Keeping Spirits Up

My spirit wants to soar, expand, feel love flowing inside me and reaching out to everyone I meet.  It’s fall, my favorite season, finally crisp and cool.  It may snow soon; snow-haters forgive me, I am a solid East Coaster, I love the snow despite its inherent inconvenience.  The holiday season has begun, almost all the Halloween candy has been eaten.  I want to dive in, but the world won’t let me.

How can I say it’s not too early to start celebrating when there’s just been another mass shooting?  When every day another person is being revealed as a sexual predator?  When everyone is sharing opinions about serious issues and confessing their own traumas, how can I write about the new white flocked Christmas tree I’m so excited about?

I could write #me too and join the fray.  I deal with my trauma but don’t feel the need to tell everyone my story or vilify the persons involved.  I only want to handle my own healing; hard as it is to face, the perpetrators are victims, too, and have their own healing to do.  The way we point fingers and ruin peoples’ lives only shows how far we have to go in raising our culture to one of love.

As for gun violence, words I heard yesterday in Adyashanti’s book, The End of Your World, rang true to me (I will post the exact quote when I find it) — we won’t change the world by having this government or that or by following this philosophy or that, but by changing ourselves on the inside.  Because what we are on the inside is what is reflected in our world on the outside.

Do we act and speak out of love or fear?  It’s not easy, I know.  Every day life gives us ample opportunity to practice.  I had a customer recently who was a great teacher.  She didn’t want to join our registry or participate in our philanthropic promotion, but she wanted a discount.  I recognize these situations as opportunities for my personal growth and try not to react with judgment.  But when she said “I don’t understand why I’m standing here and can’t get the discount,” I felt the warmth rising in my chest.

It’s not easy to look inside ourselves and ask what’s going on with me that’s causing me to judge?  Realizing that now I’m also judging myself and adding more negative energy to an already problematic situation.  Now I’m hearing in my head that song I love, “It’s not easy breaking your heart.”  It’s what we do when we don’t love unconditionally.  Finding a way to inject love, empathy, compassion into that interaction would have changed the world in that moment.

I’ve always told my kids no situation is ever all bad or all good, it’s always both, the paradox of life.  Maybe that’s why I’m so into this holiday season and my new Christmas tree.  There’s a lot going on in the world that we need to change, but there’s also a lot going on we can appreciate and celebrate.

It’s not too early, let the joy of the holiday season begin.  (Don’t worry, I won’t unpack my tree until after Thanksgiving.)

tree in box

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Happy Birthday Andrew

My older son’s birthday falls five days after (and six years before) his brother’s.  If I’d known I only had one fertile week per year we might have closed that gap or even added another kid to the family.  Well, maybe not, because Andrew was a lot of kid.

I did not handle his delivery well.  Afterward, I wanted to tell everybody I felt like I had joined a secret club where no one tells you the truth until after you’ve given birth.  I had no clue what I was in for despite prenatal classes; who are they kidding describing labor pains as “discomfort?”  My friend Fran’s advice was better:  make a big sign, “Give Me Drugs.”

My water broke while I was still in bed on a Sunday morning, sounding like a balloon popping.  I went to the bathroom and was overcome by a nauseating wave from head to toe.  Fear struck, no getting out of it now.

The doctor on call allowed me to go to the hospital right away. My pains weren’t localized, but all over my body, and the contractions weren’t strong enough to move things along, so I was given a drug to make them stronger and an epidural which didn’t fully take.

I’m sure my resistance worsened my “discomfort.”  Don’t fight it, the nurse advised.  I basically acted like a toddler answering No, No, No! when the nurses came in every ten minutes wanting to stick a hand up to see how I was progressing.  At one point I was curled up in the fetal position when the doctor told me to roll over and I refused.  “You’re having a baby, Betsy.”  Oh yeah, I forgot.

I pushed for two and a half hours and still no baby.  I couldn’t imagine how they were going to get this bowling ball out from between my legs.  I suggested they get forceps.  The nurse whispered in my ear, you don’t want forceps, they hurt.  A lot.

I didn’t yell or swear or have an out-of-body experience and I don’t remember much after that until the doctor held Andrew up and he and I looked at each other with the same shocked look, eyes wide open and mouth in a big 0.  Then the doctor sewed me up for almost an hour without anesthesia.  I told you the epidural didn’t work.

My sister drove five hours to see my baby and me and still blames me for telling her the wrong hospital.  She should have known I had no idea where I was going.  This was before hospitals turned labor and delivery rooms into spa facilities and gave tours to win over prospective moms.

I wanted my new baby to stay in the nursery between feedings; I was terrified to take full responsibility for him.  Really, my husband and I were amazed they’d just let us take this baby home.

Andrew wasted no time letting us know, if only we’d had a clue, that he was unique.  He tried holding his head up from the very first night.  It wasn’t until years later I realized he never once put his head on my shoulder.

Thus began the Andrew adventure.

 

 

 

Granny for a Night

I sometimes forget how quickly the Universe will respond to my full-intentioned desires.  I felt a longing for days past, taking care of my sons when they were younger; the Universe answered, you need more of that?  Let me help you.

A friend needed help with her two small children while she was temporarily incapacitated.  I was thrilled for the opportunity to play stand-in grandmother and woke up early the next morning to pack a bag in case I would stay overnight.  Serendipitously, I had the following day off from work.

The two children, a boy six years old and a girl, 22 months, had never met me.  I knew I would be regarded more Nanny McPhee than Mary Poppins, but felt confident I could win them over.  It was Halloween night and I thought how fun it would be to enjoy the holiday with kids again.

I arrived in late afternoon as the boy was getting ready for trick or treating while the girl was wrapped around her dad’s leg as he tried to get things in order around the house.  The girl was coming down with a cold, her eyes with that I-don’t-feel-good look, not happy to be seeing me.

The house had the look of a busy life with kids, clothes on chair backs, toys neatly stacked in corners, clean dishes drying next to the sink.  A painting project was nearing completion, the dad apologized.  What I saw was an instant picture of a family in motion, the perfect home.

As I expected, the girl was not happy to be left with me as her father even left the room to change, let alone leave the house.  A feisty one, approaching the twos, as her mom warned, not afraid to let me know how she was feeling about my presence.  “Be a good girl,” her father said.  Not necessary, I replied; just be yourself, I thought.

I hadn’t brought gifts as peace offerings, but had the perfect sack to offer the boy for his candy gathering — an orange reusable grocery bag with a jack-o-lantern face on it, score one for me.  The girl showed me her favorite pair of shoes, gold and sparkly, just my style, my delight genuine.

The real fun began when Dad left and the girl began screaming the refrain I would hear frequently over the next 30 hours. accompanied at first by intense thrashing, kicking and scratching.  Luckily, as I expected, that soon turned into clinging, wanting to be held and carried everywhere, which felt so good, I didn’t even care if I caught her cold.

The boy was easy, knew the routine and followed it.  Both kids went to bed easily and I was happy to say so at the moment my friend texted, asking how it was going.  I was ready for anything, though, as I rested downstairs on the couch, waiting.

The monitor was by my side, including video, although I could hear without it, the girl waking up coughing then settling back to sleep.  The disturbance continued to build, as she’d wake up coughing and cry a little before settling back down.  I wished I turned on the humidifier, but was sure if she saw me we’d be in full blown unhappy mode.

I snuck upstairs while all was quiet hoping to get in and out of her room unseen.  She heard me in the hall and started full-on wailing.  “Uppy, uppy,” pick me up, and so I did.  Thus began our long night together — comprised of  thirty or so minutes of peaceful sleep interrupted by coughing and remembering she wanted her daddy — in various locations around the house.

We spent some time downstairs because she wanted her binky but didn’t want me to leave without her.  I was at the bottom of the stairs when I heard a thump as she apparently jumped out of the crib, and turned to find her running toward the top of the stairs.  Carrying her plus two blankies down the dark, slippery stairs was not something I wanted to do again.

We curled up on the couch together until she kicked me out of the way so that she had the big couch and I had the small one.  I piled pillows on the floor for when she would, and did, fall off which didn’t seem to bother her at all.  At the next waking, I decided she would be warmer upstairs, so picked her up and carefully navigated the stairs once more with toddler, blankies and binky in tow.

We cuddled together in the rocking chair beside her crib for the next sleep until she woke again and wanted her crib, although she clearly did not allow me permission to leave.  Baby Mozart was playing on Pandora and she also turned on another put-me-to-sleep musical device hanging inside her crib for dueling music.

I finally fell asleep in the rocking chair, reminding myself I’ve slept in much more uncomfortable airplane seats, until my phone alarm went off downstairs much earlier than we needed to get up.  As soon as I stood up, so did my sweet companion.  I asked, Do you want a clean diaper?  She nodded yes and reached for me.  We heard music coming from the boy’s room.  Is your brother playing games?  She smiled her first big smile and nodded.

She peacefully allowed the diaper change and we settled back down on the couch, she on my chest, immediately returning to sleep.  I watched the clock wondering how long it would take us to get big brother to the school bus on time, not wanting to disturb the yummy bundle on top of me to go wake him.  He came down about an hour before bus time with an art project in hand that he said needed to be finished immediately.

I well know young boys who have important things to do when the world says they have to direct their attention elsewhere.  I hoped I could handle it better than I did with my own boys, but I doubt I succeeded.  Feeling pressed for time, not wanting to miss the bus, my biggest job of the day, all my anxiety of that task from the past came flooding back.

We were moving in the right direction until I asked the boy to put on his jacket.  “I don’t need a jacket,” he announced.  My phone showed the current temperature at 37 degrees, almost snow weather.  He was unimpressed.  He didn’t know where it was and said I could find it.  I said I don’t know what it looks like.  “That’s because it’s invisible,” he replied.  I’m scrambling around for what looks like a jacket his size when here comes his little sister, binky in mouth like baby in The Simpsons, holding the jacket out to me.

We got to the bus with a full minute to spare.  Returning home, little sister and I cuddled again on the couch and fell back asleep.  My head ached along with other parts of my body and I hadn’t ingested more than a glass of water since lunch the day before.  I wondered how long I could keep up a schedule like this.  I haven’t forgotten how exhausted I was when my kids were little, but this was a reality check as to what my current body can handle versus my romanticized vision of grandparenting.

When the kids’ grandfather arrived a few hours later, I was willing to let him take over, although I was prepared to keep going having faith the Universe doesn’t give you assignments you can’t handle.  I left with a new appreciation for my current life,  how easy it is to care mostly for myself.  For that gift, I thank my friend and the Universe.  But when little sister ran over unbidden and hugged my knees, I was willing to do it all over again.

 

 

 

It’s a Thing

That last post picture of my son Elliot and me was taken at a wedding this past summer.  It was Elliot’s first wedding experience, so a big deal for him.  For me, it’s always a big deal when I get to spend extended time in his presence.  In fact, the highlight for me of the entire weekend was when he came to me (twice!) unbidden for a hug and even better, to invite me to dance.  But that’s not the point of this story.

Weddings these days are so different from when I got married.  It’s all about the bride and groom now, not the parents, as it should be.  I’ve watched close friends and family members shake their heads in confusion as their children plan weddings entirely without parental input.  “All I know is where and when to show up,” one friend told me.

I’m actually surprised young people choose to get married at all anymore.  If you look at the origin of wedding traditions, they don’t always seem to make sense in today’s culture.  I asked my nephew why he thought people are still getting married and he answered maybe it’s for the tax advantages.  This nephew and my son are both more financially astute than I ever was at their age, so good for them.

It’s fun to observe the kids at a big party like this wedding.  I noticed they have a certain way of dancing, that even my son, at his first wedding, knew about:  dancing with a beer in one hand, raised in the air.  Interesting, I thought.  Maybe a little dangerous, since a lot of the music seems to also require jumping straight up in the air.  I have to admit I was moved to do some jumping myself forgetting for the moment I have a bad joint on my right foot.  Music can do that to you.

When I commented on the beer in hand dancing, my husband said, yes it seems to be a thing.  This phrase “it’s a thing” is also a thing.  You can find out whether something is widely accepted or not by asking, Is it a thing?  Another thing I notice is how young people pose for pictures with attitude while the grownups basically stand smiling while trying not to blink.

family at wedding

I first learned this whole “it’s a thing” thing while working on assignment at a smaller store with a new group of people.  We had all new equipment including smartphone devices set up for inventory control.  One morning I couldn’t find any of the many chargers and asked the manager where they were.  “The kids take them,” he said.  Take them?  What do you mean, take them?  “It’s a thing,” he shrugged.  That’s stealing! I replied, make them give them back!  I don’t think we ever got them back.

Some things shouldn’t be a thing.

My Son’s Birthday

Today is my younger son’s birthday, Elliot is 25 years old today.  He lives a couple of hours away and came home last weekend to celebrate with us, because let’s face it, at 25, you really want to celebrate with your friends, not your parents.  I understand this and totally support whatever Elliot wants, because I have always wanted to be a cool parent,  one who puts my kids’ needs ahead of my own.

I was cool when I allowed Elliot to choose to go to private boarding school for high school because that’s what he wanted to do.  I understood that he had been to a small K-8 parochial school and had the same few friends all those years and needed to spread his wings.  I understood that he didn’t know anyone in our town who would be going to the perfectly fine local public high school, and there wasn’t much going on around our house.  Elliot wanted boarding school and I wanted that for him, although anyone who knew me when he left knew how painful it was to let him go.

Elliot made noise about going across country for college but chose a school a couple of hours away instead.  I breathed a sigh of relief knowing how hard it would be to let him go so far away, while knowing I definitely would support that decision.  I think we saw him more while he was at college than when he was in high school and enjoyed every minute.  He graduated and soon found a job (in his field!) a few hours away and I was thrilled for him and for us.

It is incredible to believe that this boy, whom I still remember bringing home from the hospital, is now 25 years old, a quarter of a century, as he points out.  I know this is a big deal from his perspective, since one of the young men at work who is also 25 uses that same language to describe how truly “old” he is.  Meanwhile, I remember our first Thanksgiving with Elliot, looking at him barely one month old in the bassinet, wishing he could stay that small.

Although I would never impose myself on him, I had requested this day off from work in case we were to spend his birthday with him.  I truly don’t mind that we didn’t; I am happy to hear how happy he is and how he is enjoying the plans his friends have made for him.  What he doesn’t know, and won’t until he has his own children, is that his birthday is really a special day for us, his parents.  It’s a celebration of one of the best days of my life as his mother.  He can’t know how much I wanted and longed for him, what a dream come true it was to have him.  But I’m happy to remember and celebrate that even if we are apart.

Happy Birthday Elliot!  XOXOXO

 

Missing Tom Petty

Three months before he died, I saw Tom Petty in concert for the second time. My sister-in-law had served as his back stage dresser when he played at Canandaigua, NY.   I hate you, I said, when she related just hanging around talking with him before the show. She didn’t even call me to come help her. She should have known better, I would have run out of work and driven the five hours in a minute if I had the chance to talk to Tom Petty and hear him in concert again.

I promptly got tickets for the next concert on the tour in Boston. You crazy girl, my sister-in-law said. I hadn’t seen him live since 2006, my first outdoor rock concert at the age of 51, at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ, with Greg Allman and his band opening. My husband generously took me there, even knowing that given the chance, I’d have run away with Tom Petty. When he walked on stage and started talking, my heart pounded. It was him, it was actually him. And Oh, the music.

I have no excuse for missing all the opportunities before and between 2006 and 2017 to see him play live. The Boston show was amazing, that night was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I listened to reports from the tour on Tom Petty Radio and heard from fans who’d been to 20, 30 or 40 concerts. Fifty-three stops on this tour and I only went to one? I wanted to fly out to LA for the last Hollywood Bowl show, an epic opportunity, but didn’t pull it off. I felt like going over and over somehow would tarnish how special it felt to see him when I did.

I told my husband’s Rotarian buddy I thought we should invite Tom Petty to next year’s Blues & Barbecue event. His music is perfect for the venue and maybe he’ll feel like sort of anonymously playing for a small crowd after his big tour. A worthy goal, he nodded (crazy girl, I am sure he was thinking). You know, I went on, I like to think I live my life with no regrets, but I realized after that concert I terribly regret never becoming a backup singer for The Heartbreakers. I’m not a great singer, but I have good pitch and love to harmonize.

Aside from Tom’s obvious adorable bad-boyness and musical talent, what I admired most about him was his humility. At the 2006 concert he repeatedly thanked the crowd and seemed genuinely touched by the obvious love everyone had for him and his music. He seemed so pleased that we knew all the words and wanted to sing along. He probably knew this long before 2006, which makes his humility even more special. Just a really good guy is how he came across.

People are saying Tom Petty plays the soundtrack of their lives, but I don’t feel exactly like that.  I can say I enjoy all his music, and he’s been a favorite all my life.  I played Refugee over and over again living single in NYC in the early 80s. I scrubbed the kitchen floor of my coffee bar on my hands and knees belting out Breakdown. Since the concert my new favorite is You Wreck Me, and I can’t stop watching him sing Fooled Again, on the New Year’s Eve 1978 video on YouTube. I’m in such pain knowing I will never hear him live again.  One friend says let’s watch concert footage and drink too much. I’m in for that.

I caught an interview video from the 90s where Tom is talking about how he writes songs. It’s like fishing he says. He goes into a room and just sits there hoping to catch something. Sometimes he catches a big one and sometimes nothing. I’m so grateful for this strategy to help me with my writing. I tend to do the opposite: Go into a room and push myself to write something. I’m going to try it his way. Obviously, it works like magic.

Hillary’s Universal Lesson

Hillary’s concession speech was probably the most important of her life.  It was the first time I ever felt she was being genuine.  I couldn’t imagine how she could speak so eloquently, cover so many points and follow a thread without any hint of prompter or notes, especially after probably being up most if not all night.  She was called out for not speaking earlier, but maybe she was so shell-shocked she just couldn’t do it.  When she finally spoke, I felt something I hadn’t felt for her before:  compassion.

Hillary’s dream of becoming the first woman president will not come true.  But rather than cursing the world for not delivering what she deserved, she found meaning in her journey and showed gratitude, tons of it.  With humility she asked everyone to give the winner a chance to lead.  Here’s someone who, as my son pointed out, has probably wanted to be president her whole life, realizing that it’s not going to happen.  What an enormous disappointment to endure.

I’ve never been a Hillary fan, but I wish her well and send her love and support.  And thank her for butting her head against that glass ceiling.  Please people, tell your crying teenagers not to despair.  The Universe knows what it’s doing.  Hillary has been given the gift of her soul’s lessons while paving the way for others to meet their destiny.  Best of all, she opened her heart and shared that message.  All is well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring On the Collective Light

We have to stop killing each other, period.  In my deepest heart I know that you cannot stop violence with more violence.  Darkness fought with darkness only feeds itself.  Negative energy attracts more, intensifies itself.

I find myself thinking back to John Lennon and Yoko Ono and their sleep-in, Give Peace a Chance.  They held the secret but not enough of us were ready to listen.  Are we now??  Or will we continue fighting back, taking revenge and seeking justice to the point of annihilation?

Only light can extinguish the darkness. There’s this tv commercial for a horror film where a shadowy boogeyman lurks in the dark.  When the light is turned on, poof, it’s gone.  Turn the light off, it’s back again.  The message is, beware what lurks in the dark!  Scary!  But it also demonstrates the simple truth:  light eliminates darkness.  We are programmed to surrender to fear and react.  We have to learn instead to turn to the light.

It’s a simple truth, obvious even.  But as a people we seem to prefer more complicated explanations, rationalizations and justifications for our actions, which if we are honest, are reflections of our fear.  We get angry, want to “make them pay.”  We may belong to any one of the many religions, non-religions or philosophies that hold forgiveness at its core yet we cannot put love into action.  We have overlooked the power of our non-reaction, a different course of action

I don’t exactly know how to transform that into world peace, but I do know that if I open my heart to divine guidance, whether it’s from God, the Universe, the Collective Intelligence or whatever you want to call it, I always receive the guidance I need so long as I am focused on the greater good.  And I believe that every one of our conscious positive intentions can combine to creative a powerful force.

I’ve always loved that old Peter Sellers movie, Being There (1979).  In it he’s a guileless man who people mistakenly take for a sage, his simple statements interpreted as deeply meaningful.  He’s just repeating what he’s learned watching television, but in the end, he walks away on water.

Baklava, the perfect ice breaker

I was planning to go away for the weekend to my husband’s annual cousins’ weekend, an event which started out years ago as a guys’ weekend, but which now includes the girls who want to join in.  I especially wanted to see my younger son who no longer lives at home and my nephew and his girlfriend who now live on the opposite coast.  I tried to get the time off from work but scrambling the schedule didn’t pan out, despite the generous efforts of teammates who were willing to switch shifts and cover for me.

I felt disappointed, but also looked forward to an open weekend around work, especially since I wasn’t scheduled to work on Sunday.  An invitation arrived via Facebook to a local musical gathering on Friday night which included the people who will be taking over the café building I once occupied.  I was tired after a busy Friday shift — which everyone agreed included more crazy customers than usual — but decided to at least stop in even though I couldn’t stay late with an early shift the following morning.

I am a late bloomer to the live music scene and possess little knowledge of bands that for many people defined their youth.  This was a Grateful Dead tribute; none of the songs on the playlist were familiar to me, but what great music!  The evening was so uplifting, I hated to leave when I knew I should.  People were talking about another party happening the next day, and the hostess, whom I knew from my café days, invited me to come.

Sleeping did not come easy, knowing how early I had to wake up, but despite that, work went well.  At lunch I mentioned the party to a co-worker and said I doubted I would go, so tired, although worrying if I didn’t go, I wouldn’t be invited in the future.  By shift end I felt so tired it was difficult driving home.  I laid down on a deck lounge chair and rested, noticing the dark clouds overhead didn’t match my phone’s insistence on 83 degrees and sunny all day.

The darkening skies mirrored my energy level.  Do I really want to go to a party?  Talk to people I don’t know after interacting all day with strangers at work?  Maybe I’m beyond the party scene, more comfortable just staying home as usual.  But then, there’s no party tomorrow, maybe I’ll be bored and sorry to have missed it.

The party was pot luck and I didn’t know what to bring, until I remembered a baklava pastry ready to bake in the freezer.  I never bake baklava straight from the freezer, would it turn out ok?  I always bake it a day ahead, would it be any good served warm?   The party started hours ago, would it still be going on by the time I baked and got there?  The pan was in the way in the freezer, why not just give it a try.

Where once I’d spend all day planning what to wear to a party, now I just changed from jeans to shorts, keeping on my work Polo.  I waited for the baklava to come out of the oven, by which time it was pouring outside with weather channel flash flood warnings and predicted hard rain all evening.  Would the party still be going on in this weather?

Thank goodness for GPS, I never would have found the place without it.  Cars were parked all over, my car’s reverse camera helped me back into a spot I hoped my Jeep could climb out of later.  So what if my hair completely frizzed out as I found my way into the house in the pouring rain with my warm baklava, good thing I was wearing flip flops.

The few people I knew welcomed me, as did a dazzling food table. Almost immediately, people came up to say how much they loved the baklava and remembered my café (nothing makes a good Greek happier than when someone likes what we cook).  I met a couple whose two daughters worked for me and so loved hearing how they’re doing now and that one of them is using what she learned at my shop in her current work.  Her mom also shared how my baklava was her father’s favorite treat in his last days.

And the music!  I must learn to play another instrument, maybe drums, maybe guitar, something!  I wanted to join these people who get together to play and sing and let it all out.  I felt the positive energy in every cell of my body.  This, I realized, was precisely the kind of “deep play” Martha Beck advises in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  I could sense its effect.  My former, then seemingly sedate, café website designer, picked up playing bass a couple of years ago with his old high school band buddies and seems looser, liberated.  Me too, please!

Preparing to leave, I received a few more baklava kudos, and we laughed as one woman actually picked up and licked the empty pan (sugar is a drug!).  Oh positivity.  I can’t say when I’ve ever so enjoyed a party, and I gratefully thanked the host and hostess who invited me to always come (I will!).  The whole evening felt like a dance, somehow, floating through the evening from one conversation to another, just … being myself.

I slept in after a great night’s sleep looking forward to the entire free day ahead.  What shall I do?  I’d like to have breakfast at the diner, but go alone?  Sure, why not?

Arguing with Reality

I’m listening to Byron Katie’s Loving What Is, the latest book in my ongoing search for self-understanding, spiritual growth, finding my path, learning how to be happy being the real me and all that stuff.  I want to make the most of what’s left of my life since passing the 60 mark has raised the red flag of how much time is left, what do I really want to do, hurry up and figure it out already.

Byron Katie’s work is based on a familiar chorus — it’s not them it’s you — and her approach is unique.  It’s called “The Work” and is based on asking yourself four questions to help guide you to a new mindset about any situation that is causing you (you are causing you) distress.

I’m only on Chapter 5, and I’m not instantly grasping the ah-ha of what she’s saying, but a couple of points are sticking, which became apparent on this morning’s track walk.  This track, with its high quality cushioned surface and sweeping views, is offered for public use by a local private high school when they are not using it.  I feel so fortunate to have it at my disposal, I suppose I’ve gotten a bit protective.  So when I see people abusing what I consider a great privilege, I get upset.

A large white sign in the adjacent parking lot states simple rules for its use, including  hours it’s open to the public, what kind of shoes are allowed, no wheels of any kind and no animals to name a few requirements.  And there’s a swing bar hanging across the first four of six lanes with the painted message “Please use outside lanes.”

Twice this week I’ve seen this one woman walking and jogging along the inside lanes.  This incenses me.  I feel like the Track Police and want to confront her as she’s walking around the swing bar to move to the inside lanes.  I argue with myself trying to come up with a way to say something, somehow, that might have a positive result, but I can’t.  I’m thinking she shouldn’t be using the inside lanes!  How dare she?  Does she think she’s special?  What reason could she possibly have for ignoring this simple rule?  Does she not appreciate how fortunate she is to have this track for her use?

Byron Katie would say two things right off the bat.  One, whose business am I in while being upset over this?  It’s not my business, it’s her business and the school’s business.  Right there, I’m causing myself grief and not living my own life, enjoying my own walk, because I’m putting myself in other peoples’ business.  Second, Byron Katie would say I’m arguing with reality because thinking “she should stay in the outside lanes” (!!) is an untrue statement because obviously she is not doing so.  Byron Katie would say “a dog barks, a cat meows and this woman walks in the inside lanes,” that’s reality.  Arguing with reality only causes the arguer pain.

I get these points and feel calmed enough not to let this ruin my walk.  I soothe myself by thinking up reasons why her behavior may be all right, anyhow.  Maybe she hasn’t noticed the message on the swing bar.  Maybe she thinks the sign only refers to the straight parts, not the curves of the track, since that’s where she’s cutting in.  Maybe she is somehow connected to the school or has received permission to use the track this way.  Maybe the school really doesn’t care that much either way.  Good for me, I can see possibilities other than she’s a jerk and I want it to stop.

I try to dismiss the whole business, but a whole other train of thought emerges.  Are we really supposed to ignore all behavior?  Aren’t we supposed to care about what’s best for the greater good?  What if the school sees that people are abusing the track and decides to close it down?  Wouldn’t that be bad for all the good people who do follow the rules?  Now I’m breaking the rules of someone else’s book about staying in the “now” and not projecting into the future.  Ugh!

I pass this woman as she’s stopped, focusing on her phone, or stopwatch or something.  I almost take a step toward her to say something, but change my mind.  Even if I handled the conversation perfectly, which I’m not likely to do, it’s bound to cause me more angst than I’m already causing myself.  I walk on and actually forget about her for awhile.

Then I see her in Lane One one more time and my untrained brain takes over.  Look at her, who does she think she is?  All sweaty, as if she’s working so hard cutting the corners of every lap, checking her watch as if she’s some kind of athlete.  She looks out of shape and probably shouldn’t be running at all.

I’ve got a lot to learn.