Tag Archives: humanity

I Love New York

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The City

Two girls who hadn’t seen each other in two decades. Two and half days. Twenty and a half miles on foot. One big city checked off: explored and experienced. That was my trip to New York.

I was really struggling through a rough patch. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my friend Sherry and I had hatched a plan for a girls’ getaway. I flew to Raleigh to meet her and we spent a quiet evening downtown catching up on over twenty years and two lives that had gone in many directions since our days in middle school band! When we boarded the plane bound for New York the next day, she let me have the window seat because, unlike me, it wasn’t her first time to fly into the city. My smile was wide as my eyes darted left and right, waiting for the first glimpses of New York from the tiny windows of the aircraft. When we touched down at La Guardia we looked at each other and smiled even more, completely excited, but also anxious.

Our trip from the airport to the hotel was my first-ever ride in a taxi. It was nothing like the movies, which is probably good since I watch a lot of action movies where taxis are in high-speed chases and in danger of flipping over at any moment. Instead, it was just a pleasant ride through the city. Yes, the traffic was heavy, but it was actually less harrowing than driving through Miami during rush hour. We quickly settled into our hotel room and then changed shoes, checked our map, and headed out.

Rockefeller Plaza

With just one stop for dinner, we walked for 7 1/2 hours! Our goal was to get our bearings, figure out where the main attractions were, and take in as much as we could. Oh, how we did that! On our first walk we swung by Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Plaza, Broadway, Times Square, and so much more. We definitely looked like tourists. We looked up… a lot. We smiled, said excuse me, and apologized for bumping into people… a lot. We stayed on the sidewalks and dutifully obeyed the walk/don’t walk signs. We waited patiently for the little man to tell us when to cross the street and the big orange hand to tell us to stay put! We also made our pilgrimage to a mecca for readers: the New York Public Library. We stared in awe and wonder at the beautiful entrance and walked up the stone steps, past the lions guarding the way. We whispered, of course, as we walked the hallowed halls and peered into rooms where people were studying and writing and reading. We had talked about the Library before ever going on our whirlwind adventure and it did not disappoint. Two authors, two bookworms, two bibliophiles: completely happy!

Times Square

Our first stop on day two was the Empire State Building. As fans of the movie, Elf, we quoted Buddy as we made our way to the entrance and up to the top. The views were spectacular! I was atop the very place where King Kong roared as planes buzzed by, trying to shoot him down! There are moments in life when you realize how small you are, what a tiny piece of a colossal puzzle your life is. Standing at the top of the Empire State Building gives you that sense. As I gazed down at all the skyscrapers surrounding us and the microscopic people below, the itty bitty cabs and cars and buses making their way through the maze of streets, I was struck with that sense of wonder at how many lives are being lived all over the world and how many are intersecting each day, sometimes for the briefest of moments and other times, when we’re lucky, for a lifetime. I was amazed and grateful.

Central Park

We walked and walked again, covering miles of ground. We walked to Central Park and saw the Plaza Hotel, wandered over to Columbus Circle and met a friend for lunch at a diner. We took a tour of the Museum of Modern Art, impressed and also disturbed by artwork. Our feet took us down Fifth Avenue and back to Rockefeller Plaza where we took in the tree again in all its glory. We watched people skate and shop and saw Christmas lights sparkle and cameras flash like twinkling lights from all directions. Another friend met us at a wonderful wine bar and we caught up again on life and its twists and turns, laughing and sharing where our paths had taken the three of us since graduating all those years ago. Our last stop of the night was the Gershwin where we saw Wicked, the show I’d been waiting for years to see. It was fabulous and there was only a slight moment of regret that Brian and I had been unable to see it together when he bought tickets for us back in April in Denver. He was simply too sick to go by the time the date rolled around and I couldn’t bear to go without him. He would have loved it, but I know he was happily looking down on us and very excited that I’d taken what was, for me, a huge step and gone on a little adventure. Afterward we walked back to our hotel, reliving the evening and the day. Splendid. More than that, really, but splendid will have to do.

The Tree

Our final day in New York was our biggest one. We had to fit in as much as possible! We were determined to see every sight we could… our feet had no idea what we had in store for them. During our nearly 10 miles + two subway rides, we took in: half of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, Top of the Rock, Washington Square, Gramercy Park, Grand Central Terminal, more of Times Square and the Theater District, and Broadway Comedy Club. A friend was performing there and the thought of someone pursuing a dream like that in a city like that is pretty inspiring. Washington Square was, I’ll admit, a happy accident… I cannot read a subway map very well! Our feet begged us to hail a cab on the way back to the hotel and we decided we should “just because.” As we drifted off to sleep, thoroughly enjoying the sounds of the city that never sleeps, we talked about how good the trip was for both of us, how scared we had been to do it on our own, and how much we had learned about ourselves and each other. I’ll never forget Sherry thanking me for going along and letting her enjoy the city through my eyes. Wow! For me, going to New York was huge. I didn’t have my safety net: someone to take care of me and all the details, and just let me tag along.

It turned out to be two single, clumsy, directionally-challenged, but adventurous girls taking an unforgettable whirlwind trip to NYC… and succeeding in having an amazing time. By the time we left, we still looked up… a lot. We still smiled… a lot. But we pushed our way through when we needed to and learned that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to walk before the man says you can and keep going when the big orange hand says not to. And you don’t have to wait on the sidewalk. You step out of where it’s comfortable and just go with the flow.

Stepping Out  = Joy

A Difficult Path

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Burning Candle by SOMMAI

This is not what I planned to write today, and there are those who will be far more eloquent and speak more comforting words about what has happened than I can ever hope to say. I can’t even pretend that I can fully understand what families are facing right now.

I was lucky, I guess you can say. Having time to prepare yourself for death and loss can be a blessing. No, my days were not pretty and knowing the end was coming was heartbreaking. But I had time to prepare my mind and my heart for things to come. I knew when some of my last conversations would take place as I let go day by day, piece by piece. Those who lost their children and loved ones and friends yesterday did not. What started out as an ordinary day ended in a tragic nightmare. That is unimaginable to me.

To those who feel the anguish of loss now, I can offer my words and my heartfelt feelings of sorrow… and hope.

If I could speak to the families who are grieving right now, I’d tell them to feel whatever they feel without apology. I would tell them that I do understand that life will never feel the same again. I would let them know that sleepless nights and what feels like days of endless tears are ahead. They are now on a long road that will feel lonely and overwhelming sometimes.

I would also tell them that the fog will feel dense and heavy, so thick they can hardly breathe. But slowly… oh, so slowly… it will lift. It will start to clear, just a little at a time, and they will see that life will move forward. I know that forward is not what they want. Not at all. I understand that all they want to do is rewind, to go back and make all of this stop. Life is very unfair and there is no explanation that will feel right, no reason that will make any sense. As the fog lifts, though, I do know what is possible. They can take the littlest moments, the tiniest memories, and create monuments of happiness and joy to honor the ones who have been taken. They will turn the dark corners and see lights of hope, peace, and love begin to shimmer. They can carry on, never forgetting what has happened, but turning their deep sense of loss into new feelings of compassion.

My heart aches for anyone who has to go through the journey of grieving. I know there is no way around it or over it. There is only one difficult path straight through the middle of it. Along the way I hope they can find, as I have, treasures of peace and joy.

The Difficult Path Ahead = Joy

Releasing the Year

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This year I’m finding rituals to be quite comforting and helpful. They are an important part of the grief process and have allowed me to let go. Each day that I kept track of Brian’s medication, dosed out his pills, helped him bathe and dress, fed him, and loved him allowed me to let go of him knowing I’d given my best and my all. Watching his body be prepared and taken from this house enabled me to release him a little more, Feeling the weight of the box of ashes showed me that life is not permanent and we have to release our attachment to it when the time comes. Celebrating his life during his memorial service gave me the means to let him loose, so to speak, into the world of memories and moments that are shared by all who knew him.

Throughout each step in grieving, I’ve experienced glorious and excruciating emotions. I’ve fought some and invited others, but each one is essential in completing the process of surrendering a loved one and releasing our tight grip on them. That certainly doesn’t mean I have thrown away what we shared. No, quite the opposite. I’m learning to put our past together in its proper place, holding it dear.

Along the road to wholeness, I’m finding the significance of releasing the past to make way for the future. So I’m preparing during December to leave 2012 behind, not forgetting it, but letting it stand as a milestone of learning in this crazy and beautiful thing called life. My sister in-law (also my friend and kindred spirit) gifted me with a tangible way to move from this year to the one that is right around the corner. My project the other night was to create a page of gratitude. I broke out my markers and set to work, filling the blank white space with words. That turned into the Wordle you see above. Funny thing… once you start writing down all you’re grateful for, you think of new things to add. I keep revisiting that page and adding to it. Gratitude grows the more you acknowledge it.

My word for October was Promise. When November rolled around I turned to Renewal. In thinking ahead to December, the first word I thought of was Release, so it is fitting that I have been focusing on saying good-bye to what has been a devastating and delightful year. It has brought challenges and I’ve somehow managed to overcome each one. I’ll never forget 2012; it will no doubt stand out as a turning point, the place where I had to stand and look behind me and then press on to what was ahead with courage and curiosity. I’m finding a sweet satisfaction in reflection and release as I slowly and fondly bid farewell to the year. The next question in my Incredible Year Workbook is “Are you ready?” I can say with enthusiasm (and a few jitters): Yes! I will check that box with a brightly colored flourish!

Releasing the Past to Make Way for the Future = Joy

Music in the Night

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Tomorrow will mark six months that Brian has been gone, six months that have flown by. Life is precious and fleeting. There have been so many ups and downs over the last half-year. Wow… half of a year that he’s been gone from this earth. Healing from loss hurts. A lot. However, the deep sadness has made the happy moments twinkle more, I think. There are some days I have trouble opening my eyes and finding a reason to get out of bed. Sometimes I have trouble smiling and laughing. Then there are the moments the heaviness lifts a little and the joy rises up. Thankfully those happen more often than not. I hope I am learning, day by day, to appreciate the lightness in life.

I fill the silence at night, when I’m trying to find sleep, with music and this song comes on a lot. It’s about love, any real love you feel. It was born out of a time when the artist, Jason Mraz, wanted to give up on himself and life. Real love is unconditional and I don’t think it gives up, even when it may want to or feels like it needs to. It hangs on a little longer, often changing but never wavering, waiting for the darkness to pass. We need to have that kind of love for others, of course, but also for ourselves.

For anyone feeling some loneliness, sadness, or loss of any kind, I hope you have a listening ear nearby, an arm gently draped around you, and warm words filling your soul. And joy. Always joy.

Music = Joy

Two Cents and Some Joy

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While this photo has a nice sentiment and fits nicely with what I want to say, it is also a plug for my fellow do-gooder and peace lover, Noelle. Click on it… be inspired and buy her stuff!!

I’m actually writing this without knowing the outcome of the election (it’s Tuesday and many of you are still standing in lines at the polls as I type), so the following is my opinion regardless of who will take the office in a few months. I don’t always vote and, quite frankly, this year the only reason I did was that the ballot was delivered by mail. Yes, I completely understand that I have the right and, some would say, duty to cast my vote and participate in the process. However, there have been times when I was not informed on any issues or candidates and felt it was more my duty to sit out than cast an unintelligent vote.

This is my two cents, a rare political post that probably won’t reveal much about the direction I lean. Two cents is precisely what I feel my opinion is worth in the big piggy bank of viewpoints! Take it or leave it and judge it if you like.

This year has been the single most difficult year of my entire existence. It’s tested me physically and emotionally in ways I did not expect. There were moments I wanted to go to sleep and wake up after everything was over… and other moments I just wanted to sleep and never wake up. It became a year where I had to question and carefully examine my views on healthcare and social security and taxes and, most importantly, humanity outside of those issues. I’ve been sad and even frustrated and irritated at the hateful and hurtful things said about people, not just candidates, during this political season.

This year I did mail in my vote, a mixture of heart and head decisions. However, I don’t feel this has been the most important election ever. I doubt there will be any sort of life-altering transformation in policies that will fix everything because at this point, frankly, that’s next to impossible to achieve in four decades, much less four years.

I may be hopeful today or I may be a disappointed…I’ll never tell. But one thing I will always be, regardless of who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office is this: respectful. No matter what man or woman holds that title, I have a duty to myself to be the kind of person who respects the process, however flawed it may be, and respects the person, however flawed he or she may be. I only need to look in the mirror to find an example of a flawed person. Any time I show a lack of respect I believe it says more about my character than anyone else’s. I’ve let myself down plenty of times that way, even in the last couple of days.

So, for the next four years, and the following four after that, and 12 more after that… okay, basically forever, I’ll make sure that I wake up every day and decide for myself how I’m going to live, no matter who is running the country or how much or little I pay in taxes: respectful, happy, and joyful. On purpose. Some years, like this one, will probably be filled with grief and others will probably be a breeze by comparison. Life simply happens and it usually doesn’t consult us on every event. But I get to decide my reaction… or, better yet, my response, to every event, every challenge, and every day – the good and the bad. I will choose to respond with respect, kindness, compassion, understanding, and joy. Those things get my vote every time.

My Everyday Vote = Joy