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The air sounds peaceful today, if air has a sound, and I can hear the birds chirping. Lots of people have mentioned hearing the birds more than ever, as if they’ve just begun to sing their songs again while we are hunkering down indoors. I’ve always heard the birds, but usually only in the early morning hours. Now I can hear them throughout the day. 

How many other things have we not noticed in our everyday lives? 

My normally noisy street is quiet today, few cars coming and going with any regularity. Every day now sounds like a holiday morning in the city, with that calm hovering over the concrete as the world has slowed down. And for the first time in many days, I am feeling okay. 

… … …

How are you? No really, how are you?

I check in with myself multiple times a day. Cycling through the stages of quarantine, I take stock of how my heart is feeling. It feels different at any given moment. To say this is a weird time would be the understatement of the century, but here we are. I have been in some state of frazzled these last few weeks. Work is busy. I am grateful, humbled even, to have continued working when so many are not. But I keep wondering how continuing on as if everything is normal is affecting my mental health. Because this is not normal.

Though, it’s what we New Yorkers do. We plow through. It’s partly why we are tough. We are driven, and that drive keeps us moving, even through impossible circumstances. 

I work from home, mostly, so I have my rhythms down to a science. And suddenly, everyone else is also home and they’ve started playing a different beat. Everyone wants to video chat—weekly happy hours have replaced the real thing, though those only happen every few months. My phone rings with endless calls of people checking in. The text alarm dings at a steady pace. I have never truly known sensory overload until these past few weeks.

Everyone wants to be connected. And it is exhausting me.

… … …

It occurred to me this week what I’ve been longing for. These are not ordinary times. It feels as if we’re being called to pay attention to something bigger than us. To get still. To listen. To hear the wisdom coming from the earth, from the sky, from the water, and from something greater, if you believe in that. I would like to hear what they all have to say. 

Now, I do solitude very well. I am a champion solitude-er. As we were told to stay home, I kept joking, “I was made for these times!” And I think I was. But I also think we all were. Or we wouldn’t be here. 

While I relish the time at home, it has taught me about the people I see most. I am introverted, with a rich inner life, and an often awkwardly hesitant outer life. Most of my friends are extroverted, the social butterflies, the ones who tell jokes and always have a story to share, the ones who are up for an adventure at any moment of the day. It’s actually striking to see how different we are.  

We do solitude very differently. Bored is a word I’m hearing a lot. I laugh when I hear grown people say how bored they are—and how we so often try to talk children out of their boredom. But, bored is where the good things—and new ways of being—emerge. Bored is basically my end goal. 

Everyone is struggling in different ways, at least in my own world. It’s been hard to have real conversations about all the feelings. People seem overwhelmed by them, and it’s easier to binge another Netflix series than it is to face whatever it is you’d rather ignore. And so I tend to my own emotions and navigate them solo. I’ve had to be okay with sometimes not being okay. 

These times are scary and uncertain. The simple act of going to the grocery store last week felt borderline terrifying. Two lonely cars drove down the street, one a police truck. The avenue felt apocalyptic. The few people on the street wore masks. We’re being told to stay at least six feet from each other, and New York City sidewalks are often not that wide. Grocery store aisles are barely half that. So we claimed one side to gingerly hug. We seemed afraid of each other, when we weren’t being clueless and acting as if nothing has changed.  

Everything has changed. 

Your town may not be like mine. I pray it’s not. But it would be difficult to not acknowledge our interconnectedness now. What I do here affects you on the other side of the country. Or the other side of the world. Our actions matter. 

… … … 

How may I serve? 

I keep hearing those words. I’ve donated to a different place every time I’ve gotten paid since this started. It keeps me from feeling helpless. But the need is overwhelming, and though I feel good after I’ve done it, later it doesn’t feel like nearly enough. 

We often make the mistake of feeling like we have to give money to make a difference. Showing someone you care is priceless. 

The sweetness of old friends checking in on me has overwhelmed me. After a conversation with one of my best friends—where I said I hadn’t really had downtime because I was either working or trying to source groceries / clean them off once I received / cooking them—she sent me a few days worth of prepared meals, just so I could have some extra space in my days. I picked up mail one day to find a card from a friend that she’d painted in a rainbow of colors, embossed with the word GRATEFUL.

Kindness matters. 

We’re all in it together. But now we deal with “it” separately, apart, in solitude. This is not a coronavirus phenomenon. We just busy ourselves just enough to have to pay attention to greater wisdom. But now attention must be paid. We’re being shaken awake. 

These times are calling us to recalibrate. To change. To look at what isn’t working—personally, professionally, globally—and to face it head on. 

We are irrevocably changed. Yes, there is a collective trauma at play—the main reason why I think people are so busy busying themselves with connectedness. But perhaps something is trying to be born from this traumatizing time. 

And so on this Easter morning, there is no news on in the background, no Netflix on pause, no virtual games waiting to be played. Instead, I am listening to the birds whistling their songs on this Sunday. I am noticing the vibrant green of the baby leaves sprouting from the trees across the street. I am listening to the sounds of silence, so rare in New York City. And I am dreaming of what comes after this. But I am certain life has a bigger dream than I could imagine waiting for us on the other side of this. 

Sending all of you so much love on this Easter Sunday. Stay home. Wash your hands. Find joy in the time of boredom. Help when you can. Tell your beloveds you love them. Be kind. 

At some point we will emerge from these cocoons, and we will rise again. 

xo, with goodness and grace. 

 

 

 

The driver picked me up first, so for a few minutes there was that awkward thing in the air.  You know, that thing when two people have met before, but don’t really know each other or what to say.  So there’s an uneasiness in the conversation.

We were on our way to pick up my friend, then off to a fun event on a freezing Saturday night.  He drives her to and from events in her very busy NYC life, so occasionally when I’m tagging along I’ll get a ride home.

He and I made some small talk.  I filled the intermittent silences by checking messages on my phone.  Then I decided to be present and forget the diversions and have a conversation like a normal person.

“So, are you married?”

I don’t like small talk.  I’d rather you tell me how you feel about things.  And, I’d much rather get right into your business.

“No,” he said in his Russian accent.  “Not anymore.”

We talked a little about how that marriage wasn’t for him, and about his current long-term girlfriend and how that relationship was good.

I asked him if she wanted to get married.

He laughed.  Then he said, almost wearily, “everyone wants to get married.”

This made him giggle.

“Well, I don’t know if I do,” I said.  “It’s never been my thing.  Though I suppose if I met someone amazing, I’d be open to it.”

The conversation turned to our crazy New York lives and, though making money was important, love and family are really what’s important in life.  I lamented how difficult cultivating a rich personal life has been, particularly when it comes to romantic love.

“Have you heard of the law of attraction?”

“Yes.”  Not exactly what I expected to hear from this seemingly macho guy from the other side of the world.

“Well,” he shrugged.  “Then bring it into your life.”

I hadn’t expected to be given the secret to life in the back seat of an SUV.  Unexpected wisdom in unexpected places.

Later, as he drove me home, he said something that has stayed with me.

“You really know how to handle yourself.”

Thinking back now, I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that, but I do know that as he said those words, it felt like the highest compliment possible.

And just like that, I had my favorite conversations of the week.

I hope you find unexpected connections and surprising wisdom in the days ahead.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

When my month of Grace & Gratitude ended, I felt a little lost without a means to share what moved me regularly.  There was a magnificent rhythm to living the day with eyes, heart, and mind open to the possibility of grace appearing.  As I published the last post of the series, I already missed it.

Grace of the Day (or Grub or Goodness of the Day) posts will allow me to keep the fire of presence alive.  I’ll still share Goodness, Grace and Grub posts, but these will allow me to concisely share what fills me with awe, maybe not daily, but more frequently.

For example.

Today I was having one of those conversations where I was trying to understand something.  I was in the space of why:  why did this unfold this way, why did I feel that way?  Why, why, why.

The very wise person I was talking to had been intently listening to me.  She stopped and took a breath before answering.  Then she very clearly and succinctly gave me an answer that brilliantly answered my whys.  Her answer gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have thought of, and she answered in such a way that told me she fully understood me.

It was a moment where I felt completely connected, wholly tethered by the moment.

Moments of connection, where you are understood implicitly, are the epitome of grace.

I don’t meet strangers anymore…I only meet old friends.      –Jennifer Pastiloff

What has surprised me most during this month of gratitude is the things that stand out in my mind at the end of the day are usually not things at all.

They are the moments of connection.

As I rode the bus home this afternoon following a SoulCycle workout on a summer day off, I grew antsy from the heavy traffic on the avenue.  I picked up my phone, about to tweet an obnoxious observation about traffic and traffic cops (ok, so I’m not always in a graceful frame of mind), when the woman across from me asked, “Where did you get that?”

She pointed to the paper bag that carried my lunch.  It was from Juice Generation, one of many juicing places in Manhattan.  I usually visit the store around the corner from my class for a post-cycle lunch.  (They make a pretty spectacular vegan taco salad.)  She wanted to know where the store was located, so I told her.

“Oh. My son owns a juice place near there on 62nd and 3rd.”

We—she was also with her husband—proceeded to have the loveliest conversation about their son’s business, which turns out to be a growing chain of 13 stores called The Juice Press.  I’ve walked by it, as well as a newer one downtown, many times and have always thought that I should try it.

Now I can’t wait to stop in; I’m certain the products will be infused with love.

Time spent aggravated in a traffic jam was transformed by easy conversation about juice fasts, eating cleanly, and being crazy enough to take a risk on what you believe in.  Some conversations are effortless and make you feel embraced by the world.

I feel at home in the world.  

This was one of those exchanges.

And it turns out that they live in my neighborhood.  Who knows, maybe I’ll see them again, this time as familiar friends.

Connection, the essence of grace.

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