“August.” What is it about these particular 31 days? For many of us, August conjures up memories of the last month of summer: hot days by a pool, camping trips, back-to-school shopping or those final days before we left home for college. These 31 days were named after the first Roman emperor in 8 BCE in honor of several of his great conquests. The word “august” – when used as an adjective – means “majestic, venerable, or inspiring admiration.” There’s a little restaurant that I love in NYC called “August” and they cook with farm-to-table ingredients – certainly a way to inspire the admiration of our local farms and countryside!
If you’re anything like me, turning the calendar to August leaves us wondering, “Where did the summer go?” before it’s even over. So instead of preemptively lamenting the passing of another summer, what better way to honor the spirit of August than by focusing on ways that we can inspire admiration and majesty in ourselves? So for this August, I am challenging myself – alongside hikes with the dog, lazy summer evenings and a trip to the ocean (finally!) – to 31 days where I do something that makes me feel better about who I am. 31 Days of Admiration.
Whether it’s a small thing that I would normally do anyway (taking the dog for a hike) or a larger task that I’ve been putting off (annual physical), the idea is to do one thing each day for the next 31 days that will hopefully make me feel better about myself or lead me to make decisions or changes that truly show admiration for myself. Take a look at my 31 Days of Admiration Inspiration and let me know what yours are! If you miss a day or are just seeing this post, any amount of admiration is good!
Here’s to inspiring admiration!
We've all done it. I do it and then my friends text me and say, "Why on earth do you do that?" Sometimes, after I do it, I go back and try and get rid of all the evidence of what transpired. Then, after we've convinced ourselves it's over, there's that nagging reality that what we did is still out there. Somewhere.
Facebook conversations...fights, actually.
It happens the same way each time: a friend posts something on his or her wall that is politically or socially charged, we post a comment in support of (or in opposition to) the posted item, another person post a comment contrary to our viewpoint and then the conversation fight begins. The winner is usually the one who either has the most "likes" on his or her comments or is the one who gives the ultimate "I choose not to engage with you on this level" blow. The problem is, we already engaged, our opponent doesn't consider us the victor and the original poster (whose post we hijacked) is left wondering why he or she said or shared that in the first place.
My Facebook conversation fights (FCFs for short) usually happen with people who treat our President like Santa Claus (electing to consider him "not real") or people who deny climate change or "aren't homophobic, but...." FCF rarely happen with people we are actually friends with - unless one is in the habit of keeping cyber company with people they generally don't get along with. (Facebook community pages are another major source of FCFs but I don't have time to go there.) So after a recent FCF with a friend of a friend about how Obama "isn't [her] president," I woke up the next morning wondering why I - why any of us - do this?
I know there are published articles and studies about social media, narcissism, conflict and peer engagement - I'll leave those to whoever wants to find them. What I realized is that by hiding behind Facebook we can always claim ourselves the winner or the one who takes the higher ground. We can stop the conversation without regard to the other person's thoughts or words. We can go back and erase our comments leaving an odd-looking "why is this woman arguing with herself" stream of comments. But we don't win. We can't win.
When we engage in a FCF we are arguing with the proverbial brick wall. So maybe instead of arguing from with the wall, we should step away and find a real face...or a book.
I was trolling through Instagram and saw I post that was posted "8 weeks ago". My first reaction was nothing - 8 weeks...I can count those on two hands. But then I stopped and considered what "8 weeks ago" was: two months ago it was May and I was still in throws of the academic year. May is a month that screams "Almost there!" yet require patience as we decide if it's still spring or finally summer.
What strikes me is not the math - yes, 8 weeks is two months - but rather our perception of time. We can all remember what we did last week and then the previous week and so on.... But I think what really jars us is when we're caught off guard and what seems like "yesterday" happened many yesterdays ago.
Anniversaries. Memorials. Milestones. Reminders.
Our minds are particularly adept at trickery. Or maybe we're just more adept and trying to trick our minds.
Like most of us, when I was a young child, I couldn't wait for to June arrive (that's when school let out in California up until the late 90s in case you were wondering). So back up one month to May: Spring Break was past, Easter Eggs (and more importantly the candy) were way gone and all those standardized tests were sealed, sent and "statistified." Remember, in California there are no "snow days" and so the latter part of May became a waiting game for the end. I can't remember how many "extra recesses" we got or the number of independent work periods (read: no work) we were granted. As a child, the last weeks of May - as the temperature climbed higher and higher and we could almost smell the chlorine of the pool - were an excruciating period of waiting, dreaming and planning about what we would do with those cherished 90-or-so days of summer.
The other day - during one of those teasingly hot May afternoons - I was jogging/walking/jogging and I stopped as if something innate (almost primal) was awakened within me. The combination of the temperature, light and smell of the earth reminded me, "It's almost summer!" That awakening got me thinking about that powerful and uniquely human emotion: summer!
As a child, summers are a carefree time where days spill into nights and where water and heat commingle in a delicious (and oppressive) pairing. But then, as we get older, summers begin to take on more weight: change, transition, uncertainty. Whether it be our transition into high school seniors (my most cherished summer) or that frightful time after college graduation, our human rhythms are actually timed to reset and recalibrate (or rewind) in the summer.
I've certainly had my share of fretful summers - in some ways this summer (2014) marks the first time in many years that I am not undergoing some major life change. So that got me thinking about what it means to enter - once again - this time of year that became emotionally hardwired for excitement, angst and (dare I say) fear. Do we enter it with wistful thoughts of the past? Or possibly with fear or anxiety about what lies ahead? Or do we finally get a chance to enjoy a summer by the water not worrying about the Fall?
I'll see you by the pool.
I have to confess a secret pleasure of mine: listening to or watching TV/music/news that are polar opposites from my political/social/religious views. I like to consider it a personal form of schadenfreude. My favorite form of self-inflicted outrage comes from the conservative Christian enclave...most recently "The Message" station on Sirius Radio.
Driving home after a exhausting weekend I needed something that would keep me alert for the final ten minutes of the trip. "I know, let's listen to contemporary Christian music...that will get me going!" I said to myself. Lo and behold was dear Amy Grant singing "Don't Try So Hard."
Now before anyone dismisses this as a religious-themed post, I ask you to stay with me, gentle reader.
The song, "Don't Try So Hard" (lyrics here), basically is a typical me-centered approach to God, salvation and our struggles and doubts through our lives. But what got me - what really got me - was the refrain: "Don't try so hard." Yes, the song talks about being too hard on ourselves (for our transgressions, flaws etc.) but it's basically a dulcet manifesto to complacency.
As a therapist and musician - and as as human being - I have learned, first hand, that the things in life that matter require work...lots of work. To be told that we should just relax and let things be (don't try so hard) is disingenuous. Things that matter require work...and patience and love. None of us are born with an innate ability to accept ourselves and other for who they are (or aren't). None of us can simply silence the inner voices of self-doubt and fear that plague our thoughts and emotions every day. It takes work.
I'm not saying that everything in life should be a struggle. The important things, however, will require more than a simple laissez-faire attitude. Society tells us that we must be thin, toned and tanned...most of us aren't - it takes work to overcome those voices. Most of us measure our worth against magazine images and reality TV shows...never realizing that those images are anything but reality. We define love and worth in terms of material possessions and Facebook "likes"...failing to see that real human support and relationships surround us daily.
So I say life should be work...hard work. Make it matter. Care about it. So try...try hard - I'm sure Amy Grant did.
Today my partner said, "You know, your life is about to change in less than thirty days." "Really?" I asked. "Hadn't thought about that."
At the end of the month, I'll be making the move from New York City (albeit the woodsy parts of Riverdale in the Bronx) to Nyack (a quirky little village on the Hudson River.) We have talked about moving out of city for a while now. Too much...noise, congestion, garbage, rent. The decision to move, from my perspective, was less about a lifestyle change and more about living in the place that I work and enjoy spending my time.
When I moved to NYC from Atlanta in 2008, I had created a fun and ambitious "30 things to do in the first 30 days" list. Items ranged from the touristic to the mundane. In retrospect, making the list was more fun than trying (and failing) to complete the list. I look back on those excited months and days filled with anticipation and excitement and wonder if I should be having similar feelings about this move. Am I missing something?
Truth be told, I lived in the NYC suburbs for a year in 2011 - so I've already "left New York" once before. I rode the commuter train, schlepped into the city for work/school/dinner with friends, and sat around on Saturday evenings wondering what the heck I was doing "all the way out here!" That time for me, however, was different - a move made necessary due to an ended relationship, a new job, and a new chapter in my life.
I took a walk this past weekend to take a look at my new (our new) apartment and along the way I noticed the hill that gently caresses the sloping streets of Nyack and thought, "This is where I'm supposed to be." I've always had a thing for mountains in the distance - maybe I should have moved to Denver? But whatever that affinity is about, I knew in that moment that this is where I need to be.
No lists. No going-away parties. No dreams of how my life will suddenly change.
Just the peaceful and contented recognition that my life has and is changed...I'm just simply playing catch-up.
In no particular order, I offer a list of things that bring me joy/make me happy/make me feel grateful...what are yours?
The early morning light from my kitchen window
Listening to music from my high school years
The Golden Girls on Lifetime
How my cat runs to the door when I come home
How my cat bites me when he's done with the petting
"Come, labor on" and a few other Anglican hymns
The sound of the coffee grinder
Hearing, "Hey babe, you're home!"
That feeling after the gym when I didn't want to go in the first place
The smell of onions in the saute pan
Colored Christmas lights covered in snow
Seeing the gloaming sky from anywhere on earth
Driving without a destination
The smell of an extinguished match
The memory of my grandmother's voice
Looking at magazines with no intention to purchase
Walking through Central Park
Talking to my mom on a Friday night
Looking up flights to exotic and distant places
Chocolate and peanut butter
Two dozen white roses
An afternoon nap
Today I broke a coffee mug that I had for about three years. It wasn't an antique, heirloom, or anything expensive. In fact, it was from the store Anthropologie. But it was a gift...a gift from a former partner.
Just to be clear from the start: I've happily been in a relationship for over six months and two of us have openly talked about each of our respective pasts. "Getting over" a past a relationship is different for everyone - there is none of that formulaic nonsense -- (three months for every year, etc.) This is how I like to view it: each day the pain and hurt is a little less than the day before. For me, to have a wonderful man in my life who gets me - gets that - means more than anything. But still...the mug.
It wasn't as if every morning when I poured my coffee I thought, "Oh, how I miss him...." But during the relationship (which was long-distance), that mug, like pictures and little mementos, were imbued with fraught meaning and significance. Having that mug break this morning while I washed up seemed rather timely.
The adage, "Act as if ye had faith, and faith will be given to you." seems particularly apt for me these days. I know what I feel but what I feel is sometimes confusing. So instead of questioning, doubting, or over-thinking (my favorite), I have recently chosen to actively live as if those questions and wonders didn't mean so much. In fact, whenever I felt more drawn into the past, I intentionally forced myself to be more immediate - more present. The result?
The mug broke today.
We all carry our pasts with us all of our lives...but how we choose to live and act in the present is up to us. For me, it means leaning on the love and assurance of others when I might not feel so steady. And that...is faith.
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.