Sunday, November 25, 2012

Toxic People

© Suprijono Suharjoto |

There are a few toxic people in my life, though not many, thank heavens! I’m sure you have a few in yours too, even if you try very hard to surround yourself with nurturing, loving angels (or even if you don’t try at all, but just naturally attract such folks). And some of the best advice I’ve heard, indeed, is to avoid these negative thinkers at all costs. But sometimes we just can’t...the toxic person may be our sister (but not mine, that’s for sure!), or a next door neighbor, or an individual in our workplace. Sometimes we can’t run away…we just need to deal.
            At a yoga workshop I attended over the weekend (the subject of which was gratitude, appropriately), I was reminded that the yogic perspective is to view everything—yes, everything—as coming from the Divine, and that includes, I guess, toxic people. So I gave this some thought, and realized that yes, it’s quite possible that these negative individuals are here to teach us something. In fact, one of the things they teach quite well is how to be positive, because who in the heck would want to be like them?
            Now I will admit that I don’t especially like going out to dinner with a nasty naysayer, and I don’t enjoy being near angry bullies. Nor do I appreciate the scads of emails I get from fuming, opinionated members of political parties to which I do not--and never will--belong. And I will admit that feeling compassion, affinity, or empathy can be a real challenge when it comes to folks who are spewing their poison my way. But…when I do manage to handle my reaction (or non-reaction) with grace and ease, I usually feel much better about myself, and in most cases the poison-spewer usually calms down.              
         The world would be a lovely place if it were filled only with peaceful, charming, loving yogis, but such is not the case. And, though I wouldn’t advise spending a great deal of time with a toxic individual nor would I advise watching too much of such people on TV or listening to them on the radio (not to name names but one blustering cigar smoking right-winger comes to mind), I’ve also found that a few hours with someone who is really angry, critical, morose, and bitter reminds me of how lucky I am to live on the other side of the fence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nothing Lasts Forever...

Or so they say. But this bright red colander comes close. My best friend gave it to me when my first child was born, twenty-nine years ago. No, it wasn’t because she thought I should make some postpartum salad. Rather, she had read somewhere that a plastic colander made a great toy for a toddler, and she was right. My son played with this useful item for several years (once he was old enough to figure out how to sit in it, drum on it or roll it around), before it became the colander I regularly use in my kitchen. Yes, twenty-nine years and still going strong... now that’s a colander!
            So I sort of take issue with that old “nothing lasts forever" line. Sure, I suppose one day the colander will crack, but I’m pretty sure my friendship with my beloved F (I will not divulge her full identity as a measure of my loyalty) will last until we breathe our last breaths (and, like many friends, we have plans to meet in the afterlife, where we will not be distracted by things like laundry needing to be washed or writing deadlines that interfere with our plans to get together). Yes, I’m quite sure that true friendship is one of those things that last, no matter what.
            And then, there’s love. Yes, I know love changes, transforms, transmutes and sometimes just plain disappears (especially between lovers and husbands and wives—just look at the divorce figures). But mother love—love from a mother for a child—lives on and on and on. My mother loved her children as much (if not more) on the day she died as she did on the days upon which we were born. And I, like so many mothers I know, will love my three children until the day I leave the planet (and hopefully, beyond).
            So there’s even more proof that some things do last forever. And what about the sun? The planets? The sky? Yeah, I guess one day they might all explode…but for the foreseeable future (unless we do something really stupid), I believe they’ll be there.
            I’m sure there are more things, too. Not everything has to wear out or break. Not everything has to become obsolete, unfashionable, or useless. Some things, like my red colander and the friendship it represents, are indestructible. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, there are still a few treasures that will be with us until the end of time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comfort Zones

© Jon Helgason |

This weekend I reluctantly stepped outside my comfort zone and participated in a play. No, it wasn't a Broadway show or a Shakespearean masterpiece (though it was very well written). It was a short presentation at a yoga center; more of a "performance piece" about the Aquarian Age.
      What fun! (You might be thinking). Well, not for me. I’m so not a play person. I have no aspirations to be an actress whatsoever. The idea of learning lines terrifies me. I have no desire to be in the spotlight (except maybe in my writing!). But here I was…putting myself  “out there.”   
            So why? I guess because once in a while I like to step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t volunteer to be the “star.” (Nor could I be!)  In fact, I had a meager five lines to learn (plus the choreography, which turned out to be almost as terrifying as the lines themselves). I just dipped my toes in the water. No need to plunge headfirst. Or take on more than I could handle.
            It would have been easier to just say no. But once in while a little toe dipping is in order. Otherwise we get too content to just “do what we do.” One of my friends (who likes to sleep late) says, “I don’t do lunch.” Another says, “I do not wear white.” I don’t dance! (That’s a good one). I don’t read Russian novels! I can’t do Italian food. I am so not into sacred chant music. I hate Bach.... (Hello? Who could hate Bach?) I am not into sushi (even vegetable sushi). I will not try bungee jumping (well, okay, that I’ll give a pass).
            But “puleeze!” I want to cry out sometimes. Give it a chance. Give chance a chance. Say yes to the play, the opera, the ballet, the heavy metal band, or the tofu dumplings. Sometimes, we just need to get over our can’t do’s and learn to do.
            Whatever it is that you can’t, don’t, won’t, do…do it now!  (Except, maybe the bungee jumping).  Dip your toes in the water. Toes will dry!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Do: Nada

Sometimes I get so caught up in all the things I need to do. Clean out the refrigerator. Rake the leaves. Go grocery shopping. Organize my home office. And on and on…ad infinitum. Literally, there are hundreds of things that I need to do. Hundreds. And really, I don’t think I have time enough left on this planet to do them all, even if I live to 101.
            I remember my mother talking about this same stuff. She desperately wanted to clean out her attic, basement, and all her kitchen cabinets before she died. She swore that she would not leave her children with a house full of junk (my mother never even threw out the rock collection I had in first grade!).
And, in the end she did leave us a house full of “junk.” But we didn’t mind--because my mother, deep inside, knew and lived what was important. Her family. The birds outside the window. The day.
            Yet, she worried that she wasn’t doing the right thing.
            And now, here I am following in her footsteps, berating myself for not doing so, so many things that I should be doing every day to clear the path for the future.
            But…should we be clearing the path for the future?
            Actually, when I really think of what I truly should be doing, organizing and cleaning are not on the list, which sort of goes like this:
            *Get back to journaling. It’s been too long—and, after all, I’m a writer!
            *Listen to more classical music (and other music, too).
            *Walk more.
            *Do more yoga.
            *Live my yoga.
            *Be more grateful.
            *Get outside.
            *Write down dreams.
            *Meditate every day.
            *Be alone.
            *Think and don’t think.
            *Connect with others.
            If your to-do list, like mine was, is cluttered with nonsense, I hope you’ll re-consider and make a new one. What really needs to be done? What is really important? (Hurricanes make us think like this!) I’ll bet if we all revised our to-do lists most of what’s on there would go in what we used to call the “circular file.”
Après Sandy, join me; revise and revamp, and this time make your to-do list reflect whatever is most important to your life, your love, and your spirit.