Even the tiniest waft of Coppertone or the rich and aromatic odor of Ban de Soleil Federal Expresses me to all the beaches I’ve ever been. My nose, exquisitely sensitive, books me on free excursions to some of the sea sides I’ve been the happiest. Unexpectedly, there I am, swimming in a sea of white sand and roaring surf with people I have loved, with people who are no longer here. I can feel the warm sun, the salt on my skin, the taste of beach food.
My sister lives in Hull, on the border of Hingham, near the stunning World’s End and Nantasket Beach. I went down last week, during the umpteenth heat wave, with temps soaring well above 90, to cool down, not so much my body, as my mind.
The ocean has always done that for me. Liquid valium with a soundtrack. The metronome of waves lulls me into the sweetest calm. Is it the steadiness of the surf? is it the white noise? The rock tumbling sound when a wave churns up the sand? Beats me, but what I do know is that those waves and salty water are the panacea for anything that ails me.
Give me the beach. Anytime, anywhere. And as my blood pressure plummets, and my muscles unwind, I throw gratitude, like a rock, into the vastness of the sea that always connects me to myself.
Hey, Brookline Village, and anybody in the vincinity, cool new store alert! If you’re in need of a mood boost, or a gift (for someone, or you know, YOU), or have a special (or not so special) occasion on the horizon and your loved ones are wondering where to get you a present that will elicit a “thanks” that you will actually genuinely mean, or your eyes just need a little candy, Cadeau is the place. Because this little slice of heaven has super fab jewelry, and a big line of iconic John Derian, and some perfectly curated clothing, and some pottery i fell madly in love with (see above, and did I mention my flower fixation?), and some really great art, and lots of other unusual and must-have-right-this-very-minute things. Sara, the owner who has extraordinary taste and is one of those people you can’t not like, used to manage Portobello Road and while her store has its own vibe, you can also feel the next-gen quality to it, so if you were a fan of PR, you’re going to be singing a happy tune. Also, worth noting, all the sales assistants are people who were apparently raised to be friendlier and nicer than most people in the world (including the PR fave, Janet–so good to see her). They just want to help you in whatever way you’d like, which is refreshing and fun. And sweet baby Jesus, shouldn’t shopping be fun?
It’s been a long while since Brookline Village has had a great retail store (Shake the Tree, maybe, like 147 years ago?), and I for one am just a little bit excited. Swing by and introduce yourself. And if you’re reading this from far away, check out the Cadeau website, where you can experience the magic of this charming store itself. In the midst of post-ish pandemic angst, this is just the fresh face we could all use. And by the way, Cadeau, for those un-francophile among us, means gift. And I gotta say, appropriate name, because this place is. Shopping gratitude. Yes, it’s a thing.
There are some people you meet in your life that change it. In a myriad of ways. Forever.
I got Colleen Quinn’s name from a fellow spine suffering friend about 20 years ago. She had a sunny personal training studio in Brookline Village called Eutopia. I was hesitant, because my back was a problem that I’d acquired at 19, during college, which had caused me to stop running, which I loved, and doing anything high impact (sound awful? It was). I lived my life in physical therapy, having to leave jobs during particularly bad episodes, and got used to living with limitations and pain that would go anywhere from 5 to 1,987,298 in the time span of one minute.
While I had stayed active with a biking phase (my back didn’t like that after a few years), a swimming phase (my hair didn’t like that after a few years), and low impact aerobic phase (I didn’t like these after a few years), I turned to walking. I llved life in my body carefully. I lifted wisely, especially my babies, asked the grocery baggers to go “light,” never was that friend who could help move your stuff from apartment to apartment, didn’t twist for nearly two decades, and stayed obedient to the list of things which could irritate my disc (everything) so fearful was I of having an “episode’ of debilitating back pain.
But there was something about my friend’s insistence I go see Colleen that after her nagging me for a year, had me walk into her yellow studio on Washington Street. And GAME CHANGER, this former physical therapist, turned personal trainer got me and my back in a spectacularly astute way. I began training with her three times a week and with each passing session, I began to trust my body in a new way. Colleen’s exceptional ability to find the way to get me to move my parts in ways they hadn’t moved in decades was nothing short of magic. And I saw that she took that personalized and miracle-making approach with all of her clients, who like me, grew stronger with every Eutopia session. Pretty soon my husband was seeing her, and my sister, and my daughter and my son, too.
Of course, aside from her keen training smarts, I loved her personality and love of beauty and fun and nature and the beach and her dogs. She was brilliant and kind, had a spectacular sense of humor, a constant curiosity, and depth. Colleen became part of our family. All of us loved her, including our dog.
One of the worst days in my life (sound dramatic, but not even kidding) was the day she told me she’d decided to move to Northern California. Of course, I understood, who could stand these winters anymore, but I would miss her terribly, but even worse, what about my body? What would happen to me? This lead to me training on Zoom with her many years before the pandemic made it popular. Then, one day, I embarked on a yoga class, and heard about a pilates teacher, and trying both, I realized how much I’d missed in person working out, so we decided to end our sessions for the time. My husband, whose arthritis is tricky, still trains with her and she can always figure out a way to help him work his challenging circumstance.
This all leads me to the fact that Colleen’s dream of having a retreat center is in the process of coming true! She and her fiancé bought a piece of land in Northern California, where Continuum is going to be built. It’s absolutely thrilling and I literally cannot wait for this center to get off the ground. There is currently a gofundme (read all the amazing details) to help this (expensive) piece of heaven get off the ground. If you have any amount to give, please do, and if you don’t, keep it in mind, because this is a place where beauty and life and healing are going to happen.
Anyway, I am so grateful for Colleen’s presence in my life. She’s part trainer, part sister, part friend, part wise, older -than-her-years guru. Mostly she’s a magical being who sees the world in all its complexity and still shows up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. And that alone is really something. I have endless gratitude for the naggy friend who forced me to meet Colleen long ago. It did actually change my life.
Sometimes I wonder what the hell life is about, I mean, don’t you? You hit a wall and you’re like, what’s the fucking deal here? Well, having smacked up against some hard stuff recently, and backing away from it, at this moment in time I would say that life is about people. And love. And I guess I’d probably put potato chips in there.
If you ever wonder what you can do for someone who is not feeling quite themselves, or grappling with an issue, or having a problem, or stuck in the muck, I have two words for you: show up. That’s it. Just show up in whatever way you can. In the form of fresh baked muffins, my neighbor labeled, “as not the best,” or flowers, another friend left at the wrong house and circled back when she realized, or text messages that range from funny to uplifting and supportive. I have been asked to walk, eat, share part of friend’s vacations with them. Time, and ideas and good thoughts and Meta Loving Kindness meditations, and perhaps one of my favorite things of all, a delivery of two bags of potato chips from a friend. Because you know, POTATO CHIPS.
A few days on someone else’s vacation was a very big help. A little coffee didn’t hurt either.
Making a meal for someone who has enough on their plate, is like giving them a house on the French Riviera. One friend won’t stop making me dinner, and by the way, these gorgeous meals are not the classic casserole, each has been a gourmet preparation of exciting flavors and healthy foods, all lovingly prepared. I told her she gets the gold medal in the helping a distressed friend event. And while these dinners are delish, it’s really just the thought and care that have mattered the most.
Anyway, what I think life might be about is just being there for others, not just during the jolly fun times, but during the crap, oh-hell-you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me parts. That might be it, or at least a big part of it. So, smile at someone walking down the street, and say thank you, and just in general, be kind to others, because you never know if you’re the difference someone struggling might need to lift them back up to the sun. And gratitude to the small village that’s shown up for me.
How do you fill up when you”re empty? I’m not talking about potato chips. I’m talking emotionally, how do you put gas in the tank when you’re not only out, but stranded on the middle of a tumbleweed-laden desert road?
For me, it all goes back to gratitude. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you? I have to pull it all way back, go to the basics of my life and what I do have to begin the refueling.
Lately it’s been things like my bed, always so comforting and enveloping. Nourishing foods, like summer’s pickling cukes, those crunchy little guys that should have the tagline “snap, crackle, pop,” but got snagged by Rice Crispies. Juicy, drip down your chin nectarines, plump and sweet blueberries, a perfect little cherry tomato. I get energy from my plants and flowers, how they synthesize the sun, know when to bloom and when to call it a day. Breathing, that simple act, while focused on, can be a float in a sea of stress. A rich cream I can slather on my dry skin, a warm bubble bath I can sink deep down into, a good book that lets me travel to somewhere I’ve never been. Fiends who show up with a meal, or a treat, or themselves, giving you their time, are good as High Test Premium.
Again and again, I go back to those small things that I sometime overlook, but that really are the stuff of life, when you get right down to it. I go day in and day out to the gratitude, that 24-hour bodega where you can always find the goods.
As Mark Knopfler wrote and Mary Chapin Carpenter sings, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug.” Just 10 weeks ago my husband had shoulder replacement surgery (a casualty of the obnoxious auto immune arthritis he has that works investment banker hours). That major surgery was a snap. No pain, and better range of motion after a few days than the he’d had in several years. Parade!
This past Tuesday, he had what seemed like a simple ankle surgery to remove a painful bone spur that would put him in a walking boot for three weeks. Easy peasy, we just aced the shoulder, we had no qualms about this routine procedure that would help him hit the pavement without pain. But unfortunately it was more extensive, with multiple bone spurs and a ligament repair, and now he’s in a non-weight-bearing boot for six weeks, which is then a walking boot for another four. Um, not the day at the beach we were expecting after the long Y E A R of Covid seclusion we all experienced.
BUT we have a spiffy new stand-up recliner, a bed in the living room and a super fun knee scooter as consolation, not to mention one of those toilet seats that raises the seat higher and makes you feel like you’re peeing into the Grand Canyon……Canyon……Canyon.
The poor guy can’t use stairs, and guess where the shower is? And while our yard is blooming with about 100,000 hydrangeas (not really, but sort of), he cannot even get down the few steps to sit and enjoy them. He is pretty much a prisoner to the first floor.
Oh yeah, and the day we came home from the surgery, we found our dishwasher didn’t work (the repair guy came and it’s still not working…..) and there was a leak in our daughter’s bathroom! It’s true what they say, when it rains, it fucking pours (I might have added the “fucking” part).
Of course we will get through this. Of course there are worse things that could happen, but damn. Not surprisingly, Mr. Positivity’s spirits are good and he is wondering if I would mind getting a sexy nurse costume. I mean, he’s bored, and certainly not thrilled, but he’s feeling better than I am. My mood has plummeted, as much because of our homebound status, as because of my mind wondering which body part this high-achieving arthritis will come for next…
And this is why gratitude is so important. Because of unexpected, super shitty events like this. Because unless we’re aware of what we have, of the good things in our midst, we will sink to the bottom of the ocean, faster than one of Tony Soprano’s enemies. Gratitude is what will get me through the caretaking and the dish washing and the constant dog walking (oh yeah, did I mention the dog is kind of not doing too well either…..). Gratitude is what will lift me back up. So, today I’m grateful for gratitude itself. (And my bed, cuz sweet baby Jesus, I’m tired.)
A gratitude round up of a few of the things I’m thanking my lucky stars for right now:
The one thing that’s been positive about the pandemic is that I’ve been able to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my kids. At 23 and 26, this forced family fun time has been a matter of safety, sure, but there have been a bunch of laughs in there, too, and I know that we’d never get to spend this time with them if it weren’t for a killer virus roaming the earth. By the way, they may not share these sentiments!
Even in the rain, going to the Cape last weekend was great. It’s funny how staying in the house for a year will alter your sense of fun! Yup, it poured, like, build an ark kind of rain, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. And while we were told there’d be no fireworks, there were, and they felt extra amazing this year. And yes, the beach is my idea of a big fat slice of pie with whip cream, but it was really seeing my cousins who I hadn’t seen since you-know-what began that made this fourth of July sizzle.
One of the fabulous fireworks. You gotta love that reflection.
My dog is not doing well. He is 13 and his joints are shot and he can’t climb the stairs and walking on the hard wood floor is like a slip and slide for him. He doesn’t always get up and greet us anymore when we come into the room, and he is sleeping a lot. But he is still wagging his tail and going for walks and eating and peeing and pooping, so we are just babying him and loving him as much as we can. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and I know that the hardest thing is ahead. So, I am trying to be grateful for every good moment we still have together and for all those that came before. It’s a privilege to have had Riley in my life……
I’m pretty sure I ate a half of a whole watermelon yesterday. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. BUT IT’S SO GOOD. What’s more refreshing on a steamy hot, humid-like-you’re-in-a-fucking-sauna thing to do than stuff your insides with the sweet and crunchy coolness of watermelon. Nothing. Not one thing.
Yesterday, while walking around the reservoir and sweating half my body weight with every step (a lovely sight) , I saw the cutest thing in the whole freaking world. a major gaggle of geese had crossed the street and were now on their way back to the water. Traffic stopped as the last few joined the rest of the gang. There must have been 70 of them. It reminded me to care for your people no matter what.
What are you grateful for these days? I’m really interested. Oh, and have a grateful day, you know, one where you focus on all you’ve got going that’s really good and not that pile of crap that feels blah.
A late afternoon cool drink on a sunny haven of a deck catching up with a friend, a new client meeting that feels like anything but work, grocery shopping without a mask, an early morning walk around the reservoir with the only other person who can talk as much as I can, seeing my sister in person for the first time in 16 months, having dinner with friends at a restaurant. These days, post-ish pandemic, the act of seeing people without fear, the abandoning of masks, the freedom of walking to the post office without being suspect of every person I pass on the way makes me feel gratitude pumped full up on steroids.
Noticing the things we used to take for granted is good for us, healthy. Maybe, if nothing else, the pandemic has caused a re-set that has allowed us to tune into all we have in a whole new way–to be wowed by the common. What I’m hoping for is the ability to be able to hold onto this ‘everything old feels new again” attitude. I know it’s the money shot.
People are still struggling and dying and coping with the the horror of what Covid’s left behind. I don’t mean to sound like it’s over, I know that for many it is not. But for now, for me, there is an after-glow that’s risen up and my eyes are wide open to it.
(I wrote this yesterday, but had a ridiculous wordpress virus and had to download new software, but first delete like a billion gigabytes or what the hell ever they are before it would even download. First world problems, but hellish, nonetheless.)
I just walked the dog, and proceeded to have a toasted gluten free english muffin with mozzarella cheese for breakfast (I could eat one of these every hour all day long–isn’t melted cheese the best….and if you add some avocado…and a little bit of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel and maybe a slice of bacon, and some tomato….but I digress), and I am sitting here in my office, in deep in thought about how to describe a contractor’s invention for keeping basements dry (very sexy work today) when my phone flashes, “Breaking News: “At least four dead in 2nd mass shooting in Chicago in four days.”
As my eyes scroll through this message, my brain fast forwards to where this happened, geographically. This is what I do everytime we have a shooting–I don’t want to see the word “California,” where my son lives. Even if it is on the other side of the state, I worry he might have somehow found himself there, which is about as unlikely as Chip and Joanna Gaines doing an ugly renovation. When I saw it was in Chicago, I went back to my work.
But then I was all like, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
YOU JUST READ THAT FOUR PEOPLE WERE DEAD AND YOU JUST WENT BACK TO YOUR WORK, LIKE YOU’D JUST READ JLO WAS ENGAGED AGAIN. I had to smack myself and remember that these are people just like me with families and friends and lives and hopes and dreams and jobs and favorite foods, like mozzarella on english muffins. These shootings have become so frequent that even, I, an overly sensitive type, is beginning to become jaded. Hard stop, right there. I just can’t allow myself to let this kind of news stop meaning anything. I can’t allow myself to forget that this is bat shit craziness and we all need to remember that gun violence is killing people exactly like you and your kids.
This is how it is now. The shootings are more and more frequent. This CNN article says as of this weekend, there have been 272 mass shootings in 2021 so far. And since it was published 23 hours ago, that didn’t include the Chicago shooting I just read about. And by the end of the day, or week, who knows how much that number will increase. But you know, I have to figure out how to explain my client’s innovative technique to keep basements everywhere dry, so I’ll just carry on.
The other night we just so happened to watch Us Kids, an extraordinary documentary on the gutsy, resilient, fucking spectacular students from Stoneham Douglas High School in Florida, who became gun activists (after losing 17 and having 17 others injured during a mass shooting at their school. The movie documents them traveling all over the country with their message and first hand experience of gun violence. It’s quite impressive what these kids did and continue to do. And the director does a great job of making you feel the exhaustion these kids experience. (I felt so much gratitude toward these students, who were brave enough to make noise, to try and challenge the status quo, to push for laws by sharing their story). And as we watched, utterly blown away by their tenacity, we all said the same thing at the end of the movie. AS MUCH AS THESE KIDS HAVE DONE, THERE HAS STILL BEEN NO LEGISLATION THAT’S MADE GUNS ANY HARDER TO OBTAIN.
Yeah, what am I even saying that everybody, including me hasn’t said before.
But when will it be too much? Do we have no bottom? who will have to die in a mass shooting for anything to change? Have you already started to ignore the breaking news that details another mass shooting? I will not allow myself to be become inhuman. i will force myself to remember that every life taken is a life like my own.