In the middle of a busy day in the city today, I notice a new text. Two simple words: Happy birthday.
For a brief instant, I wonder if there is confusion, as my birthday was two months ago. Then very soon, I shift into the possibility that there is no confusion at all and that instead, the person who sent me these wishes knows my heart so well that he took the time to get them to me, from a mostly no-phone place. This flip-flopping of my brain lasts a mere two seconds and that’s as much time as it takes for my heart to threaten to overflow out of my eyes.
Having our heart known and acknowledged. Quietly, simply. Soul to soul.
Today, my dad would have celebrated his 87th birthday. If his love/hate of cigarettes had not won over his body twenty years ago, I would have called him first thing this morning, and he would have pretended to be surprised. Maybe I would even have flown across the country to help him blow some candles. If my mom’s own love/hate of cigarettes had not taken over her body five months ago, she would have been there with her hand on his shoulder and with that look she had when her eyes landed on him.
These are the thoughts that woke me up in the middle of the night yesterday, as the calendar page silently flipped to February 27th.
My heart has been hurting fed by a sweet stew of thoughts and memories and questions never to be answered. It’s a private hurt, it’s a blessed hurt and a bathtub full of scented bubbles seems to be a kind host to it.
It is a special, just-for-me hurt which no one can take away, just as no one can know it like I do. My sister knows her own version of it, and I trust that our brother does also.
And yet, these two words on my phone, so simple, so quiet. These two words that say: I know you.
In our strengths, our quirks, our weaknesses, our joy and our pain.
What a delicious gift of being humans together.
My new iPhone arrived yesterday. Wrapped in characteristically delicious packaging, I immediately wondered what took me so long - as I simultaneously knew that I was drinking one more sip of the Apple Kool Aid.
I am a slow consumer of electronics.
Buying a new phone takes me months. Occasionally years. I hung on to my red flip phone until four years ago and then let it go only because its carrier did not have a cell tower in Mexico and I could get a smartphone for .99 with a new carrier’s contract. The new phone was tiny, it was yellow, it was sweet and we packed some hours together. I learned to text. When it became time to say goodbye, I purchased its little cousin - blue this time - from a teenage friend for $50. I am guessing he was moving on to bigger apps.
Over the last couple of years, my little blue buddy and I - and its yellow cousin as emergency back up - traveled many places together. We sent texts from Spain, Italy, Switzerland. It allowed me to enjoy work Skype meetings from sidewalks in Paris, get me out of a jam in Tuscany (see photo) and to find my way through mazes of tiny streets in Morocco. I lent it to refugee friends in Greece and it supported many, many coaching calls. When I was sick in Rome, it read me my first Audiobook from under the covers.
Lately, I kept getting the feeling (along with gentle suggestions from my team) that it would be wise to consider moving on in order to preserve the efficacy of my work. There were times when it would take a little nap instead of responding. Some of its apps were no longer in vogue. When my bank “upgraded” its system, I was not able to make deposits by phone anymore, and since the closest branch is 45 minutes away, I have been mailing checks for months now, with a little Sprinkling card each time. I thought it was ok, not that big a deal, kind of sweet, actually. When I mentioned that to my oldest son last week, he asked me if a dinosaur delivered the envelopes.
So yes, it was time and I just needed to make the jump.
My new electronic companion arrived last night and my son was here to set it up for me and as importantly, to celebrate my hipness.
There were uncomfortable moments, such as the second I realized that I had somehow very possibly broadcasted my fingerprint to some giant data base. There were a whole lot of questions to answer to make it “just mine.” There was a whole laugh of loud laughter, too.
When my son left, feeling that I was respectably outfitted, I decided to play with this thing a little bit.
Two hours later, I was sending my friends ridiculous photos of me as a cartoon character, recording goodnight videos and doing some late - and odd - Instagram posting. Thank god I stay away from Twitter. There is a lesson here.
This morning, I reached for my shiny new toy way earlier than I usually do. BEFORE doing my Morning Pages, which is usually a big no-no for me. In fact … I have not done my Morning Pages today. Instead, I played with Settings and Apps.
Mid yoga, I realized that something was off and that for all the buttons I had pushed (or caressed, really. I think I have some sort of fancy sensitive touch option set up), I was not feeling very connected. Not connected to my morning, nor to myself. Under the pretense of upping my connection ability, I had temporarily given away the one that matters the most.
Full of this awareness and feeling a little strange, I picked up my new phone to turn it off for a while. In doing so, I found a gift, right there: a really cool setting, called “Do Not Disturb.” Quietly, I was able to ask my phone to not talk to me between 9 pm and 7 am, ever. Unless a few specific people needed my attention.
Boundaries. We are invited to explore so many boundaries, each day. Especially with our electronic “connections.”
This morning, this is what I come up with: no matter how entertaining our phones are, no matter how convenient - and for sure, they are - and no matter how much they allow us to connect with each other … THEY WILL NEVER LOVE US BACK.
Today, I invite you to enjoy the heck out of all the convenience we are privileged to experience, and to remember that every step of the way, we have the choice of saying “yes to this” and “no that.” Whether it beeps or flashes at us.
Twenty-eight years ago, I found myself in a very sweet birthing center, filling out paperwork for a birth that was due to take place 6 months later.
Right there on the form, nestled between other queries was a question the answer to which was to become my guiding light for over two decades. The question was: what matters the most to you at this time?
I barely hesitated.
Having just gone through a traumatic and heart-breaking miscarriage followed by a cancer scare and the deep fear of not ever being able to have babies, out came an answer I did not know I had in me: Peace of Mind. More than anything, more than my health, my marriage or even having children, what I wanted - what I needed - was Peace of Mind.
I wrote the three words down not knowing I had just made an oath to myself.
My baby girl was born, then her two brothers. Years passed as they tend to do and I kept myself pretty darn intently focused on my Peace of Mind promise. Over time, I learned to meditate and when my marriage ended, I put that tool into overdrive. Spirituality became my best friend.
A decade later, the Essence of Service made its entrance - or rather its re-entrance, but that’s another story. I needed to serve, to contribute, to leave the days better than I found them. So Service cuddled up next to Peace of Mind and Spirituality and none of them complained. I could make that work just fine. Eventually Gratitude moved in with us and the four of them have been good buddies ever since. To me, and to each other.
Together we have traveled many paths, created many adventures and slept soundly through most of them. Most of my days are darn good. I love my work. I can navigate just about anything without getting rattled for too long. I go to bed feeling as though I am leaving things at least as good as I found them and sometimes better. My kids like me, as does my cat. I travel. My home is a sanctuary. I have good friends, and I try to be a good friend to them as well. I have love in my life.
But lately, I have felt a squirming, an itch.
The itch I believe, is actually a request. And I am pretty sure I know what it’s about.
FUN. The Essence of Fun.
If someone was to follow me around for a few months, they would think that my Fun Reserves were topped off. After all, part of my work involves wearing yellow clothes and holding big happy Signs from the back of a flat bed truck while 60s music is blasting. Or walking down a Caribbean beach eating beignets with people I love. Or brainstorming a new joy-making movement with my team while eating chocolate. That sort of things. All of it pretty darn fun, right? It is.
Then, there is the fact that I can find joy in most things. Cleaning my cat’s litter box can feel like a treasure hunt to me. Weird, I know.
And yet, I now have room for something else. Not just room, but a strong yearning.
I have room for the kind of Fun that serves no purpose, that is not going to put food on the table (mine or others), the kind of fun that will not make me smarter or more efficient or more interesting. Fun for the heck of it. Fun like when my friend invites me to go paddle boarding with her at the end of a work day and I just say yes. Fun like the thrill I get from ice skating - which I have not done in 4 years. Or like when I learned to snowboard (or started to) at the age of 40 and ate so much snow yet went back for more. And like the way I sang along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” a few weeks ago while the credits rolled. The kind of fun that stretches me, takes me away from where I know just what to do and how to do it. Fun that might even rattle my Peace of Mind for a minute or ten.
Also, Fun away from work, and for a die-hard Capricorn like me, it takes a bit to get to that. I usually need to be coaxed into it.
I have been playing around with this whole Fun topic and I am hereby publicly making a pledge to do more things that have no goal other than to delight me.
Things that don’t just bring me joy but FUN. Excitement.
Which brings me to this question:
What is fun for YOU? What do you do just because it tickles you to pieces, makes you feel light and giddy and has no other purpose than to delight you?
I would love to hear. And get some pointers, too :)