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Sometimes I think I’m not tough enough to live in New York City.  Sometimes I think I’m too tender a soul for the harshness of city life, too sensitive to the constant whir of energy, too vulnerable to the neuroses so prevalent in our urban existence.

Sometimes I fantasize about packing everything up and moving to the country, where there’s quiet and space and calm.  I dream of tall grass and pastures and cows. (But, I’m not touching the cows. I am a city girl, after all.)  I imagine a simpler life.

But as I walked home from work tonight—bike messengers frantically weaving in and out of pedestrians crossing the street and impatient drivers rolling their cars into the crosswalk—I suddenly remembered my afternoon in Central Park a few days ago.  Standing on a busy street corner, I leaned in to the memory of the pockets of peace I found as I trekked down its pathways.

I’ve written about its magic before, but it surprises me every time I go.  Then I wonder why I don’t go more often.

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I feel fortunate to have this to fall back on when life gets intense.

New York is my city.  It is tough and hard edged.  It is beautiful and awe-inspiring.  It is unpredictable and stunningly reliable, all at the same time.

It is a mess and it is perfect.

Just like us.

Walking through Central Park on a beautifully clear and crisp fall day, I’d hoped to shake some of the restlessness I felt on a rare Monday off.  Walking helps me do that; it helps me clear the cobwebs of the dusty old to-do lists that clutter my mind.  It helps me work through whatever worry has wrapped its way around my thoughts.

There’s no more therapeutic place for me than Central Park.

Though I’d missed the peak of the visual symphony of autumn in the park this year, I was still charmed by its beauty.

And then I turned a corner and saw the biggest bubbles I’d ever seen in my life.  I was mesmerized.

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Since I was a child, bubbles have never ceased to make me smile.  Such a simple thing still grounds me in joy.

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And, there was the happiest little boy who was captivated by the bubble man’s magic.  He wholeheartedly embraced the joy of the moment, too.

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What joyful magic made its way into your day?

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk, overwhelmed and exhausted, when the email popped up.  The subject was, “Busy today???”

It was my friend Judy.  I’ve known her for nine years, since she filled in as a temp in my office.  At the time she was fresh out of college, her spirit enthusiastic and infectious.

I clicked open the email.

“Want to go find Banksy????”

Banksy is a famous graffiti street artist—identity unknown—who has taken residence in New York for the month of October.  I’ve been following him on Instagram, and I get a little giddy whenever he posts his latest work of street art.

But by the time Judy’s email made its way into my inbox, I was tired.  Besides, I’d already RSVP’d to attend a party for a friend’s store opening that evening.  Because I like to keep my word, I only planned to stop by, say hello, and then go home and go to bed.

Instead, I spontaneously and enthusiastically said yes. I rationalized that I could stop by the party once we saw the art.

As I made my way down to Tribeca, the breezy city air gently cupped my face, and I felt freed from my daily routine.

I arrived before she did.  There was a small crowd gathered, quietly taking pictures, with an almost reverential hush in the air.

The art was a diminutive, but moving, tribute to the old World Trade Center towers. An orange flower was place strategically where the airplane hit on that fateful day in 2001.

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We took our pictures and then left the scene, feeling happy that we’d seen a hidden gem.

Judy turned to me and said that her friend told her about a similar piece of art that had popped up in Brooklyn.  It was suspected to be a Banksy as well, but it hadn’t been confirmed.

“Let’s go see it.”  I said it with such certainty I surprised myself.

“Really?”

So we hopped on the subway and went to Brooklyn.

We walked through the streets to the upper level of the Brooklyn Promenade, where I’d never been.  Even in the dark of the evening, it was charming.  Easily, we found the tiny mural alongside a wall, painted directly in front of the skyline where the towers once stood.

Banksy Brooklyn

I felt oddly happy.  Two friends enjoying each other’s company in the cool fall air, with a backdrop of quiet that I rarely know in my city.  We laughed at our spontaneity, rare in our worlds of deadlines and challenging clients.

“YOLO!” Judy exclaimed.  It made me laugh.  You only live once, indeed.

Sitting down on a park bench, just talking, we looked out at the beautiful Manhattan skyline.

I knew I would miss the party.

I looked up at the sky, the stars visible in between the billowy clouds and the moon high above us.  I closed my eyes and I inhaled.

As I exhaled, I said, “Let’s remember tonight and how lucky we are.”

She giggled.  “Yes.  Let’s.”

I had one of those days that felt like a runaway train, reminiscent of that scene at the beginning of The Fugitive when the prison break goes awry and Harrison Ford has to escape an unfortunate demise by jumping out of the train carrying the prisoners before it crashes. My work day started, and ended, like that.

It was the kind of day that was full of meetings that wouldn’t end and piles of work that just grew taller by the minute.

But then as I walked home tonight, I looked up at the moon, just fuller than half, and remembered how important it is to hold close the things you love on the days that feel out of control.  Moon magic made me remember what really mattered.  I was reminded that in the midst of frustration and fatigue, it is important to remember who you are.

That thought brought me back to the Manifestation Yoga workshop I wrote about in my last post, and how we were encouraged to write the rules that we live by. We all have rules, most unspoken, that define who we are and how we show up in our lives.

So as a reminder of who I am, here are my rules for a good life:

  • Be kind, and treat everyone as your equal.  My parents taught me through their actions that everyone deserves your kindness.  Many a late night I would visit my father in the office to find the cleaning lady sitting in a chair, the two of them in the middle of a deep conversation.  She mattered as much as any CEO who has crossed his path.
  • Hang with people who do the same.  I find out everything I need to know about a person by how they treat servers in a restaurant.
  • Laugh often, deeply and heartily.  You know the saying “angels fly because they take themselves lightly?”  Well, so should you.
  • Be in awe of the world.  Let it amaze you, and let its magic carry you through the day.  For me, the wonder of the ocean, the sunrise, the sunset, the moon all bring me back to my essence.  Figure out what in the world rocks you to the core of your being.
  • Give good hug.  Wimpy hugs make me feel like you don’t want to be around me.  Get in there with a full-bodied embrace.  Yes, it’ll make some people uncomfortable, but they just need to know what love feels like.
  • Food is the best medicine.  Honor your body by feeding yourself well.  Your body will then honor you by letting you experience your life with vigor.
  • It’s okay to have chocolate chip cookies for dinner every now and then.  Rules are made to be broken.
  • It’s okay to have cheese for dinner every now and then—but only if you have quality cheese and a good glass of wine to go along with it.
  • When people offer you their love, accept it.  I’ve let good men get away because I was afraid to hold a gaze or an extended hand.
  • Learn not to leave love unsaid.  If you love someone, let them know. Momentary awkwardness is infinitely better than a lifetime of wishing to have been brave.
  • Pay attention.  I used to roll my eyes (on the inside) whenever Oprah talked about gratitude as a practice.  And then I wrote about my most grateful moment of the day for 30 days straight and it changed my life.  It changed me. Let gratitude shape you.
  • Remember to say thank you.  Kindnesses big and small need to be acknowledged before the moment passes and they are forgotten.

With that rule in mind, last night I was deeply moved by the kindnesses shown by Katie Devine of Confessions of an Imperfect Life and Jennifer Pastiloff of The Manifest-Station.  They shared my blog post with their “tribes”, followers and families and opened up my words, thoughts and feelings to an entirely new audience.  For their grace and generosity, I am deeply grateful.

There is a famous quote by Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.”

And so in the spirit of that quote, as well as my rules for a good life, to Jen and Katie I say, thank you.

Yesterday afternoon I took part in a yoga workshop.  At least that’s how I described it when people asked what I was doing this weekend, but it’s kind of a misnomer. Because while there was some yoga involved, it was more of a life workshop, almost a chiropractic adjustment for the soul.

It was led by Jennifer Pastiloff, a writer/inspirational yoga instructor, though that description does not do her justice either.  Through yoga, music, and her words, she helps people create breakthroughs in their lives.  If you don’t know her work, check out her beautifully written blog, The Manifest-Station.

In the class, we did yoga, wrote in journals and shared ourselves.  I’m in awe of how brave everyone was in sharing themselves with a room full of strangers.  So courageous that most of us were in tears at some point during the class.

In one of the exercises, we had to partner up and share who we are by completing the sentence “I am…”  The thought behind it is that any sentence that begins with “I am…” is a sacred declaration of ourselves and sets the experience of how we will show up in the world.

I knew instantly what mine would be.

I am love. 

After we declared who we were, we had to look in the eyes of our partner for three minutes straight, without saying anything.  It was unsettling and uncomfortable: we giggled, we made funny faces, we blinked furiously.  But then for a few brief seconds something clicked, and we connected and felt a deep recognition.

It feels goofy to write it, but it was palpable and it was real.

I’m still processing the afternoon, but I do know when it was over I felt transformed from the person I was when I walked in. I floated out of the class, calm, centered and all filled up with love.

I flung myself into my city, finished my Saturday errands—and went on complete and total sensory overload.  I ended the day exhausted, spent and cranky.  I was asleep by 10pm.

But today I felt renewed as I walked around Brooklyn with my father on this clear, windy fall day.  We enjoyed the beauty before us.

And, I saw the signs of what I’ve been seeing these last few months.  Perhaps I knew my “I am…” long before I gave a name to it.

Perhaps this is what I’ve been manifesting in my life.

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And this couple symbolized the love of one another.  All against a beautiful backdrop of a New York skyline.

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What are kind of love are you manifesting in your life?

Someone cleaned my windows.

I realized this as I went to bed last night, glancing out the window to nosily see who was still in the office in the building across the street from me. In New York, what’s happening across the street can be as entertaining as any TV show.

Suddenly the view was not fogged over by the dirt of a city life.

It was one of those moments where I felt awe of a world where kindnesses randomly show up.

Perhaps it was the construction workers who’ve been working in the facade of the building, the same ones I suspected drew a heart into one of the dusty panes a few months ago. Perhaps they needed to clean them to move ahead with whatever repair they are working on. Or perhaps they wanted to give somebody who doesn’t always have time to take care of such things a break.

Whomever it was, and whatever their reason, I am grateful to them. It reminds me of the grace in every day interactions, from the cashier in my office cafeteria who trusted me to pay for my breakfast later when I didn’t have enough money in my pocket to the coffee shop baristas who gave me a larger drink than I’d ordered just because. A simple act of kindness can uplift a mood, change a day, alter a life.

Kindness matters.

Sometimes you just need someone to dust things off to remind you of the beauty that is right in front of you.

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