gratitude-a-thon day 538: eyes & ears

This is a quote by Thich Naht Hanh. It’s my new favorite thing anybody has ever said.

I don’t like the snow any better today, but I’m over my bad self, and have ceased the whining. Gratitude is back!

So, over the weekend, I went to the emergency room at the Mass Eye & Ear, which I am so damn lucky to live a mere 20 minutes from (less without traffic). I’ve been having weird symptoms in one of my eyes, featuring cloudy vision, and a cornucopia of other oddities, which have been plaguing (and kind of scaring) me for several weeks. So, I called up my eye doctor, Romeo Chang (I have gratitude for this guy’s name every time I call him–HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS NAME?), but I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks, which would have been this past Monday. While nobody in my house was taking this second storm seriously, except for me, I woke up on Saturday morning and realized my appointment would get cancelled (which it did), and so decided to put myself in an Uber and go to the emergency room at the Eye & Ear. My husband was like, “You’re going to spend all day there.” to which I responded, “I’m going to spend all day worrying about my eye, if I don’t go.”

Cannes - 'Buddha' Photocall
Thich Naht Hanh, This dude has wisdom..

Anyway, there were only three people ahead of me. I think I waited a total of 30 minutes, which was kind of extraordinary (I have waited in that same emergency room for like 2-3 hours before). Cutting to the chase, my eye is fine, in fact, the doctor said that “everybody should have eyes that are as good as yours.” But he also said that my symptoms were due to the extreme dryness of the season (just another thing I love about winter) and a teeny, tiny cataract, that was actually so small, I shouldn’t have to do anything about it for 30 years (when I will be 86)! All good, I Uber-ed myself home, and would have continued on my merry way, but my vision was now really blurry from the drops. So, I just gave into it, and laid in my bed listening to the website Onbeing, which my friend/trainer/guru Colleen Quinn told me to check out. It was just what the doctor should have ordered, post eye drops.

Late to the party, I had no idea how cool Onbeing was. (Where have I been? Complaining about the winter, apparently.) Krista Tippett interviews all sorts of interesting people on this site. She has one of those voices that’s smart, soothing, and just a little bit sexy. (Completely the opposite of my nasally, ugly, and completely un-sexy voice, THANK GOD.) I downloaded the Thich Naht Hanh interview, and pretty quickly fell into this beautiful man’s arms. He is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.

The lotus flower only grows in mud. If that’s not a great metaphor for life.

Sometimes the world aligns (eye drops and blurry eyes) and you get what you need (this interview). I have been struggling with keeping up my meditation practice, working too hard at settling my restless mind, resisting even the small amount of time it takes to get quiet. Mr. Hanh spoke in a beautiful accent, and talked about mindfulness and suffering in just such a way that I made all sorts of connections that I hadn’t made before. This is something that continually astounds me, how you can hear the same thing over and over and over, and then one day the right person says it and BOOM, you suddenly hear it. He talked a lot about the usefulness that suffering offers us. And what I took away, was that being mindful and going deep into the quiet, prepares you for the inevitable suffering, or rather allows you to find a place in yourself to be when there is too much suffering. This got through my noisy brain, this way of looking at mindfulness.

Gratitude is back and flowing: The Mass. Eye & Ear, Uber, Colleen Quinn, Onbeing, Krista Tippett, Thich Nhat Hanh. Snow shmow. It’s about noticing what is good. (Not what’s piled up OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE, AND WHAT’S COMING AGAIN TOMORROW, oooops, sorry, slipped back into I HATE WINTER mode there for a minute.)

gratitude-a-thon day 31: my neighborhood

We’re just 20 minutes on the T from Boston.

My neighborhood is kind of great. I live on a one way street, and everybody is actually nice. Kids play in the road. We have block parties in the summer. There is a fabulous park a block and a half away that has concerts every Wednesday night when it’s warm, and a sprinkler and playground, where mom’s bring their kids to play, and connect with each other to save themselves from forgetting how to speak (my kids WERE LITERALLY RAISED AT EMERSON PARK.

This is where my kids grew up. And so did all the rest of the neighborhood kids, too. Now, it’s where I walk my dog!

We went there day and night. We had lunches, picnics. We even spent the shell-shocked night of 911 there with our good friends, pizza and a lot of wine, while our kids ran around untouched by the new world.) We borrow ketchup and eggs, and pancake mix from each other. We walk to our schools, because we’re just a few blocks away from our grammar school, a few blocks away from the high school. We live near our quirky little town center called Brookline Village, where my one of favorite restaurants in the world is located–

That’s Sam, THE BEST BARTENDER ON THE PLANET. go ahead, see if you don’t think so.

Pomodoro, (AND MY FAVORITE BARTENDER IN THE WORLD IS, SAM.) And where you can find my fantastic personal trainer (who has saved my back, and my life), Colleen Quinn at Eutopia, and the cool little pub,  Matt Murphy’s, and the incredible sandwich shop Cutty’s and

You gotta get the eggplant sandwich. NO, REALLY, YOU GOTTA.

the super awesome cafe KooKoo, owned by the equally super awesome Elie and Ali (who also own the fabulous Innerspace Yoga Studio, and apparently NEVER SLEEP). And there’s all sorts of other  stuff in the Village too, like the post office and the T, and Starbuck’s, to name a few. And we all live close to one another, so there’s a lot of respecting one another’s privacy, but basically it’s a bunch of good people, and I think we sort of all know that we have a pretty great thing going on.

Happy big five ooooooooooooh, Martha!

The other night I went to a birthday party for one of the neighborhood legends . It was her 50th and a lot of the hood was there. It was kind of an astounding thing to think of all the time I’ve known Martha. Because in that time, we have witnessed our kids go from babies to teenagers. I met her when she was walking her twin boys in their stroller, all smiley, cheerful new mom, and I was walking my daughter, all cranky, my-baby-never-stops-crying, semi-psychotic basket case MOTHER WHO CLEARLY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO PROCREATE. In that first encounter, when we exchanged pleasantries, as you do when you see someone who has a baby around the same age as yours,  I told her how difficult my daughter was because she cried all the time and she didn’t sleep through the night AND NEITHER DID I. I was immediately thinking, THIS IS A MOTHER OF TWINS, SHE WILL GET MY MISERY LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS. But it was not to be. Big smile on her sunny face, “They’re really good, and they sleep quite well, ” she said, of her twins, in some sort of words, which I can not exactly recall, BECAUSE I WAS ABOUT TO GET MY OWN WING AT MCLEAN’S, plus I was trying to hold back my arm from hitting her across the face with my hand BECAUSE SHE WAS CHEERFUL AND WELL RESTED, in the face of MY TOTAL AND COMPLETE EXHAUSTION AND PROJECTED FEAR THAT MY BABY WOULD CRY FOR THE REST OF TIME. Anyway, I didn’t know it then, but now that I’ve  known Martha for 14 years, i can tell you that  she’s just that kind of person. Perhaps that’s how they make ’em in Canada, which is where she grew up. You can pretty much throw anything her way, and she will spin it into gold. And the thing about her is, that it’s GENUINE. She is totally genuine, real deal, no artifice. She believes in everyone’s best. She thinks everything is possible. And she will help you to make whatever you’re thinking, happen. She’s a connector of people and a nurturer of ideas. She’s a cheerleader and a true believer. She will show up for you. She’s the person you’d like to be when you’re at your best, but rarely are. (I’m sorry, I’ll speak for myself, here.) She will bake you a cake if you’re sick. She will whip up a cute little gift for your birthday and leave it on your porch, when you least expect it. She will write you an inspiring email to thank you for doing something at school. This is a really, really, unusually kind person. The kind of kind person we would all be lucky to know. And she’s part of what makes my neighborhood so great. Happy 50th, Martha. Canada’s loss. Our gain.