Inspired Reflections

How Do We Make Choices Today?

Eleventh in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this series of essays. Sedona’s Mescal Trail, where this photo was taken, is one of our favorite hikes. It’s also a popular one for bike riders. The Difficult path is about two feet wide. Take the Extreme path and you’re 12″ from the cliff’s edge. Martin and I choose Difficult every time, leaving Extreme to the young, the adrenaline junkies and the really confident cyclists.

 

Freedom of choice is baked into our national DNA starting with Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” Covid-19, in addition to claiming our sense of security, freedom of movement and most tragically more than 80,000 lives, is also forcing us to choose between difficult and extreme. 

Do we go to the grocery store or continue curbside pick-up? Do we begin to visit with others or continue to meet up with a friend in one of our driveways, talking over an imaginary fence that keeps us six feet apart. High school graduates must choose between matriculating in September (if their future alma mater chooses to re-open) or take a gap year to do who knows what. Doctors face life and death choices more times a day than I could ever imagine. Every choice is difficult; every choice is extreme.

Covid-19 has done more than limit and reshape our choices. It has taken from us a crucial component of decision making  —  dependable information upon which we can make a choice.  New information arrives each day. Given the recent understanding that many Covid-19 patients present with silent hypoxia, some doctors are choosing less invasive treatments over intubation for patients not struggling for breath even though their oxygen levels are dangerously low.  What information do they need to choose well?  Given my age, I’m not rushing out of my proscribed perimeter just yet.

When we make a choice, we have a reasonable sense of where it said choice will lead us. The toughest choices are the ones where either outcome will bring pain — stay in the abusive relationship or go; follow parental expectations or blaze your own path; restrict businesses and continue to crush the economy or open up so people can work, knowing that Covid cases will rise. 

Difficult or extreme, there are no easy choices today. Especially when liberating ourselves might indeed lead to death.

 

And now for a polite ask. Since Martin and I launched Picture a Conversation, hundreds of  wonderful conversations continue to unfold within families, schools, ESL classes, and therapists offices. 

The upside of the recent Corona isolation are renewed opportunities to connect with friends and loved ones.  If you have not yet enjoyed Picture a Conversation, please consider ordering a set. If your Zooms/Facetimes/Google Meets often seem to revert to pandemic talk, these prompts can help smoothly change the topic. Have you rediscovered letter writing?      The cards will give you some great subjects for sharing your life experiences.                                                                    

Ordering Picture a Conversation is an easy choice.   Not difficult. Not extreme. Thanking you in advance.

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What Simple Tasks Bring You Joy?

Tenth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this series of essays. I love the simplicity of this shot. Each element — the bygone style of shirt, the wooden pegs, the rough-hewn boards — speak of another era. Martin snapped this at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, MI.

When the quarantine began, I was still making to-do lists. There was so much I was going to get done in this stretch of time! Write a new draft of a children’s picture book text I’ve been working on; paint every day; exercise; read all the unread books on the shelf in my office.

I was frustrated each day when I didn’t accomplish everything on my list. Just as frustrated as B.C., before Corona. Our patterns accompany us everywhere, even in lockdown. Midway (or what I then assumed was midway) through the lockdown, I fell apart. When would this end? I wasn’t getting as much done as I’d set myself to accomplish. I had no attention span to read. I painted one abstract that could only be titled Corona.

Now, with an additional 15 days added to seclusion, I find this time is generating its own kind of simplicity and normalcy. Certain intentions — getting to bed earlier — have created time and space for meditation, exercise and prayer from a place of quietude not list making.   We are eating dinner earlier, watching less TV. I find I don’t really want to binge (except for the rice pudding I made last week!) Martin and I are faithful about a daily walk. Checking in with friends is a balm as we  navigate Zoom, curbside birthday celebrations, and the kinds of food trades that were once commonplace — eggs for apples, lettuce for lemons, flour for challah. It feels like the world children’s book author Elsa Beskow created for her book Pelle’s New Suit. Pelle, in need of a new suit, traded chores for each neighbor whose individual skill contributed to his suit. 

We are finding our way with our granddaughter, reading to her on FaceTime and playing the orchestral music videos she enjoyed with Martin when they still lived nearby. I have begun to write Olivia letters (she’s only three so these are very simple.) She now writes me back — a picture of a birthday cake, replete with yellow pipe cleaner candles; a drawing of an ice cream cone cut into puzzle pieces for me to reassemble. Perhaps when the world returns to, and even expands, its virtual connecting, Olivia and I will still retreat  to our anachronistic island of letter-writing.

Quarantine. Lockdown. Seclusion. No matter what you call it, every day brings tasks and pleasures that offer joy. What will yours be today?

 

P.S. I did rework a new draft of the children’s story. From my bookshelf, I recommend David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous and Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

 

 

 

Keep the conversation going. What simple tasks bring you joy? Have you begun, or set aside, to-do lists?  Learn more about Picture a Conversation here

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Friends in the time of Corona

Ninth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. Martin captured this flock of gull friends soaring over the beach in Malibu. 

I am sure you’re missing your friends as much as I am. Zoom, Face-Time, What’s App, the phone. As good as they are all at helping me keep in touch, I await that irreplaceable feeling of being right there, walking side by side, sharing a meal across a table, having the physical proximity that allows me to see each of their expressions, the little sighs and gestures that are theirs and theirs alone. I miss my flock.

There is a silver lining to all of this. The pandemic, and its sidekick Zoom, are enabling me to be with a New York friend whose father has just died.  Had Covid-19 not turned the world upside down I would have called, written a note of condolence, and made a donation in his memory. The pandemic has allowed me to be, if not by my friend’s side, then beside her in a little Zoom box.   

I have known Marian for over 50 years. She and her sister took our hometown by storm with their zany accents and even zanier laughter when they moved from New York to south of the Mason-Dixon. We were in youth group all through high school and spent an entire summer together on a leadership experience in Israel in the early 70’s. Were it not for Marian, my entire life would have taken another trajectory. The summer we graduated college she introduced me to the “fabulous woman” she was dating. She and the fabulous woman broke up, but not before I met the fabulous woman’s brother. The fabulous woman has been my fabulous sister-in-law for 40 years.  

Our paths crossed and crisscrossed infrequently after college but whenever we saw each other the years fell away. Before we knew it, my own daughter had graduated college and was job hunting in New York. Marian offered her a job at her company as a replacement for a receptionist on maternity leave. 

Marian and I reconnected last fall at my sister-in-law’s wedding. She looked the same. I looked the same.  Once again, the decades slipped away as we caught up on one another’s lives. Her laugh hadn’t changed. Neither had her exuberance. As for the accent, I’ve been married to a New Yorker for so long that I couldn’t have heard it if I tried. We promised to keep in touch and this time around have kept that promise.

Last week I got word that Marian’s father died. In the middle of this pandemic. Burial and the seven-day mourning period of Shiva would be anything but the norm. No visitors. No mourner’s meal following the burial. No attending the burial. No standing with her family each evening to recite Kaddish while legions of friends surround them. 

Enter Zoom and the devotion of the rabbis and cantors who led a virtual minyan each evening. It has been a blessing to be with Marian.  To see her and her sister, albeit in their little Zoom boxes.  To see her mom whom I last saw in my teens. To extend sympathies across the miles. Marian and her family would not be mourning alone, at least not in these first raw days. 

It is good to soar with friends. I hope to again very very soon. We all do. Sometimes, though, when soaring isn’t possible, it is good simply to hover nearby on sorrow’s wings.

 

front row L to R:  yours truly, quite pregnant; by then my fabulous sister-in-law; my friend, Marian

 

Keep the conversation going. What does “soaring amongst your friends” look like?  How are you and your friends staying in touch during the pandemic. Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know here.  Thank you!

 

 

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Living in the Now, One Step at a Time

Eighth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. Martin took this photo at Mt. Baldhead Park Trail in  Saugatuck Michigan.  There are 302 steps in all. One way.

If I hadn’t mastered it before, though I was getting there day by day, thought by thought, Corona/Covid-19 is teaching me nothing so much as to live in the moment.  When will this “hunkering down” end? I don’t know. What will it feel like to go into a store and not feel edgy around people? I don’t know. Will there be a vaccine? When will I see my childen again, hold my granddaughter Oliva and her newborn sister? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.  

All I know is the present moment. Right here, right now. My fingers are on the keyboard. I am hoping that by the end of this missive, I will have left my readers with a bit of light, comfort perhaps and/or confidence that we will meet again soon, joyously and gratefully.

Those in recovery are intimate with a way of moving through life that others might not be — staying in the present moment, taking each moment, each day, each breath sometimes, one at a time. There is nowhere to be but in the here and now.  How much time and energy and moments of our lives have we devoted to worrying what will happen? Or resentful and self-righteous over what did happen, once upon a time? Why couldn’t we have learned this or that lesson sooner? Instead of now, so many years down the pike? Because now is all we have. Now is when the lessons can be learned. They weren’t learned yesterday and we can’t learn them tomorrow until tomorrow morphs into its own now.

This pandemic forces us to do what we could not or would not do easily. Making my bed, which I have always done, is now done slowly and with gratitude. Washing my vegetables as per that doctor’s film, I hold each pepper in my hand and notice  its color, consider with gratitude the people who grew and harvested it, who packed it and arranged it in the grocery bin for me to choose. I wash apples and then pears and then plums one at a time, paying attention to the shape and texture of each before putting them away. I give thanks, too, keenly away that not everyone will have peppers for dinner tonight. Or warm fruit compote. Or so much more.

The latest word is that this self-isolation will stay implemented through April 30. Others venture it could be longer. I can’t future-think that far. What I can do is be grateful for my now. I am keenly aware that for so many their now is a tornado of worry and illness; and for thousands of others Covid-19 has stolen their now forever.

I hoped to leave you with a bit of light so here goes. Life must be taken one step at a time. What can you do with the now that you have? What of the past can you leave behind for good? If you fall into future-thinking, summon visions that leave you easy in your heart and unafraid. Now is here, and now will unfold for us to hold and say, Thank you.

 

Keep the conversation going. How much future-thinking are you doing? How do you return yourself to now? Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know in the Comments.  Thank you!

 

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Covid-19/Many Perspectives

Seventh in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. This is the only photo in the set that I took.  I was at a yoga retreat some years ago and this scene captivated me.  

If anything is challenging our perceptions it’s Covid-19. I am feeling as tumultuous as all of you. The broadcasts, updates, and stats so easily overwhelm.  I learned a new word today — infodemic.  Pretty much sums up the tidal wave of information coming at us. I distance myself from the news, binge for a bit and then distance myself again. What is going on and why? What can be learned? Gun sales rise. And there is an outpouring of offers of help to those in need. Our worst inclinations are being excavated along with our best. Doubtless within each of us. Every morning my inbox is rich with Zoom invitations to meditate, to study, to visit the animals at the various zoos around the country and tour museums worldwide. On one hand it’s great. On the other I risk diving right backintothefrenzy of doing instead of being — a gift of this pandemic that some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy.

Lynn Unger’s poem Pandemic has likely circled the world even faster than Covid-19. Hopefully it will affect more people than the virus. She likened society’s withdrawal from itself to the gifts enjoyed by  those who observe the Jewish Sabbath — setting aside travel, buying and selling and the like. This is a terrifying time and as Unger noted this time of pandemic can also be a sacred time.  

The little acts of normalcy become sacred — making my bed; getting dressed instead of giving in to the inclination to stay in PJ’s because where am I going, anyway; giving each day form and structure; walking with my husband. We are together a lot these days and have returned to playing Scrabble. Lots of Scrabble. If ever there is a time of living in the moment, this is it. I feel deeply that this is a time of a huge resetting. To what, remains to be seen.

I realize how fortunate I am to be able to look at this crisis from a place of security. I am not alone, as is a friend of ours who is living in a suite kind of hotel. It may close and she and the other long-term guests may have to relocate. The dining room is closed. She is scared. Martin checks in often. She has little community where she lives other than those in the hotel, now that the places where she volunteers have ceased operating. Refugees who had little refuge have even less now. My kids can work from home and have both told me their companies are going above and beyond to help their employees and others. Polluted skies and rivers are clearing. What about polluted thoughts?  Mariana Gualtieri offers her perspective in her poem March the Ninth Twenty Twenty.

If this plague has taught me anything it is that living in the moment is the only place where life can be lived.  I have spent too much mind-time projecting fears upon the future and arguing with my past. Today teaches me I do not know what is to come. Believing I do  is chimeric. I can engage with that truth in fear. Or I can allow that truth to open me to the possibility of miraculous developments both small and universal.  It all depends upon my perspective. What will be yours?

 

This was the original photo.  When I slipped my phone into my pocket, the perspective changed, turning the image into the “tree” you see above.

Keep the conversation going. Recall a time when you were challenged to see a situation from a different perspective? How do you help others see issues from your perspective? Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know in the Comments.  Thank you!

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Where Do You Find Comfort?

Sixth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. Martin captured these water lilies at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

This image, and its theme of beauty comforting us through our grief, came about serendipitously. Before Martin and I produced Picture a Conversation, the images and themes in the set were part of a line of greeting cards we called His Lens/My Pen. A woman at an event I was hosting asked if I had a birthday card for someone who was facing a tragedy. “I have co-worker whose wife is dying,” she said. “His birthday is next week. I don’t want to ignore his special day, but I can’t send a regular birthday card to a man who is losing the love of his life.  Do you have anything I could send?” 

Her predicament brought me up short. Life so often gives us the worst mash-ups of experiences. A mother dies days before her son’s wedding. A beloved uncle suffers a fatal heart attack at his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. These bizarre and painful things happen more often than one would think. I remembered Martin’s image of these waterlilies and told the woman I would get to work that night. If she liked what I came up with, I’d print the card and send it to her as my gift. The simple white waterlily floating against black seemed to be a symbol of hope and comfort amidst dark days.

Being out in Nature has always comforted me in a way that best intentions and kindest words cannot. The crimson flash as a red-winged blackbird takes flight distracts a broken heart; and in that moment when pain gives way to joy lives the promise of its mending. The stillness of snow at twilight brings calm to a raging soul. When family tensions overwhelmed me in childhood, I would escape into the far corners of our backyard, taking refuge in the intense pink drifts of the azaleas and the dogwoods’ stark white blossoms. Even today, a walk down to the lake nearby tempers whatever tempestuousness has me in its grip.

The Spring Equinox arrives next Thursday, March 19 at 11:49 PM, EST. Hints already abound. The tips of the daffodils are poking above the earth; the crocus are unfolding. There is gentling of the air. Winter is heading offstage; spring is waiting in the wings ready to take flight. So let the lengthening of  daylight cheer you. Listen for the birds; they are already singing their joy that the season is turning. Nature’s beauty awaits you just beyond the threshold. Go outside and be comforted.

What happened with the card? The woman liked it and sent it to her co-worker. She wrote me some weeks later to tell me that his wife died soon after the card arrived. And wouldn’t you know, her lifelong passion was cultivating water lilies. 

 

Keep the conversation going. Recall a time of grief. What helped? What didn’t? How does Nature’s beauty help us heal or provide comfort?  Learn more about Picture a Conversation here.

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Oh, Go On. Have Some Fun!

Fifth in a series. 

I’m letting our Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing essay series. I built this snowman some winters back. Great fun for a Georgia-raised girl who never got the chance.

When was the last time you had fun? I mean soul-tickling, skin-tingling, laughter-bubbling  nowhere-but-in-the-moment kind of fun?  It happens less often as we grow older. A movie can be fun, a night out with the girls, or in with a beloved. But I’m talking the kind of fun that returns us to childhood. Where delight is the norm. Where every sensation is a swinging door into wonder. 

I know I can be intense. I feel things strongly. My reactions are mercurial more than some are comfortable with. It took me years to understand that being sensitive was not a character flaw, but my God-given gift and essence. I love my inner child. I’m glad she resisted all attempts to submerge her. I love giving her the opportunity to come out and play.  

She’s why I had such a blast building the snowman you see above.  I spent a good hour or so piling snow upon itself until I had a respectable form from which I began to carve my snowman.  The deep drifts had left me few visible gleanings to improvise facial features.  So off to find trimmings from lunch — clementine peelings for a hat, cucumber eyes anchored with a couple of twigs, a bottle cap nose and the banana peel mouth smiling at you above. I got out a spray bottle, mixed up some water and food coloring and poof! A spray-on scarf. Much healthier than a spray-on tan.

Our kids gave us plenty of opportunities to revisit childhood loves — blocks, zoos, games, books and more. But in those years, as you would imagine, fun always had [seemingly] more important stuff waiting in the wings  — laundry, carpools, dinner, homework, discipline, SATs. Years passed and then the fun quotient bloomed exponentially when our granddaughter Olivia was born. Silliness returned to the realm. Suddenly I could spend hours pretending with her.  Animals, princesses, shoppers at Trader Joe’s, pirates. I recited my favorite nursery rhymes and made up ridiculous rhymes as I had with Elliot and Emma.  Olivia and I disappeared into books for delicious stretches of time. When they moved out of state last October, it fell to me to begin replicating fun’s precious energy for myself.

I finally gathered up the courage to take a painting class — curriculum, supply list, assignments, the whole shebang. And what a shebang it is.  I love everything about it.  I love the way my palette knife moves through my paints when they are just the right consistency.  I love recreating the the exact tones I need when I have not mixed enough paint.  I love the sensuousness of my brush laying down paint on my canvas.  I even love cleaning my brushes, swirling them in a smidgen of soap cupped in my palm and then letting the water run through the bristles till the last daubs of color are gone. I love patting my brushes dry in anticipation of our next date. As with young children at play, I have no judgment, no criticism, no fear of “doing it wrong.” Unlike a child, I am vigilant about remaining in the fun place. I am learning what I need to learn through the sheer joy of doing. Our next trip to visit Olivia, I’m bringing paints!

In class we are concentrating on recognizing values. Ergo, all painting for now is in black and white. Inner Child needed to play with some color. I let her have her way.

Is it difficult to allow your inner child to have fun?  How can you open the swinging door into wonder? For some readers, it’s wintertime. Go build a snowman! What was the experience like?  Share a photo and a few words about it on the FB page. 

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Velveteen Wisdom


Fourth in a series. 

I’m letting our Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing essay series. Martin took this owl’s portrait one afternoon at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. 

We’ve just returned from our second granddaughter’s Simchat Bat (Judaism’s celebration ceremony for a newborn girl.) Leah Florence was blessed and given the Hebrew name of Adina Noa (gentle comfort.) Our son and daughter-in-law created a beautiful service. Big Sister Olivia recited blessings over the wine and the bread. It was a morning steeped in tradition, in prayer and deeply meaningful readings. There was laughter and tears, remembrance and hopes for the future. Family arrived from all corners; my son’s friends from grammar school and college came. Some of my friends and their children were there. Some of these friendships now span three generations. Time felt tangibly wide and long, like a snowy cloth sailed across the dining room table each Sabbath. I felt my years, grateful for each and every one.

One young mom and I were chitchatting. She grew still for a moment and said, “I have a ten-month-old son. Do you have any advice for me? Any wisdom?” My heart went out to her. Motherhood is as joyous and breathtaking as it is confounding and terrifying. We want to do so well. We want do it right. How can we know if our mothering is the right kind of mothering for our children? How do we rise to this awesome and sacred responsibility of raising these miracles of life? I remembered ten months old: exhilarated and exhausted, I was filled with wonder and worry. There were times I became a version of myself that mortified me, yet I knew there was no other role greater than the one I had been given.

“Be gentle on yourself,” I began. “Remember that you are human.  Try to keep self-judgment at bay.  Enjoy each stage as much as you can. They go so quickly.” I nodded toward the bay window where my son had led the service.  “It all happens faster than you will ever believe.”

I remembered wanting to be the perfect mother, dreading the possibility of damaging my children with my own uncertainties and shortcomings. It takes so long to know how it will all turn out; and “how it turns out” changes year by year. Ultimately, we never know. I shared with her something I’d been thinking about and had discussed with my rabbi not so many weeks ago.

“You know, in the Creation story God reflects back upon each day and comments, ‘It was good.’ Not great, not magnificent, but good. All those stars and oceans? The giraffes and the peacocks? The plants and the rivers? God never said, ‘Hey, today was a fantabulous, outrageously freaking perfection of a day.’ All that we are told is that it was ‘good.’

“So focus on good. Some days will be more good and some days will be less good. The text teaches us is that if God was content with good at the end of each day, what more need we ask of ourselves?”  She hugged me and I returned her sweet embrace, grateful to have been given the opportunity to connect with my own hard-earned wisdom, and to look back and say, “It was good.”

                                                                           ***   ***    ***      ***     ***

 

Up above the asterisks is where this essay originally ended. You’re free to stop reading there. But as I thought more about it, I returned to my original theme of wisdom. Which then begged the question: Where does wisdom come from?  

Any wisdom that might accompany us into the world, vanishes with our first exhalation. Wisdom is what happens to us, bit by bit.  We might think of our newborn heart as if lined with pink sateen; we are fat and bunchy, pristine. We don’t know yet that we are Life’s plaything. That there will be times when Life drags us through the mud. That we will feel abandoned, left high on a shelf and seemingly forgotten. The stuffing will get knocked out of us a time or two or three and our joints will loosen. We’ll lose our hair. Other things, too. Wisdom is what happens to us. If we are fortunate, we recognize and welcome this truth. Compassion, for ourselves and others, begins to fill the gaps where Life carved us away.

Decades from now, I imagine another gathering. Generations have come together to welcome and bless a new life. The young mother from above might even be a grandmother. Perhaps she  will be approached by a mom who asks, “I have a ten-month-old son. Do you have any advice for me? Any wisdom?”

 

                                                                                with thanks to Margery Williams 

                                                                     

Keep the conversation going. Whose wisdom has made a difference in your life?  What wisdom would you offer a young parent? What wisdom would you wish had been shared with you?  Want more Picture a Conversation? Order here.

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Out of the Womb and Into Life

Third in a series.                                                                                                                       I’m letting our Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing essay series. We found this little cactus flower family at the Mund’s Wagon trail head in Sedona 

I’m under the wire for this week’s post. And with good reason. There’s a new bud in our family. Born Wednesday afternoon Leah Florence, our second grandchild and second granddaughter, has a cap of black feathery hair, eyes of indiscriminate color and looks exactly like her big sister did as a newborn.  Swaddled tightly, her petals hidden within, Leah is pure potential. A lifetime of unfurling awaits her. Her sweet body, still conforming to the curves of her first home, is just beginning to unfold. 

At this moment, her life is scripted within her parents’ and grandparents’ hearts and dreams and yes, by the Divine’s plan for this sweet little soul. Come Saturday when all are safely home from the hospital, Leah’s relationship with her big sister will finally begin. They will choreograph their own dance of love and rivalry, worship and protection, vying and sharing, stepping on one another toes and engaging in the life-long pas de deux of sisterhood.  The sweet chattering voice Leah has heard for months through watery depths will be one she will follow and resist and then follow again. The page is blank, the score yet to sound, the steps un-notated. It is the perfection of an as-yet-to-be-lived life.

When I was a teenager, I came across a quiz in a magazine titled, “Are you a perfectionist?” No, I thought to myself, I am not. Because if I were, I would be perfect. I would know what to do, I would never make anyone angry. I would study harder and get perfect grades. Back then I thought perfectionists had it all figured out in a way I never would. We are so hard on ourselves until we realize that perfection is for circles not humans. 

The decades have taught me that dark moments, awful things, and utter messes are perfect opportunities to grow and learn. There are no perfect children nor perfect parents. Instead we walk paths, together and separately, that give us perfect moments to summon and share love. Yesterday’s frustration begets today’s patience. Last week’s scribbling on the wall becomes next month’s framed artwork.  A boundary crossed inspires restraint come the next intersection. It feels anything but perfect. But it is. Because going in circles, even perfect ones, gets us nowhere. We are born to move forward.
And moving forward often requires struggle.  What is childbirth but the universal struggle that brings forth precious life?

Welcome to the world, dear sweet Leah Florence. May your joys be great; may your struggles bring strength; may life embrace you with unending love.  Grandpa and I cannot wait to meet you.   Aviva

 

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Where Do You Stand?

Second in a series.

I’m letting our Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing essay series. Many years ago, Martin captured the image of these geese when we visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.

To add a bit of spontaneity to this essay adventure,  each week I am choosing the conversation card at random. This way I am forced to approach each topic with a fresh perspective. Oh, the Universe is a trickster. Had I been choosing deliberately, I would have left this card to the last. Like the intuition that leads cats directly to the feline-phobic, this card sidled up to claim my attention.

How does this happen, that the thing we do not want comes to us? There is much talk today about the energy we put out.  Positive or negative, our energy serves as a magnet of sorts, returning to us precisely what we transmit. Perhaps magnet is the wrong analogy. Magnets attract their opposite; they repel like poles. If negativity is one’s prevailing mindset, why doesn’t it draw positivity?  The guru in my mind whispers, Because that’s just not the way it works, Debra. The things we may fear, fight and dread come our was so we can face them, walk through the valley of our resistances and come out the other side hopefully wiser, expanded in spirit, strengthened by new insights.  

When I crafted the statement and the questions on the reverse of the card above, I thought about the parents and adolescents who might use it as a jumping off point for a meaningful conversation. Yet opportunities for loved ones, friends and colleagues to go head-to-head over any number of issues span all age groups. My daughter and I are navigating plans for her wedding. At the outset she said, “I want  planning my wedding to be as joyous as my wedding is going to be.  If we reach a wall we’ll hang up, cool off and talk to each other the next day.” Wise woman this daughter we have raised. 

I am discerning anew what flexibility feels like — united, gratified, content —  versus submission’s residue — squelched, diminished, divided against myself. Flexible allows me a sense of personal agency.  Submission stirs up feelings of impotence. Flexibility spreads before me choices whose breadth is limited only by my own imagination. Submission shuts down any possibility of choice or creative thought.

And what about principles? Which are ironclad and which would we modify or even set aside?  Are we unprincipled to reconsider certain principles we have stood upon, perhaps for decades? What, if any, are the costs and consequences and to whom? 

Of the 25 cards in the deck of Picture a Conversation, this one’s accompanying message was the hardest one to craft.  I love the image of these geese and their respective postures. Anthropomorphizing, I wonder what they are saying to one another. After Martin snapped his shot, we walked away. Perhaps they kept honking at one another. Maybe they switched stances. Then again, perhaps they went their separate ways for a bit, only to reconnect the next day, realizing that rigidity and submission kept them anchored in place. That perhaps by standing at the intersection of flexible and principles they could make way for new paths.

Use these geese to start a conversation of your own.  Recall a time when you and another had to “agree to disagree.” Was the relationship strengthened or diminished? How did you resolve the impasse?

Each Picture a Conversation deck has 25 cards and over 75  questions to enrich your relationships through meaningful conversations.  It’s a  unique birthday, shower or engagement gift. Are you corporate? Picture a Conversation will deepen your team-building experiences. Or choose a card to take with you on a walk with a friend or loved one.    To order a set, here’s the link. Expand the conversation! I would deeply appreciate your sharing this essay on your social media sites.  If you missed last week’s essay, here you go.

 

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