Creative Writing, Inspiration, mindfulness, My Story

Little things

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These days,  I’m all about the little things.

Last Sunday, I went with my friend Romina to her father’s house in Rhode Island.  I would say that we were going to visit, but we were actually short on time, and Romina just needed to drop some things off.

But we ended up having a great time.  I had never gotten to know Rhode Island that well, and didn’t realize how beautiful it was, with all of its waterways and estuaries.  We drove through Providence and the surrounding towns, and I soaked in the beauty of all we passed.

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As I mentioned in my last post, travel wasn’t really a huge part of my life for the past 10+ years.  Since I developed compartment syndrome at 17, there always seemed to be one reason or another why I couldn’t be on my feet for long periods of time.  And what’s the point of travel, if you can’t walk around?  Better to wait and save my money until I could really enjoy it (or so I thought).

However, as I entered my late 20’s, my thinking started to change.  I realized that the perfect day when I’d be able to walk as much as I wanted might never come.  Why was I missing out on things, waiting for everything to be perfect, instead of enjoying what was possible right now?

I know this is going to sound like such a cliche, but it’s cliche for a good reason: I started to focus less on what I couldn’t do, and more on what I could do.

I can’t go on a six-hour walking tour through the rolling hills of San Francisco right now.  But I can tag along with Romina, on what would otherwise be a routine errand for her, and turn it into a really fun afternoon.

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I read an article a few years ago which really had an effect on me.  It was actually an article on how to be good to the environment and minimize your carbon footprint.  It pointed out something that of course is going to sound so obvious now:

If you have one errand to run, try to think of other things you can do on that same route.  Don’t make separate trips and go back and forth, when, with a little bit of planning, you can just make the first trip slightly longer and get more done. 

I know, this sounds so obvious– you probably didn’t need me to tell you.

But for me, as someone who really cares about the environment, it really got me thinking about what else is around me as I go about my daily life.  I started to study Google maps before every trip, wondering what cool scenic thing I might be driving by.   If I have the time– even a few extra minutes– why not try to see something cool?

I started out doing this for environmental reasons (not to mention to save money on gas) but over time, I came to realize that my whole perspective had changed.  Somehow, by getting in the habit of trying to make the most out of every trip, I had started to become more conscious of the unexpected little things around me.

Downtown Providence from Point Street bridge

I mean, this is how we are when we’re on on vacation, right?  We try to see everything; to soak it in.  Everything is new.

But what I have learned, in my study of maps, is that we can have more of a vacation-mindset in our every day life.  It’s a matter of perspective.

You have to take the time to look, consciously.  No one is going to take you by the hand and force you to see the beauty in the world.  You have to remind yourself to keep your eyes open.

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I don’t mean to sound as though I am against travel– not at all.

I just know that before my health problems, I used to think about travel the way I think most people probably do: what is my preferred destination?  What do I want to see more than anything else, and how can I maximize my enjoyment of that destination?

But that way of thinking– let’s call it the “enjoyment-maximization mindset”– is what made it so devastating to me when I couldn’t walk, and made me not want to travel until things could be perfect.

Now, I am in more of what I would call an “appreciation mindset,” where I consciously remind myself to look up and see what is around me.  This is another cliche, but it’s honestly not about the end destination: it’s about the journey.

Just because I’m driving to a doctor’s office down an unsightly highway full of strip malls does not mean that, two miles off the main road, there won’t be a gorgeous scenic overlook or historical park.

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Even if you can’t travel far, or see things on foot, you can still discover new things all the time.  But it does take a conscious effort to break out of old ways of thinking, and decide what matters to you, even if your adventures are not in the same form other people’s would take.

Now, I say yes to so many invitations I would have turned down in the past.  These days, when my friends go camping, I actually go too.  (Car-camping, of course–backpacking would still be too much of a stretch).

In the past, I never would have said yes to camping.  What would be the point?  I would have thought.  I can’t actually go hiking with them during the daytime, so why would I want to go and be by myself all day?

But that was my old way of viewing things: of waiting until I could experience things the same way everyone else does.

Now I go, and I do as much with the group as I can.  We generally go to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and what I never realized until I got there is that even the car ride can be fun, because it’s so beautiful.  There are things to stop and see all up and down the major roads.

Now, when my friends leave in the morning to go hiking at whatever mountain they’ve chosen that day,  I drop them off, and then go sightseeing for a few hours until it’s time to pick them up again.

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Of course, this plan wouldn’t work without the right people.  I’m really loading this post up with cliches, but hey– it’s not just what you do; it’s who you’re with.  Anything can be fun with the right person.

I am grateful to the people I’ve found in my own life, who are able to appreciate the little things with me.  To friends who give me their car for the day so I’m not stuck at the campground.  To a friend like Romina, who can make a tour of her hometown so much fun.  (And of course, to her father and his wife, who sent us home with about 30 pounds of food Sunday night).

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Peruvian-American fusion.

It’s all about figuring out what matters to you, and makes you happy.   And remembering to seek it out, even if it’s in a different form than what you once would have expected.

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Photos of Providence:

Interesting Articles

My thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombings

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When I first started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t get into any political issues on it.  I actually love discussing politics and current events, but in this space, I want to help people regardless of their political views.

However, this blog means a lot to me personally, and I have poured a lot of my heart and soul into it.  At this point I don’t feel it would be authentic for me to go forward without sharing with you all the things that have been filling my heart and mind for the past week.

I am a Massachusetts girl, and have been for all of my life.  The majority of my family is here; my friends are here; everything is here.  I don’t even like baseball, but I know what David Ortiz meant when he said, “This is our fucking city.”  If you have spent time in Boston, you know it, too.

My cousin ran the Marathon on Monday.  He was being sponsored by his employer, and was raising money for charity.  My aunt and my uncle came up from Delaware to watch, and the whole family was watching in Brighton when he passed by.

The explosions happened about a half hour later.  My cousin was unhurt, but he only crossed the finish line about a minute before the first one went off.  If you’ve watched news coverage of the explosions, you know that means that if he had been only a minute slower, he would probably have been hurt.

The thing is, it almost doesn’t matter that everyone close to me was okay.  I have never experienced another tragedy like this, but when it happens in your city it is somehow different from hearing it on the news.  When it happens far away, it’s more abstract.  You know it’s horrible, but, at least for me, it takes actually turning on the news, or seeing the newspaper, and seeing pictures of the victims and people mourning to make me cry.

Not when it’s in your own backyard.  I didn’t need to turn on the TV, or see images of anyone, for it to feel like a part of me had been attacked.

I know New Englanders have a reputation for being a bit cold, compared to people from other parts of the country.  And I will be the first to admit, we don’t seem very friendly when we’re behind the wheel of a car.

But this doesn’t mean we don’t have an unspoken bond.  I didn’t need to see the faces of the victims, or learn their names, to feel as though people I cared about had been hurt.   When I heard the news I immediately went to turn on the TV, but I was already shaking and crying.

There has been an amazing outpouring of support for Boston from all over the world.   A million gestures of kindness from people in all parts of the globe have meant more to us here than I can convey.

But there has also been something uglier that has emerged in the past few days, something that has made it a little harder to move forward with the healing process.

What I’m referring to here is the bizarre backlash that has occurred against the way Boston handled this situation, amongst people who don’t even live in Massachusetts.  Various bloggers and Internet pundits from other states and countries have published articles criticizing the people of Boston for “cowering” in their homes during Friday’s “lockdown.”  They’ve criticized our law enforcement and government officials, and some have even gone so far to see this situation as a big conspiracy theory.

Now I don’t know if this means I’m spending too much time on the Internet, or what.  People here are being nothing but kind to each other.  We all know that it could have been worse, that it could have gone on for a lot longer.  I think many of us expected to be living in fear for months.

But I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.  At this point it’s a pretty unanimous conversation among my Boston-area friends.  Why are people who’ve probably never even been to Boston freaking out about what happened here and claiming they know more about it than we do?

Of course, my frustration isn’t directed at any of my blog followers.  You are all a bunch of really smart people, and I have been grateful for your support.  I would, however, like to enlist you in my fight against misinformation.  I don’t want this narrative of Bostonians “cowering” in their homes to spread.  So here, instead, is a collection of things I want you to know.

Thoughtful posts reflecting on the experience of the past week:

The Boston spirit:

On people who feel the need to compare Boston to other tragedies:

On the criticism of the Boston lockdown:

Thank you to everyone who has written these amazing posts.  We are in this together.  And thank you to Pete Tschudy for the above picture.

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A moving response to the Boston Marathon explosions, from comedian Patton Oswalt.

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A picture of Boston from the harbor, on a better day.

This was originally posted on Oswalt’s Facebook page.

“Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out… This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Thank you, Mr. Oswalt.  Your words have expressed what many of us are feeling today.