What do you want to be when you grow up?

possibility

We get that question from the time we’re able to talk, don’t we? And the answers seem so simple then, a fireman, a doctor, a teacher….I love my son’s answer, an inventor. And hey, sometimes it does come to pass, doesn’t it? And sometimes you hear someone say, “I love my job!” And I always look at them and think, what a wonderful thing and wonder what that feels like. I know that many of us, myself included, still haven’t found that job that we love. Some never do. And is that okay? I mean, I have certainly found several passions in my life, just not a job connected to those passions….yet. Haven’t counted myself out of that equation quite yet. Probably because of something that my favorite high school teacher once told me….that the average person changes careers/jobs at least 7 times in their lifetime. That always stuck with me which is just to say that this is nothing new. It’s kind of an ongoing thing for me, off and on. At one point I thought okay, I have to go after the money because, right, I’m just not a serious person if I don’t. So for a few years I doggedly pursued some careers that I thought might bring me money. Egad, I was miserable! Which is not to say pursuing money is a bad thing….if it’s your thing. The key was that I realized it just wasn’t MY thing. I got to thinking about people I admired, people I considered successful and my father-in-law came to mind. I remember being so knocked out at his memorial service. Here was a man who didn’t own a big house, who was working class his whole life, was not famous or rich…..but there were so many people at the service, it was overflowing. And this was a huge, catholic cathedral! People from the community spoke, people he helped, organizations he was a part of and his family…wow. Not just tears, but big tears, big emotions, heartfelt tributes and music. And I thought, “what a rich man.” Rich in all the ways that matter. What a legacy! And in the end, that is what defined him. As a teenager, I would say that one of my biggest goals, without realizing that it was a “goal”….so let’s say a dream…was to have a solid, functional, loving, fun marriage and family life. As I said, I don’t think I realized it was a goal so it’s not something I particularly sought out. But as I look back on my life decisions, I see that at every fork in the road, I chose love, I chose truth, I chose family. And well, right now, I’m really proud of that. I feel rich. I feel successful. And yes, I know I’m lucky too…and there are probably those who look at me and wonder what that feels like. But for all of us, each day is full of possibility. And it’s okay that we don’t have it all right now or even that we may never get it “all”. But we can still pursue our passions simply because they bring us joy. If a job comes with that, hey, jackpot. But if not, then there is dignity in having a job, whether that job is raising or teaching the next generation, fighting a fire, preparing someone’s taxes, stacking books, pouring coffee. There is dignity there.

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Posted in career, choosing the simple path, epiphanies, gratitude, marriage, passion, what defines us | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Minute meditations…yes, you DO have time to meditate!

ohmmmmmm

I hear it all the time. “I should meditate, I know it would be good for me.” But it seems to be something that we all don’t think we have time for. I remember years ago reading an interview with Goldie Hawn and there was a photo of her meditation ROOM….with her Buddhas, a fountain, pillows, incense, candles. It was lovely.  But how many people actually have a whole room to spare? Not most of us.  My friend keeps promising herself she’ll meditate once she gets her house in order and figures out a meditation area. But the truth is, for most of us, we don’t really have that extra space (although if you do, it’s a great idea) and we’ll probably never do it if we are indeed waiting for a half hour with no interruptions. Yes, maybe you can work up to that, but you better invest in some sound reducing headphones first. But here is something I discovered while reading Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare You”; if you have a minute, you have time to meditate. It’s true. And it works. Any time that you find yourself alone and it’s quiet, for me it often happens in the car, you can do a few deep, relaxing breaths. My favorite is the one where you hold one nostril shut while breathing in deep through the open nostril. Hold both nostrils shut for a few seconds and then release the opposite nostril and breathe slowly out. Then just say whatever you need to say. It can be a prayer, a mantra, a blessing, a desire….ask for what you need in that moment. It can be as simple as “everything’s okay”. It’s just about allowing everything to slow down to stillness, even if it’s just for a few moments. You center yourself and focus on what you want in the moment, in the interview, for the day, whatever it is. I have found this to be tremendously helpful in keeping stress at bay, remembering to pay attention and being present. I do it often. Every day. Now I do have sound cancelling headphones, a beautiful, silk meditation pillow, a beautiful little chime, candles and other feng shui items in my crowded, little room and I used to use them daily. I do hope to get back to doing it for longer stretches and occasionally I get there. But, doing these little minute meditations really helps me to remember the simple path on a daily basis. Try it! 🙂

Buddha in my friend's garden

Posted in being present, choosing the simple path, meditation, one day at a time, paying attention, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Have you had your pink lady today?

mmmmm strawberries

Went to our neighborhood farmer’s market today and as “the apple guy” gave me a free apple to eat while picking out some pink ladies, I was reminded just how good it is to eat something in it’s natural state. Suddenly, I am transported back to my twenties when I was living in Paris and we would go to Sunday lunches at my father-in-law’s. Every vegetable we consumed came from his garden. He belonged to one of those communal city gardens and he went there every day. When we came on Sundays we’d usually start with shredded carrots and shredded beets in vinaigrette…..so simple, but so delicious! The lettuce was always so tasty…just plain, with vinaigrette, perhaps a few shallots. Sometimes there were radishes that we would eat on bread with butter and salt. If there was a Spanish tortilla, it was made with potatoes and onions from the garden. All this organic goodness for free. We didn’t know how good we had it. The lunches were long and luxurious…we would all be seated at the long table with all the chairs and stools in the house and we would talk and laugh and eat and eat and eat. If we were lucky, we’d get one of Luisa’s famous flans which was brought out to much fanfare and licking of lips. The afternoon would float by as we chatted, played games, played cards and at some point my father-in-law would fall asleep in the corner amid all the chaos. So, I come to the farmer’s market to feel that simplicity, that goodness….and try to recapture just a little of those days for my family.

The Apple Guy

a thursday afternoon

our little metro

Posted in an apple a day, choosing the simple path, farmer's market, memories, paying attention | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So, what are you doing?… And other questions that scare us

The Simple Path

So, I went to see an old drama school friend perform his new one man show the other night. It was my second time seeing it because the first time I was so moved and then so mad at myself for not bringing people with me. So this time I got to share it with friends. I want the world to see it because I think it’s a beautiful piece and he’s touched on some profound universal truths. It’s that rare show where you are laughing and enjoying the ride and then suddenly you realize you’re sobbing because you’ve just heard something so true it hurts. After the show, I got to see some of his family, who I had only met once back in college, so had not seen in many, many years. I was talking to his brother who suddenly asked me, “so what are you DOING?!” The question stopped me in my tracks. I am rarely at a loss for words, but I literally couldn’t speak. Nothing came out. I mean, nothing. This never happens to me. I think after a long pause I said something like, “I don’t know, you know?” and just let his sister keep talking. Awkward times ten. So in the days afterwards, I kept coming back to that moment. Why did that question stop me like that? And I guess it was because it was so “loaded”. I realized in that second that he had no idea of the three year struggle I was just barely coming out of and so it was like, where do I even begin because anything I say is going to be either too much or too little. How, in a moment, do you explain to someone that my day, which had consisted of making breakfast for my family, chatting and singing with my son on the way to school, going on a 4 mile walk on a gorgeous day, cleaning house, doing laundry, shopping for dinner, picking up my son and hearing about his day, helping him with his homework, making and having dinner together, then picking up my girlfriends and sitting through a 2 hour show (there was a second one-act), standing around all evening enjoying my friends, all while in heels….was all cause for celebration and gratitude? That even 6 months ago, I couldn’t begin to imagine having a day like that. How, when I was ill, it was those very simple acts that I longed for, wished for, prayed for every single day? What became so crystal clear in those days was the value of life itself. The simple beauty of every day. The simple path. That stress is a choice and that every day you can choose life. I have never in my life felt so alive, so close to God, so true to myself and so open to possibility. It has been the blessing that came out of all of it and I feel it is my honor and privilege to keep living this way, even after the storm has passed. So, I don’t really know what my cocktail party answer should be to that question, but I do know what the answer is……”paying attention.”

John and Abby

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The Missing Piece Theatre 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505 (818) 426-6440 Call for reservations & say “Delicious” (name of the one-act series) for $5 off.

Posted in being present, choosing the simple path, epiphanies, friendship, gratitude, hope, one day at a time, paying attention | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Whose HOPE is it anyway?

got hope?

Every single one of us, that’s who. I’m a little fired up today because of something that happened to my friend. Her name is Jen and she’s full of hope. Literally, she is an Ambassador of Hope with this organization. Check out her incredible interview here. So, hope. What is it really? Does it really work for people in their lives and who, if anyone, has the right to take it away? My answer to the last question is no one has the right to take our hope away….or even try to. We all have the right to hope for a better future, to hope for that better job, for forgiveness, for a cure. Hope is what keeps us going. No matter what the situation, you are not a statistic. I am here to tell you that miraculous things, unexplainable things, happen every day. So for some ‘beeeeeeeeeeep’ (insert your very own colorful word here) to feel the need to give you some tough love and tell you what they think you need to hear? You know what? No. It is never someone’s “place” to tell you that you are reaching too high, that you will never get that job, that you are not qualified enough or educated enough or strong enough to attain that goal. And no one can tell you what the exact outcome of a disease is going to be. But this is precisely what a psychiatrist tried to tell my friend. (Did you get the part where he’s not an oncologist?) Wrong move. Did he realize he was dealing with an Ambassador of Hope for crap’s sake? Don’t be fooled by how cute and sweet she looks. Seriously, do not mess with this woman or she will kick your you know what, just like she is kicking cancer to the curb. Hope lives in our hearts and it is something very precious indeed, something that needs protecting. So hold on to your hope, folks, always…and know that no man can take that away from you. Ever.

Posted in epiphanies, friendship, gratitude, hope, mothers and sons, recovery | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Can’t wait to watch the Commercial Bowl…I mean, the Super Bowl this weekend!

My husband has been on the road for the past two years, so consequently, my son and I have done a lot together and new little traditions have popped up. One such tradition is watching the Super Bowl together, or what it really is to my son, the Commercial Bowl. We end up missing parts of the game because he keeps wanting to rewind back over that E-Trade baby one more time! By the way, what did we ever DO before TIVO? This began a few years ago, when I was too sick to get up off the couch, so he and I watched it together. At one point in the game he disappeared for a few minutes and came out dressed in tight pants, a jersey of some kind and had stuffed his shoulders with scarves, painted black lines under his eyes and wanted to run plays in the living room. Having been a cheerleader in high school who dated the quarterback (I know, right? For real? ) I knew a little about the game and how to throw a football. So we ran plays in the living room with me throwing the football from the couch! That day holds such a special place in my heart because my son was so full of joy and he didn’t care that I was sick and throwing from the couch. It was just one of those mother/son love affair moments. So, we do it every year now, complete with snacks, stuffing the jersey, throwing the football and cracking up at the commercials. Oh and halftime, we love halftime of course! Oh, is there a football game going on? Hadn’t noticed 😉

Posted in memories, mothers and sons, recovery, sons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Respecting her choice…accepting a friend’s suicide

photo by Emma Stephens

Losing a friend is hard. Letting go of someone who has chosen to not be in your life anymore, losing someone to an illness or an accident is horrible. Losing a close friend to suicide holds it’s own special sadness and for me, presented an entirely unexpected road.  It was several months after her death before I realized that I had been in a full blown depression over it. I just couldn’t get my head around it. None of us could. She had been my friend since high school and it’s hard to describe just what a special person she was. One of the things that is so incongruous with the way she died is the fact that she was so incredibly joyful. She always made me laugh, she loved to have a good time and friends and family meant everything to her. When I lived in France, it was just before the internet exploded, so I was pretty isolated from my Stateside life for six years. My only real connection came from letters. Remember those? Even then, they were a scarce commodity and I cherished every one that came in my little mailbox…reading them over and over and writing right back. She was one of the very, very few who wrote me consistently. Not only in those years, but throughout our lives. Long, six to ten page letters just full of stories and what was happening and questions for me. She was one of those friends who moved mountains to be with you and when she was with you, she gave you all the shine. When someone really lets you know how much they care about you, when they show you like that, the hole that their absence leaves is large. So, I was sad and I was mad for a long time. For months and months I tried to figure out what happened…to listen for her promptings because I knew she would try to tell us what the message was she was sending. I knew this wasn’t her plan. It was a rash, split second reaction to something. I needed to give her a way back. After months of this, I said to myself that it was just wrong and awful and I’m just going to be sad about this for the rest of my life. And I sort of left it like that. It wasn’t for another year before I began to realize that I needed to really look at this again and reframe my thinking around it. I was stuck. Stuck in the sadness and the wrongness. I realized that I indeed needed to respect her choice. I know, please. I cried buckets. The words “respect” and “choice” just stuck in my throat, but I knew it was the way to come out on the other side. I knew it was the way to honor her. Even if I still believed that it was not her plan, that we will never know exactly what happened that day or why, I had to accept that in that final moment, she made a choice and I needed to respect and honor her choice, her life, her death, and ultimately her journey. And toTRUST and yes, surrender to it. To know that it was so much bigger than me, bigger than I could ever grasp.  I had to trust that she was where she needed to go. In so many instances now I hear her voice, prodding me, cheering me, allowing me to see myself through her eyes. I think less and less about the way she died and more and more about the way she lived.

Oh, and the chickflick from last night? It was great. She would have loved it!

Posted in friendship, gratitude, loss, memories | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment