Life’s too short to finish crappy novels

crappy novels

I pick it up. I feel through the pages for the dog-eared one and begin again. I read two pages and have only a shy comprehension of  the words I just read. It should be interesting–it’s a beautiful picture of a lonely man in a foreign country caught in love with someone who loves for a living. I’m uninterested. I press on. I’m half way through the book.

And now here I am, forcing something just to finish. I’m wound tight in the idea that if I hold out a little longer, read one more chapter, I’ll get it, feel it. But I know better. Life is strange and scintillating and above all, finite. There are some things to press through, to see to the end. Shitty novels are not one of them. 

 

Do the work. Trust yourself. Say thank you.

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Gathered from scraps of paper, sticky notes, the backs of bills, a cocktail napkin, words spoken to Siri, some never posted blog drafts and a recent hallway conversation, these are things I’m learning to live by.

 

  • Be intentional. Wake up each morning and decide you’re going to make a difference in someone’s life.

 

  • Take criticism with grace. If it’s true, find a way to make the change. If it’s not true, let it go.

 

  • When someone gives you a compliment, say thank you.

 

  • Laugh when you can, apologize when you should and let go of things you cannot change.

 

  • Make decisions. When you take to long, you waste a lot of time “thinking” and slow your momentum. Still, when you make a decision, stick to it for as long as it makes sense and allow yourself to change your mind when needed.

 

  • Trust your gut. Especially when you don’t want to.

 

  • Begin. Start now. Don’t wait for permission. “If you want to live the life you haven’t lived, you have to you’ve to do things you’ve never done.” -Jen Sincero

 

  • It’s never too late to start over. If yesterday sucked, begin again. If you weren’t happy with the results of your efforts last week, try something new. The point is, move forward. Don’t stay stuck. Evolve.

 

  • Love hard. 

 

  • Don’t insulate yourself from pain and discomfort. You’ll grow more if you let it in then if you waste your energy building a wall.

 

  • Don’t be afraid of failure; it’s part of the creative process. The point is (see #7) you’ve got to dive in head first, with passion and determination. Acknowledge when things aren’t working and change, quickly. Caveat: Know the difference between the work is hard and this is the uncomfortable part and this isn’t working, it’s time to switch gears.
A Letter to My Little Sister

A Letter to My Little Sister

 

To my incredible sister, Grace,

It  feels like forever ago when we got our faces painted at Halloween and you turned me in to a zombie by wrapping me in toilet paper. Now here you are, sixteen and nearly done with high school, dancing the night away at Prom and getting ready for your first job. I’m so grateful that we were brought together over eight years ago and have been watching you in awe, as you tackle each new challenge with grace and courage. So here it is, my advice for you, as your sister, with love.

Make plans in pencil and not permanent marker, then forge ahead. Things will not always work out the way you hope. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Start again.

Be open to change. Change can be painful and a good thing all at once. Adapt and roll with the punches. Trust me on this one, start practicing now and never stop. It will make you better in your career, your relationships and in the ways you interact with the world.

Invent and reinvent yourself.

Approach social media with respect and caution. You are growing up in a world where privacy is pretty much nonexistent. Everything you do is posted, recorded, snapped. Don’t get me wrong, I love it–this is the way we live now, there’s no going back. But understand that people are watching. What you post on the internet doesn’t go away. It’s really hard to undo social media mistakes. Not everything is worth posting.

Another thing about social media–don’t let it make you feel bad. People post their best selves online. They show the happy, romantic, sexy, beautiful moments, full of filters and staged poses. Not many people share the ugly moments, the mistakes, the failures and embarrassments and the tough lessons. Just remember, we all have them. We All Have Them.

Believe in love. It’s real and the world is full of it. Don’t be afraid of a broken heart. It gives you character.

Give yourself permission to be sensitive. You’ll hear that sensitivity is a bad thing. You’ll be told not to let people see you cry and to not let your guard down or you’ll get hurt. This is nonsense. It takes courage to be sensitive and guts to let your guard down. Only the bravest of people can do these things. You are brave.

Read a lot of books. It’s okay to rip the dust covers off of them–there’s often something beautiful underneath. Underline the words that touch you, the phrases that make sense, the paragraphs that shape you. Don’t just stop at books. Read everything. Everything you can.

Have many points of view. I have to relearn this every day. It’s easy to get stuck seeing the world one way. But good things come from perspective.

Try not to let people down but don’t sacrifice your own well-being. Trust your intuition and you’ll continue to get better at it. Have high standards and resist the urge to compromise your core beliefs. You have every right to say yes, to say no, to quit, to be seen, to be heard, to take your time, to change your mind. Life meets you where you honour yourself.

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling. You’re going to make new friends and have new experiences in the years ahead. Stay close to your family and love them unconditionally. You and I have a special understanding of what family truly is, remember that.

You’re going to screw up. I have made many mistakes, some bigger than others. It hurts, but perfection is not an option, so prepare yourself. “They” say that it’s not the mistakes you make that define you, but the way you deal with them. Embrace your failures and don’t regret them. The toughest moments, not the easy ones, will propel you to be incredible.

Love yourself. Don’t let the bad hair day, the “huge” pimple, the bad grade, or the criticizing boyfriend make you think anything less of the incredible person you are. And as you do this, remember not to put others down either. Be kind and generous, and never assume you know what someone else is going through.

Trust your intuition. Fight for the good things in this world. Forgive people. Choose happiness. Don’t grow up too fast. Be proud of who you are. Shine. Shine big. Take chances and do good things for those around you. And remember, dear Grace, I will always be on your side; you are never alone.

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Mess

ambiguity

Fallen petals on the table.

Tangled sheets.

Scribble on a cocktail napkin.

A little nest made by the mice in the shed accompanied by the empty shells of nibbled birdseed.

Dandelions.

The ambiguity of grey.

Sleeping until 10am and feeling sheepishly guilty.

Waking at 4am and understanding that I’m in on a beautiful, crazy secret.

The 500 blog posts I’ve stopped and started.

My dogs’ toys scattered everywhere.

The Williamsburg-blue edge of a now black door that I missed when I was painting…it’s been eight months and I can’t bring myself to finish it.

The tiny handprint on the glass door that Grace left while she was chasing her sister around the house.

My parking.

The contents of a box of photos scattered on the ground, memories recklessly relived.

A pile of silver foils from an afternoon of Hershey’s Kisses.

The way my dog snuggles up to my shoulder in bed when there’s thunder.

Branches strewn on the lawn after a storm.

Stickers on the back of my best friend’s sweater, because her girls put them everywhere.

Stickers on the bottom of my shoe.

Watching my mother ice skate.

Bonfire remnants.

A neglected art project that might never be done.

The burnt things I bake.

Piles of blankets.

Dirty feet from walking barefoot in the lawn.

Empty wine glasses and cards left on the table.

Abandoned houses.

Smeared mascara, a result of crying during a movie.

A stomach ache from too many s’mores.

The way my father eats M&M’s, one handful at a time.

Mary Margret’s sweet 16 portrait from the 1940’s that hangs in my living room. I found it in an antique shop. She’s still alive. She lives in Churchville.

Stick figure drawings on my fridge.

The 4  jokes I know (ask me).

Left over pizza with a bite taken from it.

The way I feel when I make a difference.

Dirty paw prints on the white quilt.

Stripped clothing laying crumbled on the floor.

Forgiveness.

 

Consider Yourself Lucky

fearI did not write this. But sometimes, the things you read mean more than the words you could say yourself. Here’s what touched me today by Pima Chodron. 

“No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, to just be there, to become familiar with fear. I once asked the Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi how he related with fear, and he said, ‘I agree, I agree.’ But the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.

We don’t need that kind of encouragement, because dissociating with fear is what we do naturally. We habitually spin off and freak out when there’s even the merest hint of fear. We feel it coming and we check out. It’s good to know we do that––not as a way to beat ourselves up, but as a way to develop unconditional compassion. The most heartbreaking thing of all is how we cheat ourselves of the present moment.

Sometimes, however, we are cornered; everything falls apart, and we run out of options for escape. At times like that, the most profound spiritual truths seem pretty straightforward and ordinary. There’s nowhere to hide. We see it as well as anyone else––better than anyone else. Sooner or later we understand that although we can’t make fear look pretty, it will nevertheless introduce us to all the teaching we’ve ever heard or read.

So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky.”

Wherever You Go, There You Are

here

I can’t remember where I heard or read the phrase, wherever you go, there you are, but those six words have replayed in my head so often in the last five months or so that it’s become a habit to say them out loud every time I’m feeling anxious about circumstances I can’t control or worried about nearly anything.

For me, wherever you go, there you are, is a reminder to be at peace with the immediate present and at the same time, it helps me see the past and future also in the same perspective. Whatever happened, happened and the past is a truth that is what it is (i.e. wherever I was, there I was). And for what lies ahead, whatever will happen, will happen–wherever I go, there I will be.

Mantras have played a great role in my life. I’ve always been in constant mental-chatter. I talk to myself all day long. I know how strongly negative thoughts affect my actions, so I practice awareness and adopt sayings or phrases that bring me back to a positive space when awareness begins to escape me. When I was a young runner, my first coach taught me how to be in the moment when tackling a difficult hill or terrain. Instead of denying that I was experiencing the pain from the hill, she taught me to repeat, I love hills, and so, I conquered them one by one. Sometimes, it’s not a phrase, it’s a word, like strength and focus.

I’ve been up today since about 3:30. I went to bed wired and alert, and found myself in the exact same place just a few hours later, so I gave up on sleep, planted on a chair in front of the fire and researched the phrase I’ve been repeating to myself. As it turns out, it’s the title of a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who, in his book, writes “Just watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?”

Life unfolds in the present. In the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Phrases and mantras of positivity and encouragement are like a ladder that helps us reach a little higher than we could without it. I keep mine in a mental catalogue and reach for each of them often. For now, the words I choose to carry with me are simple and six,  wherever you go, there you are.

 
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