Me, Myself and Eye

Photo Eye Mask

I am not a movie star, but I sleep like one. To me, there is something glamorous about an eye mask. At bedtime, when I put it on, I feel like I am in an old black and white movie and having just put down my cigarette holder, I rearrange my silk dressing gown, slip under the silk sheets and after my close-up (in full hair and makeup, of course), put my eye mask in place and prepare to dream in Technicolor.

It’s a fact that when your brain senses darkness, it produces melatonin, the sleep chemical. Your chances of falling and staying asleep are improved when you block out the light. What I didn’t realize was that the eye mask has myriad uses.

I’ve been trying to sit still and learn to meditate and it’s helped me to concentrate a bit more. If I am tired and have a lot on my to-do list, a few minutes in the dark seems to revive me. If I wear it while sitting outside, I notice that my other senses become a bit heightened. My mask and I have traveled together and it’s never let me down on a flight; combined with my neck pillow (and ear plugs in case of emergency); I have been known to fall asleep before the plane even takes off.

What is it about that small piece of fabric and elastic that is so gratifying? I think it may be the human equivalent to turning something electrical off and then on again to get it working. It’s a way to reboot ourselves. Our lives are inundated with the sights and sounds of a nonstop world. Sure, you can close your eyes, but that doesn’t guarantee the total darkness that the mask provides. It’s just you, the mask, the darkness all-around you and a lovely feeling of well-being.

Lately, when I have something to sort out, my mask and I huddle together and in a few short minutes, I feel recharged. It’s my mind’s little clubhouse, a solitary refuge, and such a simple antidote to our complex life. It’s easy to find the humor that only an eye mask can bring when I suddenly strap it on during a family discussion that I do not want to participate in.

I propose we initiate a World Eye Mask Day where everyone puts on an eye mask at the same time, sits for a few minutes quietly and then sees things again in a whole new light.

 

 

 

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The Patients with No Patience

 

Photo Patience

The same nightmare haunted me. A patient was being pushed into an operating room, when the gurney came to an abrupt halt. The patient was told they would have to wait there, right in the middle of the hall, until the Director of Medical Staff Administration completed their physician’s temporary privileges.

That Director used to be me and temporary privileges were what kept me up at night. Even though there were 568 physicians on staff, there were times when an unusual or complicated procedure called for the expertise of an outside physician. Since the physician was not on our medical staff and therefore, was not credentialed, there was a protocol to be followed that involved license verifications and a criminal background check.

The problem was that everything was always last minute and I was in the middle; between the impatient inpatient, the guest doctor at our facility who wanted to get in and out quickly and the lengthy internal process that required accuracy. Frustrated, I would wonder to myself: wouldn’t you want to know if the doctor operating on you last practiced in the back room of a hookah lounge off the New Jersey Turnpike in downtown Secaucus? Apparently not.

Everyone involved in this scenario could be diagnosed with having no patience, which is defined as “the capacity and endurance to accept or tolerate difficult circumstances calmly without complaint.” When I think about it, do I even know anyone who is patient?

Except for the Dalai Lama (whom I do not know personally), it is hard to envision someone that goes through life grateful for the extra time for internal thought that standing on a line brings, that is thankful for the ability to view new surroundings when a detour takes them out of their way and that is appreciative of the new relationships made when having to call their cellphone provider every month to ask them to refund the same amount that is constantly being overbilled.

What choices do we have? We can either let patience get the better of us or we can realize that in this big world, patience will always be the slow boat to China while we are all be clamoring to board the Orient Express. Maybe we can meet patience somewhere in the middle?

Lately, I’ve tried to do just that. I’ve hoodwinked patience into thinking that the outcome was what I really wanted all along. I’ve resisted getting angry or upset when life zigs rather than zags and when I look back, those zigs made for some interesting experiences.

I’m not ready to go cold turkey and throw open the doors of my local motor vehicle department for the ultimate challenge, but somewhere in between there is the new me that can look a harried customer service representative right in the eyes, smile and say “…Oh, is it my turn already?..”

 

Frame Your Own Pictures

Picture Frame Pictures

She was so delighted with the print she had purchased. It reminded JC* of a favorite vacation destination. She would prop it up against the walls all-around her home, looking for just the right spot.

I was the one that decided it needed a permanent home. I devised a scheme to sneak it out of her home in a bag of magazines that I was picking up, and delivered it right to the frame shop, agonizing over the perfect frame and just the right mat colors that would perfectly complement the print.

While it was a loving gesture and I was excited to present her with this surprise birthday gift, I realized later that it really was not my picture to frame; it was hers.

In a recent Ted Talk, author Anne Lamott reminds us “…We can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. Help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody…”

I am a recovering helper. For every dollar you have, I can add in my two cents in order to assist, guide, advise, suggest or lend a hand. When I like someone, I have a tendency to go overboard and when I love someone, I can drown them in the H (help) word.

It is said that helicopter parents got their name from the yuppie moms and dads that were overprotective and took an excessive interest in their child’s life. There’s a delicate balance between involvement and smothering and Mr. Wiz* and I tried very hard to remember the difference. When our only child was younger and was starting to make his way onto the world stage, he needed us to be his attentive audience, not be standing backstage delivering him his lines. Anne Lamott was right; that would have been disrespectful. You do your very best and then set them free. But, between us, a quick spray of holy water while they are walking out your door or a dose of mom mental telepathy never hurt anyone.

Back then, Big A* and I came up with a code word. Anytime I was exhibiting an inclination toward being overzealous, he would whisper the word “Despacio” in my ear (Spanish for slowly) It was my que to slow down. This worked then and even worked recently, when I almost fell off the wagon.

I’m sure that by now my family and friends all know that I am there for them. I will try to control my controlling tendencies (hidden under the guise of helping), but there may be times when I veer off. One Hallmark card commercial viewed at a particularly sensitive moment may trigger an outpouring of unwanted and unwarranted assistance.

So, just in case you see me running toward you with outstretched arms and that tender look in my eyes that says “…I am here for you…,” just return the hug and whisper “Despacio” in my ear. I will get the message.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

Time: Yours, Mine and Hours

Photo Time

In my imaginary world that I call “Lindita Land,” I wake up whenever I want to. I take the art of putzing to a new level as I push my to-do list aside and do a series of inconsequential things that I will not remember tomorrow. Never glancing to see what time it is, I continue through my day combining important tasks with inconsequential tasks. The day has a wonderful flow to it; there are no deadlines and there is no immediacy to anything. Magically, by nightfall, everything I had planned to do has been completed. I fall into a deep sleep and do not wake up during the night; a miracle in itself. I am the star of my dreams, without a worry or a care as to the who, what, where and when of tomorrow.

Yikes! Both the timer on the stove and the alarm on my phone have gone off at the same time and I am startled me back to reality. I’m not sure which task to do first, so I bounce back and forth between the two, promising myself that tomorrow will be different.

I take a break and decide that it’s time to try to outsmart Father Time and his gremlins (similar corporate setup to Santa and the elves, only snarkier). I will grab that extra flesh of time and squish it into the girdle of my day. Are you with me? Do you have any ideas to share? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Create a daily to-do list, so it’s less intimidating.
  • Check emails only once or twice a day and act on them immediately: respond, delete or save.
  • Make a menu and a shopping list and only grocery shop once a week.
  • Keep a list by store and only travel there when you need a few items.
  • Plan a logical route, so you can complete errands all at once.
  • Multi task: water plants or do food prep while you are on the phone.
  • When you are asked to volunteer, sleep on it; never answer immediately.
  • Learn that sometimes you just need to just say no.
  • Promise yourself a treat once your daily tasks are done.

I am not the only one trying to make my way in life with a little help from paper and a pen. A big industry of time management journals has sprung up from the ashes of those little pads that used to spur you on with their cute headings. Now, ranging in theme from passion planners to academic planners, you can time block your day, month and year in order to be more efficient and productive in a customized version of yourself. The thought behind this is that if you enter a room with a pastel Lily Pulitzer life planner under your arm, it will mask the fact that you may actually not be feeling all that light and airy. Then, there is the latest version, the Life Planner 3000. This newest “super-size me” style is available with wheels.

My homemade to-do list is divided into segments entitled “Call,” “Do” and “Go.” It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. And now that I’ve stolen those precious minutes here and there, it actually feels workable. I am able to evaluate the best use of my time and get things done.

I’m sitting in my kitchen enjoying a cold, grapefruit flavored club soda after a particularly busy day and decide that I actually have some extra time to sit outside and read. I toast the sign on my kitchen wall that reads “Never Enough Thyme” and hurriedly head out before the time gremlins catch up with me again.

 

 

 

 

 

The High, the Low and the No of Expectations  

Photo Expectations

In the celebrated new novel, Great Eggspectations, the protagonist is in hot water, scrambling to turn her life around. She’s blamed everything and everyone around her for her disappointment, rather than realizing she is expecting too much and is about to crack.

Warning: high levels of expectation can be detrimental to your health. Going through life possessing a strong belief that something will happen in a certain way can lead to crushing disappointment.

The word itself seems a bit haughty in tone; anticipating that it’s our way or the highway is the egotistical equivalent of the overwhelming desire to put words in someone’s mouth and then be the puppeteer that pulls their strings.

I’ve come to realize that expectations can actually work with and against us. Our internal expectations can work alongside our goals to produce positive results. It’s when we unleash our external expectations that the situation muddles. We have no control over what someone will say or do or how a situation will play out. Yet, we waste time and energy creating the perfect scenario and then we feel so let down when things don’t go our way.

Shakespeare said “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Letting go of that feeling of control is not easy, but maybe little by little we can remember to be happy, grateful and content and just let our lives unfold as they were meant to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lego of Your Yearnings

Photo Lego

Every morning when I wake up, I smile as I glance straight ahead at the piece of furniture that fits exactly on our bedroom wall and stops just short of the light switch. Moving into a new home, I worried that our furniture might not work, but it’s all nestled into its spots as if it were meant to be there all along.

Sometimes, as much as we try, we just can’t make life’s square pegs fit into its round holes. Nevertheless, we persevere, hoping that the power of suggestion alone might change the shape of our destiny. It won’t.

We can see the silhouette of the odd shaped pieces of the aspirations that we keep trying to connect together, but for some reason, we just can’t let them go. The love interest that friends and family say is not right for us, the home that doesn’t fit our needs, the job or lifestyle that is not what we really want; we stubbornly try to squeeze and whittle our desires into a format that is counterproductive to who we are.

I am an advocate of the Lego Theory of Life. Legos are colorful, interlocking plastic bricks that have been around since 1932. The company’s name is an abbreviation of two Danish words, “leg godt,” which means “play well.” Leave it to the Danes to come up with such a simple philosophy: if two blocks do not fit together, try another one.

Think of all the time and energy we could save. Gone would be the agony of frustration. There would be nothing holding us back. So, let’s play! We’d be as happy and content as a child on their first visit to Legoland.

Let’s remind ourselves that there is no point trying to mold the incongruous. And if life doesn’t go right, we’ll just go left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Inside Out Makeover

Photo Inside Out

I was mesmerized by her flawless makeup and her glow. She had an interesting face and it was highlighted just the right way so that she had a sophisticated air about her. Her English accent made everything she said sound much more important than it actually was.

I went back to paying attention to her sales pitch as she continued my complimentary makeup consultation. She spoke in a hushed tone and tried to impress me with the ingredients, as if someone walking by might try to steal the recipe. I didn’t think this was an issue as the secretion of African cochineal insects and shark liver oil combined with 20 letter words that Dr. Seuss would have been proud to call his own, made up the list (even more impressive when listed on the packaging in French).

With the precision of a scientist (her starched, white jacket did resemble a lab coat), she then proceeded to show me how to apply the free sample of the Synchronized Recovery Complex II Cream that I was about to receive. I was to use a cotton swab (my pinky might contaminate the ingredients) and dip it into the tiny jar, then take this minute bit of cream and tap it around my eyes every night (or, for as long as the 0.24 fluid ounces would last). She assured me that after seeing the results, I would be back to purchase the larger size. Unless my face transformed to that of a 24-year-old in the next week, I doubted that I would be investing $175 in my beauty care regimen.

It was fun to be pampered, but it made me think that while I was working so hard to transform the exterior me, what had I done lately to make over the interior me? I decided that once in a while, I should just turn myself inside out. That inner side doesn’t get out very much, so a little attention might do it some good:

  • I decided that on those days that I didn’t plan to be out and about, I would not wear any makeup (only face cream with SPF) and give my skin a much-needed rest.
  • In the morning, rather than jumping up and grabbing my to-do list, I would try opening my eyes and quietly make a cup of tea, sit outside, read something inspirational and try to meditate, even if just for a few minutes.
  • Instead of watching the morning TV shows on the treadmill when I exercised, I would start listening to Ted Talks. The acronym TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. These short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less) are intended to spread ideas and really do get you thinking.
  • During the course of the day, I would try to remember to slow down, take in my surroundings and enjoy the little moments.

We dedicate so much time and energy to our beauty regimen. We scrub, cream, oil, paint and sometimes even change our exteriors. Pampering our interiors might be just what we need to balance us and give us that radiance that we were searching for all along.