Rachel

All these things

Jogging up along the river today I took note of the ice and enjoyed the snow and loved the power of feeling perfectly comfortable—warm even—in just a fleece and a vest. The sun was shining. No wind.

Then I received a call, several texts, which brought into focus the unusual number of sirens, unrelenting, police cars rushing along the West Side Highway, five helicopters overheard. The strange, unbelievably crowded subway ride just an hour before. A pipe bomb detonated in the subway at 42nd street; suspect in custody. Thank God it sounds like no one was seriously injured.

Do we continue on with the day, simply continue on with the run, sirens all around, choppers hovering?

Is it a day when someone tried but failed to blow up Port Authority? A day when we all have work to do, dishes to wash, appointments to attend?

This is a different question from how one acts at a safe distance from a mass shooting, the kind of day called “just another day in America.” In NYC, if it’s true no one was seriously injured, a pipe bomb detonating early isn’t a major event.

It’s a day when we’ll try to focus as best as we can on the work we do we hope will lead in some small way to a world where kids don’t have to be afraid of guns or bombs, of not having enough to eat or being denied a seat on the bus or chance to get an education.

It’s a day where someone decided to treat themselves decadently, to buy a piece of cake from a Chelsea bakery for breakfast, but dropped it.

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A day where someone is shocked their neighbor in Brooklyn tried to blow up a subway station.

A day where we can’t help but admire this lovely scene.

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A day when you stop in front of an art gallery and see reflected the lovely hotel where less than two weeks ago you brought the kids to an old-fashioned tree lighting with caroling and hot toddies. Where behind that hotel for two years you brought your younger child to nursery school each day, greeted each morning by Sister Louisa with a happy, “Como Estas?” Where up the block you’ve found many treasures at 192 Books192 Books.

Where down the block from the bookstores 6 and half years ago in June you spent every Thursday evening with wine and friends and kids running and happy and free. Where one block up from there you went with Jim and Hein and Kara to the Empire Diner in its first iteration when you all first moved to the city. All those stories, and a million more, all on one little island.

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Back in the apartment, looking out the window with snow on the ground, “Winter Song” comes on the radio. Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson singing:

“They say that things just cannot grow

beneath the winter snow

or so I have been told.”

In the song, they ask again and again a question they don’t answer: “Is love alive?”

Since we know the answer is always yes, maybe that is enough of an answer to all of our questions.

 

 

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Rachel

Invitation

It is Friday morning and I just pushed myself to do two sun salutations. Once you fall off the habit—even for just a few days—it’s that much harder to get back to it. Just like with writing. I had to convince myself—Just do two sequences, that’s it. Then you can stop. A similar kind of deal so many so us make with our writing when we’re tired and have other things we need to do. Just write half a page. Just a few sentences. Just an opening line. Then you can stop.

The line between have to—I must do yoga! I must write! I must run!—and should—C’mon, get up, put down your coffee, close the NYtimes website, and get to work. It’s so tenuous sometimes. Once something moves to habit, you just move through it. The decision-making process is gone and with it, the energy that it required.

Today, once I finished those two sequences, I sat down at the computer just to quick, quick, quick check the news and see if somehow maybe Susan Collins found her soul in the middle of the night but that too, I had to fight. Instead I came here, to this blank page.

I said—just type a few sentences. Instead of the “have to” of writing, make it something inviting, something ongoing, something with energy, a discussion you can’t wait to pick back up.

Imagine Kajal, I told myself, sitting with two cups of Chai tea at Rosey Jekes in Hanover. She smiles as I walk in and a little bell rings and I bring with me a gust of cold New England winter. Inside we are cozy and happy and overflowing with so many things we absolutely have to discuss.

 

Art and Soul · Kajal · Uncategorized

Looking Back 100 Years into the Future

Last weekend, I took a friend to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). First time for them, while for me, I’d been many times before. I love art and seeing all the greats in one place and didn’t mind going to see them once again, especially when it’s been a while. We undertook seeing the entire museum from top to bottom, starting with the MOMA’s most well known collection featuring paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Monet’s Water Lilies and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

IMG_0005While touring the greatest hits of modern art, I stumbled across a group of artists representing a movement I’d never heard of before – Futurism – an Italian avant-garde movement of early 1900s that celebrated the machine, speed, violence and change, or what they regarded as modern life, and sought to destroy older forms of culture (yes, the 1900s). Italian painter Umberto Boccioni was among the painters at the forefront of this movement. His painting from 1913, Dynamism of a Soccer Player (see photo above), moved me in a way that I’ve not felt about a work of art since first witnessing some of those greatest hits.

The painting’s energy, with its bold kaleidoscopic color, and the movement of shape and line transported me to another place. Oddly enough, I don’t see a soccer player anywhere, but I love how it’s movement and dynamism inspired me, especially when I had zero expectations for seeing anything new or finding a new work of art to admire and enjoy. I’m amazed that it was painted more than a 100 years ago. It feels so relevant and encapsulates today and the digital world we live in. Ironically, a graphic designer could probably create something like this in an hour using the right software program. But, I’m not sure it would evoke the same feelings as seeing it live in person at the MOMA, where I can almost touch it, for the first time.

–Kajal (Apologies for not writing yesterday, I had to take a sick day.)

Balance · Flow · Rachel

Are we living slowly yet?

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As I fling myself around the house giving the kids a final tuck and searching for my phone charger and preparing to get back to work and surveying the amount of dishes I still have to clean tonight, I catch sight of my simple/slow parenting books on the bookshelf in my room. Marie Sherlock’s Living Simply with Children and Bernadette Noll’s Slow Family Living and Jamie C. Martin’s Steady Days.

Are these days steady? Are we living simply? Living slowly? These past few weeks it doesn’t feel like it. I missed yoga last week and will this week again. Last week, instead, I took my kids to a holiday event. Tonight I took them to a milk and cookies reading hour  at their school. Since we don’t live nearby, that meant hanging around downtown in the intervening three hours, first in the park and then a quick pizza dinner and a stop by the bank and Balloon Saloon to pick up a toy for a toy drive and say hello to our friend Mary Yellow who works there and used to watch Petra when she was younger.

When I first read these books on slow and simple living I was starting out as a parent, dreaming about how I’d like things to be. With an almost 10-year-old and a 4 and a half-year-old now, I’m in the middle of it. I’m either raising them that way or I’m not.

But now, maybe it is not so simple as that. There are times we have long, slow, stretched afternoons, cooking together, listening to music. There are weeks we do yoga and journal-time every morning together. Wally is still only doing one activity now (twice a week) and Petra is free every afternoon. Sure she has to schlep around with me to Wally’s activities sometimes, but that often means she and I get an hour to play dominos or draw pictures together while we wait. When that happens, I often reflect on that rapid way a hectic moment turns into a quiet and protected one. Here we are the two of us waiting, with nothing to do, and isn’t that just what I want? Yes.

It’s a busy time of the year for everyone. I’ve said yes to a lot more plans than I normally have been. I happen to have a few major projects all converging. It is not an easy time to go slow, but I remind myself that going slow is as much a mindset as anything. I can take deep breaths. I can focus. I can heat up a mug of warm milk and molasses, like I used to do as a child. I missed yoga class, and skipped sun salutations this morning, but it is not late yet. Perhaps it’s time to teach myself how to salute the moon.

Kajal · poses · Uncategorized

Creative Confidence

Last week, I listened to a TED Talk about creative confidence by IDEO founder and partner David Kelley. He discusses how some people get dubbed as being highly creative, while others go through life believing they are not creative. In reality, he believes, we all have creative capability. It’s just that at some point in life many of us are told we are not creative, whether it’s at school by teachers and classmates, by our parents or some other triggering event that then takes us down other paths. This results in us losing our creative confidence.

I have always loved to write. Becoming a dancer on the famous tv show Fame and writing were two of my aspirations. I did not pursue dance in any way shape or form. And writing as a communications professional is what I do for a living. But I never did pursue creative fiction writing and I’m starting to think it was because of taking Creative Writing classes at my undergrad Dartmouth. Creative writing of that nature is so personal that you have to have a really thick skin to be able to take the criticism and just do what you want and believe in yourself. It wasn’t anything anyone said or did but I just don’t think I had that confidence I needed back then to really propel me forward.

That’s why writing this blog is so important (even if it is a Friday and I am a day late in posting). It is almost therapeutic and is helping me to regain or rediscover that creative confidence dormant inside of me for so long.

Similarly, practicing yoga, especially standing tall in a pose like Tadasana is so good for one’s confidence. It is more than standing, if you do it properly planting your feet firmly into the earth, lifting your knee caps, tuck your tailbone under, lengthen through the spine and most important of all spread your shoulder blades, lift your chest up, extending your arms on either side and facing your palms forward — you will start to feel that confidence come through with each inhale and exhale.

Namaste.

-Kajal

Rachel

Writing Seeds

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I begin here today thinking about what Kajal wrote yesterday. About time. How is it that a day can zap by? How the same thing can seem to happen with weeks, months, years? You try and try and try and try to be mindful, in the moment, present, and it still happens.

Is it productive to fight against that slipping away or are we better off, as the article which she quotes from Harvard Business Review recommends, focusing on energy, not time? I suppose it depends on what we are after. If the aim is to boost our own productivity, I agree we need to focus on energy and I’ve said as much in my Writer’s Boot Camp books. We all feel we are lacking time to write (or exercise, or whatever it is we want to do but can’t do), but for most of us it’s that we can’t get time and energy to sync up. When we have time—late in the evenings, commonly, after a full day of work and chores and perhaps childcare and running around—we can’t summon up the energy to tackle big life goals. Instead we zone out. Watch something. Scroll around. We used to talk on the phone; even that feels like it takes too much energy now.

Ritual, as the article suggests, helps us channel energy more productively, and, if exercise is part of the ritual, helps increase it too.

But I am thinking about another view on time. I am thinking about how we can change our experience of it after the fact. If I simply look at the calendar and gasp—End of November already?—it can feel that the fall disappeared. But when I look back over an index of the days, flipping through my planner, or surveying the work that I’ve done, it expands in my memory. And if it expands in my memory—where it now exists—then doesn’t it expand too?

I had planned to use this space today to finally, finally respond to the comment from Sarah Bousquet of OneBlueSail from back on an early post on this blog and as I scrolled back through all the posts from this fall looking for the comment, starting with September 20, when we began, I couldn’t believe how much was there. All this happened, in just this tiny space, in these past two months?

And yet here I am out of time. Needing to run off, rush off, begin the next phase of this bright autumn day.

I don’t have time, or the elusive energy + time elixir, to develop these posts the way I would like to. But we are collecting them, Kajal and I and our guest posters, we are beginning, we are hopeful, and for now we can keep them like secrets in our pockets for next spring and think of them like seeds.

—Rachel

Balance · Kajal

Putting Time in a Bottle

Today, work started at 7am and didn’t stop until 7pm. Lunchtime came and went, as did my time to make tea. I don’t think I even stopped for a glass of water or to get up to use the washroom. I know I didn’t because I keep licking my cracked, dry lips. Now this isn’t a “woe is me” post. All of us have these days, some more than others. And I know I’m blessed to sit at a desk with a laptop in a relatively comfortable setting.

My thought is about time. Where does it go? How is it that I can start my day and get so busy with email, phone calls, IMs and writing up materials and not even realize 12 hours of my life have passed me by? Is there a way to hold on to time and control it? Our smart phones give us the illusion of manipulating time, but in reality, that’s just time controlling us.

So elusive and so precious…I just Googled time to see what would come up and came across a Harvard Business Review article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time”  which says “time is a finite resource, energy is a different story.” The article says you can’t control time and have to build in rituals to manage your energy and recharge yourself. Simple things like getting up to take a walk, leaving the desk during lunch, or simply having breakfast with your family. Easier said than done, but something I already know deep down because of yoga. So instead of trying to capture time in a bottle, I will keep working to harness and manage my energy.