The More Time and Less Time of Stopping

I recently went through a period where I had trouble feeling grateful for things. I wrote about some of my struggles in What Happens When You Start Feeling Empty – I came to a point where I realized I was having difficulties accessing any feelings at all, never mind grateful, peaceful ones.

I’ve started to come out of that funk, at least for awhile, and I think the return of some peace in my life has a lot to do with having gone through the emptiness in the first place, acknowledged it, and just stopped.

Stopped. Cold.

Instead of trying to push through the empty feeling and just get it out of my life by sheer force, I sat with it. I stopped what I was doing- the things I could stop anyway- the busyness and busy rituals that I felt I needed to do but actually didn’t. The emptiness was trying to tell me something and I needed to listen. Jane talks about sitting with feelings of sadness in her last post The Solstice and Acknowledging the Harder Parts of the Holidays. I think you can sit with any feeling, including an empty lack of feeling.

I turned the non-feelings over in my head. I wrote about them here. And then, slowly, painstakingly at first, the feelings changed. And I changed what I was doing. Tiny, experimental changes. I starting a new morning ritual instead of my beloved meditating. I exercised in a different way. I started seeing more friends and changed my work habits a bit. I read a different book.

I didn’t make major changes. Just small ones that felt a bit better. And then I started to feel a bit better.

I didn’t have any more time in my life to sit with my thoughts or change my routines or stop what I was doing. But time is a funny thing. It’ll expand when something is important to you.

Even though the holidays are busy and stressful sometimes, give yourself the gift of your own time for awhile. Peace will come.

And isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway?




How Much Have You Forgotten By Your Thirties?

I finally saw Inside Out tonight. It’s a movie that all of my favorite people have been raving about and begging me to go see. I’d only heard amazing things about it, and Jane even mentioned and exalted it in her last post, Shake It Up, Mix It Together, and Reassemble. The movie was as good as everyone said it would be- in fact, I think it was even better than all the hype. It has become my absolute favorite Pixar movie.

Warning: Inside Out spoiler alert ahead…stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie…and go see it.

There were quite a few moments in the movie that left me in tears..sometimes happy ones and sometimes really sad ones. One of the saddest moments for me was the disappearance of the protagonist, Riley’s, imaginary friend, Bing Bong. This imaginary friend was walking with another character, Joy, through the land of forgotten memories, and while he was there, he started to fade. First he lost a piece of hand, and then an arm, and then, in a moment of sacrifice, he let himself stay in forgotten memory land and fade away completely in order to let Joy escape.

When Bing Bong faded away, I lost it. I started weeping uncontrollably once Bing Bong was gone, even though I kind of saw it coming. And I saw it coming because I couldn’t remember my imaginary friend. Maybe I never even had one. Or maybe I forgot him or her. But it didn’t matter because that memory was gone. And so were many other memories from my childhood.

There’s so much we remember, and so much that fades. At this point we have 30-something years of memories. I realized recently that many of the memories I have repeat themselves over and over. The others are simply gone. It feels like such a shame to lose so much time but I guess that’s essentially part of the process of growing up. And we never stop growing up. Just because we’re already adults doesn’t mean that the growing up stops. It just keeps going and evolving. And fading.

As much as I uselessly grieved tonight over lost memories I can never get back, I was grateful for the ones I still have and for the present moment, where I can experience new things that aren’t gone or only memories yet. The disappearance of most memories is a darn good reason to try even harder to appreciate the present moment and to stay in the now- if you don’t grab onto the moment as it happens, you won’t ever experience it again and you may not even remember that it existed at all.

Disney Pixar Inside Out Bing Bong 01

Are There New Feelings In Your Thirties?

Do you ever feel like you’ve experienced the full spectrum of your feelings by the time you’re in your thirties?

You may not know how you’re going to feel in every scenario, but when a feeling arises, you’ve probably felt it before. After all, once you’re in your thirties, you start recognizing different versions of the same scenarios repeating again and again…so you start to get familiar with the feelings that come up again and again…like a familiar mix and match.

I never consciously felt like I’d experienced the full gamut of my feelings, but unconsciously, I thought that there were no new feelings under the sun for me.

Then today a wonderful and very exciting thing happened and I sort of couldn’t believe it. Afterwards, I almost went into shock. I felt all tingly and almost exhausted, but also sort of glowing and dreamy and unreal. It was a new feeling, which I dubbed ‘happy shock.’ I didn’t remember feeling it before. I knew ‘bad, unhappy shock’ or just plain ‘shock’ but ‘happy shock’ was a new one. And it was really exciting.

Later, I saw a play that a friend of mine wrote. It was extremely sad, and I couldn’t stop crying throughout most of it. Usually, even when plays are sad, it’s very rare that I cry and feel so connected to and affected by what’s happening. The play was extremely well-written, so that was definitely a part of it, but I think the new ‘happy shock’ feeling earlier just opened me up to my emotions in general. Perhaps one new feeling can start a bunch more.

Do you ever experience feelings you’ve never had before? Are there multiple ones yet to discover?

Phone a Friend

Phone a Friend

“Have you meditated today? Maybe that would help.”

“I DID meditate, actually. Twice, Jane! I meditated twice already!”

It’s a rare day I meditate twice in a row, especially before noon, but the other day it felt necessary. I woke up in an anxious and out of sorts mood. Ironically, I’d been having a great week. I’d been writing a ton, seeing lots of friends and family, had been off from work for awhile, had run 10 miles the day before, and was blazing through my to do list.

I should be able to calm myself down now that I’m in my thirties, I kept repeating to myself- I should have it together by now- I’m a frigging adult! All my days should be happy and bright! After all, I meditate these days. I’m in the flow of love, dammit!!

But it didn’t matter. It wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough.

So I called Jane- my trusty co-blogger and best friend- and talked it out. I went through all the reasons I felt anxious…most of which were silly and repetitive. It actually took a lot of digging to get to the reasons- at first I was like I have no idea why I’m anxious..why the hell am I anxious???

But then things started to become clear as I talked.

Do you want me to make you feel better about any of your anxious days and actually list some of the dumb things that were upsetting me? A little schadenfreude for ya? 😉 Ok, for you I will.

  • I was upset that someone asked me to choose a new restaurant and I couldn’t think of one..not the perfect one, anyway. This made me anxious. (I told you…so ridiculous!)
  • I felt like I didn’t meditate ENOUGH…or that I couldn’t absorb my meditations. (Ahh, whyyy??)
  • I felt like there was still so much I. Had. To. Doooo. (And my lists included crazy long items like ‘find your real passion’, ‘go after new sources of income,’ ‘complete hours of online marketing classes,’ ‘discover meaning of life’, etc (okay, maybe not exactly that last one…)
  • I felt like my days off were passing me by and I kept getting sucked into Google and Facebook vortexes (ahh, this STILL upsets me now, haha..)

But when I called Jane and just talked on and on (even when it was repetitive), I started to feel better. I calmed down a bit.

Even though none of the things on my crazy to do list had gotten done while I was talking, and Jane had heard it all before, it just helped to talk.

And it helped to have someone just listening. Happily. Patiently. Again. And again. And again.

Thank you, Jane.

Do you have friends like that? Or maybe a family member? A coworker? Or even a therapist?

I try hard to be that kind of friend. Because I really think it’s everything to be heard when you’re feeling anxious..or even when you just want to talk about nothing. Even if- ESPECIALLY IF- you feel like you’re being repetitive. Or ridiculous.

There are going to be those crazy weird days, even if most days are good…even if you’re a spiritual, flow of love optimist. It’s the way of the world!

So phone a friend when it happens. Talk it out. It may actually make your day better.

  • This is probably not the phone you'd want to use, though.
    This is probably not the phone you’d want to use, though.

The Happy Shuttle Driver

When I got on the FlyAway Shuttle to LAX this morning, I was greeted by an incredibly friendly, happy driver. He immediately started talking about growing up in LA, his love of driving, his nine uber-close siblings, and his passion for motorcycles.

There was a lot of talk of pranks played as children, precocious brothers and sisters, and flying home for the holidays. I laughed so hard I nearly cried as he told story after zany story.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the driver said, in the same even tone of voice he’d been using before, ‘My two best friends just died.’

I jerked my head hard as if I’d been slapped. The comment was completely out of nowhere. “Oh god- I’m so sorry!” I said. There was a silence. I squirmed. I didn’t want to pry.

He opened up without me asking. “We were all part of a motorcycle group. We did daredevil stunts and jumps and all kinds of tricks that most motorcyclists won’t do. Then one day we went to a motorcycle meet, and I was watching as my friend pulled his motorcycle out of the garage. A drunk driver came by and hit him then, and he was dead on the spot. He was just pulling out of the garage..”

“Oh my god,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. “That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t even the motorcycle that got him killed. It was a drunk driver.” He paused for a second, and then continued in the same even tone, “the other one too. My other best friend…hit by a drunk driver. I was actually working my shift at the time, driving the FlyAway Shuttle, and I looked over into the lane next to me. For his birthday, I’d given my friend a pair of sneakers he’d wanted, as a gift. And I looked over that day. And I saw a sneaker, the same sneaker…all alone, all by itself. And I wasn’t able to stop and see anything other than that sneaker, but I found out later. My friend had been cycling down the freeway, and a drunk driver started going the wrong direction. My friend swerved and was thrown from the bike. He still had one sneaker on. He died, and I just happened to drive by right then. It was too late. Both of them hit by drunk drivers.”

I was heartbroken. How was it that underneath this man’s happy exterior was the darkest, most earth-shattering sadness? And before we got to LAX, he continued his stories, telling me he’d been a shuttle driver for over 10 years and that he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. “It’s good,” he said, “It keeps my mind off the hard things. It’s very good to be distracted.” And he smiled.

We arrived at the airport and bid our farewells. I’m shaken by the deep pain hidden under his smiling stories. Shaken by his love of his job for the saddest of reasons…and if the shuttle ride had been just a bit shorter, I would never have known.

You never know what people have going on under their happy, smiling exteriors.

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