Riding In Place

It’s like riding a bike…

That is until it isn’t like riding a bike and you can’t remember how to do it at all, but then just like that you realize that it’s still a bike but it’s a whole different kind of bike ride. Then one day suddenly you wake up in the morning and see things like you’ve never seen them before even though you’ve seen the same scene hundreds if not thousands of times before. 

What in the world am I talking about, you ask? 

We’ll grab a cup of tea and stick around for a few and I’ll tell you the story about how a 30 minute bike ride may have just changed my life. It’s certainly made me even more aware of how much I’ve changed during these very changing times! 

My wife Christiana, my daughter Emma and I just spent four nights at our cottage in New Buffalo, Michigan. Nothing particularly earth shattering about that news except for the fact that it was the first time we’ve been there as a family of three for the entire year. In January, right before the word pandemic entered our lives in a way we never imagined, we had just undertaken a sizable roofing and renovation project that we hoped to have finished before Memorial Day. Being able to rent our cottage over the last five years between Memorial Day and Labor Day has kept us financially stable enough to retain it and make subtle improvements. This was the year we pushed the chips to the middle of the table and went “all in” on making it the home it needed to become to be both rentable and sustainable for many years ahead. We’d been putting the project off for too many years already. I guess you could say that this year we finally went to the edge of the cliff and took a leap of faith. 

Due to some run of the mill construction delays, a few supply issues because of Covid and some permit and inspection red tape we are just now finally rental ready – two weeks before Labor Day. While we’ve missed an entire season of summer rentals, we’ve gained a whole new appreciation of just exactly how NOT in control we are of the external circumstances in our lives. We’ve learned that we must accept things as they are even if they create frustration and fear. That lesson seems to be coming up quite often these days in general. 

On the bright side though, the house is in perfect shape to rent well into the fall and maybe even during the winter. Demand is at an all time high because people are looking to get away closer to home without having to fly. We can probably charge a good bit more per night than we’ve charged in the past with the interior and exterior improvements. And most importantly, we get to enjoy the cottage in the condition we always dreamed about. 

What does this all have to do with a life altering bike ride you’re asking? Nothing actually. I’m just setting things up with a little back story. Now a bit more about bike riding. 

I’ve always loved to ride my bike. I’ve used my bike as a standard method of commuting to and from work when the weather agrees. I’ve used my bike for fitness. I’ve used my bike for pleasure. One of my favorite places to use my bike has always been on the back roads of Southwestern Michigan. Long before we all had GPS systems built into our phones, I would use actual paper road maps to plan out my routes through the farms and vineyards of New Buffalo, Three Oaks, Harbert, Galien, Berrien Springs and many other small Michigan towns. 

One thing has been a constant on my weekend morning rides through the years. I always wanted to explore a new route and I always wanted to go further and/or faster than I ever had before. Even in more recent years with less free time on my hands as a parent and GPS at my fingertips all the time, I always felt the need to do something bigger or something different whenever I got the chance to take a longer weekend ride. Most years in the recent past I’ve logged well over a thousand miles of road riding between early spring and late fall. This year before this weekend I had managed to log a grand total of zero miles of road riding – a stunning shift even taking into consideration the unique set of circumstances that we’ve all been living through in 2020. 

It’s not that I haven’t been pedaling at all. It’s just that I’ve been riding in place. By a stroke of great fortune, my wife bought me a peloton style bike for Christmas last year. I’ve never been one for riding without moving, but the changes in my lifestyle due to parenting has made it harder for me to maintain my cardio workouts in the winter so I was open to the new possibilities. What started as a nice new wrinkle in my training regimen ultimately became a lifesaver when fitness centers closed in March and our family went into full quarantine for three months. 

As we moved into the summer, I continued to ride my indoor bike most every morning as Emma ate her Honey Nut Cheerios while watching Daniel Tiger or Peppa Pig or Elmo’s World. There were certainly plenty of opportunities for me to get my real bike out of the garage and ride it around the city of Chicago, but I just never got fully comfortable with the idea of being back out on the open roads. For years I had been riding up and down city streets, through the parks and down the lakefront path cautiously but without fear. All of a sudden in our new world, I couldn’t bring myself to overcome the fear of what might happen while I was out on my bike. What if I fell off I needed to get medical care?  What if my bike broke down and I needed to get on a bus or a train to get home safely and I was exposed to Covid? Or worse yet, what if something really bad happened and Emma and Christiana had to care for themselves alone at home? Eventually I convinced myself that it was not only unsafe, but also irresponsible for me to ride my bike out on the roads.

And then this weekend in the safety of southwestern Michigan, I decided that maybe just maybe I should give it a try? I pulled my 20 year old Trek 820 from the shed in the backyard. I washed away a few years worth of dirt and spiderwebs with the spray nozzle on the yard hose. I pumped up the tires with a squeaky old foot pump and hoped that they would hold their air. On a perfect 70 degree August morning while Emma was finishing up her current helping of Cheerios and Christiana was drinking her chai on the front porch, I mounted the saddle and coasted down the front lawn towards the street. 

At first I was a bit tentative. I gripped both sides of my upright handle bar ends tightly and changed gears to the lowest gear possible so I could go slow. As I pedaled down our tree lined street towards the main part of town I started to gain a bit confidence. I started to remember the blissful feeling of the wind in my face that is unmistakably unique to outdoor riding. Next I took one of my hands off the handlebars to get my phone out of my pocket. I opened my Pandora app so I could turn on some fun music to play while riding. No headphones of course for safety; just the muffled sound of chill music coming out of my pocket as I geared up and gained speed. 

Eventually I tested my balance by taking both hands off the handlebars at the same time. At first I did the “look mom no hands” thing for just a few seconds to see if I could stay stable. After a minute or two I was back to mid-summer form riding fully up right with both hands in the air reaching for the skies. Then I reached the most important decision that eventually comes along with every bike ride. What’s my destination? Where am I going today? 

In years past I would have had a plan. I would have made sure that I had plenty of time to accomplish something groundbreaking and magnificent. This morning though I had no plan, just a short amount of time and something else that was most important…a beginner’s mindset. 

So for the next 30 minutes I cruised up and down the streets of New Buffalo, traveling no further than one mile from the house. I looked closely at places and things that I’ve seen thousands of times before and saw the simple beauty of our little beach town in ways that I haven’t appreciated for decades. After five months of riding in place on a stationary bike in the bay window of our family room, I had finally learned that you don’t need to constantly change the scenery in your life to appreciate the view. 

As our world continues to shift and reinvent itself, we continue to be challenged to look within. We continue to be nudged down the path towards a higher degree of stillness. We continue to be urged to appreciate the beauty of the simplicity of the nature that is right under our noses over the distractions of the adventures out there in the fancy material world. 

On one hand I guess I could have told myself that my five months of riding in place in my family room hadn’t covered the thousands of miles I was accustomed to or hadn’t really “gotten me” anywhere at all…but on the other hand, perhaps those five months were the exact kind of training that I always needed. Not the cardio training I thought it would be getting back in January when I first started riding in place, but rather the life training I needed that would allow a simple 30 minute bike ride in August to become so much more. 

So it’s back in the saddle for me. I may stay pretty close close to home for the rest of the outdoor riding season how ever long it lasts, but I’ll never be at a loss to find places and things that are worthy of seeing. With the beginner’s mind and a bit more wisdom gained on the path, I’ve been given the rare gift of learning how to ride a bike for the first time all over again. The magical child that has always lived inside me is once again unleashed. Off with the training wheels world…here I come! 

 

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Building a Snowman on the 4th of July

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the most perfect snow storm of your childhood. The one that kept you home from school. The one that came up to your knees, or maybe even your waist as you frolicked carefree in the fluffy white powder. The one that made the hot chocolate taste extra sweet when you came in to warm up and get a dry pair of mittens. Now picture yourself back out in the snow after warming up enough to feel your toes again and see yourself making the best snowman ever. The one with with a broad brimmed hat and a scarf and features so crisp that you could almost imagine it would come to life with a little sprinkle of magic fairy dust. That’s the snowstorm I got to enjoy on the morning of 4th of July this year, even as the temperatures outside were climbing into the mid 90s. 

Every morning I get out of bed when I hear my daughter Emma calling for her “dada” from the other room. Sometimes it’s a quiet whisper and sometimes it’s a loud scream, but hearing her call my name is always the first chapter in our morning ritual together. After she flops around in her crib for a while and picks out her favorite stuffed animals to start the day with, we get up, open the blinds and look out the upstairs window of her room into the yard. Most days we then do a tour of all the pictures on the walls and she tells me about the fairies and the Angels and the mermaids and all the other magical creatures that live in the images within the frames.  

Next comes breakfast in the front room by the big bay window with lots of morning sun and shadows to play with and enjoy. Breakfast typically consists of milk, water, and cereal. Most mornings Emma wants both Panda Puffs and what she affectionately calls “Red Cheerios” which are the Honey Nut Cheerios in the red box, not the plain Cheerios in the yellow box. Not long after Emma settles into the couch with her food in front of her on a TV table she’ll ask me to put on one of her favorite programs. Tops on the list these days is Daniel Tiger. Other favorite choices are Elmo’s World, Pinkalicious and Peppa Pig. Every once in a while she’ll surprise me with an out of the blue random request. 

2-23One of those off the wall requests came over this last weekend on the morning of Fourth of July when Emma asked if we could watch a holiday special titled The Snowman. It’s one that she really enjoyed during the holiday season last year and every once in a while she’ll remember it and ask if we can watch it while in the morning while eating Panda Puffs and Red Cheerios. I searched my way through Amazon Prime, found the title and cued it up knowing that it would give me a half an hour to relax on the couch next to her; maybe I could even read a bit or half close my eyes and try to get a little extra rest. 

The last month has been difficult for me; in fact at times it has been excruciating. The first two months of isolation lulled me into a routine that was one part comfortable and two parts uncertainty and hopelessness. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest in late May and early June left me confused, fearful and questioning my own relationship with racism in my life and my understanding of my own white privilege. The prospects of having to return to the matrix of work and other aspects of life outside our bubble was starting to loom closer, causing my monkey mind to fall into the unproductive whirlpool of fear. From Memorial Day until Independence Day I fell into a silence that I used as a shield to protect myself from saying or writing the wrong thing. For the first time in many years I began to doubt my own voice. I felt broken and in some ways un-mendable. 

There are many reasons why we tend to turn to silence and hide during our lives. I’ve been trying for weeks to figure out why I’ve been silent and how and when I should go about breaking the silence. So as Emma was watching the beginning of The Snowman, I went to grab the book I’ve been reading. It’s a book about Qigong that I’ve been using to help me ground down a bit better into my “yin” energy. As I was grabbing the book I noticed another book underneath it that I asked Christiana to order for me a few weeks back. Something spoke to me and told me to skip the Qigong book this morning and start the new book: that choice would soon prove to be significant and profound. 

On the very first page of his book titled The Hidden Spirituality of Menauthor Matthew Fox quotes Thomas Aquinas who observes that there are “various kinds of silence: That of dullness; that of security; that of patience; and that of a quiet heart.” 

Fox later goes on to note that we are no doubt all silent for all of these above mentioned reasons at some point in our lives: because we are disinterested or too lazy; because of political or social necessity, we swallow our wisdom and gag ourselves; because we are waiting for the perfect opportune moment to speak up; or because we retreat into a quiet heart – attempting through meditation and solitude, to stop the chattering of our monkey minds. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read these first few paragraphs. It was like my entire life had been leading me to this particular moment of self discovery. I have been silent for all four of those reasons at the exact same time. I didn’t even need to continue to read further just yet. I needed to put the book down and process what I was supposed to receive from this Divinely guided message. 

I reached down and put the book on the floor by the couch where I was lying down next to Emma and started to pay attention to The Snowman. As the story unfolds a young redheaded boy builds a snowman on his front lawn after waking up to the perfect snowstorm. His new imaginary friend has a wide brimmed hat, coal for eyes in a half of an orange for a nose. 

Later that night the boy wakes up from a dream and looks out his second floor bedroom window into the yard to see his snowman. I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I’ve held Emma in my arms looking out through her second story window. I started to become even more intently focused on watching The Snowman this time around instead of just using it as a good distraction for my daughter so I could do something else. 

As the clock strikes midnight while the boy is looking out the window, the snowman sparkles with light throughout and turns to look over his shoulder and winks at the boy. The boy runs down the stairs, grabs his hat and coat and rushes out into the yard to play with his new friend. Over the course of the night they go on multiple adventures including a motorcycle ride, a walk through the forest and eventually they take flight above the village holding hands and looking down on the beauty of the freshly fallen snow. 

Emma has seen this program many times and has most of the scenes and many of the words memorized. Just as the snowman and the boy leap into the air to fly she came over and grabbed me by the hand and said, “can you dance with me dada?” 

I picked Emma up in my arms and started waltzing in front of the TV as she quietly sang the words that she knew to the song and mumbled under her breath with the words that she didn’t know. The snowman and a little boy complete their flight over the village by landing in a magical place where they find a circle of other snowmen dancing and singing. As they walked up to the circle the other snowman step to the side and open the circle just enough for the two newcomers to walk into the center of the circle where they find Santa Claus waiting. 

As we continue to dance together, Emma enthusiastically shouts “it’s Santa!” and I feel a joy in my heart I haven’t felt for quite some time and a few tears start to roll down my cheeks. The little boy and the snowman make their way to Santa and he leads them to a small shack where he shows them his reindeer and pulls out a gift for the boy. I couldn’t help but notice that the name tag on the package for the boy said “to James“. Inside the package there is a blue silk scarf with snowmen all over it. The boy puts the scarf on and they all continue on with the festivities. 

Eventually the magical night draws to a close. The little boy James and the snowman return to village house where the little boy lives. James goes inside and up to his bedroom and the snowman takes his post in the front yard. In the morning James bursts out of bed and charges down the stairs. He excitedly opens the front door only to find a pile of snow that has melted and a hat with a few pieces of coal laying on the ground. James walks over and kneels down next to what is left of his departed friend. He then reaches into the pocket of his robe and discovers that he still has the blue scarf he received from Santa. It wasn’t merely a dream after all. It was as real as anyone could have ever imagined. 

In that instant in time I was reminded just how easy it is to dream and just how real our dreams can be if we continue to believe in miracles and magic. Between Emma asking to watch The Snowman and me cracking open a new book and reading just one page, I knew how and when I would break my silence. I didn’t need to wait for the perfect opportunity. I didn’t need to swallow my wisdom or gag myself any longer. I didn’t need to wait for my monkey mind to stop chattering and become a quiet mind. All I need to do was write one word… and then one sentence… and then one paragraph…and so on and so on.

Now that I’ve started to find my voice again I think I’m gonna have a lot more to say. It’s time for me to step back in my power. Who would’ve ever guessed that building a snowman on the Fourth of July would be the catalyst that I needed to break the silence. There are big changes in the days and months ahead and all of a sudden I don’t feel like those changes are “looming” on the horizon, but rather they are urging me to step all the way into my calling. Stay tuned. More to say later. I’m ready and eager to use my voice and to take flight…

 

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Another Friday #12 – Fishing for Halibut and Playing Croquet

 Friday, May 29th

The temperature has dropped 20 degree. I slept for six hours straight for the first time in over a month. Neither of those things should be particularly newsworthy, but under current circumstances they both matter a great deal. Temperatures in the 80s and lack of sleep have been doing nothing to add to my energy level. This morning I’ve got the best energy I’ve had in quite a long time.

I start my day in typical fashion by getting Emma breakfast and jumping on my spin bike. For the past few mornings I’ve needed to really push myself just to do 30 minutes, but this morning I comfortably do a 45 minute interval training ride plus a 10 minute cool down ride. I’m excited. My sense of self-worth is going to have a good day. 

After my ride I make an important decision. I decide that I’m going to drive downtown and pick up some halibut at Joe’s. Okay maybe it’s not that important, but I haven’t been downtown in nearly 3 months and the halibut is our favorite fish special of the entire year at Joe’s so we decide we’re going to treat ourselves.

I call and place the order for a 1 PM pick up and go about the rest of my morning. After feeding Emma lunch I gather my things and depart to go downtown. It’s strange to be driving on the streets that I previously traversed daily after not having seen them for 12 weeks. It’s nice to see the lake again. I miss Lake Michigan. By now I would’ve taken a plunge in Lake Michigan at least a half a dozen times even though the water temperature is still in the 60s. I’m a bit of a polar bear. 

When I get to Joe’s I see a much different setting than I normally see. Just inside the old wooden revolving door there is a wall of tables creating a barrier to keep people from going further into the restaurant. Our managers who are working are all dressed casually and wearing masks. It’s good to talk to people that I haven’t talked to for way too long. Our wine director Kevin asks me, “what have you enjoyed/learned the most about the last few months?”

I tell him the thing that I’ve enjoyed the most is spending time with my daughter and wife and the that thing that I’ve learned the most is that I still really needed to unwind further. I’ve spent the last 10 years slowly unwinding a little and the last three months unwinding to a level that I never even perceived possible. That’s a bigger topic for a longer blog though.

On the way home I stop and pick up my blood pressure prescription at the Jewel/Osco in Andersenville. I’ve never much like shopping this particular store, but I figured it was easier to get my prescription where my insurance card is already on file than to try to move the prescription to a pharmacy closer to our home. For the last few months my blood pressure is been as low as it’s ever been. Apparently not going into the matrix has an even bigger effect than diet exercise or medication. Part of me wonders whether or not I even need to be on medication anymore.  While at the store I pick up ketchup and graham crackers and dairy free ice cream. I can assure you I won’t be eating them all at the same time.

2-16In the afternoon Emma and I take a long walk on a perfect spring afternoon. We also play croquet in the backyard with a vintage croquet set I got from one of my moms friends who was looking to give it a new home. Emma likes to call it “bat and ball and stick.” I her name for it better than croquet. 

After Emma goes to bed we enjoy our halibut from Joe’s with some homemade hash brown potatoes and green beans. We’re in the mood for something new on TV so we watch the first episode of a new series called Space Force on Netflix with Steve Carell. It seems like the perfect fit with tomorrow’s rocket launch pending. We watch one full episode and then I fall asleep during the second episode. The day is ending peacefully here in our home and I feel safe and content. 

As I brush my teeth I hear a siren outside. I’m not sure if it’s a police siren, a fire truck or an ambulance. I start to think about George Floyd and what’s going on in Minneapolis again. I’m thinking if I hadn’t gone downtown today that I would choose not to go tomorrow. Things seem to be teetering on a precipice. I probably won’t sleep six hours straight tonight. We’ll see…

 

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Another Friday #11 – Building a Box of Dirt

Last week I wrote a lengthy post about the fact that I always seem to recognize when it’s Friday even during this time of quarantine when the days run together. In that post I summarized my feelings and emotions for each of the Fridays since we first went into quarantine. I few people suggested that I continue each Friday going forward, so here’s the next chapter and another peek inside my head. I hope you enjoy:

Friday May 22nd

It’s Friday again. The rains have finally stopped. If the rains hadn’t stopped I’d be going to the store this morning to buy lumber to build an ark. Since they have stopped I’m going to the store to buy lumber to build a raised planting bed. There’s a much better chance of me executing the raised bed then there would’ve been of me building an ark from scratch. I’m determined to get everything I need in one trip so I make a detailed list just like I do when I go grocery shopping nowadays. 

I never used to make lists. I don’t like to make lists. In the past I’ve just operated out of my brain which usually works pretty well most of the time, and If I forget something I just go back and get it later. Return trips to the store are a much bigger deal than they used to be. My brain seems to be much smaller deal than it used to be… or maybe it’s just too full. Whatever the reason, I just know that I don’t want to have to go the the home improvement store twice today. 

I choose Loew’s over the Home Depot because they have a bigger parking lot and because they are generally less crowded. I’m hoping that my early start time will have me missing the crowds but it is memorial day weekend so you never know?

I gather all the things I need, checkout and load the car. As I’m loading the car I realize this is the first thing I’ve spent money on that isn’t food in over two months. Then I realize that the money I’m spending is eventually going to turn into food so ultimately it’s the same thing, isn’t it? I’ve had a fear of spending money on anything other than food for the last two months. Actually I’ve had a fear of spending money on anything other than food for the last few years, not just since the pandemic started. I thought I’d gotten past that scarcity mindset thing, but I guess I still have some work to do. 

I arrive at home, unload the car and go up and take a shower so I can get ready to make a mess of myself again. I probably didn’t need to shower if I was going to get dirty again, but something about showering after going to the store seems like an essential part of the routine now. I put on shorts and a tank top and get ready to work under the hot noon sun. 

 My first task is to cut the boards down to size to create the simple box that we will use as a raised bed vegetable garden. I’ve got a basic design that I blended together in my increasingly smaller brain by watching a few online do it yourself videos. I feel confident in my plan. I don’t feel confident in my shopping list because I can’t seem to find the 3 inch deck screws that I need to assemble the boards. I walk to the car and find my receipt and notice that I did actually pay for the screws, but as I search the entire garage, house, car and yard it becomes quite clear that I don’t have them. I grab my mask and gloves and head back to the store. I’m probably mumbling under my breath like the father in the movie The Christmas Story mumbles while he’s working on the furnace in the basement. 

After running to pick up the screws I already paid for, I return home and get to work again. At 1:00 PM our daughter Emma goes down for her nap and my wife Christiana comes down to help me and offer me moral support. I’m actually having a great deal of fun now that the project is in full swing and I can start to see the end result taking shape. A minute or two later I realize that I have cut the board I was going to use for the side rail too short. It looks like I’m gonna get my wish of not going to the store twice because I’m actually about to go to the store for the third time. I feel one part irritated and one part stupid and one part aware that I got my wish. I’m doing my best to quell my tendency to self shame. I decide to start mumbling under my breath again. 

After my third trip to the store (which by the way was not as big a deal as I made it in my head), I cut the board to the correct size and finish the last few steps of the raised bed. After her nap, Emma gets up and “helps” me fill the bed with the 15 cubic feet of soil mix I had to buy to grow food. I find it a bit ironic that the dirt cost more than the material to build the bed. Good dirt is expensive these days I guess?

It’s 6 PM now. I shift back into Dad mode and make Emma dinner, give her a bath and get her in her pajamas so Christiana can put her down to bed. In the past I would do the entire routine a few nights a week including putting Emma to bed, but for the last couple of months Emma only wants momma at the end of the night. I miss having my daughter fall asleep on my chest, but I accept that there’s a different level of security in mama’s chest. I don’t take it personally… well, most days I don’t take it personally, but I am human after all. 

Tonight I use my alone time while Emma is going down to grab a glass of wine and go back to the yard to look at my handy work. I stand in the grass sipping on Chardonnay looking at our new raised bed and thinking about its potential. This box of dirt will turn into tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and carrots and onions and lots of other things that we can put on our plates as we learn a little bit more about what it’s like create our own food. I feel good about my creation that will create food. My back is sore and I’m tired, but I’m smiling. 

It starts to rain again but I don’t bother moving. I’m just standing there in the rain, smiling and feeling content. No matter how much it rains tonight I’m not going back to the store a fourth time so I can build an ark tomorrow. I glance around the yard for pairs of animals that might be congregating and I see none. I’m at peace…

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Another Friday – Thank God & the Helpers

Have you ever uttered the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday?” I have. According to multiple sources on the Internet, the phrase was originated by a radio DJ named Jerry Healy from Columbus, Ohio. Aside from the fact that Mr. Healy was the radio voice for The Ohio State football team for many years he seems like he was a pretty nice guy. You probably guessed it…I’m a University of Michigan graduate.

My business degree at Michigan has led me to a career as a yoga teacher and hospitality industry specialist; specifically, I’m a Maitre d’. Currently I’m an unemployed Maitre d’, but I’m a Maitre d’ nonetheless. In my life for the last 20 years I’ve started nearly every Friday morning by getting up early, heading off to teach yoga at a local club and then continuing into my work day at Joe’s Stone Crab Chicago with an extra bounce in my step because I knew that I had my weekend ahead of me. That was up until two months ago when I began to watch everything about my daily and weekly life rituals tumble like it was a load of clothes in a front loading dryer with a glass door. 

For the last two months as our family has self-quarantined, I haven’t had that repeating pattern of working and pushing myself for five days a week so I could rest and celebrate for the next two. In fact most days I don’t even know what day of the week it is. That is except for the Fridays. For some reason I always know when it’s Friday. Maybe it’s because part of me thinks that everyday feels like I’m approaching a weekend? Perhaps there’s a part of me that’s wistfully looking forward to returning to some pattern of normalcy? I don’t really know for sure why I always seem to know when it’s Friday still, but I do know that after about 1000 Fridays over two decades in the old pattern, the last nine Fridays have been very different. 

So here’s a peek into my mind over the last two months of Fridays. It’s a bit like reading my diary or sitting in on one of my therapy sessions. It’s a long post but I think it’s worth your time to give it a read even if it takes more than one sitting. I hope it will resonate with you and your experiences during this tremendous shift in the way we all live our lives. This is how I’m living mine on Fridays. 

Friday March 12th

There’s an alarm going off on my iPhone. It’s 6:00 am. It’s the last alarm I’ll set for God knows how long. I sure hope God knows how long because I don’t have any idea what’s about to unfold. I get up and get ready to leave for my Friday morning yoga class. I know with every fiber of my being that this is the last time I’ll be teaching this class for the foreseeable future and a part of me wonders whether or not I’ll ever actually teach it again. I’m sad. My wife is worried and prefers that I don’t leave the house. I assure her that I’ll go in and out of the club without touching anything or anyone or using the bathroom or showering or sitting in the steam room. I’ll just walk in and teach my class and walk out when I’m done. As I leave the club I begin to cry. The energy behind my tears is mixed. Part of me is grieving something that I’m letting go of in my life that I may never see again. Part of me is excited that I’m done with the last thing that I have to do before I can choose to go into isolation with my family. 

On the way home from yoga I stop at Tony’s fresh market. Even though I just bought $500 worth of groceries at Trader Joe’s the day before my inner voice is telling me to go to Tony’s and get more. I’m shopping like I’ll never see the inside of a grocery for the rest of my life. 

I return home and put the groceries away, make some lunch and pour myself a glass of wine. I’m not exactly sure why, but I feel rather celebratory. Later that day I’ll cry again and later that day still I’ll celebrate some more. A new pattern seems to be developing.

Friday March 19th

It’s official. Team Herbert is 100% unemployed. We’ve both been furloughed from our jobs at the restaurant as of yesterday. We found out on Monday that our governor had issued a stay at home order for all Illinois residents which immediately closed down Joe’s, but we weren’t sure how our employer would move forward. They really had no other choice. Keeping 7000 employees on payroll with no certainty of when they could re-open was an impossibility. We’re grateful that they’ve extended our insurance through the end of the month with the hopes that they’ll extend even further

I decide to keep the tradition alive and teach a yoga class on Friday morning. It’s my first ever online virtual yoga class. I post about it on social media and email some of my regulars at the club. The club that I teach at is shuttered now too. Originally there was some question earlier in the week as to whether or not the clubs could operate with safe social distancing. This uncertainty had many teachers terrified as they began drafting a collective letter to the club owner asking to close. I didn’t join the letter writing campaign. I knew that the club was hanging onto any hope they could avoid a whole scale shut down. They were earlier in the grieving process still. They were still in denial. Inside my heart I knew all along there was no chance that the club would still be open by Friday and that I wouldn’t have to teach in person. I feel safe. 

My online yoga class is a success. I stumble around on the mat a bit as I learn how to teach in the virtual setting, but that doesn’t matter to the dozen or so people who enjoy the connection to each other and the universal energy that always comes through during body/mind/spirit practices. Some of the people who take my class online send donations for my time teaching knowing that we are not working. I’m learning to receive help without feeling shame. It’s not easy for me, but the gratitude I feel in my heart for the generosity outweighs any feelings of insecurity, 

I’m taken  back to the time when my father was in his mid-50s and was unemployed for a year. I have an all new appreciation for his personal struggles during that time. I can feel his spirit close to me right now saying, “It’s okay Jimmy. You deserve this help and everything is going to be okay…” 

I’m crying again. It feels good.

Friday March 26th 

I finally get through to unemployment. My wife Christiana got her application filed  online right away, but my online application never worked. The online system could not recognize my legal name because of an unusual suffix that I use since I’m James Henry Herbert III. I remember that James Henry II (my dad) told me it was going to be okay so I keep trying. I’ve been calling unemployment dozens of times every day only to wind up in the same never ending loop of recorded message insanity that so many others have. This morning though, I timed my call to the precise length of the recorded message so it would patch through the system directly at 8:30 AM when the office is just opening. The phone actually rings. I’m placed on hold. I’m feeling celebratory again but I skip the wine. It’s only 8:30 AM after all. 

After a 45 minute wait on hold a nice lady answers and says “how can I help you?” The first thing I do is thank her for her time and service and for everything she’s doing to help those of us file claims. I ask her how she’s holding up on her end. We strike up a conversation that has nothing to do with my claim and I learn about her daughter and where she works in Southern Illinois and what it’s like to leave your child and go to an office out in the real world two weeks into this new world order. Her name is Amy. 

Amy then tells me that their system is down and that she can’t process any claims currently, but that she’d be happy to take down my information and call me back later when the system was up so we proceed. I’m sure that Amy does the same for the others she talked to while the system was down, but maybe she’s just helping me because I was nice. I’m reminded that it never hurts to be extra nice and particularly grateful. I invite Amy to call me if she ever gets to Chicago and to come into Joes for lunch and say hello, 

At about 4 PM Amy calls me back with my claim information, my online password and a summary of my benefit amount. I knew she would call back, but there’s that little piece inside that still doubts and wonders whether I’ll get lost in a system of red tape and wind up calling and calling and calling again. I’m grateful to know that financial help is on the way. At the same time I feel badly for all of those I know who are still struggling to reach unemployment offices via phone. 

I make bowls of crispy chicken Ramen for dinner and we watch a movie. I’m settling in. This new normal doesn’t feel as scary as it did two weeks ago.

Friday April 3rd

It’s a workday for me. I’m not working for money or going to a job, but I am part of a team and it feels good. Over the years my wife Christiana and I have become very involved with a community of people who follow the teachings of author Mike Dooley who wrote the best selling self help book titled Infinite Possibilities. Mike also has nearly a million followers for his daily post called “Notes from the Universe,” which has earned him the nickname “The Universe” throughout spiritual teaching community.

This was to be the weekend of Mike’s annual conference which was scheduled to be held in Costa Rica, but due to travel restrictions the live conference had to be canceled and a virtual conference was planned instead. My friend Regena who runs training for the organization reached out to me and asked if I would serve on the virtual team since I’ve been on the conference team multiple times previously. She’s looking for experienced people who have a background in running zoom online meetings. I’ve been Zooming for years long before it even became trendy to Zoom. 

At first I wasn’t sure about the conference because of the time commitment and the fact that I didn’t want to saddle my wife with all the childcare responsibility of taking care of our two-year-old daughter Emma for the entire 4 days of the conference. As I spend the day listening to Mike and his brother Andy and others teach the power of our thoughts in this new online format,  I’m so grateful that I chose to say yes. I’m grateful because not only does it feels so good to be a part of this team but also because I really need to hear these messages right now. 

At one point in the conference Mike always ask this question:

“If a genie came down from the sky and said that they would grant you one wish and only one wish and it couldn’t be for more wishes what would you wish for?” 

The answer is always the same for everyone. You would wish for things to be exactly as they are right now because every part of your life story is a conscious creation of your own and everything that happens FOR you in your life leads you to your divine inheritance. The message hits me differently this time than it ever has before.

Things are going well. I’m feeling a new positive energy about me three weeks into this life transition. My first unemployment benefit has landed In our checking account. I start to feel like my Dad was right and that we’re going to be okay. Later in the afternoon while playing in the yard with my daughter I find the cap to a bottle of Corona beer in the grass. Our yard is fenced and locked on all sides and the cap is right in the middle of the yard. I have no idea how it could’ve gotten there. My safe fortress of our apartment and yard has been penetrated. My bubble is burst. Suddenly I’m scared again. 

Friday April 10th 

It’s Good Friday and I’m back in the Matrix. In years past I would’ve toured Chicago churches between noon and 3:00 PM stopping to reflect and pray. On this good Friday I’ll put all my energy into going grocery shopping. It’s going to take all the energy I’ve got just to get through the experience. The food shortages that my wife predicted are starting to be reported in the news so we’ve decided that it’s time to begin to restock some of our supplies. I leave the house at 5:30 in the morning wearing a mask and goggles and gloves and I hit our local Mariano‘s right as they are opening. I’ve written out my list in the exact order that I will move through the store so I can move swiftly and get out of the store quickly. I’ve never been one to shop in bulk. I prefer to shop on a day-to-day basis buying just what I need for the next few days. This new method of shopping is overwhelming to me. Just being in the matrix again it’s overwhelming to me.

Once again I’m shopping like it’s the last time I’ll ever be in a store again for the rest of my life. I pray that that “rest of my life” is a long period of time and that I don’t bring any cooties home with me from the store. The shopping list I’m carrying in my hand has “Easter Ham” written on it but then crossed off. After thinking further I decided the ham will be too expensive for our current budget. To my surprise the store has spiral sliced whole hams on sale for 99 cents a pound. I buy a 12 pound ham that would normally cost $70 for $12. I know that this ham will feed us three or four dinners, give us lots of good filling for omelettes or quiches and eventually the bone will turn into a wicked pot of ham and bean soup. In a strange way I feel like a ancient hunter who has just killed a wild boar. I know that I will be feeding my family for many days going forward from this “hunt.”

When I get to the checkout I’m third in line which means I get to stand 18 feet back into the aisles allowing for proper social distancing. I notice that Mariano’s has installed plexiglass partitions between the cashiers and the customers. I wait for the cashier to clean the entire conveyor belt once the previous customer is finished before me per her instructions. Even though I’ve known that all these changes are going on in the world this is my first time experiencing them firsthand. My overwhelmed-ness escalates to a new level. 

When I get home I separate the fresh product from the dry goods. I leave the dry goods in the car with the intention of leaving them alone for 2 to 3 days. I carry the fresh and frozen goods up to our back deck. Fortunately it’s cold outside so I can  leave them alone for a few hours before I re-glove and re-mask up and wipe down and sanitize everything. In the interim I takeoff all the clothes I wore to the store and leave them out on the deck. I shower and wash my hair. I realize that I’m probably erring on the side of extreme caution, but I can’t help but feel that I’d rather do that then be careless. 

I’m safe in my own home again, but I still feel unclean and contaminated. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to work in a grocery store or a hospital or any place else that is deemed essential right now. I have a deep appreciation for the fact that other people’s circumstances are much more challenging than mine right now, yet I’m still exhausted and sad. I nap and have a quiet afternoon. I’ll cook something later, but for now I need to be done with the hunting and gathering. 

Friday April 17th 

It snowed last night. We’ve already had days with temperatures in the 70s where I’ve been walking outside in shorts and this morning I’m walking outside and boots and my winter jacket. I rather like it because the snow is keeping my neighbors out of the park. I prefer to have solitude when I’m outside. It’s the only place I can go for solitude so I find myself feeling resentful when the weather is better and other people are out in the park walking as well. I want it to be MY park just like you want the band that you loved in high school before they became popular to be just YOUR very own band even though they are popular now. 

I feel the need to create something new. My routine of getting up in the morning, doing some yoga, feeding my daughter, taking a walk, having lunch, taking a nap, etc. is a lovely routine. The problem is that I’m not creating anything new. I’m stagnant. 

I always wanted to be a star on the TV Food Network. I even applied for that show called next TV Food Network star many years ago, but I never made it past the first round of qualifications. So today I decide that I’m going to record myself making white bean and ham bone soup. Originally I just want to record it to share it with my mother and father-in-law, but then I decide after it’s done that it’s not too bad and that I’ve created something novel so I post the video on Facebook and sit down to eat a bowl of soup. I realize I just use the word novel. It used to be such an untainted word, but now that you hear people refer to the novel coronavirus, I can’t even write the word without it being a trigger. 

My wife Christiana‘s grandmother who died suddenly three days before our wedding apparently had a famous hambone and navy bean soup recipe. My mother-in-law sent us the recipe recently so I couldn’t help but think that making the soup from the last part of our never ending giant ham was a beautiful way to honor Grandma Marge’s memory as well as call in her spirit. We eat the soup again for dinner. It’s probably the best soup I’ve ever cooked and I have it recorded and posted on YouTube for eternity. Perhaps my TV Food Network star is finally rising after all these years. 

Friday April 24th 

Today is the first day that I’m bumping up my morning ride from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Each day I’ve been doing an interval training session on my indoor spin bike. Christiana bought me the bike as a Christmas present. We set it up in the basement at that point and I started doing 20 minute rides a few times a week. I told her even back then that the bike was going to be a “game changer” for me, but little did I know how critical the bike would become to my longtime fitness addiction. I use the world addiction with intention. I NEED to work out. Sometimes even when it doesn’t serve my body very well I still workout. I’m a bit of a taskmaster. 

For the first few weeks of our isolation I left the bike in the basement afraid to use it because the people we share our common space with were still going in and out of the matrix. Finally one day I went down and disassembled the bike, sterilized it and moved it upstairs to put it in the big bay window of our front room that looks out through the trees. I always wanted it there in the window in the first place, but my wife preferred it in the basement. I don’t prefer that it took a worldwide pandemic for me to get my bike in the family room but I love the fact that I can now ride it in the morning while my daughter Emma eats cereal and watches Peppa Pig. 

I miss my time at the gym where I could lift weights and do some cardio and then sit in the steam room. I have some dumbbells around the house but nothing heavier than 15 or 20 pounds. I’m gaining weight now. It’s only five or 6 pounds but it makes me feel different in my body and I don’t like it.  Even though I’m doing a good bit of cardio work, my activity level is down overall, my strength training has been reduced and I’m eating later at night than I prefer. We talked about trying to eat earlier while our daughter is still awake, but the time alone to have a meal and watch something on TV together as a couple is something we cherish so much because it’s our only alone time together each day.

Last night we had a roasted chicken which I like to call Poulet a la Jean Paul. I shot some more video of me cooking to see what it looked like. This afternoon I started to teach myself video editing using iMovie on my phone. I always told myself I didn’t have enough time or the skill set necessary to do video editing, but I’m trying to change that story. I’m trying to change a lot of stories that I tell myself in my own mind. I post my edited video on Facebook and load it to YouTube and get many favorable comments and responses. The affirmation is very nurturing especially during a time with so much uncertainty and insecurity. Today we also found out that our insurance has been extended through the end of May. This is a very good day. 

Friday May 1st

It’s Mayday, or as we call in our home, Beltane. Most people probably don’t know anything about either Mayday or Beltane. Beltane is the ancient Celtic holiday that was the precursor to the more Anglo-European holiday called Mayday. Either way it’s a day to celebrate the halfway point between the first day of Spring and the Summer solstice. I wonder if we’ve reached the halfway point of our isolation? My guess is no, 

In traditional Beltane ceremonies farmers would parade their livestock between two bonfires through the clouds of smoke for good luck and to bless the animal herd’s fertility. I consider lighting a fire in the backyard, but I don’t have a firepit or any livestock so I decide to make lentils and eggs and eat a big breakfast instead. 

After lunch I assist my wife in yet another purging project. We keep looking for ways to use our time constructively and de-clutter our lives. It’s nice to get rid of things we no longer need, but the processs seems somewhat incomplete with no place to take things for donation. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are shuttered just like the health club so mostly it’s our garage that is getting cluttered as we de-clutter our house. 

It’s a steamy afternoon in Chicago so at one point I take off my shirt and sit down on our upper deck to relax and get some sun. The image of me sitting shirtless with plastic bags of purgerd things behind me looks like an audition tape for the reality TV show hoarders. I question what my life has come to in week 8 of quarantine. Mostly I find it humorous, but part of me is actually concerned about my sanity. I make a tele-therapy appointment for next week and take a shower. At least one of those two things should improve my mental health. 

Friday May 8th 

It’s time to shop again. This morning I’ll make two stops. It will be the first time in two months I’ll be making two stops on one trip out of the house. I have two masks and two sets of goggles so I can be sure to not cross contaminate anything by having to put the same mask and goggles on a second time without disinfecting them. I don’t want to wear the first set between stops because I can’t imagine driving in a respirator mask and goggles. I’m probably being over cautious again but I don’t care. I also can’t imagine what it be like to be working a shift in a hospital without eating going to the bathroom or taking your mask off for 14 to 16 hours. I’m reminded how grateful I am for all the 2-10“helpers.”

I plan my departure from home so I have enough time to shop at Mariano’s first and then get to Trader Joe’s before they open at 9 AM so I can be one of the first people in line. The last time I went to Trader Joe’s I got there right at 9 AM when they open and I was the 50th person in line. I’m trying to avoid that same thing. I’ve got one shopping list for each store, once again written out in the order I will shop the store so I can be expedient. I arrive in Mariano’s parking lot at about 7:30 AM. As I’m shopping I noticed there are a lot of things that I have on my Trader Joe’s list that are on sale at Marianos so I begin to overshop Marianos with the hopes that my second stop at Trader Joe’s will be a lighter stop.

One of the things I’ve learned to do during these past two months is to slow down and stop creating false deadlines in my own mind. Since I really have no place I have to be at any specific point I’ve done a decent job of letting go. My blood pressure numbers have been record lows on my on home monitoring device. My goal is to be below 120/80. Over the last months my readings have been as low as 100/65. Apparently moving so slower and not creating false deadlines is good for my health. Who knew? 

As I leave Mariano’s I notice it’s already 8:45 AM and I begin to rush to get to Trader Joe’s faster. I can feel my blood pressure going up without even looking at a monitor. When I park at Trader Joe’s at 8:58 AM I see a line wrapped around the building and down the alley behind the store. It looks like I’m gonna get my wish and not be the 50th person in line. I’m actually gonna be the 75th person in line. Once I get in line I realized I left my gloves in the car. I have my mask and my goggles but I don’t have my gloves. I have to decide between getting out of line and losing 10 more spaces or staying in line and shopping without gloves.

All of a sudden I realize something very important. I realize that it doesn’t matter what time I get home. I realize it doesn’t matter if I wait outside Trader Joe’s for an hour. I’ll still be home by 11 AM! I get out of line and go get my gloves and get back in line. The person that was behind me originally noticed me getting out of line to run to my car offers me my original spot back in line. I decline and tell him I’m not in a hurry. Maybe I am experiencing some personal growth here? 

Later that night I make chopped steaks and lyonnaise potatoes. Of all the things my wife misses the most about Joe’s food it’s the lyonnaise potatoes. I’ve perfected the technique for making them in a cast iron skillet at home. I’m eating way more meat than I have in many many years, but I find it very grounding and since my blood pressure has been so low I do my best to not worry. 

I still worry a little bit though.

Friday May 15th

I miss being nice to people. It’s not that I’m not a nice person still, but I just don’t see anybody other than my wife and daughter that I can be nice to and sometimes I’m not as good at being nice to them as I am at being nice to strangers. 

One of the reasons I’ve spent my entire 40-year working career in service related jobs is because I truly enjoy being of service to people. I like being a bright spot in people’s days. I like creating a positive ripple of energy in the universe that can change the day of one person who then changes the day of another person, and so on and so on and so on….

As I’m thinking about the fact that I miss being nice to people I run across an important question in my own brain. Do I like being nice to people because I want them to feel better about themselves or do I like being nice to people because I want to feel better about myself? I begin to question whether my desire to be nice is soul driven or ego driven. I also begin to question whether or not I am over analyzing things? Maybe it’s time to schedule another tele-therapy session? 

I didn’t sleep well last night. I’m not sleeping well again in general.  Actually I’m not sleeping well still. I don’t know that I ever started sleeping well so it’s hard for me to say again instead of still. One of the reasons I don’t sleep well is because I wake up early and my brain turns on immediately. I try to meditate and quiet my mind down, but often times the train of my brain is too far down the tracks for me to pull it back. I start to think about what it will be like to go back into the matrix and start working again and then I get scared. Part of me can’t wait to get back into some sort of routine and the other part of me never wants to go back to my former life again.

Yesterday I hit the wall in a big way. It was the highest state of overwhelm that I’ve felt during the entire two month quarantine. The uncertainty of when and how and what our lives will look like in the future is spinning me around like a top. At  one point I started yelling at my wife for no reason and I don’t even ever yell. After a short walk to clear my head I come home and apologize and express my sadness and shame. I’m blessed that my wife is amazing and understanding and doesn’t take it personally. 

It’s been raining for days. The temperature has shot up into the high 70s and it feels like a terrarium outside. The grounds are soaked and my daughter Emma is excited because there’s plenty of muddy puddles outside. Peppa Pig loves muddy puddles and so does Emma.  We take a walk outside in the stroller just the two of us to scout for the perfect puddles. Each time we find a new one, Emma gets out of the stroller and jumps up and down filling her galoshes with water and getting her entire self soaking wet. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had an entire month. 

Later in the evening the sun comes out and the temperature drops. After Emma goes to bed I pour myself a glass of Chardonnay and sit on the deck and watch the sunset. Tomorrow we’ll cut my hair again. This time we have actual barbershop clippers and hair scissors instead of a beard trimmer and dull scissors. Amazon back orders are finally getting caught up and the set we ordered weeks ago is finally here. It’s amazing what a fresh haircut can do for someone’s psyche and after a couple of rough days emotionally for me I’m excited to improve my psyche.

I end my day feeling grateful for the puddle jumping, the sunset and the two ladies that I live with who fill my life and my heart in every possible way. I wonder if I’ll have another two months of reflections like these to share before this is all done? I’m learning to accept things as they are and to surrender into the moment. I’m at peace for the moment…until I’m not at peace again. Hopefully I’ll accept that too. 

To be continued? Only time will tell. Maybe God knows? Maybe they’ll be more tears and more celebrations? Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight? There’s a lot of uncertainty still, but one thing I do know if that everything is going to be okay and that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I know in my heart that it must be the Truth because my Dad and the Universe said so…

 

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10 Things I Miss About my Former Life that I Used to Complain About

It’s Monday. I’m watching Daniel Tiger and eating oatmeal with my two-year-old daughter Emma. The episode that’s playing is one that we’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of times. Daniel meets a new friend named Elena who has braces on her feet and walks with crutches. The lesson put forth in the episode is the lesson that we can all be different on the outside, but at a core level we are very much the same. Every few minutes as the lesson is reinforced in the story, cartoon parents chime in and sing, “In some ways we are different… and in so many ways…. we are the same.” Can you almost hear the jingle in your head? 

What an appropriate life lesson this “we are the same” message is to consider in these changing times. In my former life, I wouldn’t of had time for this breakfast over oatmeal and PBS for kids programming. I’d have been rushing off to commute to work on a Monday morning, thinking about all the things that I need to get done. On this morning instead though, I’m thinking about that phrase I just used: 

“My former life…”

It’s a concept/phrase that we run across a handful of times in our lifetimes. On an individual level, we might reminisce about the way our life “used to be before” when we experience the death of a loved one, a divorce or other separation, a job change or a move. On a collective level we might see numerous people pondering the concept of their “former lives” after major world events like the assasintaion of JFK, September 11th, 2001 or the stock market crash of 2008. 

We humans as a species tend to live in a “good old days” mindset as we think about the past and forget about the hardships. Instead we often prefer to focus on the things that we miss about the way things used to be in our life. This morning when I woke up way too early, I found myself lying in bed thinking about the fact that it has been one month to the day since I stopped living my life the way I used to live my life. It was Friday March 13th that I left my home to teach my last yoga class before all the health clubs closed. The day before that was my last shift at Joe’s after Illinois Governor Pritzker’s orders to shut down all non-essential businesses was issued. After not losing a single job in 40 years of working, I had just lost two jobs in 24 hours. Life was about to change in so many ways.

So this morning as I started to think about what this week ahead might look like for me if the world had never heard the word Coronavirus, I ran the scenes of my routine days gone by through the movie screen in my brain to see what might come into focus. As I did so, I realized that I started to slip into that “good old days mindset.” The scenes that I was seeing in my brain were things that were so routine and repetitive that it made me realize that the the things I missed the most were some of the exact things that I used to complain about the most. 

Funny how one short month can change a perspective so entirely. I thought I’d share with you the things that popped into my head this morning. My guess is that you have a list of your own too, even if items on your list might be a little bit different than mine. Here we go with my list of 10 things I miss about my former life that I used to complain about:

1) Long commutes on the CTA

In an average week I would spend 10 hours on the CTA. On a bad week maybe 15 hours. 2-18The majority of those hours would be spent standing up holding onto a handrail on a jam packed train while carrying a heavy backpack on my back. I would often complain to my wife about all the time I was wasting on trains and busses. What I failed to recognize was that those 10 hours a week were the time that I could read, call friends, scroll through Facebook, send Voxers to Regena, reply to emails and all the other things that I don’t seem to be able to find the time to do currently… even though I have almost nothing to do! What I wouldn’t give for a nice 90 minute commute on this rainy Monday morning? 

2) Changing into my tuxedo and putting on a tie 

Each morning at Joe’s I eat my breakfast and prepare for the days work. At some point before the morning meeting, I dash away to the bathroom like Clark Kent rushing into a phone booth and I change into my costume. My costume at Joe’s happens to be a tuxedo with a green bowtie instead of a Superman suit. I usually delay that change as long as I possibly can because it’s much more comfortable to be in my street clothes. Yesterday as I was getting ready for our family Easter photo, I decided I’d put on a spring colored bow tie. While I was tying my tie I realized how much I missed getting dressed up. In my former life I had the privilege of dressing in formalwear every day of the week, but for the last month I’ve worn nothing but yoga pants and old jeans. What I wouldn’t give to run around the sales floor at Joe’s for 10 or 12 hours wearing a hot and sweaty tuxedo and a green bow tie? 

3) Rushing in and out of the health club in 30 minutes

Fitness has been a part of my life for the last three decades. The concept of not working out is so foreign to me that I can’t even fathom going more than a few days without either running, doing yoga, lifting weights, swimming or some other form of physical activity. Over the last two years since I’ve become a parent, it’s been much harder to find the time to squeeze in those workouts. On many days I dash in an out of one of the health clubs I teach at for 30 minutes to squeeze in a truncated work out and some sort and a quick shower. I’d usually complain about how rushed I felt as I left the club instead of focusing on the fact that I had access to wonderful facilities that were on the exact routes that I use to commute to work. What I wouldn’t give for an amazing 30 minute workout at the club and five minutes in the steam room right now?

4) Putting Emma down to sleep 

Two or three nights a week I would be home alone with Emma on the nights that Christiana worked. I’ve always loved my evenings at home alone with Emma. Sometimes we would film a video. Sometimes we would run some errands. Each night I was home alone with Emma I would give her a bath and get her ready for bed and then sometime around 7:30 PM we would sit in the chair and read stories until she was tired enough to go down in her crib and take a rest. By the time I had her down each night, I would be so exhausted that I could barely throw together some food and try to finish the things that I felt that I needed to “do” after she finally went to sleep. If she woke up and needed additional attention in the next half an hour to an hour, I would be go back in to her room feeling like I had to interrupt the project that I was working on. Now that my wife Christiana is home every night, Emma INSISTS in the way that a two year old insists that mama be the one to read stories and put her down to bed. What I wouldn’t give her an evening at home alone with Emma so I could be the one to tuck to her into the bed?

5) Carrying groceries from the bus stop

Yes, back to the commuting thing! I’ve always liked to shop like a European family would shop. I routinely pick up the things I need for today or the next couple of days with small marketing trips as opposed to making big runs to Costco or gathering carts full of groceries at Mariano’s and Whole Foods. Much of that European style shopping was done on my commute home in the evening, which would mean would have to carry heavy bags of groceries the final few blocks of my commute as I walk from the bus stop. I would often tell myself that I felt like a pack mule. In the last five weeks I’ve made two total trips to the store each time to stock up with a car full of food and supplies in order to limit the number of trips we need to make out of our home. What I wouldn’t give to carry some very heavy grocery bags a few blocks in the rain from the bus stop on a daily basis right now?

6) Standing up while eating 

One of the benefits of working in an amazing restaurant is that you have wonderful food at your disposal every day of the week. I would typically eat two meals a day at Joe’s on the days that I worked and one meal at home. Mind you, most of my meals at Joe’s were simple things, but I certainly never went hungry. Most of my meals would be eaten along the side rail in the bar. I would often stand up while I was eating so I could dash off to grab a phone call or attend something else. Sometimes I would feel resentment that I didn’t get to sit down and relax and enjoy my food, which is why I am always so insistent about having a seated dinner when I finally get home at the end of the day. What I wouldn’t give right now to stand up and eat a salad or a burger (or anything for that matter) while looking out the window at Joe’s and dashing to take a phone call between bites?

7) Taking out the trash

Does anyone really like to take out the trash? Where we live now taking out the trash means packing up all the things in the house that need to be removed and segregating recyclables. Then there’s a twisty spiral wooden staircase that goes off the back of our unit down to the alley behind the house. I often forget to take the trash out earlier in the evening and wind up having to do it right before I go to bed, usually while muttering some obscenity about my rotten lot in life. Now taking out the trash is one of the only reasons I can justify leaving our unit! The funny thing is is that we hardly make a quarter of the trash that we used to make because of our efforts to conserve resources. What I wouldn’t give for a whole lot more trash to take out to the alley right before bed?

8) Paying bills

Fortunately my wife Christiana has taken primary charge of our budget for many years. I used to do it in the old days, but frankly she does a much better job of it than I used to do. Although I don’t really miss paying bills regularly, I do miss the feeling like I was more in control of our money to some degree. While I do benefit by not having to look at the bank balances on a daily basis, there are times where I can feel resentment for my perceived “lack of control” that would come from sitting down with a stack of mail and a checkbook old school style. In our current situation with both of us being unemployed, I’m not even exactly sure how or when we’re gonna pay all of our bills. Deep down inside I know we’re gonna be fine, but it sure would be nice to sit down with a stack of mail and write out the checks for utilities, rent, credit cards and other expenses with confidence. What I wouldn’t give for a Saturday afternoon of paying bills right now?

9) Waiting for a haircut

When there are only two people on the planet that you trust to cut your hair it can be hard to find the right time to get a haircut. Combine that with my typically active schedule and the fact that the place I go doesn’t take appointments and I would often have the wait 30-60 minutes to get in a cut. I do my best to be patient because it always feels so good to get a fresh haircut, but it’s hard not to feel like time I’m wasting away while sitting in the waiting area at Supercuts on Huron. Yesterday my wife and I tried to cut my hair using a beard trimmer and Emma’s tiny scissors. I have to say that things turned out much better than they could have otherwise turned out. That being said I’m more than ready to go back to Armando or Veronica. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting in Supercuts waiting area for an hour right now?

10) Driving to the suburbs 

I love to visit with family and friends. What I don’t like to do is drive to the suburbs. Since we live in the city and many of our closest friends and all of our family live in the suburbs, the majority of our journeys to go visiting include a minimum one hour trip each way. The trip to our destination is never too bad. We usually chat and listen to music. Christiana will often put on her make up in the car. It’s a comfortable ritual. The trips home on the other hand are usually not as peaceful. Emma is usually tired and does a lot of screeching. We’re often tired and would rather be home in five minutes instead of an hour. On more than one occasion we’ve talked about how nice it must’ve been when an entire family lived on the same block like my mom’s family did when they were growing up. Over the last month we haven’t traveled further than one mile from home at any point and most days we never even leave the house. What I wouldn’t give for a long drive to the suburbs and back right now?

So there you have it! The most unlikely list of things that I miss the most about my former life. It’s not the fancy dinners. It’s not the big events. It’s not the steady income. It’s not the swanky parties or the worldwide travel. It’s the simple comfort of my daily routine. It makes me wonder whether I’ll be able to recognize the beauty of that routine when things return to whatever normal looks like when this is all done. What’s on your list friends. I bet in some ways your list is different. That being said, one of the best awakenings that is coming out of this worldwide pandemic is the same lesson I watched this morning on Daniel Tiger over oatmeal with my daughter Emma:

In so many ways we are all the same…

 

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How Scarcity is Healing my Scarcity Mindset

Have you ever come over to my place for dinner?

If you haven’t, I promise you that I VERY MUCH look forward to breaking bread with you whenever it is that we can safely start having gatherings again!

If you have come over, then you have probably noticed that I have a tendency to over prepare. I tend to over prepare in general in my life, but when it comes to making food for people I WAY over prepare. My typical pattern is to prepare about twice as much as we could possibly ever need just to make sure that there is NO chance of running out. I don’t intentionally make way too much food. It’s just that when I start buying ingredients and thinking about how much love I’m going to put into preparing them that I get carried away. I can’t help myself!

Allow me to paint you a picture…

Last spring we had a little gathering at our place to celebrate Mother’s Day. I made a homemade quiche loraine. I also made 24 individual gluten-free mini vegetable quiches for those who don’t eat meat or are gluten free. I whipped up a batch of my homemade chicken, apple, and maple breakfast sausage using three pounds of ground chicken. People seem to love peppered and brown sugar glazed bacon these days so I made two pounds of that. I have a really special recipe for the classic Latin American breakfast dish called chilaquiles made with corn tortillas, homemade salsa, chicken and cheese baked like a casserole so I made a huge batch of those. Eggs go great with chilaquiles, but not the kind of eggs that you get in quiche, so I scrambled up a dozen eggs too. It’s always good to have something green so I made a chicken chopped salad like the one at Wildfire restaurant with avocado, red onion, tomato, crispy tortilla strips and two pound of chopped, grilled chicken. Speaking about avocados…you can’t have chilaquiles without guacamole so I cut up 12 ripe avocados and made a delicious batch of guac. Fresh fruit…hummus and pita bread…homemade berry flavored iced tea…a case of rosé wine. It was a lovely gathering.

We had 15 total people over, three of whom were children under the age 5. You can probably do the math in your own head and arrive at the total of “lots of leftovers,” some of which ultimately went to waste.

And you see there’s the key word there…

Waste

I’ve come to the realization over the last couple of weeks that while I am indeed a talented and generous cook…I am also a moderately wasteful cook. Instead of taking the time to carefully plan the proper amount of food with a small margin of extra, I go over the top nearly every single time with each and every dish. Over the years it has manifested itself in a refrigerator full of leftovers, many of which never get eaten before they get tossed in the garbage or dumped down the disposal in the kitchen sink. As I type these words right now I am sickened and feel ashamed of my lack of ability to treat my resources with more respect and my fellow humans who might be hungry with more courtesy.

So now that we know who I’ve become over the years, perhaps it would be valuable to think for a moment about how and why I got to this place?

The answer in my mind is a simple one. The answer is:

Fear of not having enough

There’s no logical reason for me to have this fear. I grew up in a comfortable home where my parents provided for me very well. I’ve always been a hard worker so I’ve had enough money through the years to afford a decent place to live, clothes, and food. In times of need there has always been someone there for me to lean on either emotionally, physically, or financially. I guess I just have a tendency in general to feel like there might not be “enough” – so I compensate for that in the areas that I have some illusion of control of things. One of those areas of control is when I make food.

I’m a virtual cornucopia of self-analysis, eh?

Fast forward to the right now. Without getting off topic here, let me just say it was well over a month ago that my wife Christiana started talking more about this Coronavirus thing. She had been watching the situation unfold in other parts of the world and receiving messages on her deeply powerful intuitive channels for months that the world may be shifting even more than we could possibly imagine. She helped me start to shift my mindset and get ready for what might lie ahead. It took me a while to come fully on board, but eventually something clicked inside me and I started using less. 

I began preparing less food at each meal. If I wanted a little bit more wine after dinner, I poured myself a half of a glass more instead of another generous pour. I started using less gas and energy by consolidating trips to the store and keeping lists so I didn’t have to run out every minute for the one thing I forgot to buy.

Over the past two weeks as it became clear that we might be self-isolating for multiple weeks, I experienced an internal rewiring in the way that I treated the resources that I have in my home. I went through the freezer and started using the oldest food first in order to preserve the newer food longer. I started soaking overnight and then cooking the dry beans that had been in the cupboard for over a year instead of reaching for the easier option of precooked/canned beans. I began scraping out the bottoms of pans to use or save the little bit that was left instead of washing the excess food down the disposal because it “wasn’t enough to be worth saving.” I put out cloth napkins with dinner instead of paper towels, used my teabags twice instead of once, put half the amount of toothpaste on my toothbrush, etc…etc…etc.

What I’m saying here is that I finally started to treat all the resources that I had available to me with the respect that they had always deserved and in the process I realized something very important….I realized that I have enough.

I’ve spent five decades on this planet using up way more than I ever needed, only to continue to flounder in a scarcity mindset feeling like I would never have enough. Never enough pasta. Never enough money. Never enough time. Never enough friends. Never enough energy. Pretty exhausting, eh? In the matter of less than a month I’ve completely reinvented my relationship with my resources to a healthy one, and in the process started to heal myself of a wound that runs deeper than I could have ever imagined.

Am I really living in a state of scarcity? No, I’m not. My wife and I might both be unemployed because service industry workers are among the first to be furloughed in these times of transition. We may have limited means for a while while we sort things out and figure out what our new normal looks like. We might have to sell or otherwise let go of some things that we might previously have thought that we couldn’t live without – if things last longer than we hope.

The one thing I do realize now, though, is that there will be enough. There will always be enough if I continue to shift out of my scarcity mindset. In the process I can experience the right kind of abundance that I never could have imagined. Enough food. Enough money. Enough time. Enough energy. Enough love…

Two weeks ago as this new world order was just starting to get on the radar of people in my circle I hosted one of my monthly men’s circles. One of the questions I asked was this:

“When we’ve moved through this transition and we are sitting here a year from now, what do you think some of the hidden gifts will be?” 

The answers were profound. Without exception, when we look back on the most challenging periods of our individual lives with some time and distance, we see the awakenings and growth that we experienced. In this particular circle two weeks ago, the answer that kept coming up was that everybody had a new appreciation for their resources. We all kept saying that if everyone with means on this planet had the same realization that we can totally heal and save this planet.

I may make less money in the weeks and months ahead. I may eat differently than I prefer. I may have to completely reinvent the way I live my life, but as the father of an amazing two- year old daughter, those sacrifices are a small price to pay as we build a bridge to a greater way of living for all of humanity.

It’s almost dinnertime here. Time to wrap this up. I’d invite you over but it’s a little short notice. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a rain check to save for next time. I’m sure I’ll have enough.

2-10

 

 

 

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How Emma Taught me to Build a Bridge

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find ways to quiet my mind. When I was a child in the early 1970s my mother took me to classes that were called “progressive relaxation.” We would lie on the floor, close our eyes, and listen to relaxing music while an actual person or a cassette tape recording would talk us through a series of mind and body exercises. The exercises were designed to help us find more inner peace. I still remember one particular recording by a woman who was named Debbie Bright. She was my favorite and I listened to her almost every night at bedtime.

Eventually I stopped listening to that old tape and threw it in a desk drawer. I have no idea what became of it, but once every few years as an adult I would think about it and search around looking for a new lead at the library – or eventually on the internet – that would help me find my long lost Guru Debbie Bright, the early life master teacher who came into my heart and mind through an old Sony cassette player.

Part of me wishes that I could somehow magically find a way to re-create or find that old tape. Part of me keeps searching for what I lost back then. Then part of me remembers that what was on that tape looks and sounds a lot like the yoga and meditation that I’ve been practicing and teaching for over 20 years now. This young student has become the teacher in some ways, and in other ways he has not learned very much.

In fact this “searching” theme has been a prevalent one throughout my entire life. I’ve explored so many interesting paths in my five decades. Reiki, yoga, martial arts, bonsai cultivation, every different spiritual practice I could find…you name it and I have been trying to find my “Way” and looking for my master teacher. Much like finding that old cassette tape though, I reached a point where finding that master seemed like an elusive cause. 

And let me tell you that is NOT for the lack of having many great teachers in my life. Whether it was in school, in the workplace, at home with my parents, on the dojo floor, at the yoga studio… everywhere else in my life I’ve been blessed with great guidance. But you see, I have a little problem…

I have a problem with perfectionism. I’ve always been looking for my PERFECT teacher… my Yoda… my Mr. Miyagi. And as a result I have held many great mentors to a standard that was impossible for them to achieve.

A few years back when I turned 50, I had even reached a point where I conceded that maybe it just wasn’t going to happen in this lifetime. Maybe I wasn’t ever going to find my perfect teacher any more than I was going to turn up that old cassette tape from the 70s. And then all of a sudden my teacher appeared in the most surprising package…

On February 4th, 2018 at 2:36 in the afternoon, my daughter Emma was born and let’s just say it didn’t take her long to start taking me to school. 

Later that evening, my wife Christiana finally dozed off after 30+ hours of labor and a particularly strenuous delivery. Emma was sleeping peacefully in her bassinet next to my wife’s bed and I was reclining on the sleeper sofa on the opposite side of the bassinet. A beautiful silence fell over the three of us for the first time.

Minutes later the silence ended! Emma began to stir… and then Emma started to cry… and all I wanted was for my wife to be able to continue to rest. So I tippy toed over to Emma’s bassinet. I gently scooped up my newborn daughter.  I unzipped the hoodie that I was wearing and I placed Emma on my chest, skin-to-skin. I’m not sure if what happened next lasted a few minutes or a couple of hours, but it was certainly one THE most powerful and Divine experiences of my life! 

I sat back down on the sleeper sofa with Emma’s whole little self covering my heart and I closed my eyes. I started to breath deeply using my ujayi yoga breath, which is a breathing technique where you slightly restrict the inner walls of the throat creating an audible whispering sound. It sounds a little bit like Darth Vader breathing, but quieter and with a more peaceful energy. 

I started to visualize my daughter and I moving through the night sky amongst the stars looking at all the beautiful constellations. I called in all my guides and angels to surround us as we soared across the energetic cosmos. I could feel Emma’s little heart touching mine through our skin and we started our first ever “conversation” without speaking any words. It was magical! 

As our journey continued, I thought about how amazing it was that I was already teaching Emma about meditation. That I had the opportunity to share everything I knew about the magnitude of this Universe that we live in with my newborn daughter. I marveled at the fact that I was already showing Emma about the infinite possibilities that we all have as humans and our total and constant proximity to the Divine. And then like an arrow shot out of the heavens I became aware of something very important. I became aware of the fact the I wasn’t teaching Emma anything… and that she was teaching me everything! 

How could I be so bold as to think I could teach my infant daughter anything about being closer to God when I had spent the last five decades searching to feel that closeness and she, on the other hand, had quite literally come from God’s side just hours ago.

I’ve used a few Star Wars references already in this piece. Allow me to use another. 

Do you remember the scene in Star Wars when Luke first meets Yoda? It is Luke’s expectation of how Yoda was supposed to look that prevented him from recognizing that his ultimate teacher could arrive in a package that was two feet tall with a wrinkly face and pointy ears.

When we have an expectation of how things are supposed to look on the outside we blind ourselves from seeing the Truth that always exists on the inside. 

Emma’s arrival into my life and our first ever journey together reminded me of a few important Truths: We always have everything we will ever need right under our noses and inside our hearts. We always have support. We always have guidance. We always have an infinite amount of Divine love inside us as long as we release from expectation and see everything, everyone and every circumstance as an opportunity to learn. In this sense of knowing I found a peace that I had never experienced before that magical day when Emma came into her body and joined our family. 

A few months back I noticed that I hadn’t been doing much in the way of morning meditation over the last two years. Yes, I would lie in bed after waking up and listen to quiet music and talk to my guides. Yes, I would call in my circle of ancestors who have departed their bodies for love and support. Yes, I would pray. What was missing though was that fully awake, seated in cross-legged position yoga-style, mind-quieting meditation that had been such a big part of the two decades before Emma’s arrival. 

My typical morning routine as a Dad is to wake up and wait to hear Emma stir. I then go into her room and get her a clean diaper. I let her wake up on whatever schedule she desires and then we sit and have breakfast before going to the front room to play or watch Sesame Street. Because of our natural bio-rhythms, my wife Christiana and I have slightly different sleep schedules. It works out for our family if I get up earlier allowing Christiana to get a little extra rest in the mornings before I leave for work and go about my business for the day. I have no complaints about the schedule. I accept that this is the way things are and I’m grateful for my alone time with my daughter in the morning. That said, I did miss my morning meditations. 

When I first started to learn about teaching yoga, I had the great fortune of apprenticing with a master teacher named Gabriel Halpern who runs a business called the Yoga Circle in downtown Chicago. I remember a particular story that Gabriel used to share in his classes. This is definitely a paraphrase because I don’t recall exactly how the story goes, but I think it was something like this:

“An eager young student showed up at his master’s home to learn about quieting his mind and the process of meditation. Upon arrival, the master grabbed his jacket and his sandals and came to meet the young student at the door. Instead of inviting his student in, the master informed his pupil  that they would be taking a walk through the noisy city streets. It was early in the morning during rush hour. Heavy rain was falling outside. They had no umbrellas or hats. Nonetheless the master and the student strolled through the streets getting soaked by the rain and talking about the process of quieting the mind.

After about 20 minutes the young student couldn’t hold himself back from saying something. He interrupted his master and said, ‘Master… I thought we were going to learn about meditation and quieting the mind. Right now we’re just walking through the noisy streets getting soaked and talking about random things. I thought we would be sitting in the quiet safety of your home with candles burning and music playing while chanting and breathing deeply. Help me, master, I’m confused.‘ 

The master replied, ‘My child, anyone can practice quieting the mind in a perfect setting. Those who learn to accept the external circumstances as they are and can quiet the mind in a state of chaos become true masters and find a oneness with God that can then help them find their Way in all things in life, both trivial and immense.’ 

When I remembered this parable from my early teaching career it made me realize that I had been avoiding my morning meditation because I saw my daughter Emma as an obstacle instead of an opportunity. So with that new sense of knowing, I decided one morning to ask Emma if she would sit quietly with me while I meditated. Getting a two-year-old to sit quietly in your lap with a room full of toys and a silent television waiting to be turned on is not the easiest thing, but even on the first day, she did manage to sit still for a few minutes in my lap and listen to the sound of my ujayi breath. 

Over the next week we would sit on the couch, sometimes for just a minute and sometimes for 15 or 20 minutes before doing anything else. We would do it before breakfast. We would do it before Elmo or Daniel Tiger. We would even skip our meditation if we had to because Emma needed to run and play. I reached a level of acceptance that things were going to be the way they were, but we would still attempt to create our ritual whenever possible, even if Emma squirmed, even if Emma screeched. I just needed to surrender to the way things were unfolding and allow. We’ve been at it now for a little bit over a month and some mornings while I’m changing Emma’s diaper she actually says to me, “Emma and Dada do quiet time now?” 

Be still, my heart! 

I often talk about crossing bridges when I’m doing individual or group coaching. In my mind our lives are like a series of bridges that we are always crossing –  both concurrently and one by one. When you’re standing on one side at the start of a bridge and you want to get all the way to the other side, everyone knows that you can’t do it with one giant leap. You have to take a first step… and then you have to continue to step… and you have to have the perseverance and the faith that if you just keep walking you’ll get to the other side.

But what if there was no bridge? What if you were standing at the edge of a giant canyon and  wanted to get to the beauty that you saw on other side? You could try to leap, but that would likely end poorly. 

Colorado_River_Gorge_11x14_lab_wrap_edges_lite_sky_copy__59829.1481134557.1280.1280The only real option would be to think outside the box and start building the bridge to the other side. Now I realize that the idea of building a bridge from scratch might be a bit overwhelming, but just like crossing a bridge that is already  built, the project starts with one baby step. One brick… one bolt… one beam… one weld. 

So why am I writing in parables about bridges, you ask? 

The quest to quiet the mind is not just about crossing bridges; in my mind it’s about building a brand new bridge and each and every one of us already possesses every skill and talent we will ever need to accomplish the job. We are all born with an inherent inner knowledge that allows us to break down massive undertakings into manageable pieces. I see it every day in my daughter Emma. 

First she developed the strength and learned to hold her head up on her own. Then there was the day she first rolled over. After that she could sit up without support. Before long she could pull herself up to a standing position. Then came her first steps. Full on walking. Speaking. Running. Singing.

It’s just a matter connecting the dots of life by taking baby steps. 

The other night as my wife and I were talking and trying to process all the things that are changing in our world right now, Emma came out to the front room and said, “mama take a deep breath, dada do quiet now…” 

And thus entered the Master. 

Since her very first few hours on earth my daughter Emma has been the best teacher I have ever known. She’s taught me so many things, the most important of which is this: 

The pathway to peace is a journey inward not outward. 

In those first few hours as we sat on the sleeper sofa in the hospital skin-to-skin, Emma passed me the first brick that I needed to build the bridge that would carry me to the rest of my life. Much like quieting the mind, it may seem like an insurmountable task, but with my master teacher by my side I have the faith to know that anything is possible. 

It may seem like the streets are noisy out there right now. It might feel like it’s pouring rain. You may not know where you can possibly look to find a hat or an umbrella to shelter you from the storm.

All is well. Take a deep breath. Do some quiet. Then take one more baby step. I promise you that if you do, you will always find the Way…

 

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Making Friends with Insomnia

My relationship with sleep is like an intricate dance. Sometimes all the steps happen at exactly the right time and in the right places and other times I feel like I have two left feet. Lately I’ve done a lot more tripping over myself than graceful waltzes as it comes to getting a good rest.

In general I sleep less than I would prefer. There are a number of reasons for why that happens. Some of those things are actual reasons and some are just excuses and we could get into the differences between reasons and excuses, but that’s a different blog for a different day. Today I’m here to write about how I came to peace with my recent lack of sleep or insomnia.

I never actually have trouble falling asleep. My trouble is staying asleep! My schedule is pretty full. I spend the majority of my day on my feet moving around physically and I use my brain at high speed in a fast paced environment in my job. In addition to that, I work out regularly. When I’m not at work or commuting or at the gym, I play the role of dad and husband for many hours a week with gratitude and joy. So by the time I reach the end of my day it’s fairly common for me to crawl into bed, put my head down on the pillow and fall into a deep sleep within minutes if not even seconds. I almost always sleep soundly for at least three or four hours, but then when I start to stir a few hours later the games in my head begin.

As a side note I marvel at the way our little Emma sleeps. I often poke my head into her room while she is dozing and watch her as she is melted peacefully into space with her blankets and stuffed animals. We are blessed with a daughter who routinely sleeps 11 to 12 hours a night so none of my lack of sleep is due to anything related to her. In fact I find it humorous that one of the most common questions people ask newer parents is, “You getting any sleep?” My standard answer to that question has always been, “Not as much as I would like…but my daughter sleeps great. 12 hours a night. I on the other hand am over 50 so I’m lucky to get 5 or 6!”

That response typically gets a chuckle and smile and from those who are also over 50, a knowing nod of the head. I realize that many people as they age have more trouble getting sound, deep sleep, but I refuse to accept that insomnia has to be the norm just because I’m a bit older. Since I have always refused to accept things as they are as it relates to my sleep, it’s common for me to pass judgement on myself for not getting to bed earlier or eating earlier or skipping that glass of wine. As a result I often start my day frustrated that I’ve slept less than I would prefer…and we all know that if we start our day frustrated the probability of that day being a magnificent day is quite a bit lower.

Another thing I tend to do is over analyze the reasons why I’m not sleeping as long as I would prefer. Does that ever happen to you? My list of the reasons that I’m not sleeping well enough can be endless! Some of the things on that list in my brain include astrological events like full moons or planet conjunctions; what I had to eat; whether or not I took a bath before bed; whether or not I read before I went to bed; whether or not I looked at my phone or had any other type of screen time in the last hour before I went to bed; whether I took my vitamins too late in the day; whether or not the head of the bed is propped up at the right angle; where my stuffed bear or healing crystals are in relation to the position that I’m trying to sleep in….Are you getting my drift here? I may just be a little bit too much in my head.

So when I wake up in the middle of the night my first line of defense it’s to try to be still. I don’t remove my eye mask or get out of bed. I try to dance in that gap between consciousness and unconsciousness and see if I can doze back off quickly. To gracefully waltz back into dream land if you will. When that fails I turn to counting backwards from 100 in my head or saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over again. Eventually I have to make a decision as to whether or not I’m going to continue to try to pretend that I’m not actually conscious or whether I’m going to allow my brain to turn on and start actually thinking about things. I call this transition state my in bed meditation time. It can last for minutes or for a few hours. It may either include or not include putting in my headphones and listening to sound vibrational frequencies on Youtube. Sometimes I feel flat and totally disconnected from Source and on those other rare occasions I feel the magical tingle of God’s touch on my body while I visit the stars and travel through other dimensions. During this time I spend a lot of time talking to my Angels and Guides and lately I’ve started to do a slightly better job of listening to them as well. And that’s where this story take its most interesting turn.

A couple of nights ago my early wake up time was 4 a.m. I had actually gone to bed at 10:30 p.m. the night before so it wasn’t too bad. I’d already gotten over 5 hours sleep so when my brain started to turn on I was a little less anxious than I would’ve been if I hadn’t gone to bed until 1 a.m. I can get by on 5 to 6 hours sleep, but it’s really tough getting through the day on only three hours. As I moved into my in bed half awake/half asleep meditation cycle that night a couple of nights ago, I reached out with my mind to see who was out there to chat with me, but I couldn’t find any familiar faces.

Most of the time I can easily see and feel my “angel team on the other side of the veil” as I like to call them.  It usually starts with my father, and then he is often joined by some of my other ancestors and friends who have left their bodies. After that, divine beings like Christ Jesus or the Buddha or St. Germain will occasionally poke their heads in. Mentors that I wish had met like Paramahansa Yogananda or other yogis circle around. Archangels and other Light Beings do fly overs to offer support. It can really be quite magical, but on this particular night there was nothing but complete silence and the faintest amount of light – just the same amount you might see as the first hint of dawn begins to take over the night sky. From that silence a voice started to emerge.

The first thing that voice said to me was this:

“Why are you so troubled this morning Jim?“

In my mind I answered this:

“I’m just frustrated that I’m not getting any rest. I’ve been sick for a week now and I’m sleeping only three or four hours a night. I need to get enough rest to heal so I can start to move into this new decade with the zeal and the energy that I want to have…“

“Why do you think you’re not getting any rest unless you’re asleep Jim?“ the voice responded.

I started to prepare the perfect answer in my mind, but then all of a sudden my heart came online and took over for my brain. I instantaneously became aware that the reason I wasn’t sleeping was because at this exact moment in time I needed to be awake enough to hear the voice of God. In fact I realize now that the reason I’ve been sleeping less in general and lying in bed half awake meditating for hours every night is because the time has come for me to go through a great transformation.

What transformation you ask?

For the majority of my life my relationship with the Divine has been contingent on me using a conduit of some sort. Whether that channel/conduit be a particular religion or particular person or particular angel or particular place or a particular gem stone or particular thing of any kind…I’ve always looked for a way to feel God’s presence through something that was on the outside of me.

The other night for the first time in my life, I actually understood that the voice of God was trying to find its way inside of me and when I finally stopped using my head so damn much and instead opened up my heart to listen….I heard that Voice in a way I’ve never heard it before.

So while I look forward to those days of eight hours or more of peaceful sleep in a night in the future, for now I’m making some new friends. I’m making friends with what I would have previously called a lack of sleep or insomnia. I making friends with my body as it rests in bed either conscious or unconscious. I’m making friends with this amazing conduit in the center of my chest that is opening in ways I never imagined that it could open. And most importantly, I’m slowly quieting down that voice that used to be way too loud inside my own head so that I can hear the Voice of God as it speaks through my heart and creates a foundation of self-love that forges the most intimate friendship that there could ever be – I’m making friends with all that IS and it starts at the center of myself…

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Emma’s Gift

Today is a new day. I’m 55. I’m done lying to myself. For the better part of the last year I have been telling myself a big lie. That lie is that I don’t have enough time.

Over the past week I’ve become keenly aware that as humans we live a large percentage of our lives wishing for “more” of so many things. If I were to ask you to fill in the blank of this sentence, what would your answer be?

I wish I had more _________ !

My guess is that at least 80% of you would give me one of these five answers:

  1. Money
  2. Time
  3. Luck
  4. Energy
  5. Love

So what’s my answer you ask?

I am surrounded by love in so many ways. I have a loving partnership with my wife, a Divine daughter, my Mom is the best friend I could have ever dreamed of, I have amazing family and friends and co-workers and so much more. I’m good in the love department.

Some people say they don’t believe in luck. I TOTALLY believe in luck AND I believe that we play a huge part in creating so much of what we call luck. Sometimes what could be called “dumb luck” or “blind luck” finds its way into our lives, but mostly I believe that the actions we take create the opportunity for “good luck” to find us. For most of my life I’ve been a pretty lucky guy.

If you know me well then you probably know that most people consider me pretty high energy. I move fast. I get a lot done. I work hard and play hard and while being a parent has given me more days of being tired than I am used to, I still have an amazing amount of energy so I’d say I’m in reasonably good shape on that front.

I’d like to have a lot more money! In fact I think that so many of us live in a space where we believe that our lives would be significantly better if we had more money, yet as of late I’ve shifted my mindset as it relates to financial abundance. Don’t get me wrong! I am more than happy to reach a level of financial abundance where I can share more with others and live in a state of confidence and peace. That being said, I think we need to ask ourselves if we are chasing wealth or status. If we are seeking wealth, then we will find that in a place where we are free from the tethers to things that bind us. Anything outside of that and we are just chasing status. We can find true wealth if we get more – OR – we can find true freedom if we live within our means no matter how much money we have. This is a new view for me so I’m learning, but I think the shoe fits nicely. I’d like to have more money, yet in so many ways I already have enough.

And the there is time….

At this point in my journey, time is the most valuable commodity. There are so many days when I reach bedtime and find myself wishing that I had a few more hours. I’d love to have more time with Emma. I wish I had more time to be alone with my wife Christiana. I wish I could get out and do more things socially. I would love to be able to talk to my friends more often or for longer periods of time. I’d love to be able to invest more time in writing and speaking and coaching. The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that my definitive answer to the fill in the blank question is:

I WISH I HAD MORE TIME!

When I woke up this morning and thought about what I would like my birthday to look like I came to a quick and easy decision. Some things were already set in stone. I was going to go to work in the morning. Christiana was going to work at night because we decided we would rather wait to celebrate my birthday until the weekend. I was going to go to the chiropractor after work while Christina’s mom watched Emma like she always does on Thursday afternoons and evenings. What I needed to decide was how I wanted to spend my “me” time in the later evening after I got home. My “me” time is rare and precious and on my birthday it would make sense that I should do something particularly special.

The interesting thing is that I didn’t even want to try to go out and do anything unusual. I didn’t want to have a fancy dinner. I didn’t find myself wishing that I could have a big celebration or party. I wasn’t even feeling the desire to settle in on the couch and watch a movie like I often do when I get a rare chance to stop the world these days . I just wanted to have some quiet alone time to write…something I havent done in ages!

I started to visualize what it would look like. I would get home after riding my bike from the chiropractor. I would visit with my mother in law for a while and then give Emma a bath. I would put her down and then grab my computer – and probably a glass of wine even though it’s a weeknight – since it’s my birthday! I would go out on the back deck and watch the sunset. I even had a pretty good idea what I might write about because I’d been thinking a lot about Emma’s first trial swim class and wanted to share more about that special day. It was all going to be so perfect. I was finally going to stop telling myself the lie that I couldn’t ever find the time to write!

And that brings us to this moment in time. This is where things started to move in a direction  that was outside of my expectations. Ah yes, that tenuous word – EXPECTATION!

So here’s when the blog within the blog starts. Up until now this has been the story of how I wound up at my computer writing in the Jim’s Whimz blog for the first time in over a year. Now begins the story within the story – it’s a little piece I like to call Emma’s gift. It’s not the blog I intended to write which would have been titled Things I learned in my Daughter’s first swim lesson, but it’s the post that God/The Universe intended on this day. And it is oh so good to be back at the keyboard!

 

 

Emma’s Gift

Our daughter Emma was born on February 4th, 2018 at approximately 2:30 pm. She came into the world strong-willed and sturdy at nearly 9 pounds after an intense 30-plus hours of labor. From the minute she got here all could see that she was going to be very independent and determined. Eighteen months later nothing has changed.

On that first night we stayed at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois under that care of our amazing midwife team. We had a comfortable room with a bed and a couch and a bassinet so by about 7 p.m. all three of us were sleeping peacefully and getting some much needed rest, despite the fact that Super Bowl LII was in progress. None of the three of us seemed to care much about the Eagles or Tom Brady or Gisele Bundchen or pretty much anything else at all at that point.

Around 8 p.m. I stirred and noticed that our 6-hour old Emma was fussing in her bassinet. I wanted nothing more than for Christiana to be able to get some more rest after a day and half of labor, so I picked Emma up out of her bassinet and brought her over to the couch where I had been dozing. I opened up my shirt and placed her on my chest skin-to-skin just like we learned in our child birthing class to see if I could calm her down and do some special father and daughter bonding with her.

For the next hour and a half Emma slept on my bare chest as we traveled around the cosmos and got to know each other in this lifetime with a deep sense of knowing that we already knew each other so well long before she chose on incarnate as our daughter in this lifetime. At one point I thought to myself, “This is so cool! I’m already teaching my daughter about energy and reiki and spirituality and God!”

And then all of a sudden it occurred to me that I wasn’t the teacher at all…. I realized that I was the student. There was nothing that I knew that Emma didn’t already know. I had thought for a fleeting instant that I was going to teach her about being close to Source, but in fact she just came from Source so how could I possibly know any more than she already knew. It was an eye opening moment in time. It was a life changing moment in time. I sat on the couch and wept with joy for what seemed to be an eternity. I had never experienced a higher level of bliss in my life before that moment…and then it was over.

Since that day, I can count on one hand the number of times Emma has slept on my chest. As I mentioned earlier, Emma is a highly independent being who has made it exceedingly clear that she doesn’t seek coddling or comforting on a regular basis. She is indeed loving and joyful, but she is not at all needy. Most nights after bath time, milk and a story or two she is squirming to get out of my arms and into her crib so she can have her own space and journey into dreamland as soon as possible.

It has only been on a few rare nights when she has been under the weather or in some other way out of her regular routine that she has dozed off on my chest before being put down in her crib. Most of me is pleased and content that we have an independent daughter who is confident and comfortable alone in the dark. Then there is the piece of me that longs to relive that first night when Emma surrendered completely and totally into oneness with her daddy’s chest for comfort.

0-33Earlier today I got up and got ready for work. I opened my cards from my mom and from Christiana. Emma had given me her card last night when I got home from work – a colored page from a Peanuts coloring book that my wife had helped her create. My plan for tonight was to put Emma down just before 8 p.m. just like I always do on our nights home alone together. I was then going to grab the baby monitor and my computer and go sit outside on the deck on a perfect summer night and write my first blog in over a year. I did exactly that and just as I started to type, I looked at the monitor and saw that Emma was standing up and screaming in her crib.

“Not tonight!” I thought to myself. “Of all nights for her to not go down easily why would this happen to me on my birthday? I DESERVED my alone time. I was so looking forward to writing my blog about our free trial swim lesson. This just isn’t fair!”

I went back inside and walked into her room. Of course I was first and foremost focused on comforting my daughter and getting her back to sleep like I have done so many times in the past 18 months, but in truth I still wanted to write. When I picked Emma up she started pointing at the nursing glider next to her crib. I assumed this meant that she wanted me to read her more stories before she went to sleep, so I sat down in the glider and just as I reached over to turn on the owl lamp on the table next to the glider, Emma laid her little head down on my chest and completely relaxed.

For the next 30 minutes we rocked back and forth together in the dark with the sound of the waves from her bedside sound machine playing in the background. I could feel her little heartbeat on my chest stronger than I had felt it since that first night on the couch at West Suburban Hospital just under a year and a half ago. For a few precious moment that world stopped spinning. I was no longer short on time or money or luck or energy. All I could feel was love in its purest form. The blog that I needed to write didn’t matter. The balance in our bank accounts didn’t matter. The amount of sleep I got this week didn’t matter. I had just received the most amazing gift I ever could have dreamed of on my 55th birthday. The gift of my daughter’s love as she slept on my chest.

Some say our biggest responsibility as parents is to teach our children well. I’d say it’s equally important to allow them to teach us well. As I enter this next stage of my life, I am so grateful to have such a talented teacher in Emma. I pray that I continue to be the student that she deserves to share the journey with…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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