Three years.  Jesus.

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Three years ago this morning, my superhero dad took his last breath, going down swinging after fouling off a shit ton of pitches hurled at him by the devil known as cancer.

His loss and the impacts of it are bigger than words and more obscure than any other feeling I felt prior to feeling this one.  Nothing captures it, because some spirits simply exist outside the bounds of any norm or any vocabulary.  

And I suppose that’s why this time every year finds me more reflective than usual, thinking thoughts, playing music, closing my teary eyes tight in the hopes that a scene of my life with dad will play on the insides of my eyelids…

Am I sad?  Sure I am, when I think about what happened and I start missing him and I have trouble conjuring up the sound of his laugh, but for the most part, actively, I’m not.  I will never think of him without a pang of sad, of missing, of longing, of wishing…but the most important part of how amazing he was was how much he loved his life, especially when life was not being particularly kind to him.  No matter what the news, there never was a trip home from the hospital that didn’t include a good laugh, with him always delivering the funny line.  So I try to honor him in how I love every day.  More patient. More in the moment.  Wrapped way less tight.  So today, I’m thinking about things like the sun, this cold can of seltzer water, that the sound of music playing through the UE Boom is fantastic…I’m thinking of family and friends and laughing and not wasting a moment.  He didn’t.  He didn’t get enough moments, if you ask me, and that will always make me sad.  And mad.

So in his honor, I make a choice.  And I choose happy.

Miss and love you, dad.  You’re the best!

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I See him There, in the Birds…

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So I see my dad in the birds, especially in the hawks…for whatever reason I believe they are part of our collective story.  From the time they swam in my pool right before he died…and looking at the pictures was one of the last things we did together…to the ones soaring intermittently overhead…to the occasional times when one has swooped toward the windshield, gliding up and over, as if it dropped in to say hi.

That’s how I take it, and that’s all that matters.  He was all about nature, and I indulged him his bird talk, maybe because I actually enjoyed it.  It’s different now that he’s gone (what isn’t?), but I find comfort in the birds…as if he’s someone still managing to be here, with me.

This weekend we did our almost-annual trip to Ogunquit, our first without dad…in our favorite little shop I saw this small stone bird, which I bought as a reminder of him and all of our good times and if all that he was and is to me.

Before our walk along the Marginal Way to Perkins Cove, we put all our food in the car lest the seagulls be tempted…and returned to our beach site a few hours later to find that the seagulls had gotten into our garbage, and our other bags…so those of us who had undergarments in their beach bags (not me) were greeted by bras on beach chairs.  When we were driving home and a hawk swooped the windshield, we were sure that my dad had ordered the seagull attack, and that he was close by, laughing.

Musings For A New Year

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I’m not a big fan of looking in the rearview mirror. I’ve long said it gives you a bitch of a stiff neck and increases the odds that you’ll miss something right in front of you. With that perspective in mind, though, I think that every now and then there’s some value in taking stock of one’s life and one’s learnings, in order to use those lessons as a springboard to greater mindfulness in the coming year. 

So now, as I look forward to 2016 without looking too far into the future (you miss what is right in front of you and/or on the periphery if you do), I consider the following things (random, stream of consciousness):

 

This is the biggest and the heaviest bit of it all which, unlike most big and heavy things, is probably why it floated to the top. 2015 was the first year of my life that my dad wasn’t part of any of it. I could go on and on and on about how it is without him or how any of us is doing or what I’ve learned from his not being here. But the real bottom line for me is that while one adapts and one can choose happiness, when all is said and done and I actually think about it, I always conclude that things were better when he was here. It’s like everything now gets appended with a “but…” or and “if…” Not in a bereft regretful way, but for sure in a factual way. That’s the way it is, so you move along. But it’s like once you experience great loss, your overall capacity for happiness permanently decreases. You can still max out, but in different (lower) ways.

 

Making positive or necessary change. They say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit (and how many days of skipping something to break it???), which can be overwhelming. So this year I advocated for a two-week plan, encouraging myself and my friends in certain dire emotional/relationship/exercise/professional straits to bear down for two weeks “just to see” how things went. And in all cases, getting through two weeks gave the focus and desire and commitment needed to continue, because in two weeks, the good was illuminated already. So if you have a situation, take two weeks to work on dealing with it, and then re-group. Trust me.

 

This one’s a little materialistic, to the extent that it involves a thing. Or in my case, a pair of things. Like LL Bean 10” Shearling Lined boots. My mom got them for my birthday. In short supply. Made in the USA. Worn today for the first time, and damn, do those things kill it. A thoughtful and generous gift from my mom (she knew they were backordered which is why she made sure I had them in May), and I appreciate every stitch and every eyelet.

 

Don’t make life too big. Focus on your sphere of control. Find happiness and joy and beauty and light in love in what is close to you. Invest in yourself and the people you love. Celebrate small victories. Celebrate big ones. And more importantly, celebrate the losses with smaller-than-expected margins of defeat. Take any excuse to celebrate. Make any excuse to. You only go around once. If you make life too big, you get lost in it, or focus on stuff that is outside of what you can influence…and it takes away from your ability to enjoy and influence what is nearby.

 

If someone’s important to you, tell them. Often. Even if it drives them kind of crazy sometimes. Or tell people infrequently. Just make sure that you tell them at least once. They need to know. Explicitly. Because it will make them feel good. And they’ll never wonder. And if someone is important to you and for whatever reason you can’t bring yourself to tell them, at least don’t take them for granted.

 

Mindfulness & wellness may seem like overused, trite, and trendy words. But the practices of them are much underutilized, and really can lead to a sense of calm, compassion, acceptance, and peace. So try getting in touch with your breath, and watch what happens. Read 10% Happier by Dan Harris if you don’t believe me. I think 10% is a low estimate. I work for a company that sponsored a 4-week practice for us. It was great reinforcement, and also gave me a chance to meet some co-workers I wouldn’t know otherwise. Which takes me on a side path…my new job. There are dozens of new people in my life because of my new job (started March 30), and my life is enriched for knowing them. Let your circle expand every chance you get. This is not in direct conflict with “Don’t make life too big” above. This is a natural evolution, a natural expansion, which is a nice balance to the natural subtraction and contraction. Ebbs and flows, pluses and minuses, pros and cons…all about staying balanced in the aggregate. Right?

Believe in Karma.  Karmic alignment is critical.  Be karmically correct.  The Golden Rule rules all.  It’s all about the balance baby.  What goes around does come around and sometimes it picks up speed along the way.

Assume positive intent.  Honestly, why would someone who loves you have anything but?
Sometimes it’s hard to be the better person.  But it’s hard work that is worth it.

Never underestimate the value of a smile.

It moves fast. Pay attention. Enjoy the ride. Be the driver. Be the passenger. Look out the windows. Take it all in. It’s gone an instant, so keep your eyes open.  Enjoy it.
 Best wishes for a full, happy, and healthy 2016.

 

 

 

Days = Lives

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It’s been said that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.  I’ve not posted in a while, because I’ve been spending my time working.  But I haven’t been spending my life working.  I’ve been spending my life living, cramming as much happiness as I can into as many spaces as I can, spaces small and large.

And while I thought, for a little while, that life has just been too busy lately, it hasn’t been.  All my time is full, living.

So think about that and until I post again, live your life.

5,000,000,001 Ways To A Whole New You?

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Here’s the thing.  Well, here’s a thing: I’m an awful sleeper.  I got the bad sleeping gene, and I have tried to manage around it.  Counting sheep forward.  Counting sheep backwards.  Just plain counting, in any direction.  Counting backwards by threes.  Starting at 3498.  Tylenol PM, Advil PM. ZzzQuil.  Melatonin.  Quitting caffeine.  Exercising at the right time.  Eating the right food at the right time.  No TV.  No electronic devices.  Meditation.

Bottom line, no matter what, in the aggregate, I get little decent sleep.

Here’s another thing: for Christmas, I got a fitness tracker.  The Microsoft Band.  It’s pretty awesome.  “Especially” at telling me how crappy I am at sleeping.  This month, I’ve slept 20 times.  I track the few naps I do take because I suspected (correctly) that I get my best sleep in these roughly one-hour periods.  Anyway, over that time period, I note a few things:

  • I really suck at sleeping.
  • I’m usually awake for one hour during the course of the night.
  • The one hour of awake time is spread over seven separate wake ups.
  • I average 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep a night but have to work really hard to get it.
  • Of the 6:51 I’m asleep, only 2 hours and two minutes are restful (29%).

So the Band is great for tracking steps and workouts, and for other things like alerting me to text messages or incoming calls.  But what about this sleep nonsense?

I read a lot.  I’ve mentioned before that its important to me to kind of inundate myself with information and ideas to keep me motivated, to inspire me to think.  But I’ve also mentioned the importance of picking and choosing what resonates with you so that you’re able to respond to what you read and really give it legs.

That said, too much helpful information recalls to mind a line from an old Shel Silverstein poem, that “some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.”

Consider some of what I’ve been reading as I consider my sleep woes:

  • 6 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Fall Asleep
  • 8-Minute Guided Yoga Nidra Meditation to Help You Fall Asleep
  • 10 Tips for Great Sleep Tonight
  • How to Fall Asleep When Your Mind Won’t Shut Off

And as I ponder all of this helpful information, I start to worry that it will take me half the night to go through these activities and checklists…it loads me up with a thick layer of anxiety, and that’s before I even realized I haven’t even considered what behavior changes I might have to undertake leading up to bedtime.

Now, consider some more of my reading list:

  • 5 Things Happy People Do Before Getting Out of Bed in the Morning (Overachievers, those pesky happy people.)
  • A 4-Step Morning Routine to Guarantee a Great Day (Guaranteed? There’s a sucker born every minute.)
  • 11 Life-Changing Rituals for an Excellent Start of the Day (Doing 11 things in the morning better give me more than an excellent start; the piece above lead (tricked?) me to think four things would give me a whole day of great!)
  • 5 Things Healthy People Do Before Starting Their Day (So I guess if I want to be healthy and happy I have to do 10 things?  Or 21 things if I want to ensure I get off to a good start?)
  • 7 Things Healthy People Do Every Morning (Wait.  Seven things?  I thought it was only five.  So am I up to 23 things I need to do before I get out of bed or is it 28?  And how can I possibly do all these things before I get up?  I’ll have to set my alarm for the middle of the night.  Oh my god.  I probably won’t have even fallen asleep by then.)

But what about the rest of myth motivational reading, reminding me how to stay present, be successful, eat right, stay fit, lose weight, manage life as an introvert, avoid regret, what friends to keep, how to pray, what to wear… and all in fewer than 10 steps or less than five minutes a day?

Or maybe I just need to focus on “How to Get The Benefits of Meditation Without Actually Meditating.”  But after doing my morning checklist and my bedtime routine and taking care of myself in the middle, how can I find the time not to meditate?

Bottom line, take bits and pieces to motivate yourself, and keep moving.  Don’t get bogged down by what other people tell you or what you think you should do.  If everything great could be done in only a few steps or a few minutes, the world would be very different.  But would it be better?  I’m not so sure.  Do what feels good and right for you.  Do what makes you happy.  Do what helps you sleep well at night.

I’m done for now.  I’m going to the gym.  I’m not sure it will give me a six-pack of steel abs or help me sleep or get me better friends or a better job.  But I’ll feel good and I’ll feel happy and maybe I’ll sleep better tonight.  And what does it matter what anyone else does?  It doesn’t.  So go.  Do.  Start.  Happy.

Psst…Pass It On…

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As you try to find your stride with making the changes you want to make, I hope you find yourself exploring and trying things and learning about yourself in new ways.

I’m continuing to explore diet and recipes and all that good stuff. There is no shortage of recipes available on the interwebs, so I’ll make a point to keep passing along gems that I find, like this one.

These were absolutely delicious. I can see myself eating one before a morning run, or as more of a dessert, say, with mini chocolate chips added.

Five minutes is all it takes, 10 tops…though waiting for them to harden before cutting feels like an eternity.

Enjoy!

MC Honor Run: Update

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I just posted about this. The next day, we were talking about it during our Mother’s Day Brunch. We discussed the amazing young woman in particular honored by this year’s race (Capt. Jennifer Harris) and the fact that her father was there and spoke briefly before the race began. My sister wondered whether we found the race sad and said she thought she would…her 14 year old son (and my nephew, who also is my running pal for this race) said, without missing a beat, “Yeah, but that’s why you have to run, mom. It’s important.”

I was and still am so proud to have shared a very special race with a very special young man.

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