Some February highlights

We have so much snow in Massachusetts right now-many feet of snow and more on the way.

I was happy my husband was not traveling for the last couple snow falls; though I now know that I can snow blow my way out of the driveway, I don’t particularly want to make a habit of it-or like my father-in-law used to be fond of saying, “I don’t want to make a career of it”. Plus my husband shovels our little dog a pathway to the woods and he shovels the front walkway and even clears off the grill in case we want to run out onto the deck and throw some food on there for dinner (I don’t, but he might).

But the other day, just before my husband was able to get the dog’s pathway cleared for the third time that day, I decided to let him out into the driveway which was already clear (or as clear as it could be when it is still snowing like crazy). I had my indoor clogs on and didn’t bother putting boots on because my plan was to stand in the garage while the dog ran into the driveway to do his business.

But he got a little more adventurous than usual and trotted right out of our driveway and into the street. It was getting dark out. I was terrified a plow would run him over (plows were coming through our neighborhood at an impressive frequency). I ran back into the house to grab his leash and throw my boots on so that I could go retrieve him.

As I was running full speed across the kitchen tile floor, I slipped and went down with a force that took my breath away. At the sound of my loud crash, my husband came running to find me lying on the tile floor holding my knee (which turned out only to be badly bruised). Still very panicked that our dog was loose and in danger, I urged my husband to find him asap.

Once I convinced him that I was not in need of immediate medical attention, despite still being on the floor with no immediate plans of getting up, he was on his way to save Max from the plow. When he got to the garage door, our dog was standing there, covered in snow and wagging his stub of a tail, as much as a stub wags. There’s no place like home.

Note to self: Put boots on before bringing dog out with leash even when it looks as though an eighteen inch tall dog can’t possibly venture out into three feet of snow.

Despite the snow and the frigid temperatures (which has greatly impacted Boston), we went into the city to the Moth Story Slam this week.  This is an open mic format, sponsored by WBUR. I love the combination of literature and the human condition that is storytelling.

We had a little walk between where we parked our car and where we ate and then another walk to the story slam and back to the car afterwards. To say it was cold is an understatement, but it was worth it because it was great fun.

I entered a story and it went very well and I can hardly wait to do it again. My husband, ever my biggest supporter, told me that he thought just getting up there and doing it without fainting would be impressive (it’s not as if I do this sort of thing every day). And then we lowered the bar even more and decided that even if I faint, he could simply come get me off the stage and he’d still be impressed that I tried.

But alas, it went much better than that and so I was thrilled. Plus I was left knowing what I wanted to do to make it better for next time.  The winners from each slam get to compete against each other at the grand slam later in the year. I’m not typically a competitive person, but I really want to win one of the story slams. Just sayin’.

And I really love the in-and-out of this; the quiet, reflective writing time, contrasted with the time of bringing it out into the world through voice.

Another February highlight that I look forward to is my youngest daughter’s birthday; it happens to fall over the long weekend when she will be home from college. I’ve planned a surprise outing that I’m excited about and both of her sisters will be able to partake. I can’t write what it is in case she finds time, in the midst of her busy social and academic schedule, to read her mother’s blog. One never knows.

20150127_161044I refuse to count the days until spring, because last year there really was no spring to speak of. We had winter, winter, and more winter. Then summer. So March 20th is really just an arbitrary date; we could have snow! We could have cold temperatures! And sure, we could have spring. But I’m just not going to count on it. It’s sort of like a pregnancy due date. We can estimate, but it happens when it happens.

Instead, I will trudge through the snow and the slush and the freezing temperatures when I have to, to get where I am going, and be thankful that I can do this, bruised knee and all.

Choices, choices everywhere

I have so many topics that I want to write about that I’ve avoided focusing on just one. Sitting down to write a post means having to choose what to write about, and my mind has been swimming with too many ideas. I write down the subject matters as they come to me, keeping a list, but usually one topic of the other will come to the forefront. But lately they are all there, eager for my attention like a classroom full of raised hands waving wildly. “Pick me, pick me” each topic seems to call out, so I pick none.

I only want one at a time.   Choices are good, but too many are overwhelming and can dilute the experience of the one thing. I once worked with a woman who told me she always bought her clothes at the same store because otherwise there would be too many choices to make. One store! All of her clothes. That’s how she simplified her shopping issues. 2014-09-19 11.09.25

I recently traveled to the San Francisco area and was struck by the beauty, the vastness and the farms at the ocean’s edge, south of the city.  Every time I go somewhere new or even just read about it, I wonder what it would be like to live there. There are so many different choices that I occasionally wonder if I am missing out on all the ones I didn’t pick. I don’t just want to see different places; I want to settle in. I want to live there, a lifetime in each place. But I don’t want to leave where I am. I’ve heard it said that you can live far or you can live deep. I want both. I want to live deep but in several different places, and all without actually leaving my current home. Impossible.  Alas, we all have to choose.

Upon returning from this California trip, I went to my high school reunion. I grew up just one town over from where I live now.  Most of my husband’s and my family members live within an hour from us. Our roots are here. Our children are here. I love New England. I can go to the ocean, mountains, or city all within an easy drive. I love my state. I love most of our seasons. In the winters though, I find myself dreaming of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and the Carolinas.

Family, roots, circumstances and practicality have all kept me where I am, and that’s probably a good thing. Who knows, indulging that little bit of gypsy or curiosity or whatever it is may have made me feel ungrounded or displaced.  Maybe visiting places when the opportunity arises is the way to go, at least for now and maybe forever. Like the woman who shops for clothes in just one store, there is something to be said for narrowing our choices about some things. Maybe where we live is simply a minor detail of life and how we live is what really counts.

*Please feel free to request a topic on simplifying. Knowing what readers want is helpful in narrowing down the choices!

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.