Monthly Archives: September 2017

Living in the Moment

I’ve been trying very hard lately to stop and smell the roses.  I know, it’s one of the most trite clichés ever, but it’s true:  If your brain is always racing, worrying about the future and regretting the past, you’re not appreciating what is right in front of you, be it roses, or a hockey game, or a great book, or a sunset, or a new signature scent (YES!!  I bought the Penhaligon’s Empressa eau de toilette  – happy birthday to me!  It smells so damn good!  Even the box is luxe!) – whatever it might be that gives you, if only for a little while, a moment of peace and inner happiness, when the world stops whirling on its axis for few seconds and you can just take it all in.

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In general, these efforts have resulted in me feeling a lot calmer lately.  There’s so much less rushing around, fewer stress-inducing chicken-without-a-head situations.  Even on a day like yesterday, which was mildly chaotic, chock full of unplanned-for occurrences, I just worked through them, dealing quickly and efficiently with the inconveniences (multiple pet “accidents”, for example) and enjoying the pleasantries.  A friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while stopped by for a welcome visit, and my ex also came over to choose a hotel for our daughter’s graduation ceremony in December and also to beef about the New York Giants’ considerable lack of offense in another poor outing.  (Ian is one of the reasons I don’t really like football anymore.  See “Am I Ready for Some Football?”, 9/2/15).  In between were a quickie conversation with my sister and a call from a potential adopter for Polly Wobbles (who was wildly unsuitable as Polly’s future mom and clearly did not read her online bio).  At some point I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day, so I grabbed a yummy frozen dinner (a new discovery:  Devour™ meals, very tasty, especially the bacon-topped meatloaf with garlic mac and cheese; product’s genius tag line – “Food You Want to Fork”).  Sandwiched amid all the activity was the return of New York Rangers hockey, the team’s first 2017-18 pre-season game – hooray!  By this time, it was only nine o’clock but to me it felt like midnight.

It had been a long but satisfying day.  I went into the city to do my “9/11 day of service” (something my firm does to honor a fallen partner, also a volunteer firefighter, who ran toward the World Trade Center on that fateful day rather than away like everyone else) at God’s Love We Deliver, a non-profit organization that cooks and home-delivers nutritious, customized meals to people in the New York City metropolitan area living with severe illnesses.  I really enjoy doing that, even though I ended up with a blister on my knuckle from repeatedly handling a giant soup ladle.  There’s something about the assembly-line work and following explicit instructions (for example, swirl the soup in the plastic container before you put the lid on so it creates a bubble, and then the next guy on the line has to squeeze out the bubble so the contents are essentially vacuum packed and can be more effectively frozen) that I really enjoy and actually find rather calming.  It’s mindless work and yet I still feel like I’m doing something good, and I always leave there feeling a little better about the state of the human race.

Before leaving for the city on the 11:09 train, I had sent my secretary a few items I needed taken care of while I was away from my computer for most of the day.  I had evidently forgotten that she was going to be out of the office, so upon emerging from the God’s Love We Deliver kitchen at 4 p.m. after our food prep shift , I realized that NOTHING HAD BEEN DONE.  I had a brief panic attack, but fortunately, my friend and back-up secretary was able to do the work and soothed the temporarily rough waters of an otherwise smooth-sailing day.

Even just a few months ago, a day like yesterday would have brought on a tension headache and a bout of mental self-flagellation.  Not the new-and-improved Nan, who takes a few deep breaths and “makes it work,” in the immortal words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn – who, by the way, was great on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday and kind of put Bill in his place when Bill brought up the obesity epidemic in a way that made it seem like it was all the fat people’s fault, and letting the fat people have fashionable clothes is just giving them carte blanche to stay fat.  I find Bill Maher amusing and intelligent but he can also be a bit of a pig.  [An aside:  I am loving this season of Project Runway for a couple of reasons:  one, they’re using models of all shapes and sizes, which the designers find challenging but good for Heidi Klum and Tim that they’re addressing the body image issue, if even just superficially.  And second, one of the designers is just the cutest little Zen master fellow named Brandon who wears (and designs) baggy but intriguing tunics and shower shoes with socks.  All the models and designers have a little crush on him, so I’m just one among many (my sister likes him, too).  There’s something so sweet and gentle about him, with his an angelic face and round blue eyes, but he’s also really soothing in his manner, calm and patient, unlike some of the other contestants, two of whom – twins, remarkably – are so phony and affected that they kind of make you want to punch them in the face.]

I still write in my “joy book” every night about all those things that made me happy during the day, but my new focus is to feel the happiness as it happens, too.  I read a quote today attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire in my “Seeds 4 Life” daily affirmation blog that perfectly captures this new attitude:  “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”  Take a bike ride, chat with a friend, walk the dog (or dogs, as the case may be – by the way, we have YET ANOTHER foster living with us, but she won’t be here for long because she’s an adorable year-old shih tzu who will get adopted as soon as her skin condition clears up and she gets spayed, probably next week), bake some cookies and make the whole house smell delicious.  Whatever you choose to do, just take that moment to appreciate what makes you content for as long as it lasts.  There’s just too much ugliness in the world, especially these days, to not enjoy a much-needed counterbalance.

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The Hermit Emerges

Let me tell you, having a designated parking space has been a life-changing event – literally.  No longer do I have to limit my summer weekend travels to wherever I can bike to or late Sunday evenings on the off-chance that I just might find a spot when I get home with the exodus of the day-trippers.  Now I can freely leave my house for errands, pick-ups or even just on a whim.

As a result, I have actually managed to have some semblance of a social life this summer!!  Movies, concerts, visits with friends – soon the powers-that-be will have to revoke my “hermit card”!  (And I can no longer use “parking” as an excuse to avoid socializing!)

It’s especially great when I get to spend time with people whose company I really enjoy, and who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.  Case in point was this past week, when my friend Wendy flew up from North Carolina and our mutual friend Sue came out for the day from New Jersey.  In this instance, it wasn’t lack of parking that had prevented our get-together:  it was distance and time – too much of one, not enough of the other.  Even while ostensibly enjoying a couple of days of relaxing conversation, all three of us managed to find some time to do work.  For Sue, it was trouble-shooting calls for the au pair agency for which she is a regional representative with over 70 families to coordinate and appease (very impressive).  For Wendy, it was catching up on some online college assignments as she pursues an advanced degree in nursing while regaining her strength and stamina after a long illness (also impressive).  For me, it was the same old nonsense, and even though it was the slowest week of the legal year (the last week of August before Labor Day), I still had a few cross-border emails to address.  But for the most part, we played with the animals (Sue brought her mini-poodle Leaf and I also picked up a tiny tortie kitten named Gigi to clear out a cage at the shelter to make room for the animals our shelter director was bringing back from Houston following Harvey), ate out and enjoyed some adult beverages, and mostly talked and talked and talked, catching up on years’ worth of each others’ lives.  I loved being with people I’ve known for decades, with whom I feel comfortable enough to discuss literally ANYTHING, with many shared memories and a shared political and ethical mindset.  As far as I was concerned, it was pure bliss and I only wish it could have lasted longer.

On Friday, Wendy and I went into the city to meet her mom Marilyn and walked around the 9/11 Memorial site, looking for people’s names engraved on the walls of the reflecting pools.  Wendy had actually been at work that dreadful day, in the World Financial Center, just a skybridge away from the World Trade Center, and she retold the harrowing tale of getting out of town that day, of seeing the towers fall and the horror of people jumping, billions of bits of paper filling the sky like toxic snow.  If I wasn’t with two such lovely people, such a discussion would have been a bit of a downer.  But it was a beautiful late-summer day, with signs of the city’s renewal all around us, and we ate lunch along the Hudson and talked about politics and TV shows and dogs and how the world manages to carry on despite disasters like 9/11 and Trump.

As we were getting ready to board the E train to take us to Penn Station and Port Authority Bus Terminal, respectively, to sadly go our separate ways, we happened to walk past a tiny shop in the brand new Oculus, the mall/transportation hub near the 9/11 Memorial.  It was called Penhaligon’s, a perfumery established in 1870 in London.  An impeccably dressed and well-spoken fellow named Anthony proceeded to ask us our favorite scents and matched each of us PERFECTLY with a particular perfume, tying a little silk square scarf doused with our selected fragrance around each of our wrists.  I have been searching for a signature scent for most of my life (Love’s Baby Soft, anyone?) and I think I have finally found it:  Penhaligon’s Empressa, a patchouli base with infusions of sandalwood, coconut and vanilla.  AND IT LASTED ALL DAY, which is the true test of a signature scent.  I have promised to buy it for myself for my birthday.  At $175 a bottle, it had better last a few years!!

So the hermit has officially emerged, and it turned out to be a fine summer, highlighted by a glorious couple of days with some of my best friends in the world.  I should really try it more often!