gratitude-a-thon day 103: hope springs eternal, again

7a40f9ed42859f8b623211de23517c48

Spring is the best time of year. Hands down. No contest. Sorry other seasons, you’re fired. You can have Christmas with its goodwill toward men, but the burden of gifting is an albatross and ruins you. Forget back to school, even though the weather remains spectacular and the kids are academic prisoners, giving you a few hours to yourself, you’re just no competitor. Apologies to fall, although, of course I’d be a robot not to be mesmerized by the array of Crayola 64 foliage, but it’s just a harbinger of dwindling light and cold temps, my shoulders pushed up around my ears for months, while wrapped in my sleeping bag coat 24/7. Brrrrrrrr.

IMG_2579

It’s spring that renews and refreshes like a Summer’s Eve Douche commercial. Every morning, a new tree bursts into fertile green beginner foliage, that will give into a mature leaf before your very eyes (“hey, wasn’t that tree naked yesterday?”). Each morning, another flower pops up, as if a mysterious someone has come in the night and stuck them in the ground from a store bought bouquet. Every afternoon, the sun stays out just a little bit longer so you can have more play time.

spring

This is the season of possibility. Where it all seems new again. My energy surges. I put away my boots, hoping not to tempt the cold, because you never know in New England, but I am confident. I move forward into a new time, a hopeful time, with gratitude and Hallmark card thoughts. I will make new strides. I can do anything—-the fucking sun is out again.

gratitude-a-thon day 1031: hey april showers, we’re good

 

You’d think I was the spawn of these two (Helios and Isis (bet her parents didn’t know what an unfortunate name that would be one day), the God and Goddess of the Sun.

 

If I didn’t know who my parents were (and wish my dad weren’t my dad), I would think I was the offspring of some Greek weather God who demanded Sun and temperate breezes and blue skies 365 days a year. I have come to see, and only more so as I get older, that I am like a freaking weathervane–my migraines can predict when a barometric shift will happen and my mood and energy level indicate when it’s cold, rainy or snowy. Who needs the weather channel?

It’s absurd to live in New England (where I’ve lived my whole life, mind you) and only like the spring (when it’s not rainy) and summer (when it’s not humid). As Mark Twain so brilliantly said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” Truth, baby.  It can be rainy, snowy and 72 all in one week (swear to God, I’ve lived it).  The weather is as bad as Bill O’Reilly getting all that money for assaulting women.

Yesterday was pouring water and gray as a slate roof for the second day in a row and I seriously wanted to stay in bed and just do my work from there (which, full disclosure, I did for part of the day). Now I want to point out that nothing is wrong over here, I am in a perfectly happy mood, and things are good (well, you know, except for Trump), but the weather does this to me.  I am like a victim of the forecast. (By the way, I know the importance of my even talking about my weather moods is a first world problem.)

But wah, wah, wah, my phone says it’s rain until Sunday. By then, I think even the flowers are going to be like gratitude shmatitude, we were happy to have you, but enough is a fucking ‘nough.  If you need me, I’ll be under the covers, digging the mold out from under my nails.

gratitude-a-thon day 1031: that light at the end of the tunnel–turns out it’s the truth

light at the end of the tunnel

Hey look, there’s the truth!

Here is the thing. Truth.

I saw an Instagram post by awesomeness herself, Elizabeth Gilbert announcing that she’d be teaching one section of a course that Martha Beck was having. I thought for approximately two point nine seconds before deciding to take it. After all, what did I have to lose? Why not see what an online course was like? What else am I doing on Tuesdays from 1-2:30 that I can’t do on Wednesdays from 1-2:30?

Well. Well, well, well. What a fucking thing. The course is offered in three sections. The first being called “Truth.” Now, I am a pretty truthful, warts-here-for-your-viewing- pleasure-tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl, but what I learned from this five week dive, is that the more truthful you are, the better your writing will connect to someone.

Jungle-Path-2-1600x1200-wide-wallpapers.net

There are a whole bunch of ways to get to the truth. Ways I didn’t even know about.

It’s not like I haven’t experienced this right here on this blog. It’s not like when I teach advertising students, I don’t teach them about “the compelling emotional truth” and how that’s what you gotta have in an ad to make people connect. It’s not like I haven’t been doing this my whole life (Jesus, someone help me throw out those whiney, but truthful journals stashed upstairs in the third floor closet).

BUT, see Martha has secrets. I mean, they’re not like secrets she won’t tell. And she did, and this woman is brilliant, and skilled and experienced at driving a big-ass four wheel SUV through your pretense. She forced our hands to grab big chunks of our deepest selves. With “I never thought of it that way” examples that had me all like, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT,” and homework that was like having a few therapy sessions, she showed me new ways to get to the truth. This was the money shot for me–that there are like a bajillion avenues, blocked roads and tiny little paths that can lead you to find the real stuff that lives inside your most guarded areas, and if you can uncover those, and put them to paper (or computer screen), you’ve got something BIG, something that other people will read because it WILL BE TALKING TO THEM. Because they have all those protected places too, so they’ll understand. IT’S THE LANGUAGE OF TRUTH. And t’s like any language–you have to study it to learn it, you have to practice, and it takes real time to become fluent.

So, did I know all this before the class, yes. I knew the truth was the thing. I did. I knew that. BUT THIS IDEA THAT THERE ARE MANY WAY TO GET TO THE TRUTH, WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TO THE TRUTHIER TRUTH, THAT’S WHAT I LEARNED. 

OHqbcMG

No, no, no. Enter. The Do Not Enter places are exactly where a whole bunch of the real truth is hiding.

Also, I learned that people are amazingly resilient. And that many of them signed up for this course! An online community is an extraordinary thing. The kind of love that’s shown to people is palpable. I really can’t believe the tenderness you can feel for someone you have never met in person, and who only lives in Facebook photos and words. There is only one word for it and that is lovely.

Tomorrow is the Elizabeth Gilbert class, which is the whole reason I signed up for this class to start with. But she couldn’t be better than what I’ve experienced in these last four classes. All hail Martha Beck and all the LightWriters. Gratitude, guys. This was a big bowl of pasta with garlic, olive oil and a generous heaping of parmesan, bread and butter on the side, for me. In other words, heaven.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 1030: new york, hey, there we were

 

IMG_3833

Here’s a lovely picture of us in NYC, not all that long ago. All the pictures of the kids posing in front of the mandatory New York attractions aren’t digital. WHEN AM I GOING TO GET THAT SHIT TOGETHER, I WONDER?

My husband had a meeting in New York last Friday, so I decided to call in sick to work, (which is very easy, since I’m the boss and the employee–I never say no).

It happened to be April school vacation week in Massachusetts, a time I’m very familiar with in New York. We often took our kids to the city for this school break, and it seemed everywhere we looked, there were old versions of our family. Moms decked out in utilitarian jackets stuffed with tissues and lipstick, a supply of snacks varying in nutritional goodness. Although the mom’s would like to wear their new boots, since it’s the city and all, they’re sporting sneakers because they will walk 200 miles today and can’t be the one to say “uncle.” They’ve got on sunglasses and hair that is reacting to the weather, so it might be under a baseball cap, if necessary. The dad usually has on something embarrassing, like a t-shirt that emphasizes his stomach, which, let’s just say, is not what it was, but since it’s New York, maybe a cool-ish jacket–or just not that old thing he usually wears at home. The kids have on the newest Nike’s, the “it” jeans, or sports clothes emblazoned with either their school name, or their favorite basketball/baseball/hockey/football team. They are growing in time lapse photography. As you pass them, you can see them gain inches, while their limbs extend.

My husband and I have a spectacularly good time. But everywhere we go, we bring up something we remember about our kids in the place we are standing. On Fifth Avenue, as we stroll by Trump Tower, which is guarded, and has barricades around the whole thing, like it’s some important place, instead of what it is–the grotesquely over-designed home of a despicable man with a moral IQ of 2 and a real IQ of -1,092, we remember walking with Jake and Ally, who is about three years old, Peter carrying her on his shoulders, and her crying and vaguely pointing to her feet. She did this every once in a while and it mystified us. We were all trying to understand what was wrong so we could fix it, but she just kept crying, when our son said, “Pins and needles, Ally, do your feet hurt?” And mystery solved–her feet were asleep. We laughed our heads off, as we rubbed them to bring the circulation back. Right there on Fifth, Jake’s brotherly love had come to the rescue of his sister.

Jake loved New York, as we always knew he would. A baby/kid/adult with an active mind and body, the city was just like him–open 24/7.

On Broadway, we talked about the plays we’d seen together, Wicked being our all time fave. We sang the soundtrack all the way home. In Central Park, we walked through all the areas that we’d walked through together, the trees about to bust into bloom,  the flowers doing their Fashion Week debut, stopping at the fountain we’d found a small trio that we asked to play at our wedding (pre-kids). We played the game, “Where are those people from?” We saw our former selves everywhere, the different versions, the exhaustion and elation, the irritation and hilarity.

On the way home, we stopped to see Ally at college and take her out to dinner. I couldn’t help but be shocked that she was all grown up. Not like, I hadn’t known this and had just awakened from a decade-long coma, but in that way that’s impossible to process that  a little baby comes out of your body and then one day is able to walk away from it.  It seemed she’d  just been crying on Fifth, and now she was informing us of an insight she’d made about the prison system.

IMG_2721.JPG

Ally grabbing a picture of the spectacular sunset occurring as we dropped her off after dinner. Go ahead, break into “Sunrise, Sunset.” It would be appropriate.

It occurred to me that this is a lot of life, if you look carefully you see your past and your future all around you, all the time. This weekend, it made me grateful for where we’d all been together, now and then.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 1020: buh-bye bill

49713950.cached

Just boys being boys (God knows what female they’re debasing in this picture).

Finally. Finally Bill O’Reilly is getting what he should have gotten long ago–the ax. I’m only sorry that every woman in the United States wasn’t able to scream at the exact same time: “You’re fired.” (Hey, maybe we’ll get to do that for that piece of human waste in the White House. A girl can dream…..).

It’s pretty amazing that despicable, hard right cable station, Fox News, who routinely lies, and gives people like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter a soap box, has taken action against sexual harassment, when our own country made a guy with the same profile, president of the United States. Things are seriously off right now. Is Mercury in retrograde again?
You do realize that just like, a week ago, Trump is quoted as saying “Bill O’Reilly did nothing wrong.” This, during Sexual Harassment Awareness Month. Go ahead, laugh, it’s so totally absurd, it’s like a good set from Louis C.K.
Major gratitude for this bit of enlightenment over at Fox. Did it take forever? Sure, but at least O’Reilly has been outed publicly, although don’t be surprised if his good friend in the Oval makes us believe otherwise. After all, lying is what he does best.

gratitude-a-thon day 1029: 26.2

IMG_2572.JPG

I went to the Marathon on Monday, just like I’ve done for the past 38 years. I guess maybe I’ve missed a few, in fact, I was in Miami with my daughter during the horrific marathon bombing, (which you can read about here and here and here, too) but mostly, I’ve been cheering from the sidelines during at least 35 of them. I have seen it from Park Drive and Beacon, the finish line when I lived on Newbury, Heartbreak Hill, and more recently Washington Square in Brookline. I’ve cheered for friends and acquaintances as they’ve made the trek. I’ve clapped until my hands hurt, and watched until I was nauseous.

Sometimes the weather is cold, so good for the runners, but bad for the spectators, and sometimes it’s hot, which nobody really loves. This year was warmer than ideal, but really nice. I brought my sister, who, despite living in the Boston area for a long time now, had never been! We didn’t stay long, because she was having some pain from a recent surgery. But even though I have been on the sidelines so many times, I still marvel at the guts and athleticism it takes to keep putting one foot after another for 26.2 miles. I always wanted to run this thing, but my running days ended after college, when I found out I had a herniated disc in my low back and had to put away my sneakers. I cherish this event for its soul (and sole). Every year it has stories of hope and help and heart. And whether you’re running or watching, everybody is part of the great tradition that is Boston, baby.

Grateful this historical and iconic race went off without a hitch, a backpack or a misstep. I will always love that dirty water.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 1027: small town

h_IMG_0944-cc

The thing about the little corner of earth I live on is that you can walk everywhere. The other thing about it is that I have lived here a long time, so I have watched kids go from uterus to University (in what seems a half a second), seen neighbors  come and go (literally and figuratively) and been witness to the small miracles and tragedies of a  community (there have been many).

Yesterday, while walking the dog, on a warm and sunny day, in the park I literally raised my kids, and where a whole new bunch of babies show up every spring to remind me that life is a big, fat circle, I bumped smack into my friend Sharon, who I totally adore, but never see. It’s ridiculous that I never see her, given how much I love her, and the fact that we live approximately 10 minutes from one another, if that, but there it is. She is on the radio, so sometimes I think maybe I see her when I don’t, on account of I am listening to her voice. The thing is, she never speaks directly to me……

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The two of us were talking like it was our last day on earth, and an hour and a half passed (with poor Riley wanting to poop, but me forcing him to sit with us and eavesdrop) without even noticing the time. We covered everything from the unbelievable nature of politics (with the two of us shrieking and making wild and large hand gestures) to our work, writing, aging and kids. I finally had to go, because I promised I’d make my dieting husband, who has been craving french fries, fake bake fries, and I knew they would take a while to cook. But let me tell you, we could have talked all night, into the morning, and I could have gone to work with her, where we would have continued to talk while she was delivering the news.

Anyway, the nature of living in a small community is that you get to have these kind of unplanned encounters. We had a rich and awesome conversation, that filled me up past my forehead.

We think about moving all the time, but it’s this kind of thing, randomly seeing someone who has watched you raise your kids, and lived with you day in and day out, that makes me wonder how I could ever possibly leave this kind of magic behind.

gratitude-a-thon day 1026: that and this

IMG_4710.jpg

Even in the darkness, there are places that the light fights its way through. I’m going to stand in those sunny spots, but remember the darkness around me, as I do.

It’s a perfectly sunny morning. Nothing like a perfectly sunny morning after a week of rain. Damp, cold, miserable, car-drenching-you-while-you’re-walking-the-dog rain. Today is fat and happy with possibility. Thoughts of window boxes, and patio furniture and whether I can show my arms this season, or not.

And then I remember about Syria. And that bat shit crazy Assad person who is satan’s younger more handsome brother and I think, you can’t be happy today because there is this.

And I sit and wonder. I wonder if I shouldn’t allow the sun up in the sky to let me be grateful today that I am not living in Syria under a dictator who is so evil he can kill a perfect little baby. I wonder if I should cover my face and allow the Hitler-esque horror to fill me and render me useless today.

I choose instead to be in this present moment, in my present reality, and allow the sunlight in, while cradling those people in my heart. I will carry the man who lost his twins and wife, with me today as I walk in the sunlight. I will try and telecommunicate my oneness with him, let him know he is with me, as another human who can feel the tip of a pinkie of his pain, who honors the hell he is currently living in.

I will do that, and this. I will make room for both. Probably not without periodic guilt, but I will try to honor them by living today, inside the space of the sun.

gratitude-a-thon day 1024: rain=flowers

4017

I don’t love rain, or snow, or really anything but sun, but today the rain feels like an engraved invite to flowers everywhere to come on up and strike a pose. And well, is there anything better than flowers doing their thing? It’s like a natural art. It’s like you’re in a living breathing museum while you’re just walking down the street (no parking fee, no admission tickets, no crowds). Awe, look at the hordes of tiny crocus, announcing to the flower kingdom that the time has come. And by the way, how about the badassery of the crocus–those guys were totally accosted by the snow last week, all “C’mon, you’re kidding me, already,” but they stood strong and made it through the storm.

When you slow down enough to think about nature and its instinctive ability, it practically could knock you off your office chair. Today I’m grateful for the water dripping from the sky. Despite the fact that I will have bad hair all day, it will help our common gardens grow and that will make the world, as cuckoo clock crazy as it is right now, at least look better.

gratitude-a-thon day 1024: here comes the sun (and not a moment too soon)

Almost+actually+new+england+only+consists+of+maine+new+hampshire+_b54bcde2bf5e8f6b46953522e969589e

Sweet Jesus, the sun can change a person’s mind. I mean, just when I was about to send dead crocuses to every weather man out there, boom, temperatures rise, the sun shows up and my deadened soul is all like, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On.

With every winter I (slimly) make it through, I wonder when it will be that I will give up on New England and just be done with it. I wonder when I will abandon the four seasons that are really just two (winter and summer), throw caution to the nor’easter wind and move South.

612c4658ddc67f51e70203f16e482c76

Then I remember the political climate, and I understand that there is more than just weather to consider.

I live in a bubble. It’s probably not the time to pack it in, just now. I will store my four down coats, and keep rooting for the sun to get out of hiding. Yep, for now New England’s mentality will have to keep me warm.