Wedding reflections

weddingMy daughter’s wedding- so much joy and family and love and friends in one place at one time has left me stunned. I want to do it again, but in slow motion. I want to see the people I barely saw, and eat the cake I barely ate and dance to the song I missed. But I’m grateful for all the moments I did have, and mostly for all of the moments the new couple had.

And miracles! The sun actually came out of the overcast sky during the Beatles Here comes the sun as the ceremony procession began.

During his vows, my new son-in-law touched upon his and my daughter’s starkly different childhoods, though they grew up just 65 miles apart (a topic that warrants its own post later).  What brings people together?

So much emotion, but my eyes were mostly dry, too happy to cry. Then much later, one of the groomsmen showed me a picture of his new baby and the tears came. The mere site of life, pure and new and precious, combined with the significance of the day, and I was overwhelmed. My tears did not deter him though, but rather he pulled up another photo and another. There is something relentless about the love of our babies.

Now summer is winding down. My other daughters are returning to college, the newlyweds are away on their honeymoon and I will return to my writing routine with a fuller heart, and freshness, something new but as ancient as the first breath of life.

 

 

 

Simplify your way to a healthy weight

Clutter makes you fat. I came across an article with this title, and it instantly made perfect sense to me.  Peter Walsh, professional organizer, writer and media personality, writes about why a cluttered life and home can make you overweight and unhealthy, and what you can do to change that. I recommend his article to anyone who struggles with eating habits.  If you detest the idea of a diet, or simply want some tips on how to permanently change your lifestyle, read on!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2061094/Clutter-makes-fat-If-house-mess-chances-eating-habits-says-new-book.html

The main points that Walsh covers are these:

* We live in a “more is better” culture and this is reflected in our overstuffed schedules, crammed drawers, and skyrocketing obesity rates.

*Clutter accumulates because we are out of control, and if you let it invade your home you are much more likely to mindlessly stuff your body as well.

*Chaos and disorder are often reflected in the physical space, mental space and the body. One affects the other and if you clean up one, you begin to clear up the others as well.

College in a nutshell

The college search should be simplified. As a society, we have made such a fuss about it, such a monumental drama; a lengthy, stressful, anxiety inducing task.

It’s a lot of work to apply to college, I know. But we don’t have to make it even harder on ourselves or our kids by making it into more than it is. It’s a four year education. Four short years. And it’s not going to entirely mold junior into the person he is meant to be. If you zoned out for the first eighteen years of his life, writing a big check to a fancy college- or to any college- is not going to make up for this time.   And if your child has a certain temperament, let’s say a challenging one, that’s not going to miraculously change in these four years. And if she is a party animal, searching recklessly for happiness, college isn’t going to save her from that either. There will just be less supervision.  And if she’s already happy and good? Then she’s happy and good.

So let’s stop making college into something it’s not. It’s not a stand in for parenting. It’s not a guarantee for success nor a ticket to happiness. It’s a campus, some classes, peers galore (is it really the best thing to lump them all together with very few adults for them to interact with? I wonder about this one, but whatever); it’s a great privilege, an opportunity, and a financial decision.

We start the process way too early, in my opinion. Talk about rushing things. Do kids really need to start touring campuses sophomore year? That’s age fifteen, or sixteen for some. They aren’t even driving yet, and it’s just two years after middle school. Middle school. Think braces and skinny jeans. Most kids don’t know what they want to do when they grow up at this point, because they are busy growing up. At least they were until they started to hear the anxious, overzealous roar of the adults chanting College. College. College. Let’s start obsessing now. Do you know how many times these kids could change their minds about what they want to study between age fifteen and eighteen? Do you know how clueless they may be about which college is best for them? And about exactly where and how much of your hard earned money should be spent? I think we should all just chill out until at least junior year. And even then, let’s stop acting like which college they go to is the most important decision of their lives. What they do while they are there, or what they do afterwards, may be crucial, but where they do it is probably not.

Because mostly, it’s about the food. Why does it seem hardly anyone takes the food into consideration when searching for a college? These kids are going to be eating there three times a day, minimum. Food is a big deal. It affects mood, health, weight, brain function. Heck, it affects happiness. I was thrilled to read that my daughters’ university was ranked second-best in the nation for their campus food. I love knowing they have high quality fare at their fingertips at every meal- locally grown fruits and vegetables, delicious and diverse meals prepared by top notch chefs.

Four years is not long, unless you are feeding yourself crap. Then it is many, many days, several times a day, down the road to sluggishness, moodiness and weight gain. Now this is life changing. Habits are life changing. Lifestyles are life changing. So please, let’s stop freaking out about where our kids are going to go to college. It’s making them anxious and ungrateful and hurried.   And it’s making us crazy. Take a deep breath, and if you’re going to go on a tour, start with the dining hall. Afterall, you are what you eat.

 

Routine and the precious commodity of time

 

A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods. –Mason Currey

 I think a lack of routine leaves room for our time to be filled aimlessly, like the tide rushing in to fill the sandy grooves leading to the castle. Sometimes necessary things fill in the grooves of time, like dental appointments and grocery shopping, and work. But there are also those other things- the optional ones such as all that information, streaming in, all the time, everywhere, by mail and web, radio, and by osmosis. The Time magazines that seem to be floating around my home, reminding me I haven’t read them yet. And the newspaper, black ink scolding me for only skimming – This is the world for crying out loud! Read it all!

 Instead I’ve been reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, a book about renowned artists’ and authors’ work routines. I am thoroughly enjoying this book and picking up some good tips. But I’m also noticing the daily life stuff is suspiciously missing from the pages. The routines look a lot like “wake up early, have coffee, go for a walk, write until lunch, resume writing until late afternoon, break for dinner with friends” etc. Nowhere am I reading anything like this: did six loads of laundry, called the insurance company, prepared dinner, picked up the dry cleaning, brought dog to the groomer, paid the bills, made doctor appointment, shopped for birthday gift, called mother, answered emails, scrubbed the toilets, swept and vacuumed, bought groceries, took out the trash, got a haircut, went to Target, the vet, the dentist, the post office and the gas station. Exercised. Squeezed in a little writing.

 And I can only assume none of them had kids because there was also no mention of took my kids to the dentist, doctor, playground, school, soccer, ballet, went to school meeting, spent quality time with kids, helped with homework, discussed curfew, toured colleges, met new boyfriend, quietly fretted, analyzed and obsessed over choices and futures and goals, mine and theirs, but mostly theirs, doled out chores because it is really nice not to empty the dishwasher for the second time in one day.

  Perhaps they had an unmentioned, designated time of day or week that they called all the stuff I have to do if I am to consider myself a functioning adult. And all the stuff I want to do because I am a parent. Being successful artists and authors, they surely made their work the top priority, and somehow fit everything else in around that, not the other way around. Life is so full of all the extraneous stuff that can fill in our precious time, as well as the important stuff that keeps us whole. There are limited hours in a day and a finite number of days in a year. This forces us to pick and choose what the important stuff is. We just don’t have time for everything. Therefore, here is my short bucket list:
1. Finish and publish current book.
2. Write several more.

That’s it. Some other things, such as traveling to Finland or meeting Stephen King, (I’ve only read his memoir, but this was enough to make me love him) would just be pleasant bonuses.

And speaking of Steven King, here are just two of his 20 Rules for Writers:
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. The least of all (your concerns) should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
Good news. What a relief. Such a time saver too.
10. You have three months. The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.
Not so good news. Three months? I am way, way behind. How about three years? Maybe I’ll hit my stride by book two and quicken my pace. For now, I’m setting new deadlines and a firmer routine so when the tide rushes in, which it always does, the big stuff won’t get washed away.

The complete list of Stephen King’s 20 rules are here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/stephen-kings-top-20-rules-for-writers/

 

Freedom from distraction

There’s an article in today’s Boston Globe about the lengths people will go to avoid being alone with their thoughts. During a part of the study, two-thirds of men and a quarter of the women actually chose a painful shock over having no outside stimulation. The researchers concluded, after several experiments, that most people loathe having even ten minutes of quiet time without distractions.

Timothy Wilson, the psychologist who led the study, wonders if studying people who regularly meditate would show different results. I hope he continues the study, as I think it is an important one in regards to human nature and happiness. My thought is that yes, people who meditate will indeed rate the experience of solitude as positive, rather than negative. I think the reason is twofold.

Everyone is subject to some uncomfortable thoughts now and then, but those who meditate have stopped trying to suppress these disturbances. Long term meditators, anyway, have let them surface, faced them, healed them, and let them go. Avoiding our thoughts, on the other hand, we can distract ourselves into feeling okay. I once read a quote (I don’t recall the author), that I thought was a simple yet brilliant summary of this: By trying to avoid feeling bad, we end up feeling mediocre. Once you’ve committed to meditation, you’ve stopped running from yourself. Grief, regret, anguish, stagnation, if followed to their source, will eventually dissipate, and there is a lot of peace and joy to be had afterwards. It also makes room to guides one’s own thoughts in a chosen direction, and there is power in that.

The second reason I think that people who meditate are happy to sit in seclusion, is that they have practice being alone without actually thinking. When we are free from thinking, we are truly present in the moment. There is room for inspiration, clarity and insight to slip in. When you observe your thoughts, you can then let them come and go without getting too carried away by them. When you let your thoughts go completely for a period of time, you are in the blissful state of meditation. Why would anyone want to avoid this? Experienced meditators seek this out.

In our modern day society, there is absolutely no reason why we have to be still and alone with ourselves for any length of time. It seems that no matter where we are, we have distraction at our fingertips. Entertainment, information, technology- we can take it all in at every second of every day if we so desire. So if most people are more comfortable not being left alone, why should they ever fly solo, unencumbered by anything to do? My unofficial study says they should try it anyway, because facing oneself is the essence of freedom.