Monthly Archives: October 2015

Don’t ever shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue

Don’t ever shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue. This was the advice my father gave me during my teenage years.

Actually, his guidance was this:

“Go out,” he instructed. “Get drunk. Get a boyfriend. Have an unhappy love affair.” (He claims he didn’t say this one.) “Fail a few courses.”

These experiences, he professed, would enrich my life.

His advice was weird and his restrictions few, but he did forbid me to do certain things.

“Don’t ever,” he stressed, “shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue. If you want to shoot up, come upstairs out of traffic.”

Danny’s counsel confused me at the time. And even now, while I get the points he was trying to make – experience life, don’t worry so much, it’s okay to mess up – I realize his approach was not quite ordinary. Especially the shooting up in the middle of Second Avenue part. He did explain, when I questioned, that shooting up speed might be okay. But that smack was a downer, and if I shot up smack I would most likely pass out in the middle of the street. Which wasn’t safe.

What I think I’m trying to say is that Danny prided himself on being nontraditional and nonconformist. (I hate to admit that I do as well.) But that in his nontraditional and uber-nonconformist ways, he aimed to share what he knew and what he’d learned. To shower me with his understanding.

Because I was so tightly contained and perfectionistically rigid – both from my own make-up and from my years in the Church – that Danny tried to push me to break rules. Any rules. Maybe even all rules. And because he was such a rule breaker and disregarder, I doubt I listened to him and most likely summarily ignored everything he said.

I was explaining to someone recently how growing up I knew that my childhood was weird, but that I didn’t know it was bad. It was just what I knew. I knew that being a Moonie was different, and for years I thought I was lucky to be one. I knew that life with my father was different, and for years I saw no upside to that at all.

I know that there might not be much upside in “don’t shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue.” I realize I would never say that – or most likely anything like that – to my kids. But I like that as an adult I can look deeper into what Danny was trying to say. Even if I’m making it up with hindsight.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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I was actually focusing only on my breath

I write about mindfulness – both here and on my work blog (www.thoughtfulleaders.com). I write about it. I talk about it. I think about it. But do I do it?

Well, I try. And then the weirdest, coolest thing happened recently. I was in yoga class, towards the end of class, and all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t thinking. Anything. I was actually in the moment and focusing only on my breath.

Well, I was actually in the moment and focusing only on my breath until I realized I was actually in the moment and focusing only on my breath. Then I started focusing on the fact that I was actually in the moment and focusing only on my breath. Or that I had been. Because by noticing it I kinda lost it. But for the space of time when I was only focused on my breath, it was really, really cool.

Then it happened again, in my next practice. I noticed myself only breathing. Not thinking. Not planning. Not judging my practice. Not remembering something the instructor had said so that I could blog about it. Just breathing. And holding a pose, and moving through the next pose. And this time it lasted longer.

It took my breath away, just focusing on my breath. Well, not really. But it was that astounding. It felt whole and simple. I felt whole and simple. And complete.

I write about mindfulness and I practice mindfulness. Over and over. Again and again. But the moments when I find that I’m mindful, especially without thinking about it or trying to be, still take me by surprise. They overwhelm me. In a good way.

It was – and is – such a sense of peace. A sense of fullness. A sense of how things are supposed to be. How I’m supposed to be.

A sense that it’s okay that I don’t have focused mindfulness in every moment, but that I could have it in more moments. I could feel my fingers on the keyboard as I type this. I could feel my butt in the seat of the Amtrak train. I could breathe in and feel it and smile. And lose track of my outbreath and start again.

I could look out the window and notice the clouds. I could be present with myself in this exact moment.

And I could – I can – focus on only my breathing during my yoga practice. At least every now and then. At least for a little while.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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A challenge worth taking

It wasn’t really a challenge when it was put in front of me. It was more like a suggestion. But it seemed like a challenge worth taking on.

“How can you find 10% more happiness?” I was asked.

Just 10%. That’s not a huge undertaking, I suppose. But it resonated with me. Because 10% seemed doable, and also potentially life altering. I could possibly find 10% more happiness. I could probably do it. I could focus and play and choose and connect and easily get 10% more. Couldn’t I?

I could find myself in a tough situation, or feeling tired, and think about something – or someone – that would bring a smile to my face. I could stop and breathe and notice something beautiful, or remember something beautiful, or create something beautiful. I could find a bit more happiness in that exact moment.

The other night I chose not to get frustrated when my son got frustrated. Well, actually, I did get frustrated and then I pulled back and decided to be less so. I realized that I couldn’t stop him from reacting that way, and I could only love him through it. I found a bit more happiness in that moment.

This morning something happened that would have normally set me off. The “usual” me would have been upset. Or hurt by it. Or maybe even angry. Today I was, for whatever reason, only overwhelmed with a sense of “ah well” and “whatever” – and not in a bad, teenage attitude way. In a, “whatever is fine and it’s not worth getting upset about” way. What a difference.

I could keep choosing ways to find a measly 10% more happiness in my life, and look for the payoffs. I could make time for more peace and a sense of wellness in my mornings, especially the mornings when I’m rushed. I could laugh more and make others laugh more. I could hug more and make others hug me more. I could play more. I could smile and say hello to strangers and metaphorically – and actually – stop and smell the roses.

I can find – and create – 10% more happiness in my life, one percentage point at a time. I wonder what my further rewards will be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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