We’re now halfway through winter and after a rough start, I find that I am feeling quite content. Maybe part of the reason is having work that I enjoy, making sure I exercise and dance, and finding I can bounce back from feeling blue. Realizing that it’s easier to go with the feeling and let it move through me, rather than fight it. Because it does pass and the less I fight it, the faster is seems to go.
I wanted to share three quotes that I’m sure I’ve written about before, but really resonate with me and I hope they do with you:
“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…..
“If you want to avoid criticism: do nothing; say nothing; be nothing.”
“My teacher Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me. When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.
This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche. His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish and amazing amount in his life. When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘it’s no big deal.’ If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.
The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear. We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress. Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”
Pema Chodron “No Time to Lose”
I’ve also been re-reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I can’t believe how much I’m learning, particularly about relationships. Even just saying that there are only 6 more weeks till spring is the antithesis of Tolle’s book. There is only now! Enjoy it!
I have never had an easy time in the winter. I was just looking back at previous posts over the years and every winter I feel blue. I just came from the gym, so that always lifts my mood. Exercise, meditation, reading, gratitude… all of those help.
I’m listening to President Obama talk now about one of the young students, Grace, who was killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I hope that he can succeed in getting effective gun control laws passed.
Here is a quote from Pema, who always seems to be the person I turn to when I am feeling down:
“Rejoice in ordinary life”
“We can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice. It’s like a cartoon I saw of an astonished-looking man saying, ‘What was that?’ The caption below read, ‘Bob experiences a moment of well-being.’ The ordinariness of our good fortune can make it hard to catch.
The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of ordinary things – our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth – we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendships toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything. This combination of mindfulness and appreciation connects us fully with reality and brings us joy.”
The reality of winter and cold, really cold weather. And two dogs that need to be walked, separately now, because Lola can hardly walk, so I have to carry her out and Lucy, who needs a good, long walk. Six times a day we walk, in the early morning, in the late afternoon, and then at night. So between working and walking and going to the gym and trying to stay warm myself, my life is full. And amazingly, happy. Today would have been our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I celebrated by going to lunch with the people I’m working with and we had a fantastic lunch at Balthazar. I love working again, I finally feel like the last year and a half of grief and loss are mostly behind me and though there’s still plenty to be sad about, and worry about, and angry about — it all basically feels pretty much like life.
I’m happy to wake up each morning, do my meditation, have my coffee, sit quietly and then walk the dogs and go to the gym, if I have time. Simple things that feel just perfect. These simple things I am so grateful for.
They always say it’s through the most adversity that we grow – I believe it’s true. I’m so grateful for the past year and a half. I probably wouldn’t appreciate these simple things now, if I hadn’t lost so much and found myself in the process.
I think it’s just winter. Winter is a bitch. Winter is a challenge. I feel like I have a phantom limb, like something isn’t quite right, and yet…
I realized last night as I was throwing out the garbage that there were so many things I didn’t want to do when I was married and it had nothing to do with being lazy or just not liking doing them. It was my passive aggressive way of getting back at my husband. Now I actually enjoy all the chores that I avoided all those years. It feels good not to walk around with all that underlying anger. I feel lighter in some ways and sadder in others. I even feel like cooking, which I haven’t wanted to do in years. I was at the gym this morning, watching Martha Stewart (I have no say over what channels are on the tv’s) and she was cooking stir fried chicken and stir fried shrimp and I thought, “Okay, I want to cook that.”
Last night I also went with E to Friends In Deed. She just lost her best friend to cancer and has had several years of the worst crises to deal with. She said to me, “Can I just say my litany? Just list it all?” And I said, “This is the place to do it.”
We listened to people’s stories and I think she realized just how many people have had too much shit to deal with. I had to leave a few minutes early, so I don’t know if she did eventually share, but I hope she comes back. FID was closed over the holidays, so it felt good to be in the room again. As soon as we started to meditate, I could feel the tears welling up and then I felt fine again. I think it’s working.
I was just resting, getting ready for a small party tonight at our loft, trying to get rid of a mild headache. It suddenly felt like I was floating on a lovely stream and the words “row row row your boat” came to my mind. I could feel the warmth of a summer day, even though it’s twenty-nine degrees outside and snowing lightly. This time of year is always a challenge for me and maybe that’s one of the reasons I like living in NY. There’s three months of weather that I don’t particularly enjoy, that require a very serious practice of staying in the moment and not succumbing to complete winter despair. Well, actually, I usually do succumb to it, but then I bounce back eventually and by May I am positively giddy with pride that I didn’t beat anyone up or have a nervous breakdown.
Actually, if I did beat someone up or have a nervous breakdown, it would make this blog far more interesting, so perhaps I’ll try that this winter. I mean, rowing your boat down the stream is pretty dull, when you think about it. I need a baseball bat and some boxing gloves, and maybe I’ll just start cursing at strangers on the street.
I’ll keep you posted.
This past weekend, from Friday night through all day Saturday and all day Sunday, I participated in a workshop called “The Creative Dynamic.” The workshop was given at the TAI Group (formerly The Actors’ Institute) and has been around in different forms for approximately twenty years.
It began as a workshop for actors, teaching them how to connect more effectively with audiences and it became extremely popular as actors told friends who had all different kinds of jobs. I think I talked about this before – anyway, there were ten participants and a number of TAI trainers also in the room. There were a few actors and musicians, a business affairs person, a Yoga teacher, a corporate trainer who does similar trainings herself but came to TAI to experience their techniques. She was blown away. She was also seven months pregnant and I think she was happy to be there and not at home with her two year-old. There was also a college president. So, it was a mixed group with varied experience performing in front of audiences.
We all brought in something to “perform” – a song, a poem (the college president spoke in both Aztec and English), several speeches (FDR, Harvey Milk and a Tony Kushner speech), a monologue by Neil LaBute from “Fat Pig.” I brought in the first five minutes of my monologue. Each person performed and then the leader, Gifford Booth, came up with some way to change the dynamic of the performance and to have the performer connect more intimately with the audience. I can’t really explain it – I can just tell you that it worked every time. And then everyone in the audience wrote down thoughts about the performances (most of them extremely positive) which we all took home. I’m going to have my comments laminated and wear them around my neck every day of my life, since I don’t seem to have much self-confidence of my own.
During the weekend, we also did acting exercises and danced. We danced in a group and one of the leaders would call out our name to lead. When it was my turn to lead, I did something so energetic that I hurt my back. Serves me right.
Anyway – the inner child in me had a joyous, fantastic and challenging time this weekend and I have to say that I pretty much loved every minute of it.
So, there will be no complaining out of me tonight. (Except it’s still cold out. I couldn’t resist. Sorry!)
Well, not really, but the reason I love snow so much is that: a) it’s dramatic, b) out of our control and c) it brings back the memories of snow days and no school.
I’m going to look out the window, watch the snow and think about two of my friends, L and O, who are dealing with difficult illnesses right now. I’m sending them both love and prayers and it would be great if you would too.
And if there’s snow where you live, I hope you can enjoy it.
It’s February 14th, 2009. Two years ago I spent this entire day stuck on a Jet Blue plane, sitting on a runway at JFK in an ice storm. We boarded the plane bound for Los Angeles at 6:30 am and they let us off the plane at 4 pm. You do the math. It was a long day.
The following day I arrived at the Jet Blue terminal at 8 am and sat in a crowded terminal waiting for pilots and crews to arrive so that planes could take off. We finally boarded a flight at 3:30 pm.
We’ve had approximately seven weeks of winter already and I haven’t contemplated buying a ticket to some island in the Caribbean, never to be seen again. My normal bout of Seasonal Affect Disorder has not occurred…so far. And we have only five weeks left until the start of spring.
The country is a mess, the world is in crisis, a plane crashed yesterday in Buffalo, I could go on and on, but I won’t. There are plenty of personal issues that keep me awake at night. Despite the lack of sleep, I still feel optimistic. Maybe it’s simply because George Bush and Dick Cheney have left Washington. Yay!!! Truthfully, although I think he was a lazy and terrible President, I can’t hate George. Dick, I hate.
Anyway, as I was saying, I am feeling relatively optimistic and maybe it’s because I added caffeine to my diet again. Life is short, have a cup of coffee. Or tea. Whatever you like.
For someone who starts worrying about winter in September, obsessing over how I’m going to get through four months of cold weather without getting depressed or having cabin fever, I have to say that so far it’s been an interesting winter. I guess the tremendous excitement and anticipation of the inauguration carried most of us through the end of last year through late January. And the inauguration definitely surpassed my expectations.
As far as what President Obama is going to do for the four years, I guess we’re just going to have to see how it goes. I’m not going to judge his administration for at least twelve months. (Although according to Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times today, this stimulus package he and the Republicans in Congress have bargained over is not going to be effective at all.)
In spite of that – besides enjoying the snowstorms and the warm days (which we may be experiencing this entire week) – I’ve been busy having some interesting adventures. I spent one full day working on a documentary that a friend of mine is directing about envy. She asked Matt Hoverman, my monologue coach, to bring together a group of performers he’s worked with, to create a ninety section monologue about some experience they’ve had with envy in their life. We developed the pieces with a partner (I was lucky to work with Matt’s wife Katie, who is a wonderful actor and writer), and then we all performed them for the camera and each other. It was challenging and fun. And painful. Who wants to look at envy? Who doesn’t experience it? As a friend of mine said, when I told her what we were doing, “I feel envy almost every day.”
And then the following night, a group of women I met during my Mama Gena experience all came together to take a dance class with a guy named Alex Tschassov, who moved here from Russia seventeen years ago and was in the film “Mad Hot Ballroom.” (Which was about the young kids from NYC who study ballroom dance in their schools.) He and his wife Sally taught thirty-five of us, all standing in a large circle, the basic steps for several dances: the meringue, the waltz, the fox trot, tango, salsa. And then we had a gorgeous demonstration by the most beautiful young couple who dance together professionally and are also a couple. They were amazing. Then Alex brought in ten male dancers and for an hour, so we each had an opportunity to practice all the dances we learned.
What I learned was that I was great at the meringue, which simply requires moving one’s hips and taking small steps to the side. No problem. Loved it. But all the basic steps I could easily do while standing in the circle, were much more difficult when someone was leading me. Especially the salsa, which was too fast and I had a really hard time keeping up. The dancer we all liked best was a small, dark haired young man named Xavier from Bolivia. Whenever we danced with Xavier, it seemed easier to follow. It’s my job to call Xavier and see if we can get some more lessons from him.
This past weekend I went on a winter retreat to Connecticut with my Unity gang, and that was great. We stay in West Cornwall, at the Trinity Conference Center, which sits along the banks of the Housatonic River. We did a lot of meditation, talking, writing, and eating. It was perfect! For exercise, I walked in the woods and played ping pong with my friend, Helene. I hadn’t had any sugar for about a month before I went on the retreat, so I allowed myself dessert at every meal and every break. I think I’ve had enough and I’ll be heading to the gym this morning.
On the way home, about ten of us were waiting for the train, and someone asked a woman named Sheila Barash (who I’ve known a bit for over two years) where she grew up. She said, “Long Island.” And I was immediately curious, since I grew up on Long Island.
“Old Bethpage, Plainview, that area.”
“That’s where I grew up. Where did you go to high school?”
“John F. Kennedy High.”
“That’s where I went to school!” Sheila graduated a year ahead of me and we knew all the same people. And now I am convinced that I have early Alzheimers, but since she didn’t remember me either, what difference does it make? Coincidentally, half my high school discovered me on Facebook last week, so it’s been rather intense, catching up with people in cyberspace and now in person.
When I returned last night I emailed my old boyfriend Warren, who had a band in high school called “The Lost Chords” that I know Sheila. He said, “She was the Grace Slick of our high school.” I have heard Sheila sing recently and she still has a beautiful voice.
So after all those adventures I’m happy to be home, except now I have to work on gathering all my tax information.
I think I’ll call Xavier.