Love In-Between

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Sometimes it feels like we jump from one special occasion to another, as if crossing a creek, hopping from stone to stone.  Halloween, for example, will be the next stone for our family this year.  My 11 year old started counting down to Halloween when she began planning her unicorn costume sometime in June.  Next, it’ll be my birthday, then Thanksgiving, other daughter’s birthday, and then, Christmas.  You get my point.

We mark life with major events, like weddings, births, graduations, job promotions, relocations, and deaths. I do think it’s important to acknowledge these with revelry, gifts, showing up to celebrate, and for the last, appreciation, love, and support.  What about all the other time, though?  The waters of life that flow briskly by as we plan for the next stone, awaiting the next big happening?

This, I would argue, is where, when we take the time to notice and savor, we find so much love.  Not the big, romantic, write-home-about-it kind of love, but the love that sustains us and makes us content with our lives.  It’s in the flow that we discover moments that fill us and carry us forward with no fanfare, but often, a quiet and profound appreciation.

I’m talking about waking up to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee made just the way I like it, because Rad knows, and he’s also put my favorite travel mug and coconut milk out next to the french press.  It’s the sound of my dog’s claws moving along the hardwood floor at a frantic pace, excitedly anticipating our morning drive to drop off kid 3 at school.  It’s the cool fall breeze kissing my skin as I walk outside.  And the Snapchat from kid 1 living across the country, assuring me that 1) he’s alive; and that 2) he remembers his mom; and 3) he’s smiling, so things hopefully are going well today.  It’s the excited tone in kid 2’s text sharing that her english teacher is delighted with her writing ability.

It’s the click-click-clicking game the squirrels play to torment my frantic dog, eager to climb the Oak to reach them.  And the hug from an old friend as we run into each other while grocery shopping.  A passage in a book that brings tears to my eyes because it’s so true and so real and so magic.  My weekly hula class where I have learned to bravely chant, learning and holding close so much I somehow missed earlier about the culture in which I was raised.  Cutting into an avocado and finding it just the right ripeness, yielding just enough to my touch.  Causing happy surprise by helping a stranger on the street. Or sharing a compliment, guerilla style.

There is so, so much love in the water between the stones.  Allow yourself to slow down and immerse yourself in it.  Let it bathe you in gratitude and joy, and wash away all that other noise that depletes you.  There is, after, all, so much love in-between.6tdqIcWtRiO3mia0ehedTQ

A Personal Reflection of Charles Bukowski’s Poem, Bluebird

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My dad. I’m fairly certain he had a bluebird in his heart, so deep down not many knew of its existence.  He passed away 5 years ago, alone, in the bedroom he rented from a minister who ran a “sober” house.  A house in which 4 men, all strangers, each inhabited a bedroom and shared the common spaces.  Like college roommates without any connection to each other whatsoever.  And minimal conversation.

Of course, when I called my sister to join me in saying goodbye to his body, stiffened in an upright, seated position, we noted that his blaring tv was set to a sports channel, and we wondered what he had been watching for his last moments.  He hated sports.  We sent him off, packaged in an awkwardly shaped body bag to the the local medical school, and emptied his room.  There was a backpack tucked deep in his closet, filled with emptied Jim Beam bottles.  He had a couple drawers of clothes, and a laptop.  And, propped on his dresser, a framed photo of us taken during our childhood.

Our mother was forbidden from visiting.  She was, as he claimed all too often, “an asshole.”  Theirs was not a civil divorce.  His girlfriend of 15 years had evicted him a month before he died.  He clung to his cell phone, undoubtedly hoping for her call during his last day.  She never phoned.  I could only imagine the drama they had shared.  God knows, we witnessed 20 years of it in our own house.  The angry silences, the excuses after his late nights, half-concealed bruises on my mother, the slurred rants, plates smashed against walls, the tears.

Clumsily moving aside these images, I choose to focus on others.  The drives to school, windows rolled up, cracked open just a touch, so that the cigarette smoke could meander up and out, but only after leaving us with its stench.  We carried the lunches he prepared for us . . . the mini pizzas accented with added mozzarella and slices of lunch meat.  We didn’t have the heart or courage to tell him that by noon, the cheese and meat would have congealed into a cold mass.

He would sing sometimes, eyes closed, head tilted upward, smiling and feeling every word of Bridge over Troubled Water.  When we scattered his ashes in the ocean, my sister and I anchored our canoe, shared stories, and sang his favorite Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel songs.  We knew song was how he allowed his bluebird to appear.

I wondered how long in the past it was that others could see that bluebird as well.  So many secrets that, like the bluebird, peered out every once in a while.  Secrets that forced my dad to guard that bluebird fiercely from a childhood spent moving from family to family after some hushed abuse, mysterious not-to-be-shared time as a sharpshooter in Vietnam-era Southeast Asia, countless fights, a lackluster attempt at self-employment, and failed relationships.

Somehow, I have a confident knowing that today, my dad’s bluebird is perched next to him, both of them singing wholeheartedly and with so much feeling.

Hey! Let’s go Jolly Catching! 7 Ways to Boost Your Mood.

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Am I wrong in thinking this is what we most need right now?  Really, there’s been a lot to digest over the past week or so.  I’m not going to rehash it all, because we have continuous news stations that will provide examples at any given moment.  What I could use, and I’m guessing, you too, is a big old dose of the JOLLIES!

Guffawing, warmth, peace, hugs, ooey-gooey love, all up and over our everything.  I found myself happily mesmerized by a video of a cat in a shark suit riding a vacuum cleaner this morning.  And, truly, I am a committed dog person.  This signaled to me the need for a spirit cleanse.  STAT.

So, here are the best places I can think of to go on a Sunshine-for-the-Soul Safari.  I have no doubt that you have many other ideas, and I would LOVE to hear them.  Really, there will never be too many sources of jolly for this world.

1.  Your Friends.

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Let me qualify this suggestion, because not all people we consider friends will work here.  I’m talking about the friends who are your true-blues.  The ones who leave you feeling like you’re smart, gorgeous, kind, and loved.  There may be one or two of these precious people in your life.  If you have more, you should be buying lottery tickets regularly.  It may also be that this friend happens to be a dog, a cat, or a bird.  Frenemies, drama-seekers, and energy vacuums need not apply to the Soul-Sunshine Safari.

Once you identify and contact a friend of this rare and precious nature, combine with one of the following options, or just hang out for a talk.  Better yet, have a talk while feeding your body some sort of delicious and healthy food.  A double dose of yummy is always helpful.

2.  Mother.  Mother Nature, that is.

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Get outside and breathe some fresh air.  Contemplate clouds.  Listen to water running.  Look at a body of water, the bigger the better.  Climb a hill.  Sit under a big tree.  Watch grass blow in the breeze.  Let raindrops serenade you.  Dive into the ocean.  Let the sun caress your skin.  Pick ripe fruit and take a big old bite.  Harvest vegetables from a garden and  eat them with a meal.  Lie on the grass.  Walk on the grass barefoot.  Nature is a reliable source of peace and comfort.  I’m not saying you’ll be giggling wildly as you sit in a forest.  I’m pretty sure you’ll feel comforted, though.  You are an important and lovely part of a very big picture.

3.  Work it Out

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The power of exercise to lift a mood is well established.  That doesn’t mean you should go out for a long run if running isn’t your thing.  Or take a Pilates class if it makes you feel uncoordinated and you watch the clock the whole time.  Move joyfully.  What feels like play to you? Do that!  Even better, combine your happy workout of choice with one of the preceding suggestions and your results will be even better.

A good dance class taken with friends works wonders for me, and is my fallback.  I once practiced yoga in the middle of a majestic redwood forest, chanting and all, and felt completely renewed.  I might mention that this was with a group, all clothed, and in Mendocino County, where such an activity is totally acceptable and expected.

If an all-out sprint down the beach or around a track is cathartic to you, do that!  If you need some cheer, get up off the couch and move around.

4.  Laugh!  A Lot!

Hang out with those people who inspire laughter.  With whom you can let go and see the humor in everyday situations.  My favorite is to hang out with friends and start laughing so hard, our laughter becomes a  silent clucking, tears sliding down our cheeks, stomach muscles in a bind.  That kind of laughter must be like medicine for our souls.  Watch funny movies over dramas.  Go out and sing karaoke with your people.  Play Cards Against Humanity.  But, only with people who already love you no matter what comes out of your mouth, please.  This is a game that will get you rolling.

Alone and in need of a chuckle?  Turn on your computer and search the word “funny”.  Look through Netflix and Hulu for movies that make you laugh, or TV shows to make you smile.  My kids and I keep a good supply of Ellen Degeneres on DVR for light comic relief.  Whatever it is that takes you away from your worries for a bit should be kept at your fingertips for easy access.  Important stuff.

5.  Be Positive about Yourself

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You are amazing!  Own it!  Live it!  Self-depracation can be too much, really.  I’m not saying you should go out and have a parade in honor of yourself, but make an effort to gracefully accept compliments and appreciation.  When someone tells you how good you look in a certain color, or that your efforts have really paid off, say, “thank you.”  Let it sink in and swish around until you are a little bit taller with a little more color in your cheeks.  Save a little in your pocket for use at some later date.  If no one is around to notice the excellent action you’ve taken, don’t be afraid to give yourself a little “nicely done!” and a smile.

Also, when you look in the mirror in the morning and your eyes immediately zero in on a percolating pimple, take your focus to your shiny teeth, to the definition in your shoulder, or to your sparkling eyes.  See the good.  There’s so much there.

Are the voices of doom chanting at you as you head off to give a talk or interview for a new job?  Thank them for their concern, but remind them that you are a capable individual ready to succeed, but able to survive a fail.  No need to scare yourself out of reaching farther or trying new things.  Each day is an opportunity to step out a little farther from our limiting comfort zones.

6.  Be Positive about Others Too

Gossip is another joy-kill.  Eliminate any put-downs or criticism for a week and see how it affects you!  I bet you’ll feel better about life.  Remember that none of us are perfect, and we all do the best we are capable of doing at any given time.  Appreciate that you may be having an easier day or life than that person who gunned it to beat you to a coveted parking space.  It can’t be easy going around all day worried that there’s not enough.  Wish that individual happiness and abundance.  Lift others up whenever possible.  Make karma your bestie and not that other “b” word.

7.  Sleep

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I don’t know about you, but when I get less than my 7 hours of sleep, every issue of potential concern becomes a hairy monster breathing down my neck.  I also tend to find everything exceedingly irritating.  My behavior, I’m sure, is charming at these moments (ha!).

Sometimes, sleep is elusive when the world feels hostile or unsafe.  In times like this, I love going to a guided meditation recording (thank you, Deepak and Oprah), or just listening to soothing music.  Don’t forget to practice your slow, deep breaths.  Read a happy book.  Take a few minutes to rest with your legs up the wall before going to bed.   End your screen time an hour before going to sleep.  Make your room dark, and try to keep it cool.

Getting adequate sleep will make the previously discussed Soul Safari steps more accessible for you, and will lighten your load.  What do you do to make your days happier?

 

 

 

 

Really, Einstein? Ditch my People?

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If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”   – Albert Einstein

I’ve never really connected with this quote.  It seems like such a pessimistic point of view.  Like the way to be happy is to create distance from our people and favorite things and attach to achievement.  Goodbye, whiskers on kittens.

Today, I ran into it again and it took on a whole different flavor.  It made sense.  Either I’ve become more Einstein-like (very likely), or perhaps I’ve evolved emotionally another notch (I’ll take this option as well).  You might be thinking that I’ve barricaded myself away from my family and have donated my favorite pillow to a good cause, but I’ve done neither.  I’m actually living quite happily surrounded by both.

The past month has been a bit funky.  Not George Clinton, good funky, but funky in a disturbing way.  My roof surrendered to the rain.  My garbage disposal quit, and my pipes clogged.  Water rerouted to all the wrong places.  A passing ruffian removed my super-cute, berry-colored Kate Spade purse gifted to me by my family from my possession.  He took it from my car through the passenger side door and made a run for it.  I happened to be sitting in the driver’s seat at the time.  One of my children, who shall remain unnamed, created a bit of drama.  Nothing major, but enough to make waves in the household for a couple of days.  There is a chance my husband and I had different ideas about how to manage this disruption.  Funky.  Funky, but fine.

But guess what?  All is well.  Great, even.  We have a shiny new roof on the way.  I’ll be sure to have friends over for a glass of wine and some roof viewing when it’s ready.  What fun!  The water is all running appropriately now.  I’ve pulled an oldie but goodie of a bag out of retirement.  It’s dotted with memories.  A formerly beautiful leather tote spattered with spit-up, spills, and wear to boast a fine patina.  A kind woman discovered my pink purse in the bushes and returned it to me, noting that we ladies need to stick together.  She filled me with soul-felt appreciation.  It was drenched with rainwater, but also contained my keychain from my first day at Barnard College and some photos that miraculously survived the water.

My anonymous child created an opportunity for renewed communication in the family.  “How was your day?” “Good.” “Fine.” “Okay.” was momentarily replaced with talk about expectations, love, emotions, and the stuff of self-help books.  We, too, became shiny for a while.  I’m pretty sure we’ve upgraded and are all a bit closer now, too.

So, Einstein, I see your point.  My most important goal is to appreciate the good in life, to keep happy memories close to my heart, and roll with the adventures we face with grace and to learn the lessons they hurl our way.  Possessions are ruined, stolen, and lost.  People make mistakes and may disappoint.  Life’s funky foibles can serve to expose what really matters and wash away the cluttering debris.  Beneath the stained, aged, and sometimes battered exterior of our lives lies an intricately woven web of memories, connections, feelings, and growth.  My take on this quote?  Stockpile in your memory those experiences that have set your soul aglow, love deeply, ride out the bumps, and you will develop a fine patina of happiness.