Sunday, October 28, 2012

State of Emergency

It’s a scary sign, isn’t it? But there it was, above us on the New Jersey Turnpike, after dropping my sister at the airport (fortunately, she made it home to North Carolina safe & sound). Now, in the calm before the storm, we await whatever may happen. We have no control. Floods, winds, snow, rain, ice, volcanoes, tsunamis…they’re not up to us!
            How we react to them, however, is under our control. Some of my friends have been out collecting batteries and water, while others have taken a more relaxed approach (i.e. “That’s all hype. I’m not cancelling my appointment; it’s sure to blow over!”) I briefly considered running out for a bag of decaf, but then decided I would just get along with what I have.
            It is, indeed, easy to work one’s self up into a “state” when emergencies are imminent. We can glue our eyes to the TV, heeding the ominous warnings of governors, mayors and newscasters. We can imagine the worst (think Katrina!) and prepare as best we can for every type of tragedy.
            Or…we can travel the road advised by my oft-quoted (here, anyway!) first yoga teacher, who once told me (when I had worked myself into a panic over some impending disaster I had created in my own mind that clearly never came to pass), “Imagine the worst that can happen. Then, imagine the best. Then, go in your thoughts to the middle, which is the likely scenario.”     
            That is the path that I choose today. I’m not going to join the doomsayers who are predicting that the East Coast will be 8 feet under by tomorrow evening. Nor am I planning a picnic in the park. Instead, I'm going to batten down the hatches, fill some water jugs, make some soup, and decide which book to read or what meditation to do if the power goes out. 
            And although I don’t take Mother Nature’s own power lightly--nor do I underestimate the grim possibilities that can result in a storm--I also see the wielding of the Universe’s giant weather sword as a reminder that once in a while we really have no choice but to go with the flow. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Talking About Debates...

© Kitsen |

Back in the day, when I was a student learning how to debate (a lesson, I will admit, I didn’t learn very well), the focus was on content not muscle. In fact, I don’t ever remember our teacher asking,“Who was the aggressor?” or, “Who claimed more air space?” Instead, our debate performance was based upon our arguments and whatever facts and statistics we used to support them.
            Not so anymore. After watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates this year I was struck by the commentary afterwards. “Romney was the aggressor! He won the debate!” they all claimed after round one. Then it was “Biden was the aggressor. He held the air space!” Presidential debate number two came in with, “Obama wins! He regained his aggressive stance.”
            Hmmm, I thought to myself. Does anyone care what these men are actually saying? Apparently not. It seems to be more about the tone, the swagger, and the punch than about real solutions to real problems.
            Of course, as a mother (and a yogi), I’m not pleased with this approach. What does it teach our kids? Does it teach them to be passionate, compassionate, and to present their ideas, hopes and dreams in a clear and logical manner? Does it teach them to persuade with facts instead of exaggerations? Or does the presidential debate simply reinforce the culture of aggressive bullying that is pervasive and so problematic in many of our schools?
            I will admit I am looking forward to debate number three.  But only because I hold on to the idealistic hope that when it’s over, someone in media-land will actually comment on what has been said rather than on who appears to be tougher and meaner. For me, winning a debate has to do with whose ideas make the most sense, not with who looks scarier, nastier and has bigger horns.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Old Friends...

Bob & a few of his many friends
We all know that old song by Simon & Garfunkel about two old friends sitting on a park bench like bookends. When we were young it seemed so far away, but as we get older (some of us, anyway) we realize that while it may be a long, long time from May to December the days grow short when you reach September (ahh…I love the version of that song by Willie Nelson).
            The subject of this blog, however, is not aging! Enough of that, already. Rather, it’s about old friends, and I don’t mean they need to be elderly, I just mean they’ve been in your life for a long time. New friends are blessings and I love them. But old friends…well, there’s something to be said for a friend you met on the first day of Kindergarten (yes, one of my best friends and I have been close for more than 50 years).
            I was inspired to write this blog because today I’m attending a surprise birthday party for a friend who is turning 65. This particular fellow has an amazing sense of humor and has always been there for me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago, he was on my doorstep with comfort, flowers and jokes. This friend and I do not see eye to eye politically at all. And yet, there’s something about human friendship and love that rises above politics. In this season of voting, debating, and watching the polls, I think it’s important to remember that we are all in this together.
            We are all so different, and yet we are all so the same. Bob (my friend) and I do not agree on presidents, taxes, unions, health care, or a lot of other things. But when one of us is sick or sad, we reach out our hands. This is what friendship and humanity should be about, no matter the “ruling party.”
            Happy Birthday to Bob (and to his dear wife, my friend Grace; both have birthdays this month, met in Kindergarten and have been married for 43 years!). And as my dear departed mother (a Democrat married for 50 years to a staunch Republican) would say, “Thanks be to God!” In this case I will add, “Thanks be to the Universe, and the powers that be for giving us differences as well as similarities.” 
Life would be more than a little bit dull if every time I said “Yes!” you said “Yes!” too.  I’m sure Bob would agree.
Grace & Bob

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running on Empty

There was a time in my life not too long ago when my days were empty. Although I had a nagging feeling that I should be doing something during this time (writing, perhaps? cleaning?), I must admit that I had no desire to fill them. There is a delicious freedom and solitude in an empty day, and I fear that most of us have far too few mornings when we can wake up and happily sigh, "Hmmm, what shall I do?"
            Now, I know that empty days (and maybe empty plates) can be frightening (especially if you’re out of work and you need to pay the mortgage). But for most of us, empty days don’t last very long, and are few and far between, so it’s best (I think) to simply treasure them.
            Lately, my days have been incredibly full, and much of the stuff they are full of has little or nothing to do with things that I’ve consciously chosen. My days have been filled with obligations, responsibilities, deadlines, and commitments—many of which I’ve clumsily fallen into or have been imposed by others. Although it’s nice to be busy, I also find that I often wake up already tired on such days. I miss the emptiness, is all.
            It is indeed a luxury to face a day with nothing in it, to make your own choices about whether to walk or sleep, drive to the beach, read, work in the garden, or putter. I suppose this is what vacations and retirement are for, but from what I’ve observed, and often experienced, vacation days can be more full than anything, packed with mandatory trips to museums, restaurants, monuments, and tourist traps. After all, how many of us pay to rent an expensive cabin or hotel room and then stay in bed all week?
            The best part of an empty day is your ability to fill it (or not) however you want--like a child with a beach pail, collecting rocks, shells, or feathers, or scooping up a load of water and finding within some unexpected minnows swimming around and around. Empty days can offer happy surprises in ways that full days can’t (of course, they can also offer unhappy surprises as well).
            I’m not complaining that I’m busy of late (at least I’m writing!)…but when I’ve met my deadlines I intend to take a break. I find that I actually run best on empty, knowing that I can fill my day however I please. The word boredom is not in my vocabulary and won’t be as long as there are skies, mantras, music, birds, or breath.