Amazeballs

I believe in love. I believe in great love. I believe in amazeballs love.

I’ve been through periods of cynicism regarding love, and relationships, after a long, lifeless, loveless marriage, which, truthfully, is still in the death throes of divorce proceedings. Through a subsequent friendship, a long, flirtatious, friendship and much, much, convincing, not on my part, I found love again. The kind of love that overcame objections, a number of large obstacles; timing, money, distance, family, career, and so, was a great love.  It had amazeballs potential.

But now, even as that love withers and dies, trapped behind the very obstacles it once surpassed, I find myself only bitter in momentary fits. Only when alone, without music, and a project to occupy my mind. Across several thousand miles, I manage to feel the void, tangibly. I have  grown, matured, evolved. Maybe. Or I am delusional. Not. Perhaps I have overcome some personal obstacles and, now, find I still have faith and hope that love is pure, that it is possible and, maybe even, in the right conditions, lasting. And that love can be amazeballs.

Funny to come to the conclusion that love has the potential to last in the face of yet, another relationship, dying a young and tragic death. Perhaps it is in the autopsy, the forensic exhumation and dissection of that corpse that I discover my hope spring.

Obstacles.

Obstacles
Obstacles

I’m on a plane, now, near the back. I just made it. Moments ago, I was on another plane, near the back. As we landed in Minneapolis and started to deplane, I observed the obstacles ahead of me. My connecting flight to Chicago was already boarding. My flight to MSP landed in the far reaches of the C terminal, my flight to Chicago was departing from the G terminal. The Moment the chime sounded, everyone leapt to their feet and into the aisles of the aircraft, all anxious to deplane. Even the elderly woman who, earlier, required assistance just to stand, sprang to her feet with shocking agility, ahead of me. Not that I would push aside anyone, I just kind of thought she’d require assistance, a wheelchair, an attendant, maybe, to make her way to, and then up the jet bridge. As the passengers slowly, oh so slowly, gathered their belongings and filed towards the door, I, again, glanced at the time. The elderly woman was finally able to move forward and apparently, the energy she expended in jumping to her feet was all she had. She crept. Crept, crept towards the door. I am sympathetic, in the most anxious manner, but, still, sympathetic. Once, finally, at the door of the aircraft, more obstacles; a child seat in the midst of the path, the elderly woman stopped abruptly for the wheelchair that had been brought. Three attendants were assisting her, straddling the random child seat and wholly blocking the jet bridge. I went all “track and field” and hurdled the baby seat. And ran. Well, no, walked briskly.

Obstacles
Obstacles

I began my very long journey from arriving gate to departing gate. Sign after sign, moving walkway after moving walkway. Obstacle after obstacle. Passengers milling about, dazed, confused, drunk, I don’t know, but they were in my way! The moving walkways have a code, implied or expressed; stand to the right, walk to the left. Here, it is expressed, a sign hangs over each of the numerous, and I do mean numerous, moving walkways. The moving walkway itself is divided by a yellow line, not unlike a roadway, with “stand” and “walk” painted at intervals. The walkers, today, were leisurely strollers. First, could there be a “run” lane? And, second, what is the protocol for passing? Passing these obstacles. The only time I have ever missed a connecting flight, solely because of the distance between gates, was as this very airport. The only time, ever, in nearly seven years of frequent travel. I made it, of course, just as my boarding group was called, and, per my modus operandi, I was the first of my boarding group to board. I am skilled at this maneuver, not always proud of my tactics, but skilled, and somewhat insistent. More obstacles, overcome.

This not a smiley face, this is the MSP marathon I ran today. So many obstacles!
This not a smiley face, this is the MSP marathon I ran today. So many obstacles!

Obstacles. If only we were all masters, all so committed to overcoming them, littering our path with obstacles to whatever it is we’ve set our sights on, whatever it is we hope to achieve.

Obstacles kill love. Obstacles killed my own amazeballs potential love. Hey, don’t look at me, I was going all “track and field” on those obstacles, too! But obstacles, also, once made it great. So, per my examination, in my coroner’s report, I shall claim that obstacles were both the cause of death, and the cause of life, for this newly deceased love. I shall attempt to explain my hypothesis.

I believe that love, without challenges, without resistance, without obstacles, is doomed to a brief and fleeting existence. A flash in the pan. Not much more than an infatuation, requited, for a period. There is nothing to cause the love to grow, to overcome, it was created in perfection, in an idyllic setting, and had nowhere to go, nowhere to evolve, no reason to grow. Similar to the vineyards I live near that produce great wines; if the vines struggle, the fruit is superior. Weather, poor soil, other climatic hostilities, all cause the vine challenges and it’s these types of challenges that make the best fruit and therefore, the best wine. At the end of two years of severe drought, a devastating earthquake, a horrendous hail storm, the grapes just harvested this year are reported to be very, very good. In the face of adversity, growth and great success.

When Love is Greater than Obstacles, love can be AMAZEBALLS!
When Love is Greater than Obstacles, love can be AMAZEBALLS!

If obstacles can both cause love to flourish, and to die, then how does one survive when the other fails?

I believe it has to do with the ability of the lovers to take on the obstacles before them, between them. To adapt to change, to accept the circumstances before them, between them, and to persevere. Overcome. And bear amazeballs fruit. When love is put before the obstacle, ahead of the obstacle, as the reason to persevere, then, in that struggle, the climatic hostilities, the love struggles, flourishes, and then thrives. It amasses greater strength and resiliency, becomes hardier and far sweeter. It’s when the obstacles are put in front of the love, by one lover, the other, or both, as an obstacle to growth, an obstacle to perseverance, that love is blocked, like a dam in a stream, or a barricade in a road, blocking one lover from the other, cutting off the circulation, like a blockage in an artery. And then the death.

Why, then, does a couple, once capable of putting their love before the obstacles, then, change, and allow the very same obstacles to destroy the energy and hope in love they once shared? Why do people turn from challengers of obstacles to prisoners? Conquerors to victims? Trapped, helpless, hopeless, pathetic. This, I’m afraid, is the mystery I can’t yet solve. Why the change of heart? Like a man digging a tunnel to the richest vein of gold, and giving up an inch too soon. Maddening, tragic, incomprehensible. But, human, I suppose. Tragically, tragically human.

We were so close. It was right there. The richest vein of gold.

Diamonds from coal. It isn’t instant. It isn’t just a little while. But, wow, is it ever worth the wait!

The ability to tackle obstacles, really, is the key to all success, not just the success of love. No one ever achieved greatness with ease. Ever. Without exception. In every account of phenomenal success, the trail has been littered with obstacles, obstacles that were overcome, obstacles that others shrunk away from, cowered before, withered at the sight of. The great, the mighty, the successful, and the wise, challenge those obstacles with great effort, intensity and tenacity.

Every failure, large and small, is the result of an obstacle meeting an unwilling opponent. Without exception. Without exception.

Lottery winners, in more instances than not, end up worse off than before their great fortune. Fortune is only, truly, a fortune, I believe, when the result of toil, trial, tribulation and tragedy. Obstacles. A great many obstacles.

Seekers of amazeballs, lasting and lustrous love, those of us willing and able to tackle an Everest, a K2, a Mt. McKinley, to cross an ocean, a frozen tundra, a continent, Canada, a time zone, for the sake of the sweetest most divine fruit, how do we find one another? How do we identify each other? Is there a code word, a secret handshake? Or do we just continue to suffer with the weak, the meek and the timid of heart. Is that our challenge? And what fruit will be borne of it? Will we either find that other great conqueror, or become lonely, half crazed, prophetic, poets?

When Obstacles are Greater than Love, it dies
When Obstacles are Greater than Love, it dies

Are we, “adventurers in love”, then, if we are willing to challenge obstacles to sweeten the fruit? Are we more amenable to change, to challenge, to adversity, generally speaking, than those willing to let a great love die, repeatedly bashing it against the same little rock?  What sets us apart?

Am I alone in begging for change? I crave change? It is a fact that I sat on my “tuffet” the other night, meditating, or praying, some may say, for change. I prayed over and over and over, “change everything.” I guess I got what I asked for. And I can’t exactly go back and say, “no, wait, let me rephrase that! That’s not what I meant.” Ah, but, I shall be stronger, and wiser, and perhaps more successful for it, though. Perhaps? No, I am certain.

And as I shake my head in disbelief, fighting off those occasional fits of bitterness, and anger, loneliness, longing, and emptiness, I seek solace, solace in knowing that being dumped by someone so weakened by the passage of time, like I have an expiration date or something, and the perceived “insurmountability” of a few, wee, obstacles, obstacles I have been wailing at with pick, axe and shovel, and making huge progress towards obliterating, is probably a blessing. Such limitations may have prevented me adventures I crave, my wanderlust, compromised my passion to spread my wings, to experience, to see, to do, to be. To be in amazeballs love, someday!

Treadmills

I’m not one to succumb to fear, to even admit fear. I do have fears, plenty, but I seek to overcome them, to meet them, as a challenge, and annihilate them. I am far more afraid of dying in a recliner, clutching a remote, watching other people live fascinating lives on television than I am of ‘most anything else. I’m a doer, not a viewer.

An Effort to Evolve

Last year, I did admit to a fear; treadmills. Not treadmills themselves, but the act of running on a treadmill. I have completely obliterated that fear and can run quite effectively on treadmills now. And do, when I must. I will always prefer running outdoors, through the countryside, the suburbs, or bustling urban streets.

An Effort to Evolve

Then a video compilation of “treadmill fails” circulated around Facebook last week and I took pause, and reconsidered my former fear of treadmills. I shall remain steadfast in saying “I am not afraid of running on treadmills”, I do, however, have a healthy respect for them and I will exercise (no pun intended) due caution. In other words, you are not likely to see me on a treadmill a) in high heels b) on a pogo stick c) on a bicycle d) on a unicycle e) while roller blading f) on a skateboard g) on a stabilization ball, stabilization balls have no place on an unstable surface, that’s oxy-moronic (moronic being the key word there) and, finally, h) while someone else is monkeying with the speed setting.

An Effort to Evolve

Fair enough?

A fear of mine, though? Not making progress.

While reconsidering fear, and treadmills, my mind naturally wandered to how this applies to life. That’s just how I think. One of my “concerns”, or, fears, if you choose, is “the treadmill of progress”. Have you ever felt like you’ve done everything right? Set measurable goals, based on your roles in life and your core values? Made a daily, concerted effort towards that goal, day after day, week after week, month after month, and made no progress? No forward movement? The treadmill of progress; running, panting, sweating, still in the same place!

Have you ever noticed people at the gym who dutifully hop on the treadmill, poke a few buttons and stroll along for ten minutes, then head for the shower, and claim to have “worked out”? Versus those of us who ramp up the incline, the speed, and the duration, with every passing workout. You can hear me breathing across the gym when I’m on the treadmill. I kind of make a scene. Let’s not get started on a discussion about the step mill! I’m so sweaty I look like I’ve been swimming when I’m done! Though I am going nowhere, I am making progress.

An Effort to Evolve

But, again, when we’ve done everything right and we seem to be making no progress, we are expecting to be moving forward, but the scenery isn’t changing and we’re staying in one place, what’s gone wrong? We’re stuck on the treadmill of progress. What to do?

An Effort to Evolve

For consideration:

  1. Are we present? Are we remaining present in our work towards our goal, or are we anxiously focused on the future? Live in the present, in the moment and be grateful for what minute progress you made today. Don’t look at the whole fence when you’re painting, observe the stroke you make now and admire it. The fence will be finished soon enough.
  2. Are we grateful. We must express gratitude for what accomplishment we’ve made, for the attempt that’s been made, for the effort put forth. If we are ungrateful of our efforts, our progress will be lost in the bitterness. Praise yourself and your toils.
  3. Are we breaking the goal down into small enough steps? Have we sharpened our axe? As Abe Lincoln once (supposedly) said, “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It’s a good quote, whether Abe said it, or not. There is some debate. Anyhow, we should be breaking each goal down to the level of what can be accomplished in a month, a week, today, and, finally, to “what could I do this very moment to further this goal?” We often bite off way more than we can chew. Take smaller bites.
  4. My n’er do well friend, Jardin, wrote an article earlier this week about making excuses, and making adjustments. Sometimes we need to look at the whole picture and figure out what we may be doing, or allowing, that is undermining our progress.
  5. Reconsider the goal. Is it still meaningful, is it still valuable to us? Or have we grown past the goal? Maybe the goal is no longer something we consider worthy, or necessary, and we’ve just been plugging away at it for so long, it has become a habit. A meaningless habit and a waste of precious time that could be better spent elsewhere. Not every goal we set is meant to be met, accomplished and kept. We should be reevaluating and reprioritizing our goals regularly. More frequently, if necessary!

An Effort to Evolve

So, by all means, keep running on the treadmill. But make sure you’re making progress, adjust the settings as necessary, exercise care, and, for heavens sake, don’t fall flat on your face!

Stuck

How many times have I suggested we all face our fears? How many times have I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt on fear? You’d probably think I’m some completely fearless, super brave, incredibly courageous soul. I’m not. I’m quite ordinary, in most respects, and fears are no different. I have a healthy amount of fear, and I do strive to face them head on. I used to be afraid to fly. Some time between childhood and motherhood, I became afraid to fly. I didn’t like being out of control, unable to take over, if necessary. I fly all the time now, without a fearful thought, or nary a concern or worry. I’m a bit afraid of heights, yet I rock climb, I cross streams, backpacking, on narrow log bridges, I’ve been skydiving, and love it.

I used to be afraid of flying. I have evolved. I understand the Bernoulli principle, but still marvel that we are aloft.
I used to be afraid of flying. I have evolved. I understand the Bernoulli principle, but still marvel that we are aloft.

I’m afraid of elevators. I mean, I ride them. All the time. I have to. Well, I don’t HAVE to, but I often work in very tall buildings in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. When I go to the gym and work out on the step mill, I briskly walk up 72 flights of stairs, at a steady cadence, without stopping. It takes me fifteen minutes. Then I proceed with forty-five more minutes of cardio, followed by weights or an hour and a half of yoga. But I’m really, really sweaty, after just the step mill. So, yes, I could walk to the top of the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, but I’d be too gross and sweaty to make a good impression on my clients! So, I opt for the elevator.

I am normal. I have fears. I fear elevators. I fear elevators that stop elevating.
I am normal. I have fears. I fear elevators. I fear elevators that stop elevating.

Why do I fear elevators? Well, actually, I think they’re fun. I like the roller coaster dropping tummy feeling on a high-speed elevator, and, yes, if alone, I will jump when the elevator first moves. It’s not the elevator moving, it’s the potential for the elevator to stop moving. With me in it. Between floors. I’m afraid of being stuck in an elevator.

An Effort to Evolve

Upon entering an elevator, whether I’m at a hotel and only have three floors to travel and opted for the elevator only because I have two full suitcases, or because I’m all dressed up for work and have thirty floors to go in an office building, I always look at the inspection tag to see if the elevator has had its regular, required inspection. If it hasn’t, I fret. Just a little.

This past week, I stayed in a hotel with a lurchy, creaky, elevator, minus the required posted inspection tags altogether. I used it only twice; suitcases up day one and suitcases down for check out. I took the stairs the rest of the time. Three floors, no big. The office building I worked in this week had five floors, there are four elevators, complete with inspection tags, all in good order. I have worked in this office building a dozen times, weeks at a time, year after year. Up, down, up, down, up, down. The elevators lurch and creak and moan and smell kind of like hot lubricant of some sort, but the tags are up to date and everyone seems to rely on them. Except for Chuck. He takes the stairs. But that’s kind of just Chuck.

The other day, my last day with this client, this month, we were on our way to lunch. We had a very full afternoon ahead of us and were intent on getting back to work within an hour. A group of us waited for the elevator. I was headed to lunch with a manager and several of my students were headed to lunch together. So, there were probably six or seven of us in the elevator, in all. We lurched down a few floors, from the fifth to the second. Who takes an elevator DOWN one flight? The biggest, fattest, hairiest, sweatiest, most loud, obnoxious, boorish, attorney I’ve ever witnessed, that’s who. At the second floor, the doors part and here stands this rotund man in a suit, with a briefcase. The elevator was full. Full with just us, six or seven accountants. Well, auditors, actually. The good kind, not I.R.S. auditors. I scoot back and welcome the portly man in, saying something about “the more the merrier”. I’d just been teaching my class about risk assessment, so I cracked a joke, an “audit” joke, something about “what’s the risk?” At about that time, the doors clenched shut and the elevator did nothing. It didn’t lurch or groan or moan or smell, it just sat there. I could feel my eyes grow about six times their usual size. I’d jinxed the elevator. My mind was racing, so I’m not sure if the voice I heard was the voice of terror in my mind, or if one of my students said, “you jinxed it!”

The fat dude in the suit was way in my personal space, not that anyone had much personal space, but he was definitely way too close to me, with his back turned to me. All I could do was stare at the stubbly, gray hair growing down the nape of his neck and into the collar of his shirt. You know, the hair that most suit wearing men with short hair have shaved neatly? And I marveled, too, at the sheer amount of fabric that made up his suit. I was closest to the buttons, me and Goliath. We both took turns pressing all of them. We finally thought to use the phone in the little compartment of the elevator, beneath the button panel. I could open the little door, but I couldn’t reach the phone without bending over, which I couldn’t do because there was a man wall in my way, so the man wall clutched at the phone with his pudgy fist. Whoever answered that phone got an earful of belligerence and threats and cuss words. The building superintendent and a technician would be sent immediately, we were told.

An Effort to Evolve

Since the elevator hadn’t moved, we were still right at the second floor. We, the auditors, stood passively, quietly, shifting from foot to foot. The massive attorney fumed and shifted and swore. When we could hear voices on the other side of the door, the super and the tech, we assumed, the lawyer yelled obscenities at them and threatened them. I’m thinking; a) great, piss them off and we’ll never get out of here b) there is no fan running and no fresh air source, how much oxygen is this gas bag wasting being an ass hat? c) oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I’m a bit claustrophobic and I was starting to feel pretty panicky. I could just see me totally losing it. No, actually, I couldn’t envision that at all. I’m very stoic, I’d freak out on the inside, but look totally normal on the outside. I guess. I don’t know. I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before. I decide to practice my deep breathing, like when I meditate, to calm myself, to focus. I focus on my breath, quietly. It wasn’t like I was in the corner doing an ujjayi breath, or Lamaze panting, or anything like that. I just breathed real slow, real quiet and real deep and focused on that for a bit.

Minutes passed. Everyone was fixated on their respective phones, scrolling, texting, playing “Words with Friends”. I’d taken a picture and posted it to several social media sites. Just feet, I took a picture of a whole bunch of dress shoes atop a worn elevator carpet and captioned it “stuck in an elevator with a bunch of auditors”. I got no comments, ever. One of my students endeavored to find “elevator music” on his phone and settled for Miles Davis, which I was quite enjoying. But, with each passing minute, the zombie apocalypse version of Rush Limbaugh that stood in front of me would launch into another tirade of curse words, empty threats and large clouds of carbon dioxide.

Stuck in an elevator with a bunch of auditors. And rabid Shrek.
Stuck in an elevator with a bunch of auditors. And rabid Shrek.

More time passed. I was still focusing on my breathing and had begun to prioritize the afternoon agenda, deciding which topics could be omitted and not cause any of these up and coming auditors to neglect detecting fraud in some high profile audit. I began to panic again. So much responsibility, teaching auditors to audit. The future of the stock market, of capitalism itself, in my hands. One undetected fraudulent act, one missed material misstatement, because of a glossed over agenda item in an auditing CPE class and western civilization and the barely recovering economy, lost. Breathe in. Breathe out. Calm. Sanity restored. Perspective regained.

The Incredible Hulk started yelling again. The building super and the tech hadn’t made any progress. They’ve called the “repair guy”, who is “on his way”. We know not from where. Hulk roars; more obscenities, more threats, less oxygen for us all. I’ve taken my winter coat off. I managed to slide my very heavy handbag down to the floor, careful that the gold tassel I so covet doesn’t get trod on by the Clydesdale man beast.

More minutes pass. It’s getting uncomfortably stuffy and hot. I began to worry about a) enough fresh air to sustain us all b) long term, if we are to be stuck in the elevator for weeks, let’s say, who’s going Donner party on whom? c) my hair is going to start frizzing out of control. We heard another voice join the chorus “on the other side”. The repairman. King Kong goes ape shit and actually says, first thing, without any information or indication, without any provocation, “are you fucking Union?” Great. We’re in here for life. One of my mild mannered students, a sweet Kosher kid, finally snaps and says, politely, articulately, “I really don’t think that’s helping.” I’m waiting for punches to be thrown, when, suddenly, the elevator doors begin to part. A hand from outside appears between them, then another, and then the doors are pulled apart. And we walked out, filed down the stairs one floor, out into the cool, fresh Long Island air, and over to Bobby’s Burger Palace for a quick lunch. We left rabid Shrek behind, yelling and cursing and threatening our saviors.

Bobby Flay's L.A. Burger at Bobby's Burger Palace (Garden City, Long Island)
Bobby Flay’s L.A. Burger at Bobby’s Burger Palace (Garden City, Long Island)

Have you ever been overwhelmingly, hopelessly stuck in the elevator of life? Have you ever felt like your life isn’t moving in the direction you thought it would, isn’t moving at all? Do you ever panic or worry or fret, curse, yell or threaten, when things just aren’t progressing? Have you ever felt angry or stressed or sad, depressed, bitter, discouraged, at being stuck where you are? Just like being stuck in the elevator, being stuck in life is temporary, everything, after all, is temporary. Everything will pass, guaranteed. Just breathe deeply, be calm, regain your focus, get some clarity, persevere, and things will work out. If your goal is to go up, or down, in an elevator and the elevator breaks, you still, eventually, get where you intend to go. Or you die. Either way, the being stuck part ends. So, too, in life.

In that elevator, stuck at the second floor, when I felt my irrational panic begin to rise, I recalled lessons in meditation I’ve been practicing. I learned, again, in practicality, that I can control how I react, even if I can’t control the situation. This is something I knew, already, and practice, and preach. But to have it presented to me in a situation I have always feared, always dreaded, reinforced the lesson in such a tangible, tactile fashion, I shall never forget it.

After lunch, when we returned to the classroom, our tale was shared with those who took another elevator, or the stairs. One of the managers told a tale, of her husband, who’d been stuck in an elevator, in Rockefeller Center, when there was a power outage in New York City. They were between floors, in that elevator car, for over five hours. The rescue crew had to break through the wall to the elevator car to then pry the doors open. I listened, in awe, in horror, and my immediate thought was “I’d never survive!” Of course I would survive. Of course I would. I’d come out of it wiser and better able to cope. Or in a straight jacket. Nah.

When I think of the “unsurvivable” things I’ve not only lived through, but from which I’ve ended up growing, evolving, and drawing a great deal of strength from; the death of friends, of family members, the parting of ways of once best friends, divorce, foreclosure, losing the dream ranch, re-homing pets, re-homing rescued horses, low self-esteem, an unhealthy lifestyle. And no regrets, ever, without those “tragedies” and experiences, I wouldn’t be half the person I am now. I was stuck in those situations, in those patterns, in that lifestyle. And now I’m not. They were temporary. I breathed my way through, got clarity and focus and persevered. I’m sure you’ve been stuck in your own elevators in life, and you’ve made it through. What have you learned? That you’ll make it through, at the least. But, did you learn from it, too? Do you carry those lessons with you, to draw from in whatever temporary situation you’re in now, that you’ll face later?

Perhaps you’re stuck right now! Whether you’re stuck in an elevator, in line at Target, in traffic, or in a dead end job, a damaging relationship, an unfulfilling career, an unhealthy lifestyle, in indecision, in a state of depression, or in a world of self loathing and poor self esteem, know that all things are temporary, and with meditation, focus, clarity, time and perseverance, we will get unstuck. Keeping rational, and breathing through it, though, will allow us not just to triumph, but to also glean a life lesson we can remember and draw from, again, if, or more accurately, when, we get stuck next. Going up?

 

 

 

 

SMH

I have developed an unsavory habit and I’m here to own up to it, to acknowledge it and find a twelve-step program to end it.

I shake my head. SMH. A lot.

I shake my head at dumb drivers. I shake my head at slow walkers. I shake my head at loud talkers. I shake my head at bicyclists on the sidewalk. I shake my head at narrow-minded tirades. I shake my head at people who eat junk. I shake my head when people say things I don’t totally agree with and I think they aren’t looking. Sometimes I get caught, and when I do, I shake my head. At myself. For getting caught.

SMH at other drivers
SMH at other drivers

I shake my head so much I’m afraid I’m going to have overdeveloped neck muscles!

Facebook is intolerable anymore. I gave up television decades ago.

Don't get me started on talk radio!
Don’t get me started on talk radio!

I live by the adage “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”. Some people assume I’m shy. Some people. SMH.

There I go again.

Isn’t shaking my head an expression? Non-verbal disapproval or judgment for something said, not said, done or not done? I’d say so. Who am I to judge? We are all entitled to opinions, our unique way of doing things, and if I am polite enough to not criticize out loud, what is all the head shaking about? I am actually sitting here, shaking my head, at myself, as I write about this unsavory behavior of mine. Make it stop!

Maybe that guy is riding his bike on the sidewalk because a garbage truck hit him last time he rode his bike in the street and this is the first time back on his bicycle after months of recovery from his life-threatening injuries and the embarrassment of being hit by a garbage truck! And I shake my head. Probably not, but it’s possible, right? Maybe the loud talker and the dumb driver have a reason, a story, and I have no way of knowing why they are behaving in a manner I consider unsavory.

As for beliefs and opinions; I have my ways, my beliefs, my opinions, and I think they’re good. Other folks do things differently, have different beliefs, opinions, and behaviors, I respect that. I do. And since I respect those differences, why am I shaking my head all the time? It is not up to me to judge, to decide who is right and who is wrong. Maybe we are all right, maybe we are all wrong. Who’s really an expert in anything? Who’s really a judge or an authority to be trusted, wholly? I think we’re all naïve and foolish, we all have much to learn, we’re all just nymphs, neophytes, in the grand scheme. I like how we think we’re THE superior species on the planet. I have my doubts. SMH. That’s my opinion. BTW.

We all have our differences! That’s what makes people so incredibly interesting! We’re all different! If we were all the same, thought, acted, believed and behaved the same, well, I’m shaking my head at how incredibly horrible that would be!

I preach acceptance. I preach tolerance. I shake my head at intolerance, in fact. I, myself, crave acceptance, tolerance and even understanding. I don’t care if folks agree with me, I just want them to understand why I believe, act, do, as I do, accept it and tolerate it. So I don’t understand why I shake my head. I don’t accept it and I will no longer tolerate it. So there.

Since shaking my head has become an involuntary behavior, I am struggling with the means to a cure. If I dwell on it, I’m afraid I will appear stiff and robotic, daring not tilt my head, or turn to gain a better view. I’ll be walking around like a soldier, right face, left face, about turn, head straight, gaze forward at all times. I’ve thought of maybe wearing a hat with dingle balls hanging from the brim, like one of those Spanish dudes, and every time I shake my head, the dingle balls will swing in my view and I’ll know to stop! Or maybe a hat with a bell on it! You’re shaking your head, I know it!

An Effort to Evolve

Well, whatever the cure, I am from this moment on, making the effort to stop SMH, to practice acceptance and tolerance, and to strive for understanding, where possible, and to keep silent in word, and in deed, if I don’t!

 

Scarlett’s Letter May 19, 2014 – Pop Some Tags

Pop Some Tags

I’ve had it! I feel like Jackie Chan in the Hanes “tagless” t-shirt ad jumping around trying to rid myself of the annoyance of tags in clothing. They are so annoying! Some itch, some scratch, some hurt. And for some fashionistas, myself included, the brand name means a lot to us, and there I stand, scissors in hand, deliberating, “pop some tags and have anonymous clothing or keep the highly sought after branding and be miserable?” If it’s Target brand, then, who cares? Snip.

Here I sit in my comfy sweats, my highly coveted “Ed Hardy’s” and the tag inside, in the back, is right at the top of my butt crack and it’s all scratchy. Do I cut the tag out? Or leave it and keep fiddling with it, which makes it look like I’m picking my seat an awful lot?

An Effort to Evolve

Have you noticed? There seem to be so many more tags than their used to be. There are labels for fabric content, in seventeen languages, and laundering instructions, in seventeen languages and weird hieroglyphics for the illiterate, I suppose. I don’t understand the pictures, so good luck with that. Then there is the size tag and the brand tag. I could probably buy a full size smaller in not for all the tags stuffed inside my clothing!

Cut it out. That’s what I do, if it bothers me, I cut it out. Poppin’ tags.

An Effort to Evolve

Do we really need labels? In clothing? On mattresses, couches, pillows, lamps. How about the sticky labels adhered to items you don’t want sticky stuff adhered to? Can’t “pop” those too well.

Labels are bad.

Labels are bad in another respect; the sticky, gummy, labels we apply to ourselves and the annoying, scratchy, itchy, labels we apply to others.

Many folks I know carefully classify people, with labels, like a scientist might a new species; genus, class, species, etc. They begin any account with the race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status, any and all diagnoses, height, weight, sexual orientation and/or marital status, of any person involved in the story. She was a large, poor, white woman, German, I think, about five feet tall and five feet wide. I think she’s Christian, probably voted for Bush, divorced.

We label the ones we love, repeatedly, and expect them to somehow overcome their shortcomings; my nephew is ADHD, on Ritalin, can’t focus, doesn’t do well in school.

We label ourselves; I’m overweight, Gluten intolerant, pre-diabetic.

We even classify ourselves by the prescriptions we take, there’s a weird kinship in pharmaceutical similarities.

When I’m speaking with a chronic labeler, telling a story, and I introduce a person to the story, I use their name, if I know it, or simply their gender. The listener is nearly aghast at the fact I’ve left out so many critical details. Often, they’ll ask me to further classify, or label, the person. I will often say, “Human, you know, a hominid”.  I try to set a good example, there’s probably a label for that.

Enough! Enough. Don’t you see? Labels are limits. Labels are excuses. Labels stand between you and your goals, your happiness, your self-confidence. Labels inhibit, you, and those you label. Cut it out. Break free. Be free. Pop some tags!

 

 

 

Upside Down Pineapple – The Encore

Happy National Pineapple Upside Down Day!

There is a day, a national day of recognition, for upside down pineapples.
There is a day, a national day of recognition, for upside down pineapples.

You depraved souls! You know who you are!

I have written nearly three hundred articles over the past year and a half. Some have been funny, some have been serious, some have been touching, some have been a bit caustic. Some articles have been popular with my public, my readers, others have been completely ignored. But one article stands out from all the rest, combined. There is one article, over a year old, now, that is searched on, read, re-read, perhaps and, statistically is off the charts over all the rest.

Upside Down Pineapple.

I don’t think it was my best article, not my funniest, but it is, by miles, the most popular. How do I know? Like most bloggers, I pour over my stats. Regularly. I can see how many people, from which countries, are reading my stuff. I can see what tags are most fruitful and I can see what search terms people are using to find my blog. I pour over my stats about as much as some of you scour the internet for information on what an upside down pineapple in your grocery cart may mean to those in the know. “Upside down pineapple” has been my most fruitful post, ever, pardon the pun!

What does it mean? What does it mean if it's upside down in your grocery cart?
What does it mean? What does it mean if it’s upside down in your grocery cart?

People love to party, that’s all I’ve got to say! Oh, I know! I was shopping yesterday, with the rest of the country. I’d kind of forgotten the mania surrounding Easter. My kids are grown, they’ve moved far away. We don’t dye eggs and hide them in the yard after bedtime, or before sunrise, pretending to be some deranged, confused, and highly dexterous rabbit. I was giving more though to what time we should plan to be at the restaurant for brunch on Easter Sunday in order to avoid the “after church crowd”, at my elderly mother’s request. Apparently, she wants to celebrate Easter, but avoid the Christians. And now, I have to factor in the “after shopping with a pineapple upside down in the cart” crowd! Yikes!

We beat the Christians!
We beat the Christians!

Another thing I didn’t consider was my safety, shopping, yesterday. The parking lots were jammed, the stores all had crazy, long lines, except for the Verizon wireless store. And Ulta. Miracles do happen! No waiting at the Verizon wireless store, on a Saturday afternoon, after many have received their income tax refunds. I haven’t, I won’t be getting a refund this year, but I was still parting with dollars yesterday. After the Verizon wireless store, I went to Ulta because I was out of my favorite fragrance. Last time I ventured into Ulta on a Saturday, the line for the cash registers had forty people backed up past the fake eyelash display with the cardboard cutout of Katy Perry and deep into the mascara aisle, like the newest Disney themed ride attraction! Or a Harry Potter film on opening night! Yesterday, I was the only soul at Ulta.

So, where was everyone from the jammed parking lot? The egg aisle of Target. And there were no eggs to be had. Employees in red shirts were frantically searching the back catacombs of the store for a, hopefully, large, forgotten supply. Even outdated eggs would have sufficed, I’m guessing. Do people really eat all those eggs they hard boil and dye? For the sake of the ozone and the excessive emission of greenhouse gases, let’s hope not! “Honey, drive the Prius down to Target and get a few dozen eggs so we can hard boil them, dye them unnatural colors, hide them in the yard, find them again and then eat them all and fart a hole in the sky.” Maybe not. It must have been mayhem when only a carton or two of eggs remained in the cold case because there were a couple of cartons upended and broken on the floor. The two Target employees not manning the bank of cash registers in the front of the store or looking for more eggs in the back, were trying to mop up the messy egg goo from the floor. Somehow a large bag of flour was involved. All they needed was some shortening, sugar, and a pineapple …

After this scene, I dared not venture in to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, which are normally chaotic on Saturdays! Even though Whole Foods had their scheduled wine tasting, I could not be tempted into the doors do that store on this day. I feared not only the egg shoppers, but also the pineapple shoppers, scampering around the store, pineapple upside down in their cart, peering, hopefully, into the carts of all the other shoppers, practicing for the national holiday only a day away. National Pineapple Upside Down Day! I went home and scrounged for lunch fixings from my very empty fridge. And drank wine I had on hand. No eggs, no pineapple.

The other reason I didn’t grocery shop yesterday? I left my reusable, cloth, grocery bags at home, again. You just don’t go to Whole Foods, load up your cart and then choose between “paper or plastic”. Once in a great while, maybe, you make a small purchase sans environmentally friendly bagging options, but not a whole cartload! And not today, of all days, the eve of these two food centric nationally recognized holidays!

Happy Easter, too, by the way.
Happy Easter, too, by the way.

All I know, on this Spring day when most folks of the Christian faith will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, some of you, based on my stats, an alarming number of you, will be wandering, hopefully, through some grocery store, up one aisle, down the next, with a pineapple, upside down, in your cart, in “need” of something far more than milk and a loaf of bread, “celebrating” this national calendar day that probably has more to do with a style of cake than a style of life! But have at it! And I’ll go so far as to say, I’ll bet there are a few who will celebrate both occasions! I only hope you can find a grocery store open today!

Me, I’m skipping church, a tradition of mine for the past several years. I’ll pray at home. Then I’m headed to brunch. And maybe the grocery store, if I can find one open. I have a strange hankering to bake an unusual treat; pineapple upside down cake.

Delicious breakfast with Mom, and not many Christians, this morning at Napa Valley Biscuits.
Delicious breakfast with Mom, and not many Christians, this morning at Napa Valley Biscuits. Best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had, and I’ve had LOTS!

I’m Religious

Religion – a definition:

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

“Religious”, then, being the practice or adoption of a religion. Most church-going folk, then, are considered “religious” if only because of the fact they devote some portion of their time, usually on a weekend, to attend a church service. Whether church-going folk are actually practicing their religion is a whole other story. They could be, many do. Some don’t, and the only religion they practice is the exercise of going to church to be in the midst of those more technically religious than they are. Like the holiness, righteousness and salvation of the god-fearing will rub off on the non-god-fearing church attenders. There is a difference between being religious, then, and being virtuous and faithful to one’s chosen god. My point. But I digress a bit.

So, by the same standard, then, there are folks who don’t attend some church building on a routine basis who are religious in the god-fearing, worshipping, virtuous and faithful way. The act of routinely visiting some building with hundreds of other “believers” does not, then, make one saved. The non-church-going god worshippers are also religious in their belief and practices surrounding their chosen methods of worship of the god they have faith in.

In common, everyday, language, some people refer to a set of secular practices, performed regularly and with a certain amount of devotion as being “religious”. Even godless, non-church-going folk may do some activity “religiously”.  Pagans.

So, then, I contend that someone can be “religious” whether they go to church, or not, and whether they actually believe in and worship some god, or not. When we say we do something “religiously”, we mean that we believe in and practice in some way, something we feel strongly about. We are devoted. I know folks who are religious about watching certain television shows. I am acquainted with people who are religious about swearing and using profanity. I have friends who are religious about adopting stray cats. And, not unlike the god-worshipping devotees, the religious, though some of them may beg to differ, we are imperfect, always, in our practice. Whether god-fearing, church going, or not, we are all sinners, however “religious” we may be.

I am religious.

Non-secularly; I am a believer in and worshipper of some higher power. So I have a belief and a practice. Of sorts. I like to think I live a fairly virtuous life, and may even “qualify” by some standards for an “after-life” or “eternal salvation”. I won’t get into details beyond that. But, aside from worship, godly powers and eternal salvation, I am religious. I have many secular, pagan, beliefs and practices that I follow regularly, that I am devoted and faithful to.

I eat clean. I buy organic, sustainably grown, locally grown, fairly traded and humanely treated food. I buy food as close to its natural state as possible. I not only read ingredients, I try to figure out just how many processes an item of food has undergone before I put it in my basket. The fewer the better. I avoid additives and unnecessary processes, I avoid unnecessary packaging and other practices I feel are detrimental to the environment, my health, or the purity of the product. About this, I am religious. It is a belief and a practice that I embrace, daily, that I am devoted to and follow faithfully. But, I do sin. I am imperfect. Occasionally, I eat crap, a Double-Double at In-N-Out, just because, or I eat M&M’s on a long drive to keep awake and alive. In my travels, I often have to eat in restaurants where I can only hope the food is a fraction as wholesome, unprocessed and pure as I’d like. My sin, my imperfection, however, does not in any way negate my belief and my practice. I don’t just stop believing and practicing eating clean because I sin now and then, by choice or out of necessity.

I exercise. I believe in, and practice, vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Daily would be my preference. I run, I do cardio at the gym, I do strength training, I practice yoga, I attend spin class, and I lead an active lifestyle beyond just my exercise regime. I am religious about exercise. But I am imperfect. I am slender, but still carry extra weight in a few “trouble spots”. I lack the desired muscle tone in other places. And I sin. It is humanly impossible to work out absolutely everyday. And there are those days, too, where I just don’t wanna. My sin and imperfection as a religious exerciser does not mean I am any less a believer in the virtues of exercise in my life. That I sometimes just don’t want to exercise some day or another does not mean I have abandoned the practice. I am still religious about it.

I meditate. I am religious about it. I believe and practice meditation. Not nearly as much, or as regularly, as I’d like. It is a newer belief and practice and I am still trying to integrate it into my “daily routine”. Like clean eating and regular, vigorous, exercise, I believe that meditation offers many benefits for health and wellness and general happiness.

On another note, I’m pretty religious about craft beer, red wine, and ice cream, perhaps a little more religious in my practice than I should be. Hallelujah! Praise the lord! Amen! Pass the offering plate!

I read. I write. I pray. I work really, really, really, hard. I post lots of food pictures to Facebook. All things I am fanatically religious about. All that, and my “daily routine”. I am religious about my “daily routine”. I make lists to help me accomplish all that I hope to in my “daily routine”, but, without fail, the routine is never completed, on any, one, day. Ever. I am imperfect, a sinner. Do I give up on my “daily routine”? No. I believe in it and practice it and it will never be complete or perfect. But it is still good, and I still try. What I don’t accomplish one day, I may the next, and I am better for it, just like clean eating, regular, vigorous exercise and meditating.

My lunch. See?
My lunch. See?

My point. Whatever your religion, whatever you believe in and practice, you cannot, will not, no matter what, ever be perfect and sin-free. Don’t ever abandon your belief and practice of something you find worthwhile because you stray. Be religious and you shall find salvation!

Hallelujah! Amen!

 

 

 

Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!

A recurring theme in much of the reading I’ve been doing lately has been living in the present moment, and, related to that, mindfulness. Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, even Arianna Huffington, all modern teachers of living in the present and mindfulness

I have seen quoted, time and again, on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and everywhere, ” if you’re depressed, you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious, you’re living in the future.” The only time in which we actually live, the only time we can actually make a difference and have any impact, is the present. Have you tried to live and think only in the present moment? Even for thirty seconds? Not so easy, is it?

And, so, enters “mindfulness”, the practice of noticing and acknowledging thoughts as they enter your mind, and then, filtering out those that are based in the past, or in the future. More than that, mindfulness also allows us to identify, acknowledge, and hopefully, derail thoughts that are not beneficial; judgmental thoughts, limiting thoughts, comparisons, and self-critical thoughts, among others.

A practice that helps us hone our mindfulness skills is meditation, and one that all the authors above practice, preach, and promote. I’ve been practicing meditation, off and on, for a few years. Lately, though, in an effort to evolve, I’ve been making a daily practice of meditation. Like yoga, meditation is not something that is ever perfected, it is something, always, that is practiced. Even well practiced meditators, Buddhist monks, even the Dalai Lama himself, have days where their meditative practice is more or less fruitful than others.

I remember the first time I ever really tried meditating; first feeling very self-conscious sitting there with my eyes closed, legs crossed, on the floor. Even though I was alone in my room. I didn’t quite know what to do with my hands, I tried them this way, then that way, then another, flopping them around in my lap like a couple of recently landed fish on the shore. I remember trying to empty my mind of thoughts, I remember not being able to empty my mind of thoughts for more than a split second. I remember getting kind of discouraged and not really trying to meditate again for quite a while. Months later, still reading of its benefits, I attempted meditation again. Again, dissatisfaction with my ability.

When I migrated my yoga practice from my living room a la DVD to the gym, a guided meditation became part of my routine with each class. Still, I struggled with the mindfulness part, but, out of peer pressure, at least I remained still and in good meditative form for the duration. Like yoga, with practice, I improved at meditation during class, and even with mindfulness. On one occasion, I became so mindful I almost dozed off.

In my daily practice, at home, or wherever I happen to be, I feel as though I am gaining ground. Of course, I’ve really committed myself to the practice this time around. And, by “committed” I mean I’ve committed in the best way I know how; I’ve spent money. I’ve bought a dozen Kindle books, I’ve downloaded several guided meditation MP3s from iTunes and Amazon, and I even have a whole folder of iPhone apps with different guided meditations and soothing noises. I even went so far as to order myself a “tuffet” and a “dog bed”, though I think the proper terminology for these items is “zafu” and “zabuton”. Now that I’m heavily invested, I am compelled to practice, regularly, or be consumed with guilt every time I trip over my tuffet and matching dog bed on the floor of my room.

By the way, this is an oft-employed strategy of mine for remembering all sorts of things; put something on the floor in the tripping zone as a reminder. If I don’t want to forget something when I run errands or leave on a trip, I make sure it’s on the floor where I can’t help but trip on it. I even taught my son, Dogwood, this trick, and he employs it often. So this isn’t something just for the middle aged and forgetful. Dogwood will remember something he needs to do in the morning, after he’s gone to bed, so he just takes one of the pillows on his bed and throws it in the middle of the floor. The next morning, he sees the pillow and remembers what he’s supposed to do. At my age, though, if I just see a random pillow on the floor, I just get confused. My tripping objects need to be specifically related to what it is I am trying to remember. Just a strategy, in case you’re so mindful and in the present moment, you forget everything else!

Still, with all the equipage, props and practice, I struggle. More than I should, I think. But I’m committed and I just keep trying. A few things I’ve learned, I thought I’d share, in case you’re in the same boat as me.

First of all, “bed-itation” does not work. In “Zen and the Art of Running”, a great book I read earlier this year, the author, Larry Shapiro, PhD, warns of “sleeping hazards” when meditating. For me, that’s just about anything that isn’t rock hard, cold or incredibly noisy. The Dalai Lama, in “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” while speaking at a large event, warns attendees, all 1,500 of them, that they are likely to fall asleep during a group meditation he leads. “In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness,” he recommends, daily, for eight weeks, a forty-five minute guided “body scan” meditation, lying on your back in “a quiet, warm place where you won’t be interrupted by anyone, or by the phone”. I don’t even have to be lying down to fall asleep in a quiet, warm place where I won’t be interrupted! The body scan begins with becoming aware of the breath, then moves to the left, big toe, then up the body to the top of the head. I can usually remain awake for the left big toe. I regain consciousness again at the top of the head. Sometimes. Other times, I don’t regain consciousness until the audio has moved to another track, like rap music. And, yes, I’ve tried the body scan guided meditation in bed. I fell asleep on the second deep breath. Bedi-tation, a sleeping hazard. Hardwood floor offers some success. Be advised.

Another problem I’ve experienced in effective meditation practice; the medi-libation. I usually practice meditation first thing in the morning (bedi-tation), mid- day for a brief spell, if I can, and before bed. Well, sometime between my mid-day meditation, the end of my workday, and dinner, I like to have a beer. After dinner, I like to have a glass, or two, or three, of red wine. Needless to say, my late night meditation is very relaxed. I do not recommend libations any time before or in conjunction with meditation, I did order my zafu and zabuton in wine color, just in case. Now, for insomnia? Medi-libation, in moderation, may be just the thing!

So now that I have a tuffet and a dog bed, I practice my meditation seated, and (reasonably) sober. I am having more success remaining awake. I am still struggling, and probably always will, with mindfulness. I am improving, but I have to be very mindful about being mindful. And, as I mentioned above, I’m in good company, even the monks themselves still practice this for hours and hours each and every day!

So, mindfulness; focusing on the present and being alert and aware of thoughts that enter the mind, then letting them pass like water in a stream. Piece of cake! No, really, among a bazillion other random thoughts, I am likely to picture a piece of cake, then a zebra, then, perhaps, a Tesla Model S P85. I’m likely to think of what to have for dinner, that cute shop in New York City where I saw all those Christian Louboutin shoes, learning to fishing, my next business trip or Disneyland. I also write articles. Every great idea I want to write about begins as an article, drafted in my head, during meditation. I can’t help it. But, I’ve devised a plan.

Every time I catch my mind wandering, I just tell myself “Wait! Wait! Wait!”

WAIT! What Am I Thinking. It’s an acronym, get it? When my mind wanders and I am trying to be still, I tell myself to “wait”, I take notice of what I’m thinking and then let it pass. Mindfulness. Yes.

Tuffet and dog bed
Tuffet and dog bed

WAIT! When Am I Thinking. If I catch myself focusing on any time but the present, I remind myself to “wait”. I can even think about the past, in the future; I plan how I’m going to recount events and circumstances from the past, in a future conversation. And I bet you do too! How “not in the present” is that? Wait! Presence.

Zafu and zabuton (tuffet and dogbed)
Zafu and zabuton (tuffet and dog bed)

WAIT! Who Am I Thinking. When I catch myself thinking about people, especially if I am thinking judgmentally or am making comparisons, I just have to remind myself to wait.

Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!
Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!

WAIT! Where Am I Thinking. My mind wanders! It’s normal, I know, but as a reminder, when I want to be more focused, I just remind myself to “wait”.

I tell myself to “wait, wait, wait, wait” when I get off track during my meditation practice AND when I catch myself dwelling on past events, future scenarios, limiting, or undesirable thoughts or when I just need to focus and my mind has wandered. It works great! I swear by it! But, be warned, people will look at you a bit askance if you’re shopping for shoes or filling your car up with gas and you suddenly look startled and yell, “Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! then smile and go peacefully back to what you were doing. This from experience.

So, I guess to sum up my very mindful thoughts, today, I’d have to say, just stop, wait, and listen. Namaste.

 

Limbo

I was having wine with a couple of my besties last night, just talking about life. We all had news since we last visited, life goes on and on and on. After updating us on all the developments in her extended family life, one friend stated, “we’re just in limbo right now.” I thought about my life and all the events and developments that have accumulated since last I shared with my friends, I’m in limbo, too. Aren’t we all, though? Aren’t we always? Always waiting for the next step; to grow up, the party, Christmas, the right person, summer vacation, the house, the proposal, the raise, the baby to arrive, the end of the school year, the settlement, the promotion, vacation, the kids to go to school, the crisis to end, graduation, the divorce to be final, the economy to recover, the equity in the house to grow, the diagnosis, the kids to go to college, retirement, the cure, death. Life is constant transition, always in waiting, always in limbo. The only certain resolution to being in a state of limbo is death. As long as we are alive, we are in limbo in some respect or another. Perhaps several.

Interestingly, if you look up limbo in Wikipedia, the first result is the theological reference, based on the Latin word “limbus”, meaning the edge or boundary. Of hell. Often, in life, finding ourselves in a state of limbo equates to a hellish experience, does it not?

Transitioning from one phase in life to another, from one circumstance to the next, from a situation to another situation, from one problem to a resolution and on to the next problem, this is really what life is made of. And to live happily along the way, not hellishly. Like walking, one foot in front of the other, repeat, repeat, repeat and if we stop, we are no longer walking. Are we walking towards hell or are we walking happily?

I used to love to go to the roller skating rink on the weekends. There was nothing I didn’t love; free skate, races, couples skate, reverse skate, the red light/green light game. My very favorite, though, was the limbo game. I was good at it, I could bend way down low and glide right under the bamboo stick even at the lowest setting. There was a trick to winning limbo on roller skates; you needed good forward motion, you had to be flexible, have a good sense of balance, and a certain amount of strength, and courage. You had to have the courage to try again and again as the bamboo pole was lowered, inch by inch, turn by turn.  All of this was accomplished with lots and lots of practice, week after week.

Is limbo, in life, really any different than limbo at the roller skating rink? I don’t think so. And since we are in a constant state of limbo, in life, doesn’t it make sense to approach it happily, like a game, instead of like the verge of hell?

To win at limbo at the roller rink, first of all, you need to be skating. Forward. You need to be in motion, to have momentum. So, too, in life. To make progress in one phase and move onto the next, you need to be in motion, to be moving forward, with momentum. With intention. With deliberation. Nothing ever gets better that stays the same. Motion is critical, in life, in limbo.

Skating under a bamboo pole, set at increasingly lower intervals, is tricky. In addition to actually moving forward, you need to be flexible enough to crouch under the pole. So, too, in life, when we’re in limbo, we need to have significant flexibility. To change, to evolve, to progress, to move, from one set of circumstances on to the desired set of circumstances almost always requires some sort of compromise, some sort of change of plans. The more flexible we are, the more adaptable we are, the more creative we are, the easier it is to find a workable solution to anything we encounter. Rigidity, inflexibility and stubbornness usually result in a lack of progress, stalemate, delay, anger, and frustration. Openness, a willingness to consider a number of possible solutions will often get us through limbo more successfully.

Strength and balance, both, are crucial to successfully skating beneath that bamboo pole. As well in life. We need to have the strength to see things through, no matter how difficult. We must have balance, the ability to focus on the right things, at the right time, to make the desired progress.  Those who fell as they tried to skate beneath the pole lacked either strength, or balance, or both. Those who falter in life often lack the strength and balance to progress as desired.

Life, like limbo, requires courage. Life is not for the meek, the timid or the weak at heart. Without courage, life is merely an existence. To face and overcome obstacles, challenges, and problems, to achieve goals and realize our dreams, to evolve into the people we deserve to be, requires a great deal of courage. Daily, we must face our fears and press on, lest we remain in limbo, never realizing anything close to our potential, always existing on the edge, the verge, the boundary.

And none of this is possible without practice. No one ever gets everything right, in fact, we almost always get it wrong a few times before we do get it right. The first time you roller skate towards the limbo pole, you’re probably going to fall, or knock the pole off the stand, how sad to give up then and there. Play the next round and the next and the next until you develop the skill to skate beneath the pole. With each and every obstacle in life that puts us in limbo, we need to approach it, and if needed, approach it again and again, until we figure out how to get past it. With each success will come a new challenge, and with practice, each challenge will become easier to skate under! With practice, we develop the right motion, the balance, the strength and the courage to succeed, in the game and in life.

So lace up your skates and enjoy your day at the rink and when you hear the limbo song begin, get ready to play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter February 20, 2014

Life is like a hamburger.

An Effort to Evolve

When I was a wee little girl, the only “fast food”, chain, burger place around was McDonalds. We lived in Oakland, California. My mom would take me to McDonalds for a treat and I’d have the audacity to order my hamburger “plain, with nothing on it”. No mustard, no ketchup, no pickles. Nothing. There were always questions, and my mom, my dear, dear mom, who has always been so worried about what other people thought, was absolutely mortified by my unusual request. There were usually some clarifying questions as to what I “really wanted”, and, to be sure, I wanted a hamburger, plain, nothing on it. Some time later, I’d receive my burger and we always, always, always had to check it before we left. More than once we left McDonalds, returned to the car and drove away before I discovered mustard, or catsup or pickles. Icky.

If the burger was, indeed, to order, I’d peel the patty off the bun and eat it, then throw away the buns. This was long, long, long before the Atkins or Paleo or gluten free or low carb craze, or my current preference, “no enriched flour” (as in white, bleached and fortified).

As I grew older and, myself, became somewhat concerned with what others thought of me, I modified my eating habits. I ate the bun. But it was still a hamburger, plain, nothing on it. This continued into high school. We were living in Napa and McDonalds was still pretty much the only game we played. There was a Foster’s Freeze, a Wendy’s, a Nation’s Giant Burger and a Dairy Queen, but my family seemed to be McDonald’s people. Heaven help me. In high school, Burger King came to town and I was so excited! Hold the pickles! Hold the lettuce! Special orders don’t upset us! Remember the jingle? I was a convert, plus one of my best friends worked there. Why would we ever go to McDonalds? Special orders kind of freaked them out.

I was a Whopper fan clear through college and I even matured a little in my order; hamburger, just lettuce and tomato. They’d smile and prepare my burger fresh and hot, right off the flame broiler. I’d still have to check it before leaving the parking lot, just in case there might be condiments where there shouldn’t be.

A few years later, well, after college, I was working full time as an accountant. My lunch hours were often devoted to what could only be classified as “cardio, flash mob, mall shopping”, on a miniature scale. A few of us ladies would pile in someone’s car, drive twenty minutes to the mall, park, shop, purchase, drive back towards the office, grab something from the Taco Bell drive thru, and be back at our desks on time, both fashionable and fed. One day, however, the folks in the car wanted to go to McDonalds instead. We were in the drive thru and really cutting it close, time-wise. I ordered a Quarter Pounder with just lettuce and tomato. There was a long pause from the order taker, some discussion with someone in the background, a manager perhaps, and we were told to pull up and park off to the side. Someone would bring the order out when my special order was ready. We should’ve gone to Taco Bell. Or Burger King. We were fashionably late that day.

I still love hamburgers. I will, if I must, eat them with condiments, but, if I have the opportunity to order my own, it will most def be condiment free. I just don’t like slimy burgers. I can’t help it. I like what I like, and that’s my point.

An Effort to Evolve

Now burgers are the big thing! We’ve still got the “fast food” versions; McDonalds, Burger King, though they flame broil a bunch of burgers, put them in a warming drawer and nuke them when you order. Hey, Burger King, want to avoid another bankruptcy? I have a solution! We, here, in California, and in a few other western states, have In N Out, which is my personal “fast food” fave. There are a whole slew of newbies, not quite “fast food”, but, fast enough; Habit, Smashburger, Shakeshack, Five Guys, just to name a few, and they have really interesting burgers, like Smashburger’s 940 calorie NorCal with brie cheese, applewood smoked bacon, sliced balsamic marinated tomatoes and grilled onions, and worth every calorie, every so often.

An Effort to Evolve

My point. We all like burgers and we all like them unique! Maybe I started it all, maybe not, but these days, like people, no two burgers are likely to be alike. Remember the Nora Ephron movie, “When Harry Met Sally”? And Sally always ordered everything off the menu, modified, with very specific detail? We are all Sally, now, we almost all special order our burger. And, if we don’t, by golly, if we make our own burger, I’m just guessing here, based on my own experience, we’re getting more creative. Are we? I am. Why have a hunk of ground cow on a bleached flour bun with slimy condiments and nutritionless iceberg lettuce and a waxy, store bought tomato? Ugh. Hell no! The burger has every right to be a high art form! So do our lives.

An Effort to Evolve

We can create any kind of burger we want. We can create any kind of life we want. Now you see where I’m going with all this. There may have been an era when the all American ideal was to live in a cookie cutter house, and Mom stayed home and raised the kids while Dad went to work. There were two kids, two cars in the driveway, a cat and a dog, maybe a goldfish, and a perfectly manicured lawn. That was America, at least according to the syndicated sitcoms we watched on TV, that’s what we were led to believe was the “norm”. McDonalds hamburger.

An Effort to Evolve

There is so much more to life; places to visit, different places to live, travel, culture, careers, adventure, sports, the arts. There is so much to see and so much to do, we can’t possibly eat all the hamburgers. We have to choose. My point is, make it a really good burger, don’t settle for what they’re willing to pull from the warming drawer, nuke and pass through drive through window. Build a better burger, Sally!

We have choices, right down to the burger itself. Will it be ground beef, bison, turkey, chicken, moose, salmon, vegetables, or maybe just a portabella mushroom cap? Then, toppings! Wow! Where do I even begin with toppings! There are more varieties of cheeses at the Whole Foods cheese counter than burgers I will eat in the rest of my life, I am certain! And greens? I would never, ever, ever, in a million years consider putting iceberg lettuce on my burger, voluntarily, given all the other choices out there! Have you cruised the condiment aisle, lately, assuming you’re into slimy stuff on your burgers? There are whole arrays of mayos and mustards and catsups, some spicy, some mild, some made with beer, wine, wasabi! I’ve actually taken to, occasionally, adding a really creative condiment to my burger. Though, in my heart of hearts, I prefer mashed avocado to any kind of condiment! Then, the “bread” choices, if you still eat bread! I often have my burger in a leaf of butter lettuce, though I am quite fond of “sprouted grain” buns, these days.

An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve An Effort to Evolve

Life offers the same dizzying array of choices. Truly. More. On any given day, on any given evening, there are so many activities and events available just in our communities and most of us are largely unaware. There are events and activities to suit anyone’s liking; fine arts, performing arts, community groups, hiking, walking, cycling, fishing, movies. Why are we settling for TV? Like McDonalds, we’re kind of missing out. No, I know, there’s nothing wrong with TV and a Big Mac, now and then, but a steady diet of either, or both, is nothing less than tragic.

Beyond our communities, the big bright world. We’re a part of it! There is so much to see, to do, to experience! But, like our choice in burgers, we just need to think about what we really want and then, build it! Do you want a life of travel and adventure? Well? Get started! Do you to live in the country? By the sea? In a different state? Nothing is beyond our means, only beyond the current amount of creativity and effort we are applying. We are capable of making any kind of burger we desire, and, we are also capable of building the life we desire, too. True, it may take a little longer and a few more resources to travel the world, if that’s your desire, but it can be done with effort and the passion to follow your desire and your dreams. Thirty years ago you could never go to a burger joint and get hooked up with a burger with bacon, brie, grilled onions and balsamic marinated tomatoes. Someone dreamed it up and made it happen. So, your life, dream it up and make it happen. Hold the mustard.

Everything BUT mustard!
Everything BUT mustard!