Author Archive

duty and doughnuts

I signed up to be an election official this year. It was a wonderful day. I got a hundred bucks, the satisfaction of civic duty, and many offers of doughnuts.

A definition I found for civic duty is “the responsibilities of a citizen.” I suppose that each of us tends to those responsibilities in a unique way. That tending certainly doesn’t have to be in an official capacity. It could be as simple as checking in on your elderly neighbor or picking up trash in your neighborhood park. The important thing is that we regularly tend to those responsibilities, keeping in mind that each of us is part of a larger whole. Heck, it can even be fun to keep that society train moving along. And sometimes there are doughnuts!

What’s been your civic duty lately?

lifting up

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
– Muhammad Ali

There is much despair in the world these days and, therefore, much need for uplift. How awesome it is that we have billions of imaginations available to us! Uplifting occurs with problem solving, clever ideas, new perspectives, genius inventions, visionary stories, and hopeful connections… all products of the imagination.

What has uplifted you lately?

sky high branches

I fell in love with the song “Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell soon after college graduation, during the time I was adjusting to adulthood. (Perhaps it was the lyric “she’s so busy being free” that got to me.) But I never truly accepted that a cactus could be a tree. Having been raised in the East, I couldn’t imagine a cactus having roots and height and longevity. That is, until I met this one. It’s in the yard of the place I rent in Los Angeles. A century old, I’m told. Its branches brush telephone wires, and it houses a squirrels’ nest. A tree indeed!

Funny that something I couldn’t imagine is the very something I now see every day. Has that ever happened to you?

the corridors of emily d

“One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —”
― Emily Dickinson

I had the honor and delight of visiting Emily Dickinson’s house this past summer. It’s where she wrote nearly all of her poetry. It’s where her brain was haunted by the world, by the human experience. It’s where she was free to discover herself and her work.

Thousands and thousands of people traipse through the corridors of this house each year in a quest to understand Emily better. But it was the corridors of her brain (as the poem suggests) that actually housed her singular brilliance. And she was the only one to ever traipse there.

What is uniquely housed in your brain?

none of my business

I’ve had a few intense experiences lately of being proved wrong. And they’ve been fantastic. I was assuming people had certain (negative) thoughts about me. But those same people ended up offering me amazing opportunities, clearly having very positive thoughts about me instead. The negative thoughts I’d assigned to them were completely imagined on my part.

I totally appreciate the old adage “what someone thinks about you is none of your business”. But that’s easier said than done. The truth is that I do care what certain people think about me. It’s my responsibility, then, to watch what assumptions I make about what they’re thinking. I have to know when I’m projecting, inferring, or just plain making stuff up. I also have to ask myself why I care so much and what’s the cost of that to my well-being. Making all of it “none of my business” would certainly be liberating.

What opinions of others have you made your business lately?

the comfort of not there yet

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.”
– Thomas Carlyle

When my life feels particularly in flux and I get to worrying about the future, I feel better when I remember that I don’t have all the information yet. There are opportunities and vistas up ahead that I can’t possibly know about now. And worrying will not bring me any closer to them. I can only see what I can see on this very day, in this very moment. What a comfort that is.

How far can you see today?

double whammy

The first color photograph of Earth from space was taken in 1959. What an awesome experience that must have been… to see our planet’s blues & greens for the first time.

Though I grew up with the view of Earth from space as commonplace, there is an incredible sight that I am brand new to beholding. And it is much much smaller than the Earth. It is the flapping wing of a hummingbird.

I took this photo with my phone. My phone! It was a double whammy of awe… the easy ability to capture the image and, of course, the hummingbird herself.

Have you had a double whammy of awe lately?

game of catch

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
– Maya Angelou

These are wise words indeed. But I’ve come to notice that many people throw and throw and throw… that it’s the catching they have trouble with. There are the amazing givers who are not at all great at receiving. There are the millions of people working two or three jobs who don’t receive a living wage. There are the people who equate their worth with their output, who never feel they do enough, who are uncomfortable receiving help of any kind.

The game of catch is a game of balance, of rhythm. Throw and catch, throw and catch.

Do you have a catcher’s mitt on your hand?

mind walls

My mind has been shifting perspectives lately on some big stuff in my life. My mind has also been resisting those new perspectives, habitually returning to the old thought patterns, to the familiar interior conversation. And to the familiar feelings that come along with it.

Change is strange and can be quite uncomfortable.

What’s helping is to imagine that my mind is getting remodeled. That the stained, familiar wallpaper is getting peeled away, slowly but surely. That the walls are being sanded down, and that I’m eagerly picking out a fresh color of paint.

I’m also considering knocking a hole in one of the walls and putting in a window.

What color are your mind walls these days?

live & unplugged

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott

We all have different ways of unplugging: meditating, taking a walk, eating a meal slowly, dancing, napping.

Sometimes doing the dishes by hand is a way to unplug. (To each her own.)

My favorite snippet in this quote from Anne Lamott is “for a few minutes”. Our society and work culture expect us to feel burned out most of the time, to save up all our unplugging for the tail end of a day, for the Saturday afternoon, for the one (too) short vacation a year. But, really, sprinkling in those few minutes throughout each day is just as nourishing and, perhaps, more sustaining.

You have ten minutes. How will you unplug?