Friday’s Focus—Being Grateful and Yet…

Recently I’ve noticed when I ask people how they are, their response is a shrug of their shoulders as they say “I’m alright. I’ve got a job.” All in all this is great but what struck me was the tone of resignation, like there’s nothing more. There’s something to be said for being grateful for what you have—a job for example, which these days is a biggie. But, it’s the resignation in the tone that’s been bothering me. Call me a dreamer but I don’t believe in settling. There’s more. There’s always more of a quality of life that we can attain, rather than a quantity of things in our lives that so many of us seem to reach toward instead.

It’s a fact that to survive in today’s economy, daily living has become hinged on a paycheck and benefits. But that’s not living. That’s existing. To me, living means thinking, creating, moving, doing. Not just hanging on to the gray thread of a paycheck. To me, that’s dying. I believe in staying hungry. Staying curious. Yes, there’s always a worse off way to be but that doesn’t mean one has to remain placated and resigned.

Stay grateful but also stay alive! Find something each day that piques your curiosity, something that makes you wonder, laugh, even cry because all of the emotions have a place, but whatever you do, don’t die while you’re still living. Live, love, laugh, be hungry, be curious, and you’ll be grateful for what you’ll find.

img_2010

#takingitdeeper

 

Advertisements

Friday’s Focus—Setting the Timer

All good things in moderation. How about all things in moderation? Good is subjective. It’s good to have a job but if you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, unless you’re throughly in love with what you’re doing, it’s not so good. If it’s not our jobs, many of us find ourselves giving to our spouses, our children, our families, our committees,  and our friends. Did I miss anyone? Oh, yeah. When do we give to ourselves?

Commitment is commendable but so often, and so quickly, we find ourselves chasing our own tail and living in fear of making sure we did what we were supposed to and make sure all angles are covered.

Each one of us has a personal motivation for doing what we do and for however long and hard we choose to do them. Typically, the urgency and frenetic energy of the “hamster on a wheel life” starts to feel like the norm and anything otherwise can tend to make us feel lost or like we’re missing or forgetting something.

I think we all know on a root level when we are doing too much and become out of balance. Once we see it, it becomes a matter of taking our attention deeper and consciously setting the timer to approach whatever we’re doing in a manner more aligned with balance of anything that’s been missing (or been pushed out).

It’s not just important but imperative to our mental health (which influences our physical health) to find that benchmark within us and understand the driving force behind what is creating the one-sidedness and drive.

The realization came for me as an almost physical click. Sitting quietly one day, my monkey mind was incessantly chattering away as it swung from thought to thought “And then this [inhale] but then what if [exhale] oh yeah and then that [inhale]…” when suddenly I felt a tug in my solar plexus and a loud “NO” reverberate through me.

I was done. Cooked. In all of its frenetic energy that monkey ripped away a veil that had been covering what I finally recognized as feelings of fear I was using as my drive: fear of missing something, and then the deeper dirt-honest fear of not being good enough and making mistakes.

So, now what? So now I set the timer. Some time for this. Some time for that. Like a New Year’s resolution, it’s so easy to set an intention, but it’s another to put it into action. Recognizing and understanding motivations is a great start. To make any sort of difference though, we need to go the next step and put the intentions into action.

No matter how good we are at our jobs, at our roles of parent or spouse, it’s impossible to cover all angles all of the time and make sure that something isn’t overlooked there, or a skinned knee is missed here. Sometimes we need to set a timer on our overload of one-sidedness. Making a mistake is not a taboo. Wearing a band-aid is not the end of the world. You’ll live. We don’t need a permission slip from anyone else but ourselves. And admittedly, sometimes that’s the hardest permission to get.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_1510

Friday’s Focus—Life Could Be a Dream (Sh-boom, Sh-boom)

I’ve been a dreamer all my life—literally and in the sixth-sense sort of way. As far back as I can remember, I’d get messages and information in my dreams; sometimes precognitive, and other times more personal “psst—pay attention to this” communique.

I’ve learned to work with and listen to my dreams and the information they provide. Waking this morning, I just knew that a dream I had during the night carried a strong message and feeling, but I wasn’t sure yet what it was. Usually I dream in vivid colors and scenarios, but this dream was simply staged in a fog of grey and black and over and over, as if on a loop, I heard the song “Life Could Be a Dream” (the version that was sung by The Chords).

I knew the song, but I couldn’t even tell you the last time I heard it. I’ve always liked it but it held no specific significance for me and I didn’t even know all the words! My interest was definitely piqued by the insistence of this song being played as a soundtrack in my dream so I found a video on YouTube, and while it played, looked up the lyrics, hoping this would also get the ear worm out of my head.

Once I read the words, I chuckled at the message that was now impossible to miss. It’s uncanny how we are all led to things we need to see and learn but until we can understand the signposts along the way, nothing will mean anything and will only solicit a “Well, that was weird,” response. Sure, some dreams may be just a regurgitation of a day’s input and mean nothing more than GIGO, but dreams have traditionally been a way to convey information, and if you’re a dreamer like me, you know what I mean.

My post today for Friday’s Focus is reminder to take each day and laugh a little, love a lot, and always remember that:

Life is but a dream
It’s what you make it
Always try to give
Don’t ever take it
Life has it’s music
Life has it’s songs of love

Lyrics, Writer(s): Raoul J. Cita, Hy Weiss, Copyright: Emi Longitude Music, Embassy Music Corp. O/B/o Maureen Music, Embassy Music Corp.

#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Everything Has a Heart

Hand on the doorknob, looking out the glass door, I was ready to step outside when I stopped. My eyes locked on a bug hanging onto the door frame with his (her?) 6 fuzzy legs. Its wings were folded back, and its head cocked in a way it seemed it was looking right back at me; curious or perhaps just as equally shocked, I didn’t know. There was no stinger or biting pinchers but I was afraid of what else it could do—you know, get inside the house and attack my hair or just crawl on my skin.

My gut reaction in seeing anything that flies or crawls is to kill it or flick it as far away from me as possible. I was ready to fling the door open to “send it to the light” (light-speak for killing it), when I decided to get one last look at this thing that was big enough to have its own shadow. Of course, having the glass window between us helped facilitate my newfound feelings of bravery.

So there we stood (or rather, he/she/it hung to the door and I stood), nose to wing. Its eyes were so big and round it seemed that’s all there was to its head. Its torso was narrow with an upturn at the end. The legs were long and crinked at sharp angles, ending in what looked like split feet.

I was intrigued and disgusted at the same time. After a few minutes of this science experiment, I was ready to end it and go outside once and for all. I reached for the door handle one more time, and as I took a last look at the bug, a slight movement caught my eye. Peering a bit more closely, I was shocked to realize that I could actually see this thing breathing.

Inoutinoutinoutinoutinout. Its torso pulsing with a rapid in and out movement at a rate that reminded me of a rabbit’s heartbeat.

Heartbeat? Bugs have hearts? Bugs breathe? Bugs have lungs? This was a first, I thought. I’ve dealt with my fair share of bugs in my life but I’ve never seen one breathe. Now mind you, of course, this only added to the ick factor of there being a bug large enough to see it take a breath. My mind immediately began to draw parallels to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and Vincent Price in the classic 1958 movie, “The Fly.” Maybe it’s even one of those drones I’ve been hearing about. …?

I stepped closer to the glass again and we took each other in. I looked into his huge eyes and wondered what I looked like to him. I looked at the details of his body from the sucker-type feet that clung to the door frame to the tiny, white, hairy protrusions that sprouted in puffs all over his body.  The veining in its wings was a marvel of patterns.

To me, it was a still a bug and it was still gross and scary and big, but seeing it breathe changed the way I looked at it. I suppose, in a sense it made it more “real”. It was no longer a thing—a threat (albeit a perceived one from my end). It was a living, breathing, entity. It was a-l-i-v-e. It was created and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. That day I understood for the first time that even bugs have hearts, and I felt a shift in my compassion with life. It became so clear that just because I was creeped out by something I didn’t understand or feared, my instinct was to destroy it before it (maybe) destroyed me.

That lesson can easily be magnified into how we are with each other. People seek out to destroy those they fear or don’t understand. So, maybe if we can remember we are all sentient beings just trying to survive in the best way we can, we can deepen our compassion and tolerance with each other and remember, that even bugs have hearts.

Now, spiders—they’re a different story!

As Only Mom Can Do

I woke up this morning with a memory of my mom from at last 20 years ago when she was still cleaning offices twice a week (plus working full-time for my dad in the family business and keeping up the household chores of cooking, shopping, and cleaning). This particular memory I woke up to, was a scene from one of the many times she had called me to ask for help in her office cleaning. She used to clean multiple doctor offices within a local two-story office building and she would go from one office to another, locking herself in to each office for safety’s sake.

She tirelessly hauled the vacuum, bucket and mop, and bags of rags and cleaning supplies from the one office to the next—chiropractor, gynecologist, dentist, podiatrist—it didn’t matter. They were all the same. They all had garbage cans, sinks, desks, and toilets that needed to be cleaned. Only the tools of the doctor’s trades made any difference as to what was behind those doors.

In my dream memory, I arrived at the office building, with a coffee and cheese Danish from 7-11 for her in hand as a treat. I reached for the front door, feeling relieved that it was unlocked, which meant one of the doctors was having office hours. Some days, if she knew she was going to be alone in the building she would lock it up tight and if I was coming to help her, I would have to bang on the glass doors or find an open window, a good indicator of which office she was in, and yell “Anya!” from the parking lot (that’s “mom” in Hungarian). Sort of like a Hungarian version of Marlon Brando yelling “Stella!!”

There was nothing striking or particular about this memory and why it popped into my head but I went with it, like I was watching an early morning movie. It was a scene that had repeated itself many times in my life and helping my mother clean offices is one of the core parts of my childhood. This random memory also held my attention because of its vividness and how it held me as I lay there still half-asleep but seeing all the details as closely and clearly as if I crossed a dimension and was standing right in between us that day.

In this memory, I walked into the first floor of the office building and I assume because she heard the front door, out she popped from the utility closet where she had been filling a bucket with water. Her mass of curly black hair only mildly kept in place by the headbands she favored. Her face was flushed and peppered with beads of sweat on her forehead, but when she saw me she broke into a big smile. “Hey!!!” We came together to kiss each other hello, and I wiped her sweat off my lips. “Hi honey,” she added. In the memory, I watched us take a quick coffee break so could have her Danish and she’d bring me up to speed with what and where she’d cleaned already and what still needed to be done (vacuuming always being a part of my job to help save her back). After we discussed the reassignment of the cleaning, we’d always spend a few more minutes catching up on other personal details of each others’ lives.

For as long as I could remember, my mother had a whirling dervish type of energy and it was palpable in my dream memory. It’s been so long since I’ve felt that level of energy from her I forgot what it was like and it was startling to feel it again. She stopped cleaning many years ago but still works a full-time job and makes her way through the day, her energy down to around 25 mph from her old 150 mph. Going back again in my mind and remembering her lifting the pails of water, vacuum, and scrubbing on her hands and knees, I can see the origin of all of her current aches and cramps. It’s so clear to me now how my mother’s constant pain and discomfort are a legacy from those days.

My mom is one of the smartest women I know and I’m incredibly proud of her. It’s been so hard to see her get caught up in the mental loop and sometime obsession of things that become bigger than life for people in their older years. I see changes in her confusion and thought processes and sometimes when she can’t remember something, I find myself trying to discern whether this is a normal forgetting or a another sign.

Sometimes when I explain recent mom-events to my brother I realize that I sound as though I’m on a Witch Hunt looking for signs of trouble or decline, but in my heart I’m not. In keeping her as independent as long as possible, I listen and I try to gauge whether her latest “You won’t believe what happened to me” story is another line that’s crossed or mom just being mom and the victim of circumstances.

The memory of her this morning, showed me in aching detail how fast the years have passed and how acutely things have changed with my taking care of her now as she increasingly looks to me for guidance and guardianship, especially being the closest to her physically.

I’m not fighting my role now as much as I did. I still get angry and frustrated, and there are days she’ll catch me off-guard, but I feel that I am finally coming to terms with the fact that this is the way she is now. My husband always said that I get angry because I fight the situation and he’s right. Instead of living in the memory of the way she used to be and missing being in the moment with who she is now, I think it’s more important to work on creating new memories with her and recognizing that sometimes it’s her fears that drive some of her reactions and not just her being stubborn (though there is still a lot of that!).

As it happens with many older people, there are aspects of her personality that have become exacerbated as she got older, which can be infuriating such as her obstinacy, selfishness, and manipulation. At the same time, however, it is exactly these qualities that she needed to cultivate and make bigger than life for her to have as a child, survived poverty; bombs; and soldiers holding her family at gunpoint, as they searched each household for traitors during the War, and then finally as an adult, escaping Yugoslavia with the clothes on her back.

Her story of survival is a remarkable one and I plan to tell it one day. But for now, this is the story of a mother / daughter flowing and reconciling into a relationship of caregiving and waiting for the next phone that will open up with “You won’t believe what happened to me”. Taking things deeper….