Archive for the ‘Insight’ Category

Listening to Arlo

While I mowed the lawn today, hoping it’s the last mow of the season, I thought back to 1968, sitting in my NYC apartment at 115 St. Mark’s Place (the epicenter!), and listening to Arlo Guthrie sing Alice’s Restaurant. I have absolutely no idea why that particular memory bubbled to the surface, but it got me thinking about multi-tasking.

I listened to that 18-minute ballad as the record played on the record player (not even a stereo). It was life long before earbuds. The Walkman, which hadn’t yet arrived on the scene, has since come and gone. To listen to music, one had to be stationary, usually indoors near an electric outlet. Transistor radios were notoriously full of static and their batteries expired in a matter of hours. The music didn’t travel with you in any reasonable way, and when you listened, it was pretty much a single-focus, stationary past-time.

If I listened to that 18-minute song today, I would also be folding laundry, sorting grocery coupons, checking my email or knitting. It’s simply inconceivable that I would not multi-task that activity today. We’re driven by the technology and the culture to do more stuff simultaneously, cramming as many activities into every hour of our day.

The technology today permits us to keep more of the facets of our lives with us all the time. Those facets include the to-do lists, family responsibilities and work tasks in addition to activities such as listening to music. I could have listened to Arlo today while I mowed the lawn – an impossibility back when that song was cresting the cultural wave with his irreverent song about littering, criminal justice and western Massachusetts.

One thing at a time – what a refreshing concept! I cannot always reduce the to-do list, but I can decide to focus on each item more mindfully and respectfully for what the item is – laundry, listening, or lawn care.

Maybe this is what I was looking for. After all, Arlo sang, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.”


Teachable Me

I sit in the pews most Sunday mornings, participating in and absorbing wisdom (as much as I’m capable of) in a caring, supportive community. Each Sunday offers something of pertinence or utility in my weekly travels. This past Sunday, however…
Rev. Tim Kutzmark’s sermon was titled “Where the Rubber Meets the Road.” I was pretty sure that its focal point would not be travel or tire wear. It ended up, however, being one of those unforgettable messages – the ones that resonate completely and get mentally revisited on a regular basis.
The gist of the sermon: it’s easy to be kind, loving, tolerant, gracious, wise, etc., in theory, but it’s the every-day challenges that offer us the biggest opportunities to be our better selves, to live our beliefs, to learn to be better human beings.
Now, this is not rocket science – but the special twist that strengthened this sermon’s impact was the revelation that the greatest personal growth opportunities masquerade as difficult people, traffic gridlock, slow checkout lines, and other mundane irritations. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to solve BIG problems such as world hunger, climate destruction, or global strife, but we do encounter numerous opportunities in our daily travels to live our beliefs and to be the people we admire.
In the few days since hearing that sermon I’ve been on a minor mission, striving to recast those people who push my buttons and those situations that set me to muttering under my breath, raging at the clouds, or tossing in a sleepless bed at night. Rather than launch into a tirade (whether visible or internal), I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to let go of the anger/frustration, and find a better path for myself. Those difficult people and frustrating situations are not my demons, but rather my angels for they have the power to put me on the higher road where, as we all know, there is so much less traffic.
Maybe that sermon was about travel after all.

I hear music

This is a cautionary tale of a life experience coming to a household near you at some time in the future.

The background: I seldom set an alarm – usually get up around 6:30 – but I had a 7 a.m. meeting last Wednesday, so I set my clock radio for 5 a.m. All was well – I arrived at work in time for the meeting.

Fast forward to Thursday night: I stayed up way too late, but was getting settled for the night and realized that I heard music – not terribly loud, not offensive, but it was after 11 p.m. I peered out my window, saw a car parked in front of my neighbor’s house. Considered that it might be one of the teenagers who live across the street. I closed my window. Still heard the music but thought it might be coming through the other bedroom window – I wasn’t going to hobble over to that window to close it. Tried to go to sleep but couldn’t.

So I did what any citizen would do – I called the local police and told them that someone was playing music – perhaps the car parked in front of my neighbor’s house. They graciously said they would send a patrol car to investigate. I finally went to sleep.

Fast forward to Friday night: I toddled up to bed, got all comfy, was reading my book, when I realized that – again – I heard music.

I finally put all the pieces together and turned off the clock radio.

As I said, a cautionary tale…

Lessons from a Broken Leg

I’ve been railing against the gods, in resentment that my broken leg has become my entire universe. The 4+ months I’ve spent so far (mostly on the couch in the TV room) and the prospect of still more surgery and recuperation has offered a rich opportunity to whine.
It’s certainly true that the sudden change in mobility is a factor in almost every action but, in a conversation with my good friend Eleanor, I realized that a number of revelations and insights have emerged during my unplanned couch time. Dare I call them blessings?
I’m going to start a list here and add to it as additional insights emerge.
#1 – My sweet tooth just seems to have been left behind on the icy steps last January. Yeah, I eat a few ginger snaps every once in a while, but the raging desire for refined sugar is pretty much absent.
#2 – I’ve lost weight, no doubt in part due to #1 above. True, most of weight loss seems to be due to the departure of muscle tone in my left leg, but I’ll take whatever I can get in that department. A silver lining: it’s such a hassle to get up and crutch to the kitchen that I’ve pretty much stopped snacking between meals.

#3 – I’ve learned (grudgingly) to accept help from kind-hearted folks. My fierce desire to be free of dependence on others has subsided. All those delivered meals, grocery runs, household chores, and supportive phone calls and emails – from my church community, my neighbors, co-workers, and long-time friends – have driven home the point that I cannot be all that independent. Nor should I try to be. I’m such a fan of community, one would think that I’d learned this lesson long ago.
#4 – Live in the moment. This is a big-time lesson. Every estimate I’ve made (for healing, mobility, etc.) has proven wrong; every prediction I’ve made has proved false (or overly optimistic); my hopes for fast healing have been dashed on the rocks. Just be here, now. Accept.