Monday, May 25, 2015
A break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
A missing part; gap or lacuna:
Any gap or opening.
You’re probably wondering, “What ever happened to that tall blonde that used to write?” If you live close to my mom, you check in and ask her. If you live far away, you just keep clicking the refresh button in hopes that new thoughts will appear on the page. In truth, I took an unplanned hiatus and closed down the World Wide Web to live a real world life.
This is not to say that I didn’t write. In fact, I kept writing and thinking and pondering. But most importantly, I kept living, breathing and navigating my way through the New Year. The winter here was brutal and in many ways I needed a hiatus from it all. I bundled up and I hunkered down. There were not enough dry socks or pots of tea to get through this winter, but somehow we managed.
And then the other night, on my walk home, I noticed that the blossoms were in full bloom, the snow was gone for good and the neighbor’s French windows were open. As I waited for a friend, I peered into their living room. A large farm table was lit with candles and decorated with fresh flowers. All their friends were gathered around the table, passing platters and plates of goodness. They looked so happy. While I couldn’t hear their conversations word for word, I could make out the laughter–the collective sound of friendship and good company. I couldn’t help but wonder what they were talking about. I couldn’t help but wish I could join them around the table. As I sat on my steps and watched, I thought about all the conversations they must be having, the relationships they were in, the hardships they faced, the jobs they had, the hopes and dreams of each person passing plates around and around. I wondered…What was the best part of their day?
I thought back to this amazing film called “The Lives of Others” set in 1984 in East Germany. The Stasi Captain, Gerd Wiesler spies on the playwright Georg Dreyman. Wiesler and his team bug the apartment and set up surveillance equipment in an attic and begin following Dreyman’s every move. Granted, this is an extreme, but it sparks that same curiosity of what happens behind closed doors? What happens beyond the French windows of the apartment across the street? What is their story? Who are they? What do they do? Where were they all winter?
One of the most popular things to do in New York is people watch. There is no shortage of good people watching. I always say that New York is like a giant human exhibition. It is a walking, living and breathing gallery of people from all over the world–every style, every height, size, color, personality, voice, and story. The entrance fee is stamina (having the energy to keep your eyes open and following it all). The show is ongoing. I forget this sometimes, look down and drown it all out.
But then I am reminded again that I am part of this exhibition. Sitting at a bar with my guy, he leaned over and reminded me to look up from my drink saying, “Look at that couple over there. What do you think they are talking about? Where are they from? Where do they live? How long do you think they have been together?” We made up their story. They weren’t that happy. She had moved for him. He was settling. His hand resting on his forehead said it all. He had regrets, even his draft choice. She was fed up, pulling out her phone and scrolling through old screen shots pretending to be busy. They left the bar with their glasses half full.
And I said, “What do you think they would say about us?”
His reply, “We are perfect.”
Of course we are not. Of course this is never true. No one is perfect–not even the dinner party across the street. But we can make-believe. We can dream. We can pretend.
This cup is for open windows, good conversation and fiction.
Spring is in the air and my hiatus might be over.
Listen. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of a new year.
Today it snowed–the first dusting of the (new) year. It was that slushy stuff, the kind that drips into the small openings of your jacket, steams up the back of your neck, drenches those few hairs that strayed from your hood and turns your mascara into dark mice under your eyes. Despite my cold and soggy edges I could sense 2015 settling in. It’s like a new friend who you have just met. It’s a familiar stranger. This is a year that we are just getting to know. Hi, nice to meet you.
As I puddled out into the white and grey coldness to meet a friend at one of our secret spots for chai and good company I got to thinking about new years resolutions. Earlier in the week I had been adamant about making a list, forcing friends to ponder what they really wanted to do to make 2015 the best it could be. As per usual, we brainstormed the common humdrum: better eating, more exercise, more sleep. My list felt unsatisfactory. 2014 was a year full of so many rare gems, many of which I didn’t plan for. And so this year I have decided to throw out the list. The only rule that I will take from 2014 is to be ready, be spontaneous and follow my gut. Life is a balance. It is not about frontloading all of the things that we haven’t accomplished or didn’t perfect at the beginning of a new year. I have to ask myself, will getting down on the floor to hold a plank make me a better person in 2015? A happier person? Maybe. Stronger? Sure, if I kept it up. But it is more likely that heading out into the cold to meet a friend will better serve my needs in the short and long term, making me stronger and happier all around.
This year I want to set my standards high. I want to hold out for the best things. I refuse to settle. But don’t confuse these ideals with “resolutions”–these are not resolutions, these are my rules. This is my lifestyle.
“We were not put here on this earth to barely squeak by and settle for a lukewarm, watered-down version of life, or to live in fear of what other people will think. Our lives can’t rise any higher than our standards. Rise above settling in life or in love. And next time someone tells you your standards are too high, don’t apologize. Tell them, “Thank you.” The standards you set determine the life you get. And those who know their worth don’t even entertain the lesser things. They hold out for the best things.” –Mandy Hale
Get ready 2015! I am not slowing down for anyone.
This cup is for Hannah and Alyssa (because you can keep up with me)
And for Maynard (who sets a standard we should all live up to, year round.)
Thursday, December 11, 2014
“We each get one life and that’s it. We get one shot at this, and we don’t get any do-overs, and for me, it was time to put up or shut up and the way I saw it I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I am just a hopeless romantic, and I am an idealist, and I believe in hopeless causes.” –Peter Kassig
This has been tucked away in the deepest corners of my heart, carried along with me throughout the day and is a constant reminder of why I am here, why I do what I do, why I am who I am, and why I am so incredibly thankful.
November was the month of thanks and giving, and while I am so glad that we take time to slow down, gather, give and reflect, I can’t help but be thankful more than just one month of the year. My thanks and giving extends well beyond the dinner table, surrounded by friends and family. My thanks and giving reaches around the world as I think about what our global community is currently facing, what our world is enduring and what actions still need to be done–what giving is still left to do.
I am thankful that I strive to be part of the solution and not the problem. I am thankful that I would rather spend my whole life giving than receiving. As I reached for hands to hold around the table this thanksgiving, I quietly thought of the five Level 3 emergencies* that are taking place around the world; Central African Republic, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Ebola. I thought about the real definition of sacrifice, of what each of us would give to make the world a better place. For some of us, it is far too little, for others it is far too much.
Giving can be difficult–how much is enough? To who? For how long? Some people will only give in exchange for a return. How will I benefit? Where will my contribution shine and my difference be seen? Giving can come with bragging. “You should thank me” or “If it wasn’t for me, none of this would happen” or “pat yourself on the back.” Giving can raise uncertainty. Will this work? What are the short-term goals? What are the long-term goals? Giving can push demands. Where are the results? What is the fastest solution? Why can’t I see immediate results? Or, raise the argument that giving alone simply isn’t enough. Giving can come in so many shapes and sizes. It isn’t always a money order. It isn’t always a check. Sometimes it is taking a risk, rolling up your shirtsleeves, holding your breath and stepping out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it is the heavy lifting, the serving, the handholding, the listening, the door holding, the packaging, sending and unloading. Whatever size or weight, there is no doubt that giving can feel good. I made a difference. I am a small step in the right direction. I am creating positive change. I know I am part of a larger, greater good.
For the rare gems in the world, giving is a part of them, it runs in their veins and they don’t even think about the “action” of giving, they are only concerned with the “reaction” of those receiving. Peter Kassig was this person. James Foley was this person. Steven Sotloff was this person. David Haines was this person. Alan Henning was this person, and many others.
This level of giving, of sacrifice, is impossible for most of us to imagine. This level of innate “call to action” can seem almost silly to some. However, for folks like Kassig, Foley, Sotloff, Haines, and Henning, this is what they, what we, were put on this earth to do. We were put on this earth to help one another, to have each other’s back, even when it is sometimes the back of someone else who is on the other side of the world. This can be the back of someone we don’t even know, someone who seems completely different from us, but in actuality, is probably very similar.
I have this call to action on a constant loop in my head. I think about it every day. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people with that same giving loop. Like Kassig, I would say that I am a hopeless romantic, and I am an idealist and I do believe in hopeless causes, because I see hope. I see the potential for change, for peace, for a solution. However, this week, my heart felt heavy. Sometimes the weight of this worlds problems seem too large, too complex, and too deep to bear. But as human beings we are incredibly resilient. We are incredibly strong. And in this time of giving, of gathering, of reflecting, I feel hopeful. I feel hopeful for today, tomorrow and the next day and I am most thankful for that.
This cup is for all those hopeless romantics who believe in hopeless causes.
* UNICEF’s Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure, categorizes UNICEF’s humanitarian response into three levels: - Level 1: a country office can respond using its own staff, funding, supplies and resources; - Level 2: a country office receives some outside support from headquarters, regional office, other country office; and - Level 3: an institution-wide mobilization is called for. Level 3 is defined on the basis of five criteria: scale, urgency, complexity, capacity and reputational risk.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
I can’t sleep. This is about the millionth night in a row where I am flat on my back, wide-awake. As I shed layers, add layers, kick, toss and turn, put my hair up, take my hair down, wander in and out of my kitchen, socks or no socks, window open or closed, I have decided that there are two reasons for this sleeplessness. The first reason–my rem cycle is attached to a different planet. My sleep strings are being pulled in a different direction, a different time zone that didn’t exist in Turkey, wasn’t found in Greece, was lost in Oregon, was absent in Colorado, and has been missing since returning back to Brooklyn. The second reason that I can’t sleep–I think 25 is for the birds and my mind is restless.
25 is a sticky mess of trying to “live in the moment” and “make plans” all at the same time. I juggle with this notion that we all need to be “planners” and “go-getters.” In a city like New York, you would miss everything if you started to plan. Planning will get you about as far as a cup of coffee, and even then, it is better to approach the register and make a last minute decision, then to plan before hand. Tall? Grande? Caffeine? Decaf? Hot? Cold? If I had planned to be where I am now, I never, ever would be sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn, with the job that I have in my cozy apartment. New York is not a place for planners. This is one of the reasons that I have come to like New York so well–it never requires a plan or asks for one. If you plan for the train, you will miss it. If you plan for a fresh bagel, they will all be sold out. If you plan for a brunch at your favorite brunch spot, the wait will be a day and a year. If you plan to stay in your apartment, your landlord will raise the rent by $200.00, forcing you to move out. If you plan to stay at your job, they will hire you as a temp, and give you 6 months notice to vacate. If you plan to meet the man of your dreams on the streets of New York, you will be wandering around this city until you have blisters the size of golf balls around your heels. New York expects you to keep your chin up, to jump on the first opportunity or sublet that pops up, and to go with your gut. New York expects you to eavesdrop, landing you a job through gossip and mingling. New York pushes you to your limits, moving you forward, and insists that you keep up. In New York, gut instinct is the key to survival, and planning would only slow you down and set you back.
At 25, the roads diverge between the “planners” and the “gut-followers.” Planners begin to settle, they usually have a front lawn, and they are meticulous in what will happen today, tomorrow, and next year. They plan around numbers– age, bank accounts, zip codes, area codes, 401-K’s. They strive to make long lists, checking off every box, and focus much more what “needs to happen.” The “gut-followers” prefer to be surprised and live moment to moment. They travel light, refuse to land in one place, and are constantly on the move. “Gut-followers” rarely follow the rules, drawing outside the lines and strive on being “different.” They don’t worry about the long term and figure that everything will work out one way or another.
This isn’t to say that you can’t be a little bit of both…but at 25, we begin think harder about the life that we want to live and how we will live it out. Only a few generations ago, everyone was a planner. Once you got a job, that was the job that you had for the rest of your life. Once you got married, you bought a house and settled down. Today, there are endless options. Jobs come and go, we are transient, exploring (for some of us, well beyond our comfort zone) all the possibilities, and if you are like me, having too many plans would get in the way of all that life has to offer. However, I want to be clear–“gut-followers” can get a bad rap. We are not as careless as we may seem. We are not flakey. We are not as haphazard as it might appear. We want everything that “planners” want. Chances are, we have a plan, it just isn’t set in stone. We are flexible. The “gut-followers” just don’t want everything mapped out, they don’t want to be told what to do, they don’t need all the answers right away, and they see themselves getting to the same place as the planner, using a different route, a different timeline and prefer to be surprised.
Curled up in a cozy armchair on the upper westside, I held my brand new niece. At a week old, the world is her oyster, and she doesn’t need to have a plan. She is free to live the life that she chooses. She can plan as little or as much as she wants. And while I hope to be there for every milestone she encounters, every setback, every leap forward, every achievement, I want her to know that as a native New Yorker, she should follow her gut and:
“Dream, dream, dream the craziest dreams.” – Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu
…Because 25 years ago no one would have ever planned or imagined that I would be sitting on the upper westside with my brother and sister-in-law and baby Matilda sipping a latte in New York City. And because all of us followed our gut—here she is and here we are.