Eclipse Part 1: Oh, A Storm is Threat’ing

It’s about to get dark in the US. Over 7 million people will travel to specific sites and millions more will participate in local events. Participation and interest are optional, but, awareness is not. There is a total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017.  There is no pain when you stare at the moon blotting out the sun, there is only awe. The visual distortion and blindness comes hours later, which is why you need awareness not to look with the naked eye. In ancient times, a total solar eclipse induced fear, uncertainty and doubt. That pretty much sums up the political climate in the US today. Emotions are high, nerves are frayed, psyches are fatigued. Monday reminds us how to survive. With sudden darkness, you stop, you get your bearings and figure out what is going on. Is everyone OK? When it goes dark, it’s not about what you’re against, but it’s unity in what you’re for to move ahead. United we stand, divided we fall. On Monday, it will go dark.  Monday is an opportunity for you to pause, find your balance and determine how you stand united.

 

Oh, a storm is threat’ing
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade way

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

from Gimme Shelter, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, 1969

Life Interrupted; The Stories We Tell

I hadn’t planned on anyone I know dying this week.  I don’t have special powers or control over the universe to know when these things are going to happen. My reaction this week was not out of surprise as much as it was denial.  She was just a couple of years younger than me. With her birthday in June, and mine in July, it was dinner one night in August a few years ago and I contemplated getting older and what’s next.  My friend in a matter of fact tone said,  “I’ve had a double lung transplant, it’s not something I tell people, I don’t want to be known for that, I’m not going to have a next.” Touched by her trust in me, knowing I wouldn’t tell anyone or view her as any different, I said, “Well, here’s to living in the now.

The news of her death and lung transplant confused me. She didn’t want to be seen as that. For a day, I felt as I had betrayed a trust, though I had not said anything. I was agitated and only calmed down when a friend said to me, “She trusted you.”  Only then was my head clear enough to understand life and death are different. We want to celebrate, we need the inspiration of the departed, we tell their stories to fill the void they have left behind. The big reveal of the person she really was and gives hope and inspiration for a life well lived. When a childhood friend died from AIDS,  the family didn’t  speak of it, wouldn’t acknowledge it. The money in lieu of flowers were made to unrelated cause; heartbreaking. We could not celebrate in death who that person fully was in life with the family. It was a relief during a neighbor’s memorial when the eulogizers spoke openly of his suicide. It opened another channel of grief some were dealing with it and gave voice to a struggle. Then there are times when we’re done. I was jolted into numbness by an NBC Dateline trailer last September. The moment was surreal, I knew the murder victim and I knew the story. We’re a team of remote workers, when she wasn’t on an 8:00 am call, a member of the team in Chicago, Illinois immediately called the Austin, Texas police for a wellness check and they found her body. A small memorial in New York with our team broke me; I was done with that and what felt like sensationalism to get TV viewers set be back.  I thought back to the memorial when we all said her tagline,  “Ole” in her honor. That centered me and helped to get my balance back. Yes, shared grief and remembrances foster healing. We need the memorials, we need those stories when we get thrown off. The memorials in the forms they take are for those of us with lives interrupted.

The last week in June, I walked to meet a friend for lunch. We were both pretty happy because people say, “let’s do lunch,” and it doesn’t happen. Now that I’d moved, this would be easy. Time got away from us and we left the restaurant and walked briskly down the street, no leisurely stroll for us.. We did a quick hug, I said, “We’ll do this again when I get back from Bangkok” and she ran north to catch the shuttle bus back to work and I walked south. Yup, that’s my final memory of my friend Toni, running to catch a bus. She may be gone there are hilarious memories (the fire, spare keys and a hula hoop – you had to be there.)  In death, people will tell your story. In life, you shape the narrative. Are you living in the now or for what’s next? What is your story?  Is it what you want?

Balancing on Unstable Surfaces: Bangkok Dangerous

No one knows where I am including me. I’m in a barely motorized vehicle that looks like an adult sized baby stroller attached to a motorcycle with Mr Lindht. The man at Wat Pho convinced me to take “easy way to marble temple” and then instructed my driver in Thai. As soon as we pull into traffic, I think,  crapoloa, what have I done? I’m in the middle of Bangkok, a city of 13  million people, this could be a kidnapping. This could be my last few moments of freedom before forced into the sex trade. I realize the traffic stops are long. I’m in boot and a dress¹; I can jump out and run. I shift my canvas bag so I’m ready to swing it as a weapon the moment I sense anything is wrong. As I look around,  I see many tourists in this tuk tuk contraption. Back to reality, girl you are older; your temples are gray in a kind a bride of frankenstein way, and you’re black in an Asian country that favors fair complexions.  I literally laughed out loud, leaned back and enjoyed the rest of the day.² Anything I knew about Thailand was from a two hour google search and film. This was real life; not Bangkok Dangerous or Atomic Blonde. I’m not about to pen a  memoir, Nuclear Negro, that will be optioned for film giving me a five million dollar profit.

Of the 16 countries I have visited, the hotels inform you of imminent danger and this place had none. We’re ingrained to look for danger. Crossing a street? You look both ways. But, there is this dance of naive and street smart and finding a good balance between possibility and reality. I created a low probability worse case scenario. It’s easy to create disaster scenarios at home, at work,and in relationships that only exist in your head. That’s where the danger starts, you start to believe this farfetched probability and begin acting as if it is eminent. Sometimes, the only real danger is being so absorbed in a remote possibility, you miss  life going on around you.

 

 

¹ Me at the marble temple in my dress and boots.

²Hopefully some part of this will resonate with you, because I just publicly admitted to a most embarrassing episode.

 

Goals, Discipline and Motivation: A Feat to the Head?

You are not stuck. Sure, people like to think they are, but they aren’t. You are not in the same place now that you were three years ago. Seriously, unless you have been in a coma for 36 months, you faced  obstacles, changes, emotional turmoil along with moments of sheer joy and laughter. Honest reflection helps you see where you’re destructive; how you put yourself into situations that were not to your best interest. Thoughtful recollection makes you happy at what you conquered and how you persevered.

July 2014, blog post #1

This is blog post #160, a number of no particular significance. I’ve been posting weekly since July 16, 2014. My goal to inform, entertain and provoke thought; I am disciplined to write weekly. Why do I keep doing it? I’m motivated by the comments and responses. It’s the proof point that people are reading and that my content is making a difference.  It takes a goal, discipline and motivation to make something happen. The combination of the worthiness of the goal and the frequency of the motivation keeps you going. I fear scorpion chin stand. These photos were taken three years apart, I did not initially thing my feet would sit on my head. The pose still scares me, but I do it anyway. My yoga goal is to stay mobile as I age. The discipline is to do three classes a week, though lately I seem to only manage one. My motivation are the days when I find myself doing something I once struggled with.

July 2017

On a good day¹, when all is well, write down what you want in the next three years. Be fearless in the moment, this is just for you. Next, write your wants as goals, my goal is to <fill in the blank>. Do not limit yourself. When you have finished, look at your list and mark any goal you are fearful of. Explore why. Would the goal be life changing? Think back to the opening exercise, your life has changed in the last three years, either intentionally or not.  Why not guide where you want to go?  The worthiness of a goal, commitment to the discipline and frequency of motivation are a powerful combination to get what you want. The question is, are you ready to be fearless?

 

 

 

 

¹I was discussing this with my nephew and he mentioned something he’d read, when you’re listing the pros and cons of your job, do it when you’re having a good day. I think the same is true of this exercise.  You can do it at any time, but you’ll probably have a better perspective if you do it on a good day. And if you don’t have good days, egads, get work immediately.

Bangkok: Zombies, Ninjas and a Photo Opportunity

Oh crap, this is more than I bargained for; the path of obstacles. I lean back,  avoiding a swath of swinging sticks close to my head when a several yards later I sounds of alarm force me to duck to avoid a bombing. When I finally reached the end and remove my shoes to go into the prayer area, my senses now on hyper alert, I spot  a wave of zombies trampling by the sign, please remove shoes before entering this area!  I quickly dive and slide to avoid their path. This is not a video game, I’m visiting a temple in Bangkok and between the selfie sticks, group photos and tourists in search of the next spectacular shot, and those so engaged in their mobile phones, anything in the way be damned, I’ve become photo ninja, moving stealthy in the midst of this mass photo quest. Why do you take pictures? Who are the pictures for and what story do they tell?

The answer is easy, pull out your phone and look at your most recent photos. What’s there? Pictures serving as reminders of things to do, an interesting landscape to post on social media, something ironic or funny to share with friends. If every picture tells a story, what story do your pictures tell? In the age of digital photography and mobile phones, are photo ops a fun pastime or a dangerous addiction? Do your photos make memories, share pastimes or simply distract from reality?

I am not a professional photographer, an accomplished photojournalist or a digital artist. I don’t know how to compose an image that captures the vibrancy of an open market, the anguish at a tragedy or the soaring heights of a dancer. I am not the one to get those shots. I take 20 to 30 digital photos tweaking and adjusting until I get an image to use for my blog or an Instagram post. With only a day and a half to tour Thailand, I’m not going to get the breathtaking photos to tell the story. If I were skilled, I’d have images of women in their yellow hard hats and orange vests working construction in high-rise buildings, physically matched in size to the men, about 5 feet tall and under 100 pounds. I’d include a photo of people on the street, their complexions in sharp contrast to the billboard in the background for skin whitening cream, whispered hints of a class system. I’d show the old woman on the sidewalk preparing “street food,” and capture the moment she drops a piece of meat into a swirl of hot oil and spices.

If I were both bold and skilled, I’d have photos of the Singaporean college students buying jewelry to sell later sell to pay for tuition. I’d show through pictures, what my mind has trouble rationalizing, the juxtaposition a city of over 13 million, over 90% Buddhist, temples abound, set against the backdrop of sexual tourism and sex workers who make Bangkok the sex capital of the world! All this is to say, I consciously fought the urge to pull out my phone and take pictures. This adduction, this habit, would cause me to miss moments and opportunities to talk to people and see these things in my day and a half.

Your pictures tell your story. Ultimately, we take pictures of what we want to remember and/or what we want to show. This week, notice when you take a picture, who is it for and what story does it tell? Do your photos evoke a strong emotion, make you smile, bring you joy? When was the last time you edited your digital photos? Do you need to edit, out and delete? Consider it; this is your photo opportunity.

 

 

 

My Photos from Thailand:

 

 

 

 

 

Are You an Accidental Arsonist or Fire Fighter?

Stop it people. Stop it now.  Accepting a Facebook friend request from Jaden K. Smith will not allow him to hack my account and the account of all my fiends. It is a hoax. I got warnings from six brilliant people. Why? When something supports our belief system, there is less of a chance we will challenge it.  Well maybe we should. The act of six well-meaning people unintentionally spreading falsehoods is accidental arson. The Facebook incident shows, people pass on messages as truth without fact checking. Why? The story came from a reliable source, it seemed reasonable and there was a sense of urgency around it. This is a moment to step back and see how this act, seemingly innocuous leads to mild hysteria and dangerous deflection which sadly happens often.

We’re so exhausted after sorting truth from fiction, important discussions never take place. Are you fueling an arson when you could be putting out the fire?  Before you post, send, include “facts” in a presentation, can you check for validity? Think of past events of accidental arson. Was the bad information just dismissed as a whatever, or justified with, well it could have been true? Was there valuable and productive information with the same theme that could have been spread instead? This week,  notice, are you an accidental arsonist.? With good intentions, are you spreading falsehoods? Chose what you spread, make a point, not a  fire.

 

 

 

Notes: Google is good for a general check and http://www.snopes.com – All the latest rumors, urban legends, myths and misinformation gathered together in one nifty list. are quick and easy ways to check information.

What You Don’t Know: Compassion & Grief on a Ordinary Day

Part 1: The woman, already annoyed her Starbucks mobile order wasn’t ready, got a little more frustrated when the milk canister was empty and while her manner was respectful, there seemed to be a tinge of contempt as she shoved the container to the barista and brusquely said “out of milk.”  Her look indicated she expected a more apologetic response. Muttering under her breath, “Monday morning rush hour, shouldn’t  more people be working?”

What she couldn’t see was one person in the back room on the phone following emergency protocol and another person on break crumpled n grief. All she saw was two people working. What she couldn’t know and didn’t know was, this was not a ordinary day. On a ordinary day, you don’t get text from someone saying I’m on my way, only to get a phone call a couple of hours later reporting that person is dead. On a ordinary day, you don’t hear about highway closures due to a fatal crash and think that you know the victim.  On a ordinary day, you don’t think it’s your last.

Part 2: An ordinary day for you can be anything but for someone else.  As an observer, I had no idea what “the woman customer” was going through. While I knew the store just learned of the death of a coworker in route to work,  I know nothing about the “woman” I just wrote about. Might she have been barely keeping it together. Might her morning cup of coffee been a grasp to do something normal in the midst of insanity? At any time, people are dealing with things that are not ordinary and you have no way to know. We are not walking emoticons, thought bubbles do not appear above our heads advertising thoughts and emotions. Carefully curated images with a gripping sound track with artful words invoke our sympathy to the point we feel compassion albeit at a distance. Where is compassion throughout the day?

Do you carry your frustration and agitation into your interactions without realizing it?  Do you take a moment to clear your of anger and irritation throughout the day? Compassion is more than feeling, it is a way of being. It’s a way of consciously living in the moment and not letting negative feelings and emotions color your subsequent interactons.  Compassion asks you to suspend judgement. This is not advocating the life of a milquetoast. Conscious compassion means you will say somethings in anger, you will yell at someone about to step into traffic, you will reprimand someone who is in a downward spiral. These are compassionate actions because your reaction is concern for the well-being of another. Everyday compassion is the clean slate, starting each interaction fresh.

Part 3:  It didn’t matter if there was a rude customer, bad day, or pure exhaustion, when you got to the counter, our gone to soon barista would greet each customer with a warm smile, cheerful laugh and a light from within. My condolences to fiends and family, may she go in love and rest in peace because on an ordinary day, she could make you feel extraordinary.

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