“If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.” ~Dr. Robert Emmons
I read this quote in a book recently and decided to give it a try. Though this week was stressful, this nightly practice really did help me appreciate the good things that were happening right alongside the tough things. Despite the scare with Phin, I could stay focused on getting him the best care and appreciate my loving friends, the sunshine, the flowering trees, my comfy home, and all of the new adventures ahead of me.
It’s easy to let life weigh us down. Living is hard work. Living fully is even harder work. But we can do hard things. We can pick ourselves up and keep going and keep recognizing that while life is difficult, it’s also pretty amazing.
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen
This quote has been an important guidepost for me for many months, now more than ever. It inspired the title of my novel, Where the Light Enters, and it continues to guide me through the many changes that I’m experiencing in my life now.
No matter what’s happening to us and around us, it’s important for us to continue to ring the bells that still can ring. Smile and love and help where and when and how we can. Our actions don’t need to be perfect; we don’t need to be perfect. We can’t be. We live in a world that is wholly imperfect. All we can do is our best, and that means continuing to show up and put our hearts and souls into the act of creating the best lives we can, for ourselves and the people we love.
And that’s the trick of it all, that’s how the light gets in. It gets in with love and gratitude and actions guided by them. It gets in when we let ourselves we vulnerable, when we allow ourselves to learn and change and grow, not in spite of adversity, but because of it. That’s how we make a good life.
Today, I woke up in my new home in Washington D.C. It’s freezing, and yet I don’t feel the cold at all. My smile and heart are warm because I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be: in a city of people working to make the world a better place in their own special way.
Right before I started my last leg of the drive to D.C., I read Dr. Oliver Sacks’s essay in The New York Times in which he explained that he has terminal cancer. It’s one of the most positive, uplifting pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I’ve long been an admirer of his work and life, and this essay explains why. (The incredible movie Awakenings, starring Robin Williams, is based on his book about his early career.) Though he is now face-to-face with death, he remains joyful, grateful, and hopeful for the world that he will not be a part of in a few short months.
If Dr. Sacks can feel like this while standing on death’s doorstep, then we can all feel it every minute of every day. Regardless of the weather, regardless of how we feel, regardless of how others may behave. We can be happy, grateful, and glad to be alive. That’s my goal, today and every day.
In the hustle and bustle that’s December, take some time to give yourself a high-five for 2014. Even if it was a tough year, acknowledge that your strength helped you through it. What are you most proud of doing in 2014?
Here are my personal high-fives with infinite thanks to so many of you who made them possible and cheered me on in the process:
– I directed and produced my first original play that I’ve written, Sing After Storms
– I wrote the first draft of my first novel, Where the Light Enters
– I moved out of New York and started a new adventure in a new city
– I transitioned my business away from consulting to write full-time
– I saw Compass Yoga through to its completion and with the help of so many volunteers helped hundreds of people discover the joys of the practice
– I started working as a voice over artist
– I expanded the channels for my writing with great brands that I’m proud to be associated with
– I spent a lot of time with friends, old and new, and my family despite a hectic schedule
I’m making some big plans for 2015 and I know it’s going to be a wild ride. I’m not afraid. I’m excited for it, and I’m grateful to be on this journey with so many other good people. High-fives all around!
Today is the 5-year anniversary of my apartment building fire. Tonight is also the awards ceremony for the Thespis Theater Festival in which my play, Sing After Storms, is nominated for best play. A portion of that play is based on my fire experience. The synchronicity is not lost on me.
I used to regard that fire, in which I lost almost all of my belongings and barely got out of the building in time, as the worst day of my life. Now I know it was one of the best because it taught me that no matter what happens, I’ll always be okay. That fire literally burned the fear of living right out of me. In the same way that fire chemically transforms everything it touches forever, it changed me forever, too. It showed me how strong I am, and that knowledge serves me well every day. The recovery from it was painful and difficult, but when I consider how much I love my life now compared to my life then, I know it was worth the struggle to get well.
September 5th now feels like a second birthday to me. In my home, I keep a photograph of my old apartment after the fire. That’s where I began again, completely from scratch, to build a life worth living. It’s a self-portrait in a way, a daily reminder that I am fortunate to be here at all. That we all are. I’m glad I hung in there, even in the darkest, most frightening, lonely hours, because on the other side of that fear I found everything I ever wanted. I found me, and that’s something not even a fire can take away.
People see your value. Many are looking for a bargain, a way to use what you know for their benefit. Understand work is a two-way street, always. Yes, you are being paid by someone in some way to do the work you’re meant to do. But don’t you dare let anyone, anytime, anywhere make a bargain out of you. You are precious. You, your talents, and time have a real and hefty worth. And if people don’t get that then they don’t get you. Find the people and places who value you for all that you are, and then some. Don’t seek a check. Seek respect, appreciation, gratitude, and growth. Know your worth and never compromise it. Your worth is not negotiable.
We wrapped our final performance of Sing After Storms at the Thespis Theater Festival last night. Now, I feel nothing but love, gratitude, and joy. All of the stress, long hours, and enormous amounts of energy and effort were absolutely worth it from beginning to end. Now I just want to say thank you—to everyone who supported the show, who attended a performance (or 2, or 3!), and to the incredibly talented cast and crew that made this dream happen. I promise you this: I will do everything in my power (and then some!) to continue to carry this show forward. We’re just getting started.
For all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for people they would never know so that all of us could be free, thank you.
Exactly as Phin and I crossed Central Park to begin moving into our new apartment, the sun began to part the clouds after days of torrential rain and months of intense uncertainty. My first thoughts was, “You’ve gotta be kidding me, Mother Nature.” She wasn’t kidding; she can be so cliché and I’ve never loved a cliché more than I did at that moment. The lesson wasn’t lost on me: eventually the light always returns and we have the right to bask in it.
This apartment search has been a tough journey, and a good one. I feel stronger, braver, and more open to change as a result of it. I learned what was important, and what wasn’t. Best of all, I realized just how many incredible people I have in my life. Thank you all for sharing in this journey and being a part of the solution. You’re welcome to visit any time and help me explore my new neighborhood. Actually, I insist. Tomorrow my blog returns to its regularly scheduled programming of inspiration and encouragement. Today I’m spending the day saying thank you, for everything.
Author James Patterson was on CBS This Morning talking about his new book, First Love. It’s inspired by a woman he was with many years ago. She developed an inoperable brain tumor and to keep their spirits up they adopted this shared philosophy: “Aren’t we lucky that you didn’t die today?” It kept them appreciative, hopeful, and present. We’re all lucky we had today, even if it’s been the worst day, because it’s so much better than the alternative of not having this day at all. It reminds me that there are so many people all over the world who have passed on who would have given anything to have today. On the tough days, that idea keeps me going. It keeps me grateful. It keeps me smiling.