Write It Down

Write It Down
Write It Down

Write it down? What’s that?

How often have you seen someone lately with a notebook and pen in hand? My guess is not very often. Now, think back and ask yourself how many people have you seen on a screen lately? I bet the numbers are explosive right now in your mind. They may be reading or typing, but the screen is the gateway to just about anything these days.

I am from an era, however, where people wrote things down — and I mean wrote everything down as lugging out a typewriter to type anything out other than something formal wasn’t about to happen. We wrote out to do lists, recipes, essays, budgets, reminders, letters, notes, and whatever else you can think of — if we were wanting to record something for any reason we were grabbing a pen and paper.

I went back to graduate school in my mid-40s and during the very first class I definitely noticed a change. As class began, everyone was pulling out their laptops as I pulled out my fresh notebook and pen. It didn’t take me too long to gather who was the dinosaur in the room — me! However, that never bothered me, and I gladly opened up my tools to begin to record my notes.

At that point, the Professor looked out into the sea of students in the large class and addressed everyone, “I see you all have your laptops out ready to go, but there is hard core research that says people best learn by writing down notes — something about pen to paper contact makes absorbing information easier.”

Of course, the Professor was probably ten years older than me, so I thought perhaps she just hasn’t gotten with the times and is using “research” as an excuse to not feel so old given how it used to be. However, more and more there has been research out that says exactly this — humans remember more when we write it down.

I know for me this is true. Once I have my to do list written, I sort of know in my head what is on there more so than when I type it on a screen. I have an electronic calendar and I have a paper calendar. Oh how I love my written calendar and writing it all down. Partly this is my era and partly it is because I remember it all better when I write it down.

I was struck recently when a person in her mid 20s was discussing crafting a budget and related she was writing it all out and that this helped her more than any budget app as she could see for herself the ecosystem of her money and remember the amounts and the categories much more easily. Even someone much younger than myself finds putting pen to paper better.

So, if you are having difficulty remembering tasks, events on the calendar, tracking your money and/or any other number of tasks, write it down instead. Try it at the very least.

Oh! And everyone always appreciates a handwritten letter! You could even begin there!

Hello March

Hello March

Hello March!

If there is one month that I never liked it has to be March — although this year I am having a different thought about March.

Why did I hate on March so much? Probably because it has 31 days in it and it feels like the longest bridge between winter and spring. There is still a need to wear winter clothes and gear outdoors – ugh! More often than not, when I look out my windows, I see gray, rain, maybe even snow flurries! Ugh! I am ready to be done and there March stands in my way!

I am feeling a little different this year and maybe this has to do with how long proper winter has felt — i.e. December, January, and February — talk about dragging on. This year as I see March dawn, I see on the calendar where we are going to “spring ahead” with our clocks (more light!) and warmer temperatures even as we experience atmospheric rain rivers in Seattle. As I look further into my calendar, St. Patrick’s Day is almost around the corner — time to make some Irish Road Bread – and, if you are a Christian, Lent begins where it truly is 40 days of waiting.

Waiting. I suppose that is what March represents to me — whether I am waiting impatiently for spring and can’t stand March or breathing a sigh of relief that I can see some hints of spring even as I wait it out — this is a month about waiting for me. Waiting for warmth, for long days, for summer fruits and vegetables, for vacation days, for BBQs, for everything that is not winter.

Do you wait with active patience or passive patience? I was reading a little note about this recently. That one can just be passive and not do much as one practices patience for whatever she is anticipating to come. One can be active as she practices patience as well. In this case, perhaps buying some seeds and beginning to plant them in cups, buying flowers for one’s self, layering in lighter clothes, changing over one’s closet from winter to spring, cooking up a spring recipe — and I am sure there are more active ways to practice patience through this long bridge to spring.

Oh! And let’s not forget that the spring equinox is in March! It really is just around the corner — that’s what I keep telling myself!

Making the Dark Days Cozy

I’ve been waking up at my usual time — about 5 am — recently and can’t believe how long it takes to see the dawn. I keep thinking it is mid to late January — surely now I will see the light around 6:45 to 7 am. Alas, no! It’s dark until around 8 am and then a bit of twilight time for the next hour. I know we are gaining light, but at this exact moment it doesn’t feel like it.

What can any of us do when winter and the darkness seems to descend for an endless loop. Well, first thing, is to hold on to one’s mine and remember – quite literally – we are gaining time. Check out your local weather forecast and they tell you the sunrise and sunset times for each day. It is indeed a fact that the days are lengthening — even if they don’t quite feel like they are just yet.

Second, this is the time to take a page out of the hyggle lifestyle and make these dark days cozy. The Danes definitely know a thing or two about making their lives cozy during winter. It’s a fun little read. The idea was all the rage about five years ago, but such concepts never truly go out of style and so here are a few ideas for making your home and life cozy during these dark days of late January into February.

Cozy up to your favorite hot beverage — cocoa, coffee, tea, or any number of other fancy hot drinks. Enjoy the ritual of making it for yourself and really taste the warmth in the depths of our cold temperatures.

Knit, crochet, or just touch material that is warm and soft — cashmere anyone? It’s always soothing to make things out of these materials, but if you aren’t into such craft projects, even touching something soft and warm can bring coziness to your days.

Make a meal — perhaps a rich stew or slow cooker meal? Try your hand at making something delicious that will not only keep your stomach full and warm, but allows people around your dinner table to linger and savor each other’s company as they enjoy the meal. Being with people as you “break bread” can lead to a light that is kindled deep within.

Bath anyone? Can there be anything better than a warm to hot bath with salts and bubbles? Get your temperature just right and soak away. Bring into the bath a favorite book, podcast, drink, and more and linger, relax and unwind. Don’t forget to light a candle or two.The ultimate to creating a warm, relaxing feel. Towel off and use moisturizers and oils to extend the self pampering.

Light a fire or candles. If you have a fire pit outdoors, light it and cuddle up around it with warm outdoor blankets. Just looking into a flame can be meditative and relaxing. Also, as it gets dark early in evening, it is nice to light candles to continue the light at soft levels. Add candles to your dinner table too — it’s not just for special occasions.

Get in touch with yourself. With the pandemic still raging and light hardly around more of us are finding ourselves indoors. This is the time for vision boards, journals, and other inner wanderings where we can be in touch and in flow with ourselves that may be harder to do when warmer weather abounds and one wants to be outdoors in the literal light. For now, give yourself the gift of introspection to shine a light within.

When you do see the sun outside during the previous daylight hours, get out into it. Walk, run, have your hot beverage outdoors. Take in that shot of pure Vitamin D and let it soak in. Seriously, it will help you find even more contentment when the darkness arrives way too early in the evening.

These are just a few ideas to making the dark days cozy. I think the Groundhog is about to climb out of the ground and let us know how much more winter to expect — 6 more weeks or not? Whatever the time, enjoy each day and make it cozy.

Book Review: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library is one of the most fascinating fiction books I have read in a long while — and, yes, I know I am very late to this party. This book was published back in 2020. I bought it for another person to read, who raved about it, and then it came up with another person as a must read. The premise completely enticed me even without these recommendations, but it still took me a long while to come to it — to come to death, the potential in-between state between life and death, to choices, to where the path not taken takes someone, and more.

That’s right — the fictional idea that we can “die” and not yet “die.” That there is an in between state that begs the question between life and death. Nora, the protagonist, wants to die. The choices she has made have lead her to one big book of regrets and so she dies — not explicitly stated, but she completed suicide.

Yet, she finds herself in a library and it’s midnight — rather than the pearly gates of the afterlife. From here she moves in an ever shifting space of what has been and the opportunity to walk down all the paths she didn’t take and see how they played out. The idea is she is not dead — yet — there may be a story she finds that she wants to live out. This is a story of redemption even when one feels there is nothing about self to be redeemed.

One of the most interesting books she opens is the first one — a large, hefty volume of her regrets. Ah! Regrets! And this one is really accurate for Nora — thus why it is so thick. Regrets large and small about the life she has been living — everything from not exercising on any given day to not marrying the one and basically everything in between.

There is oh so much more, but it had me stop to think about my own book of regrets. If I found myself in my own Midnight Library, would the first book I open be one of regrets? Would the volume be thin, thick, silly, serious — how would I receive looking over the life I have been living essentially? Would the thickest, most urgent volume be the one filled with my regrets?

For Nora, the volume becomes overwhelming. Her volume was thick, overflowing with every move she made and many she did not make. Before she can begin to even open the books that will take her into her stories that she spent so much time regretting she has to face the regret first. Oh! What courage!

As the New Year gets ushered in, how are you perceiving life? Are you looking back at the old with regret? Is there space for what was possible and that you made possible for yourself.?Is there space to hold on to decisions you made that were intuitive and may have left you in pain, but was necessary for yourself in some way? Or when you made those decisions did the walls close in and you filled with regret — which then lead to paralysis to not be able to move forward?

Regrets. They can creep in and define a life. The Midnight Library concept is so special because it allows us to name the regret — well, it’s been written down for you in your great volume of regrets — and then to open up a whole different volume to see if you would have played that decision differently, what would come from it. We often think in terms of all the good we didn’t allow ourselves to have, but, quite possibly, it may have saved us a lot of heartache and wrongness that we just new even as we could not point a finger and name why specifically.

We are all walking the life we are crafting. From the everyday mundane tasks to choosing a partner and a profession — life is dynamic. The Midnight Library acts dynamically as well. Nothing is ever cast in ink either — you can jump out of one story and into another. We have agency, autonomy, and choice to open or shut our decisions, chapters of life, and more.

At the beginning of all things, let there be choice and suspend the regret. Think about it all written down in the great volumes of your Midnight Library — what are you missing in the other volumes by focusing on regret?

Happy New Year

Happy New Year
Happy 2022!

Happy New Year.

We are only a few wee hours into 2022 — does it feel like a new page for you? Of course there is always the annual stress that occurs post-Christmas to think about the past year and find some things to renew and resolve for the new one. Funny, does one evening and the flip of a day really carry that much on its shoulders? It strikes me that the calendar day/year is set up like this and then we follow suit. How to unwind?

I was reading an article the other day about how the Gen Z and Millenial generations are no longer waiting for the magic of January 1 to begin anew, but beginning wherever and whatever day they are on. As I read the article, this was not a new concept in the least, but perhaps it is so much more a “here and now” society the idea of waiting on anything — even a new year to begin — seems like a waste.

I am not sure if you make resolutions. I am now hearing people call them intentions these days. Resolutions, Intentions — it all seems to me to be a moment of actual reflection and a place to build a bridge between the old and the new. Why do we want to slam the door so hard on the old and seek to wash our hands of our “bad” habits or those things that were less than what we wanted for ourselves. We all know that by the end of January everything that is new is yet old again.

I recommend recognizing this and building a bridge. It’s often a wonderful thing to take stock of all the good that the old year held for us — what are we proud of, what was a highlight, what motivated us to do better, what did we learn, how did we express our curiosity? From there, how would it look to have more of that and what else? Can any of these things build bridges to other habits and moments. So, it is no longer a frame of throwing it all out and beginning anew with perfection in mind, but building on what has been to what we want to continue, to discard, to build upon.

Life is not a linear line. It builds on itself and even as we awaken into this new year, we are made up of all the events, happenings, and how we brought our self to it all over all of the old years. Bringing these parts of ourselves into the new — honoring, being with, and companioning all the parts feels so important.

I wish for you a bridge between the old and the new. May it light your days for all the new ones to come based on all of the days and years that have come before.

Here’s to it!

The Mental Schema of the Unvaccinated

Mental Schema of the Unvaccinated
What makes someone say no to this common sense shot?

I recently got my booster to protect myself from COVID — this marks my third shot in one year. As soon as the vaccination came out, I wanted it — badly. I had all the things that you probably have been suffering from — tired of the masks, tired of staying indoors, tired of regular life being interrupted — in short, pandemic fatigue! I felt grateful that science was so good that within a year, major pharmaceutical companies had come up with vaccination shots that could protect me and others — and would ultimately put the pandemic to rest.

Why then is the pandemic still raging even as people lose interest? Because so many people have chosen to not get vaccinated. Now, what are the reasons? It ranges anywhere from not wanting to be controlled by the government, to not believing in science, to not being told what to do, to straight out denial that a pandemic even exists. Also, people believe they are strong enough to overcome it if they do contract COVID.

My carpet cleaner recently came into my home — no mask and no vaccination on board. When I asked him why — and went on to give him a piece of my mind — he said his body was strong enough to handle it. Based on what? Do any of these people realize they have been vaccinated since they entered public schools? Someone in their family took them to get their shots so they could attend school — otherwise, who knows if they would still be living? People take for granted what their elders did for them — somehow abiding by public health protocols is not for the strong in body.

There is a felt sense among the unvaccinated that they do not want to be told what to do by the government or anyone else. There is a particular mental schema that askews being told what to do by anyone for anything. I knew someone years ago who always stated he hated being told what to do by his parents — he wants to make his own decisions. He made the umbrella statement that no one wants to be told what to do. I know my friend came from a strict upbringing with caretakers who gave him very little room to make any decisions for himself.

When politicians came along and said, “Liberate yourselves and say no to mandatory vaccination” I can imagine that many people who, like my friend, do not like being told what to do, resonated with this message and now are the ones crashing school board meetings, protesting, booing anyone who speaks up about getting vaccinated and more. It’s all a lot of drama that gets going in rebellion to not being told what to do — unfortunately, in this case, not getting vaccinated can lead to death of self and others.

Yet, many people would rather die than be told what to do by anybody. These same people did as they were told at the age of 5 and got their shots to enter kindergarten. It all feels a little insane that people think their own body itself has gotten along without disease on its own.

For me, the little jab took about a second. The side effects were nominal at best. I know I am protected and I am helping protect others in my community. Millions have been vaccinated and the vast vast majority are safe and healthy afterwards. There is no excuse to not be vaccinated at this point. It’s time people got over rebelling against being told what to do and start working with what is not only logical but also absolutely the right thing to do for self and neighbor. We want a right to life — then it is a responsibility we care for.

In this case, it’s a one second jab — three times. No excuses. None.

Passing

Passing Movie

Passing. It’s the name of a new movie. One that refers to an age old way of moving in society if one is something other than white in America. If one is light skinned enough, one can ‘pass” as white. Why would anyone want to do that? Of course, to hold privilege and power in society.

In the Passing movie, two young African-American girls grow up and join society. They have lost contact with one another and then reconnect as adults. Clare is now passing as a white woman and married to an overtly racist man while her friend, Irene, is living her life as a Black woman. Who is being authentic in her racial identity? We find Irene longing to know what it feels like to hold the power of a white person in society and we have Clare curious about moving through life as a Black woman.

In this movie, the women are African-American. Rebecca Hall, the film’s director, adapted the story from the 1929 novella Passing by Nella Larsen. It was written in a particular time with a particular story about passing as white when one is Black. However, if we were to take it beyond the Black/white paradigm passing is a concept that many bi and multiracial people are familiar with in modern day.

White people still hold tremendous privilege in society and so if you can pass as white, why not some may say. Even today. As a biracial child, half East-Indian and half Caucasian, I was always treated as a white kid with a funny last name. I didn’t even realize I was carrying that privilege. All I knew was I fit in with the white kids and was accepted. And not just any kids, but the popular ones. Not being rejected, but being “in” is something all kids crave. I had no idea in small town America much of this acceptance came from passing as white.

However, being seen as white and only having the Caucasian part of my racial identity seen and supported in society when I also am half East-Indian eventually lead me into a very confused identity state. What part of me was brown and Indian? It was out of this longing to have my color seen that I sojourned to India to be with my family and take a journey to self to reconcile both parts of myself. Given the color of my skin, I am never seen or treated as anything other than as a white woman and there is a particular kind of pain that is sharp and poignant when one’s passing is their full reality.

These two characters are wholly African-American and one has chosen to pass. I never chose this path — my skin color dictated that I could pass. I have experienced privilege and power as a result. I have sought to have my color side seen, but can never quite fit in. I must be married to an Indian man (which I am) — there is no way our collective East-Indian birthright is yours.

It hurts. The characters in Passing are also hurting — trying to fit in, to be their own person, to connect, to hold power and privilege, to be seen as “in,” to be seen as other in their own community. This movie is worth a viewing and a thought as to one’s racial identity and what would any person do to hold power and privilege in a society where it is far from egalitarian.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween
Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to You!

This week marks the epitome of the season. You may find yourself walking through your neighborhood and seeing ghosts, witches, carved pumpkins and more as you wander. Tis the season for Halloween spooks and haunts to come out and play.

Do you get into Halloween? For me, it is a time to don my creativity hat and deck out my home from head to toe with seasonal decorations. And I do mean head to toe. For the past 16 years, I have been collecting seasonal decorations for Halloween and, after all of these years, it is a main event to decorate the Treehouse. Bins full of all sorts of decorations are revealed year after year.

At this point some of these items feel like “old friends.” One of my earliest pieces is a small crow with a purple ribbon around his neck. Each year that I meet him again feels like meeting an old part of myself that used to live in an old apartment with just a little space for something special like Mr. Crow. So, in opening the bins and seeing and touching my decorations is almost like touching parts of myself that are from long ago, but also in my present. I love this.

Creativity, one’s history, and then the spirit of fun all come into play during this spooky Halloween season. Each year, I add some new pieces as well. Inevitably, I donate some pieces that no longer seem to suit and replace them with others that appeal to my eye. At the end of this decorating bonanza, I am literally living in a transformed space which underlies the change of seasons and my own changes within as I ready for the dark days of late Autumn and winter. Even though it is difficult to lose the natural daylight, it is also fun to light up Halloween flames that provide a different light to the home and my days.

I am not sure how you may be celebrating Halloween, but if you celebrate I hope you have a pumpkin to carve or an old friend like my Mr. Crow to sit in a special place in your home or have time to enjoy a walk to see how others may be keeping the spirit of the season. Soon the calendar turns to November — the season of Thanksgiving and gratitude. For now, let’s celebrate the spookiness!

News Diet

Do you need a news diet?

A news diet I say? Yes, I actually think it’s a good thing!

It was late this past summer that I found myself feeling overwhelmed to the point of not even being in my life — I mean I was in it, but somehow not really there. I was caught up in work, running around and more. I also thought about how much news I had been taking in — all of it going from bad to worse each day.

What I noticed even more was not even reading the article so much but scrolling through the comments to see what people were thinking and/or saying about the topic at hand. Comments made me feel all sorts of things — in good company, scared to death, and/or not knowing how I felt even though I was often more troubled than reassured. This was another level of reading the news that I hadn’t accounted for. All the opinions of the news was driving my news intake!

In an effort to regain some of my life, my time, and myself back, I decided to go on a news diet. Let’s face it it’s very difficult to avoid news altogether in this super connected, now society. I knew I could not cut it out completely, but I could cut out reading comments altogether, browse the headlines of the news sources, and tune into the local and national news having it on as almost background noise and not following it that closely.

Two months in, I am much happier than I have been in a very long time. First off, I have more time to live in my life. Not sure what I am doing is exactly newsworthy but these are my days that are making up my years and thus my life. Whatever I am doing, I want to be in my own life and not the life of the news cycle and all of the people spinning their two cents.

Now off that merry-go-round life feels a lot more open for me to live my life on my own terms and not via the next headline. I know many people have told me they have taken a news diet with great results. I am glad I finally moved on it as well. My guess is I will keep this level of attention to the news going forward no matter what comes up.

Few News Diet Tips:

Don’t go all or nothing. A diet means you take in a bit less — how much less is up to you. it doesn’t feel realistic to go about life not knowing anything, but definitely take stock of how you are viewing the news and see what would make it less stressful for you to engage with the news.

Make sure when you do your review it isn’t just the news reading you are thinking about, but all of the other ways you are engaging the news — i.e. the comments section, following link after link, engaging in oral arguments with strangers, posting news on social media — as well as how much space the news of the day is taking up in your mind.

Once on your news diet, check in to see how you are feeling. Do you miss it? If so, which parts? If not, can this become a lifestyle — a way of being consistently with self? Are you feeling more at ease or more anxious not knowing everything. Keep a close tab on your news diet experience.

Now that you have more space for you, how are you choosing you? Are you relaxing, engaging a hobby, or something else? Where space has opened, what else is shifting in your life? Exciting!

I stand by my news diet and you won’t be surprised to know that I think it’s going to become my lifestyle — taking in a very limited amount of news.

That’s the news of the day!

Is It Selfish to Want a Baby?

Is it selfish to want a baby
Does wanting a baby make you selfish?

Is it selfish to want a baby? I was recently asked this question and it surprised the heck out of me. As a childless woman by choice, my decision always had people judging me as selfish. I never understood the connection between wanting a baby and selfishness. However, I think I am alone on this one as it feels like a common judgment related to becoming a parent.

Whether you want a child or do not want a child, the judgment seems to be the same these days – you are selfish!

In regard to being selfish when one wants a baby, I hear this more and more around the issues of climate change and all the other “news” of the day that makes anyone want to pull out their hair. How can someone actively decide to bring a baby into this world when it is what it is today?

Biology — first and foremost. Humans are wired to reproduce. Although we are thinking mammals, we are mammals and we are here to leave our actual DNA behind. Although there are all of the modern dating apps and anguish over meeting the right mate, the whole point of it is as old as the hills. We are meant to find a mate and reproduce. Nothing selfish about our biological desire to have a baby.

Hopefulness — to desire to have a baby automatically makes you an optimist in my book. To have a child is to invest in the future and to believe it will be and can be good. There is faith that mankind will continue and in our evolution good will come to bear. I don’t see anything selfish in optimism.

Personal fulfillment — now this is where the decision to have a baby or not may be judged as selfish. I am not exactly sure when the judgment came about to call someone selfish when they are fulfilling their heart’s desire. Is it from the “other” who is not leading a life of personal fulfillment? I often think that those who are negative in their judgments of people are unhappy.

Regarding personal fulfillment, desiring a baby can be about fulfilling a deep well inside that seeks to procreate in order to experience not only wanting a baby, but having one and raising a child. The relationship between parent and child is one of the most significant that humans can experience. It is not selfish to want to be a parent to a child.

What can be said for the era we are living in? My guess is through all of the ages the world was in a challenging space in one way or another. That’s why it is not only important to hold on to one’s optimism, but also to think through how you will raise your child — aware of the climate change issues, modeling sustainable living practices, and being curious about the issues we are facing and helping our children to think about creative solutions — this is the next generation after all.

Wanting a baby and thinking you are selfish? Nah. Don’t take on such a judgment. Be aware of your intention and desire for a baby and move forward without such negativity.

Whether you choose to have a baby or not, selfishness is not the core of the issue. Never has been — if you are wondering why someone may or may not want a child, ask and listen. Be open. Be curious. Drop the judgment.