Category Archives: real life

“Just Take a Deep Breath and Do Nice Things”

Folks who’ve dropped by here before may recall references to my frequent bus riding companion. I love seeing her in the morning and in the evening and sometimes find myself smiling with so much relief that she’s just THERE. Like bookends to my day. This little human connection, odd as it sometimes is, adds so much.

Recently I heard about this super cool project called Humans of New York (HONY) that posts quotes and photos about everyday people in NYC. With over eight million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City. It has also become a #1 NYT bestselling book. It’s such an amazing example of how connection feeds and nourishes us, and how belonging is like oxygen.

Wanting to belong, to feel connected can come out in such weird, trivial ways. I recently started using this Google Chrome extension called “Momentum” that you can personalize as your home page. It asks you what your main focus for the day is. It also says, “Good morning [insert your name here].” I personalized my page on my home tablet to say “Good morning sweetie!” and it’s absurd how happy this makes me feel. For my main focus of the day on my home machine I’ve been writing things like, “love everything about yourself today,” or just “love everything.” It’s a tiny act of self-love, supported by goofy technology.

So back to my bus friend. She was recently telling me about some work stressors, and usually I tune in and out because I’ve heard them all before, but part of me is always waiting for “the line.” The line is the thing that she’s going to say that suddenly shifts the conversation from a litany of complaints to something major, and worth taking in. Towards the end of her last description of irritants, she said, “So I decided that all I could really do was to just take a deep breath and do nice things.” And there it was. The line.

Just take a breath and do nice things. Of course. Of course. My own personally-delivered version of John Wesley’s famous wesleyadmonition. My hope for you is that you are on both the receiving and giving ends of this deeply lovely sentiment as often as possible. And as always, that you stop by to tell us about it.

Today’s poem is again by David Whyte. Note how he moves towards suggesting that what we truly need may very often be seeing the reflection of ourselves in the eyes of another; feeling our own bodies through another’s touch. Just our real, physical, tangible presence is all we need and all that’s required.

With love,

Leslie

Second Sight

Sometimes, you need the ocean light,
and colors you’ve never seen before
painted through an evening sky.

Sometimes you need your God
to be a simple invitation,
not a telling word of wisdom.

Sometimes you need only the first shyness
that comes from being shown things
far beyond your understanding,

so that you can fly and become free
by being still and by being still here.

And then there are times you need to be
brought to ground by touch
and touch alone.

To know those arms around you
and to make your home in the world.
just by being wanted.

To see those eyes looking back at you,
as eyes should see you at last,

seeing you, as you always wanted to be seen,
seeing you, as you yourself
had always wanted to see the world.

– David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press

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Filed under belonging, connection, poetry, real life

God Is a Street Fighter. With Sharp Elbows.

Poetry, like God, does not dwell in the periphery of life. And like God, poetry is “a street-fighter, with sharp elbows” (David Whyte). Both poetry and a relationship with something greater than yourself demand awareness. And awareness is essential to staying alive.

90WoundednessSo when I ask, “When was God present in your life today?” it is an unsentimental question. I am asking you when you felt the shared woundedness of being alive and the rawness of connection, without which, we don’t have a chance.

Was it when you got into a cab, and the driver, a woman you know, said, “I apologize for being late. I lost my son. I mean, he died. I mean, he was shot and killed. Two weeks ago. And I just, you know, can’t wrap it around my head yet. So just bear with me.” Was it then, when you prayed for something–anything–to come in and fill the space around such a precious, agonizing, searing expression of human experience?

Was it in the persistent kindness of a friend, someone whose insistence on reaching you finally made it through your self-absorption and woke you up, again, to the awareness that our most disastrous fuck-ups and heartbreaking struggles are also the openings that allow us to be on the receiving end of extraordinary kindness?

Was it when you confessed some huge, complicated, emotionally overblown nonsense that had taken up residence in your head, and the friend who was listening looked directly at you and said, “Girl, that is some sick-ass shit you’re doing to yourself. Just stop it.”

wounded heart

When did God show up and make it possible for you to stay here, right here, today, awake and aware? And where do you need help with this? Is it in the phone call to a sick friend you’re afraid to make? Is it in all the small things that, when combined, make your state of mind become a state of mindlessness?

Ask for help. Ask for courage. Ask boldly, as a “child of the king.” Help comes, breathing space into the impossibly tight corners, the frozen lungs. And in your own inhaling and exhaling, you will help someone else remember to breathe.

Enough

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life/
We have refused
Again and again
Until now.

Until now.

by David Whtye

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Filed under faith, poetry, real life

Into 2012–Keeping Calm and Carrying On

Our family received so many lovely holiday greetings this year while ours never made it out.  Such is life.  We did manage to host our 2nd Annual New Year’s Day Open House, and a more wonderful way to mark the new year I couldn’t imagine.

Both the holiday greetings and many of the conversations we had with people at the Open House affirmed something I’ve been thinking about since the holiday season started and the “family and life update” letters began coming in.  And that is that we are all so much the same.  We mark our years by family milestones, the births of children, the losses of those we love, good health and bad, work struggles and successes, time spent doing what needs to be done.  They all seem to send the same message: we are carrying on.

I’m struck by how hard we are all working at figuring out if we’re doing the right things, living the right ways, making the right choices.  One car or two?  Church or alternative spiritual practice?  Giving material gifts or “experiences”?  Are we doing right by our kids, by ourselves, by the world around us?

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You’ll Be Embarrassed That You Read This

I thought my self-esteem had bounced (literally) back from the Spanx debacle, but this morning, a little boy at Gabe’s daycare asked me if I was having a baby.  And I WAS WEARING stomach slimming underwear!  It took all my strength not to drive home and go back to bed.

So just to make myself feel better, I am posting this repulsive image of Khloe Kardashian and her Spanx misfortune.  And then I am going start taking up a collection for liposuction.

But before that, let me share with you a much more forgiving and self-affirming perspective than I can muster from American writer Janet Burroway:  “Why, I say, should I ever have bitterly blamed [my body] for such trifles as I have blamed it for: for having too much flesh in this spot, too little muscle in that, for producing this wrinkle, that sag, that gray hair, or this texture?  Dear body!  My dear body!  It has gone about its incessant business with very little thanks.”

P.S.  Thank you, arms and legs, for not pushing that little boy over and making him cry.

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Filed under humor, real life, self esteem

My Garden is Nicer Than Yours. And I Have the Name Badge to Prove It.

Yesterday was the annual Garden Walk in our fair cities, where gardening is a religion.  The Garden Walk is an event where you pay lots of money to walk through other people’s gardens that are much nicer than yours will ever be.  Like many religious ceremonies which purport to inspire you to transcend your human flaws and encourage you to be a better person, this one shows you examples of what you should aspire to be, highlights your sins (envy, sloth, greed), and leaves you feeling grovelly and inadequate. 

To combat this, my sons and I made fun of the plethora of floppy straw hats and unflattering khaki shorts.  Also, as a defense mechanism against my feelings of inadequacy, we made a little list of the ten most inappropriate things you can do on a Garden Walk, which you can read below, and possibly use if you are ever in this situation.

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Filed under gardening, humor, real life, self esteem

Humiliation (Warning: Contains Graphic/Deeply Embarrassing Material)

Well my friends, for anyone awaiting the fourth and final post about dining with David Whyte, this is not it, but I promise that it’s on its way.  This post is about humiliation (mine), and I’m sharing it on behalf of women who are tired of the mythology of Spanx.  (By Spanx, I include the plethora of other slimming garments, including, but certainly not limited to: “no waistband” pantyhose, anything with the word “muffin top” in the name, caffeine-infused pantyhose, spandex items that “smooth” your belly, your ass, your thighs, and your back fat.  And betrayal of all betrayals, the Dr. Oz-endorsed “anti-cellulite leggings,” which one delighted “user” claimed allowed her to lose 18 pounds in 14 days.  She is probably on life support at Northwestern Medical Center, but she may have very smooth thighs.  Though I sincerely doubt it). 

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Wise Young Voices: The Best Mother’s Day Gifts

In my quest to become more domestic (more on this soon), I’ve been scouring “Ladies Home Journal” and “Women’s Day.”  In one of these magazines (or perhaps it was “Real Simple”), I read about one mother’s approach to Mother’s Day, and though she was pretty vague on the details, the bottom line was this: she asked each of her 9 (or 12 or 15) kids to write (or draw) a message to her.  The confusing part of the article was that sometimes the messages related to Mother’s Day and some to her birthday, but never mind.  Nothing about motherhood is perfect. 

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Filed under creativity, motherhood, poetry, real life