turtle and I wanted to jump more than anything else in the whole big world, I would remind myself to find a way, despite all the evidence and all the feedback and all the limitations.

Because people have done really amazing things despite everyone saying they could not do it or they did not have the skills or they did not grow up the right way or with the right support or with the right skills. Because if you want it badly enough I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way. There is simply a way. So go be a jumping turtle.

Plan A

I was listening to a book last week and one of the characters was trying to convince the other character to do something she was not sure she wanted to do. The first character said something to the effect of “If Plan A doesn’t work it’s OK. There are 25 more letters in the alphabet.”

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I love it. 25 more letters! 25 more chances to make it different or tweak it or try again. 25! I was trying to think of the last time I tried something 25 times in an effort to “get it right” or to get to what I wanted to achieve. The only thing that comes close has been my ill-fated attempts at sandwich bread making which I’ve posted about here before. I might be somewhere around Plan R or Plan S by now and to be honest I had given up, but I have another 8 or so letters to go so I think I’ll try again. However with everything else I think I might get to Plan D or Plan E and then I stop. I am short-changing myself – there are 26 letters in the alphabet! It is time to become more resilient, to not give up so easily, to persevere.

So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to try-try-again, if plan A doesn’t work there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.

And what about you? Do you give each new opportunity at least 26 chances before you walk away? Do you move on to Plan AA, AB, AC and so on? Or are you closer to what I have been doing recently, stopping after a maximum of 5 or 6 attempts and moving on? What could we accomplish if we gave everything at least 26 attempts, each slightly different based on what we learned from the previous ones? Imagine!

Tribes. Revisited.

It was in August of 2016, over 7 months ago, that I last wrote about finding a tribe. It feels like it was only a week ago or maybe a month but that is how time goes these days, fast and furious and recklessly moving forward.

I still strongly believe, maybe even more so now than seven months ago, the following  key things about a tribe:

  1. It’s PEOPLE. Not just one person. I don’t think your tribe (well my tribe anyway) is complete with one person. I think multiple people bring multiple gifts and qualities that make the tribe a richer whole.
  2. Tribes are often formed over time. I think it’s quite rare to step into an already formed group of people who become your friends. I think that is especially rare as I get older. Tribes take time and effort to form. The process is organic and slow.
  3. Tribes change. People move. People move on. People die. People change. The people who make up your tribe will change. I think it is so very important to remember that (especially as we can get set in our ways) being open to new people entering our tribe is a beautiful gift we can give ourselves and the new people who may “join.”
  4. Membership should always be open. This piggybacks a bit on the previous point but I think it is important enough to merit its own mention. If you are part of a tribe, if you have a tribe, if you are a leader of a tribe, please don’t close the membership.

So do I have a tribe? Nope. Not completed yet anyway, but bigger than it was before. Am I still working on it? Absolutely! To reference #3 above, tribes change, and mine is still evolving.

In an effort to evolve my tribe here is a recap of the last half-year. Again, holy crap, how have seven months gone by???

  1.  I have made an effort to talk to people and smile at people and say hello. Even people I do not know. Crazy, right? Yup. I’m that person that smiles and says “hi” if we happen to make eye contact when we are standing in line waiting for coffee. Are you the person who says “hi” back or are you the person who buries your face so deep in your smart phone I would think you were charging the phone with your nose? No judgement, I promise. I have been both those people, but I am trying to do less nose-charging and more “hellos”.
  2. I have especially tried to connect with people even when I feel nervous or awkward because I am not quite sure what to say or do, like if I am at a social event for my kid and there are a bunch of other parents there too. I assume they are feeling nervous or awkward, NOT that they don’t want to talk with me. And I jump right in. As an added bonus I have gotten slightly better at making small talk with random people and I have discovered a few new coffee shops and stores I would never have known about by complimenting people’s shoes or shirts or mugs. Now I just have to figure out how to translate that into a friendship! Baby steps people, baby steps.
  3. I have joined groups that met in person and met virtually online. I have participated and really attempted to connect with the people in these groups. However, it turns out the groups were not quite the right fit for me (like I was the color orange and everyone else with yellow). Everyone I met was very nice and very polite, but I never really connected with anyone. Finally, after six months I was able to say “not my place” and walk away. Which was also kind of scary, because I thought I SHOULD fit and that is why I joined, but then I didn’t. I know though, there are other groups out there and I will keep hunting for that group that is the right fit.
  4. I have been happier knowing I am trying even though it has been hard work and waaaaay out of my comfort zone. Or maybe I am happier because of that nightly foot massage, glass of wine, hot bubble bath, home-cooked meal, no dishes to do… hahahaha, fantasy world people, pure fantasy!  

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So, if I were my own best friend I would remind myself that good things often take time, do not give up, persevere and keep making small talk. Eventually those connections are formed and they grow. Brick by brick is how a castle is built, why not a tribe too? 

Are you trying new adventures and expanding the bounds of your world? Are you already in a tribe and inviting new members into the fold? Are you getting nightly foot massages, glasses of wine, bubble baths, and so on, if YES, then please share your secrets!

 

Funky Math

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself that 1+1 does NOT always equal 2. It turns out that sometimes 1+1 actually equals something more like five-hundred-twenty-six-thousand-and-two. See – funky math!

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And this is why I have not posted here very often in the last three years. Actually I should go back to what 0+1 equals. It is not 1. It is closer to two-hundred-ten-thousand-and-twelve. (And if you are an especially astute reader you will notice that the actual sum of 0+1 (210,012) does not equal the actual sum of 1+1 (526,002). Again funky math!).

I remember learning math in school. So elegant. So simple. Green chalkboard. Solid rules. Learned the rules and the results followed. I loved it. 0+1 =1. 1+1 =2.

And then we had kids. And math does not work with kids. We went from no kids to one kid. And then three years later we went from 1 kid to 2 kiddos. And the additional time spent caring for said kiddos is NOT proportional to 0+1. Because it turns out kiddos are not just “1”. They are feeding and changing and cuddling and keeping warm and dry and teaching. Oh the teaching… how to use the potty and how to eat and how to blow your nose in a tissue (not my pants leg) and how to say hello and good-byes and bathe yourself and… And there is a lot of coffee too, far more than 1 cup a day.

And it is a wonderful, sometimes jaw-dropping, currently exhausting, life-changing experience. But it is also why this space is often ignored right now or put on the back burner. Because of funky math. (But I also love this math and wouldn’t change it for the world.)