Peace Transferred

Today when we were flying back from vacation, my son leaned over to rest his head in my lap. I was reminded what a gift that is.

Many times in my life I have noticed what it does to me physically as well as emotionally when I am holding my son or a tiny baby or a pet in my lap or against my chest. A couple of things happen: when a living creature is resting on us, they are immediately entrusting themselves to our care. That sounds clinical. What I mean/feel is that they are allowing themselves to be so vulnerable, and they open their hearts to us and show us, “Here I am. Could we just be together for a few minutes? Could you hold me and protect me and look after me while we breathe together?” And not only do I feel humbled and thankful and so very connected in those moments, but I also feel empowered and called to protect and love, and suddenly my priorities are completely in order, and everything else must come second to caring for the life in my arms.

Something else that always amazes me and goes straight to my heart is how, when the person or creature relaxes into us once they feel safe, there is a peace that emanates from their body that is effortlessly transferred to us. My whole being is transformed.

I read a question in a survey recently that was trying to project what kind of future you’d have. It asked, “Are you high tech or high touch?” This reminded me of the first time I heard something like this, when Teresa Eyring, the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group, noted that as the world grows more high tech, we crave human touch. We crave connection. We crave being present in the moment with another person. It’s definitely part of what moves me so deeply about theater and about being an actor: that shared moment in time where we are all connected and breathing the same air and going through something together. And it’s what moves me more and more each day in terms of compassion and connection and why I believe we are on the planet.

It’s kind of like the moon. I love the moon. I have several friends across the country who love the moon like I do, and invariably, on a night when the moon really moves one of us, I will text one of them with “MOON!!”, or one of them will text me. And in that moment, no matter where we are or how long it’s been since we have seen each other, we know we’re looking at the same moon and are connected and are sharing in that moment in time.

I believe there is a peace that comes when we are connected, even if it’s in an extremely difficult moment. And maybe it’s impossible to tell who initiates that peace, or maybe it is born out of the moment itself.

What I do know is that more and more I find myself saying, “We’re all in this together.” And I am really thankful for that.

Joy Begets Joy.

Yesterday I felt like the world was bathed in joy. There were so many moments that made my heart overflow — and they were all moments of human connection, with loved ones, with family, with friends, and they all arose out of us being truly present in the moment. I’m still smiling as they stay in my heart and as I strive to hold them there, not let them replaced by anything lesser. I know the day will eventually fade. But maybe I find ways to hold onto some of the moments or at least that “bathed in joy” feeling. I’m so grateful.

Today I was watching this video that’s gone viral:

Now, I know sometimes these things are staged, and often I am too gullible. But even if this was staged, it has brought so much joy as it’s made it’s way around the world. And if it’s real, well, then, it’s got to be one of the most wonderful examples of joy begetting joy I’ve ever seen.

Those people shared in a moment in time. And they didn’t let their inhibitions get the best of them. In fact, they couldn’t help but be moved by the laughter into laughter, by the joy into joy of their own.

Today when I picked my son up from camp, he was so happy. He kept telling me how “awesome” his day was. He was so happy that I couldn’t help but be happy. Granted, he’s my son, but he was just so genuinely ebullient that I’m pretty sure he would have brought me a smile even if he weren’t my wee one.

When my son was tiny and his joy was clearly bringing me joy. Happy sigh.

When my son was tiny and his joy was clearly bringing me joy. Happy sigh.

I love how joy can sneak up on us and open our hearts without us even trying. Joy is alive, it is immediate, it is present, it is RIGHT NOW, it is Quick Wonder.*

To feel joy necessitates an open heart. An open heart naturally fosters connection. Genuine joy can’t be stopped, won’t be held back. We crave that joy, that connection, I believe.

I wish you joy, and I know your joy will beget more for the world.

https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/quick-wonder/

P.S. My son and he exclaimed, “You cannot contain the joy! We must release it into the wild!”  Amen. 🙂

Stillness Reflection

It is quiet now, and there is a palpable stillness that fills my heart with peace.

I am reminded of a time, a moment  of stillness I will never forget and will keep close in my heart all my life. Years ago, my very dear friend asked if I would be present (along with her husband at the time) for the birth of their second child. I was deeply honored and readily said yes. One night it was time, and off we went to the birthing center in the hospital while their much-loved 2 year old stayed home with grandmother. My friend astonished me with her grace and strength in bringing that sweet tiny somebody into the world: my friend always astonishes me with her grace and strength, and this was a new level I hadn’t been able to imagine (my son was still many years away from being born). After her delivery of this amazing little girl, my friend drifted into a greatly earned sleep. Father asked if I would mind staying a bit longer, staying with my friend and their newborn long enough for him to run home and check on their other daughter and the grandmother. Of course I was overjoyed to stay.

So I found myself there in the middle of the night, for it was about midnight, sitting in a rocking chair, high up in a tall hospital building in the midst of crazy, wonderful Manhattan, holding this tiny marvel, this precious child, this gift to the Universe. And everything was so, so still. My friend was gently sleeping right there in the room with us. All was perfectly quiet. And this sweet tiny someone and I shared this moment in time that I will never, ever forget. I try to recall this memory with some regularity so that I never let it go. So that she stays right there in my heart, and so that that moment of utter Grace, of what, after yesterday’s exploration, I now believe was Quick Wonder,* never leaves me. So that I can honor that moment in time, that beloved baby (who is now an extraordinary young woman), and her mother who is one of those friends whom I will love to the end and beyond.

As I write this, I am having what my son and I call “happy tears. ” There is something about stillness. It can be so scary sometimes. It can feel impossible to bear. It can be maddening or give way to melancholy. But  it can also be genuinely awesome. It can open our hearts in a way we’ve never experienced. When we can be still, we can be present to Quick Wonder: we can be fully connected to the wonder of living, of being, of sharing in a moment in time.

I am so grateful for you, sweet tiny somebody. I’m so, so very glad you came into this world.

* https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/quick-wonder/

 

Hope in My Kitchen.

Dear World,

I’m really sorry. I feel like I messed up a lot today. Sigh. Embarrassed sigh.

I just walked into my kitchen and stared at the walls and my refrigerator. I realized that today I let myself get dragged. Bigtime.

dragged

That lives on my fridge.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

The thing is, I knew I was letting myself get dragged, and I didn’t stop it. I just let the negativity run wild and let myself be ruled.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

So.

It is with genuine humility that I ask, “Could we please start today over?” I know this day is already nearing an end. But this is in my kitchen, too, and for good reason.

never too late

Amen.

P.S. Kairos moment* The numerous times my son’s sweet spirit has been present in the world today and how that sweetness has run straight through to my heart. Amen again.

*https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/gratitude-is-an-action-word/

Gratitude is an action word.

I was introduced to the notion of Kairos time by Glennon Doyle Melton aka Momastery:

http://momastery.com/blog/2012/01/04/2011-lesson-2-dont-carpe-diem/

I love her humor and humility as she shares this notion with us, but I so deeply respect her ability to intentionally be present with and for her Kairos moments in day, even if there’s just a tiny one that only lasts 2 seconds. The way she describes it, it seems those moments are the “what matter” moments, the “why we are here” moments. Those moments in which something usually manages to open our hearts, to connect us with each other or the Universe or God – connect us to something outside ourselves that gives us a deep, happy sigh when we can step outside ourselves and think and feel “I’m so glad I was here to be part of this moment.” Here as in here-on-earth here.

I also love what good old Wikipedia says about Kairos. As opposed to Chronos, chronological time, Kairos is “a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.”* A moment in which everything happens. How marvelous is that. I can’t even quite wrap my head around that idea, but my heart seems to understand it.

I was thinking back over my day, and I realize there were many Grace-filled, Love-filled moments in which “everything happened.”

Early in the day I came across a friend’s post on Facebook which simply read, “Love is a verb.” Boom, I felt my heart open.

This afternoon my son had to face an emotionally challenging situation, and the person assigned to help us was so kind and human that when we left, my son said to me, “That was actually fun.” Deep breath. Heart open. Seriously grateful.

Later in the day I took my son to a playdate. Very shortly after I dropped him off, his friend’s mother (whom I feel lucky to call my friend, too) texted me, “I love your son so much. He is delightful.” Heart now floating on a cloud of gratitude.

Tonight, a friend I’ve never met went above and beyond to send me a message and share something with me he thought might speak to me. Grace and Kairos from afar.

And in the wake of some really tough moments yesterday, and in being able to explore Shame vs. Brutal Truth** with a loved one and here with you in the ether, there is a new peace in my heart. Deep breath of Kairos in. Deep breath of Kairos out.

Gratitude

When my friend posted “Love is a verb,” I immediate also thought of “Gratitude is an action word.” So for these Kairos moments, for the connections I have been part of today, I am deeply grateful.

One last thought/feeling. Reading this was a Kairos moment, too. And while we may not need to figure it all out, I am very thankful to get to keep exploring life, to love life, and to be loved back.

SweatpantsAndCoffee.com

SweatpantsAndCoffee.com

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

**https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/brutal-truth/

It all matters.

Every tiny bit of ourselves that we put into the world matters.

I was in a store the other day and heard a father talking calmly and lovingly but firmly with his little girl (who was maybe 4 or 5). He was talking to her about kindness and respect and her behavior and how she needed to listen to her mother and do what her mother said. Their discussion went on for quite a while in a quiet, engaged way, and I caught at least one other woman in line with us looking over and smiling at the father. I was so moved by his presence in the moment (being truly there and connected with his daughter), by his commitment to wanting to help his daughter grow into a kind, respectful person, by his honesty, by his willingness to take this moment in public to have this discussion right then, that when I finished checking out, I looped back around to tell him what an amazing father I knew he was and that I believed what he was doing for his daughter was so wonderful and important and to keep at it. The other woman who had been listening, too, jumped in and agreed with my sentiments. I think we lifted him up a bit. I hope we did. I believe no matter what it is – whether you like someone’s blouse or shoes, or are moved by an act of a stranger’s kindness, or feel the love a parent has in doing what’s best for their child even if it causes a scene or even if it’s the harder thing to do in the moment, I believe life is too short not to share what has moved us and thank that person or acknowledge that person and share the tiniest moment in time. I’ve never had anyone look at me like I was crazy for connecting with them in this way. There is always a brief smile and the tiniest inhale of “thank you” which is usually then verbalized, too. Certainly when people do that for me, it runs straight to my heart and lives there for a bit, and sometimes for a long while. And while I may have complimented him, what that father did is still resonating with me several days later, as you can tell. I think when you see someone else’s heart so open, it can’t help but open yours a bit, too.

Jonathan Fields, creator of the Good Life Project, once said, “Never forget that what you put into the world matters, even if it’s just to one person, even if it’s just to you, even if it’s just a little bit. And that’s enough.” To this I say Amen, Onward, and YES.

The Spinning World

When my world gets turned upside down in an instant, I often go into a fog where I exist in what I like to call “emergency disaster mode,” that way of being where you put one foot in front of the other and do what must be done to get through the present trauma, whatever that made be. My family loves and often hearkens back to Mignon McLaughlin’s words, “the only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.” And then as the fog starts to lift, you see that the world around you has continued spinning in your absence and that life goes on.

I marvel at the resilience of children. They often have moments of deep emotional torrent – be it a desperate tantrum or facing a truly awful situation. In the case of the tantrum, they can go from the depths of their perceived despair to a light and happy disposition literally from one second to the next. In facing genuinely devastating or painful experiences, even if it takes a bit of time, they so often move forward with a  joyful Grace that appears to have given them wings. It seems to me that they must understand on some level that life goes on.

It’s not that children don’t feel their hurt fully and genuinely in the moment. I so believe they do. But as we get older and have been hurt more by the world and perhaps understand that hurt more deeply, it becomes hard to let the hurt go. Self-preservation kicks in, and rightly so, and we do what we must to protect our hearts. But might it be possible to be present with the hurt, to experience it, acknowledge it, feel it with every fiber – and then release it into the spinning world?

Okay, so this can be so. hard. to. do. I certainly haven’t found the magic wings children seem to have. I wonder if it’s because their hearts are so very open. Like how a little one will walk straight up to you and share whatever happens to running across their sweet brains in that moment. Because it wouldn’t occur to them that you wouldn’t be interested, not because they are arrogant but because they are reaching out to connect with you and why wouldn’t you want to share in that moment with them? I love the beautifully random things wee ones share because the moment is there. I love peacocks!

My friend Brandon once said, “May we have the courage to wholeheartedly engage all parts of our story.” This went straight to my heart, and I wrote it down and keep it on my refrigerator so I can be reminded of it every day. I think children and truly open-hearted people are able to engage all parts of their stories: feel each part deeply, be connected, but not let one part of the story dominate their beings. Because if we let one part dominate, at least for too long, we lose site of our whole story, we lose sight of the full being we are.

May we find the courage, from one moment to the next, to feel deeply with our whole hearts while never forgetting the lovely spinning world that invites us to jump in when we are ready.

How was your day?

How was your day?

Yes, your day. I’d like to hear how your day was, so if you feel like writing a note to let me know, I hope you will.

My son, who is not quite 10, has recently been asking me every day when I pick him up from summer camp, “How was your day?”  He’s done this on and off over the last year, and it’s always a really lovely moment that catches me by surprise. While I certainly try to instill courtesy and empathy in him, he’s still a relatively wee one, and I don’t expect him to ask about my day. So lately he’s been asking me every day, and it fills my heart with this huge smile, and even if it had been a rough day, it’s like in that moment, suddenly it’s all okay.

I’ve had occasion over these last few months to reflect on what it is to be heard, what it is to have your presence acknowledged (which can be done with as simple as question as “How was your day?” I’ve discovered to my delight!). It started when I was expressing frustration to a kind friend about a repeated lack of response from a person I regularly had to interact with. She said, “It sounds like you want more attention from this person.” The hackles went up on the back of my neck, and I declared I did not want attention from this person (it wasn’t someone I was close to). She clarified that she meant that I needed acknowledgment, I needed response to my necessary correspondence with this person: I needed to be heard, and it was that lack of acknowledgment that had me tied in knots. When we don’t really hear someone, it’s like we’re saying, “You’re not really there.” Bam. Yes. That was it. I just wanted to be heard, needed to be heard. Even a 1 line email back saying, “I got your email – will get back to you soon” would have been enough.

[down-the-garden-path-sidenotes: 1) as I write this, I’m reminded of Tom Stoppard’s beautifully heartbreaking definition of death in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: “it’s the absence of presence, nothing more.” Perhaps this is too dramatic (no pun intended), but might it be fair to offer that when someone doesn’t acknowledge your presence, it’s a tiny death? This is not to suggest our self-worth should be bound up in other people all the time. Far from it. But if you are in any kind of ongoing situation where you must interact with another person who refuses to acknowledge you, it’s certainly a slippery slope to hang on to your own sense of existing. Maybe? 2) Tom Stoppard is my favorite playwright.]

Shortly after this mini-epiphany (thanks to my friend), I was reading the extraordinary Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. This book is a compilation of letters and her responses from her advice column, “Dear Sugar.” Ms. Strayed’s responses are always raw and beautiful and honest and sometimes really funny! and in-your-face in the best of ways. And what really struck me and has stayed with me, even if she lovingly bops the letter-writer on the head and says, “Wake up! It’s time for a new path!”, is that she always, always, always opens her response with an acknowledgement of what the writer has been through, and she expresses concern for the writer’s very being. And in doing so, she genuinely creates a place for trust and growth.

So I have come to believe that one of the greatest forms of compassion is giving another person a moment, a word, that expresses, “I hear you. I see you.” Sometimes we just need to be heard. Sometimes all we need is for someone to hear us or really see us in the moment. Be present with us.

Sometimes it does a world of good to have your sweet son simply ask, “So how was your day?”

Dear World, Here is my heart.

When I was getting my sweet son to sleep tonight, he said something wonderfully silly, as he often does. I hugged him and called him my “Sillybean,” as I often do. And he sleepily, lovingly, heart-fully muttered, as he was drifting off, “But I’m a good one, right?” I assured him he was the best Sillybean ever and that I love him very much.

My son is sleeping soundly now. And I am now writing to you, dear world.

(and our hamster Roly Poly is running with all her might on her Flying Saucer.)

Life is good.

Dr. Brene Brown wrote that “to practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people all around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.'” When I first read that on the door of my then-yoga studio (a wonderful place where you’re given a generous space to practice all these things), I didn’t know they were Brene Brown’s words at the time. What I knew – what I felt was that those words ran right to the core of my heart and said, “Yes, we’d like to live here if you’ll let us.” That’s how I want to live. That’s how I want to be part of this world. I’d never seen it articulated so honestly and beautifully. Through my work in theater, particularly as an actor, I so believe this is why we need the arts, a place where we can be present together and share in a moment in time. But the older I get, I feel it’s more than that. I believe in my bones we are on this earth to be kind to each other and connect with each other. It’s what I try to instill in my son.

I mess up. A lot. I can be judgmental and scared and negative and melancholy sometimes. I take joy out of the world instead of putting it in. Some days I botch it all. Except that what I’ve found is that even on those days, some tiny ray of Grace seems to slip its way in, and boom: there’s that connection that moves me so. And that’s not me-Grace. That’s Universe-Grace, God-Grace, Prana-Grace, wherever that moment, where there’s hope and connection and compassion and the courage to keep going, comes from for you.

So. I’m here to explore that. This. All of this. I think. This is a new journey for me. But I’m hoping you’ll be part of it with me. We are all in this together, and I am grateful for you.