Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Antsy

A few years ago I finally acknowledged what my friends had been chuckling over for years: I've got a touch of hyperactivity in me.

When I get busy, I get over busy, with several projects running at once. I talk fast, think at hyper speed, and always have my eye on the next set of things I want to do.

For most of my life, I never gave it a second thought. Heck, aside from realizing that I talked way too fast for most people (being constantly asked to slow down made that hard not to catch!), I always figured I did things the same way as everyone else.

Deep inside of me, though, I always wondered how people settled down and stayed in the same community for decades. When we moved to New Jersey, I think I really tried to buy into that, and at one point I might have almost had myself convinced that I could take comfort in living in the same house for 30, 40, or 50 years until it was time for either a nursing home or a grave.

It was an incredibly pleasant surprise to find that my husband had been as antsy as I was about living in NJ. It wasn't until we had been living in Israel for a couple of years that I learned he had been thinking about making a change for quite some time.

Well, we've been in Israel for 10 years, in the same apartment for five, and I'm getting antsy again.

We've had a realtor in to appraise our place, and the day after she was here, I turned to my husband and said that we have a chance to make another huge change in our lives, and what did he think?

A couple of years ago I suggested that we sell our apartment, and backpack around the world for a few years. He sweetly demurred, but smiled and said it was fine with him if I did some traveling. I jumped at the chance, and since then have been either on the way to somewhere new or busy planning my next trip.

But I'm starting to get an itch for more than just a month or two of travel a couple of times a year. I want the challenge of living in a new place, getting adjusted to a new culture, learning a new language, experimenting with new foods.

I've suggested six months in London or Paris, thinking that a central, metropolitan area might be fun. I've got visions of hopping a train or bus or cheap flight for weekends exploring Europe.

Just as I start feeling comfortable in that idea, I get another vision: of a quiet life on an exotic island deep in the South Pacific. A couple of years ago, we spent a fun afternoon fantasizing about changes we could make in our lives, and I had another pleasant surprise when my husband started talking about moving to far flung places.

In my realistic moments, I acknowledge that for now, we'll probably just move to a smaller apartment in the same town, and I'll continue to travel, with, hopes that my husband will join me on a trip or two.

But we have agreed to get rid of as much of what we've accumulated over the years as we can. He'll be happy with just simplifying our lives, but I'm thinking that the less we have to pack and unpack, the easier it will be for us to pick up and go...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Funerals and a Wedding

Last week we were running on emotions. Each day found us either at a funeral, paying a condolence call, or at a wedding. On top of that were very frustrating problems with a neighbor that led to legal intervention, so needless to say, it felt like the week would never come to an end.

Thank goodness the wedding was on Thursday night, so we had it to look forward to all week. And, on Tuesday, our son was in for a few hours, which made for a very special and much needed treat.

One of the funerals was of yet another person our age. He was someone we knew when we were teenagers, and when we opened our email in the evening to find the announcement of his death, and that his funeral was being held in half an hour, we wondered for a moment if we should attend, and then quickly got ready to go.

I think most of us expect that at some point in our lives, our friends are going to start dying. We just never thought that it would start happening while we were only in our 50s. When Sarah passed away earlier this year, we were very shaken, and filled with the surety
that her untimely death was an anomaly. We spoke of learning to live life to its fullest, but I don't think it ever crossed our minds that Sarah's death marked the entrance of a new stage in our lives.

Aaron's death last week struck a different chord. As we were driving to the funeral, we started comparing ourselves to elderly people we've known who seemed to accept the death of a friend as an unavoidable eventuality that is mourned with a few tears, a shake of the head, and then a continuation of life.

Do you do that when the dead were still in the prime of life? Can you?

As I write this a week later, I understand that the answer is that yes, we do move on fairly quickly after the death of a friend. Their passing floods us with fond memories and strong emotions, but perhaps the difference is that at our age a friend's death also bears a very sharp touch of reality, and a determination to not let life slip by.

To Sarah and Aaron, may you rest in peace, and with dreams and hopes that all your friends enjoy life with you in mind, and that many more years pass before we find ourselves gathering at the funeral of another friend.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Making Something Great Even Better

A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to a YouTube clip. I've watched that video a couple of dozen times, and it's never failed to make me smile.

It's so good that when I'm looking for a smile, I turn to that clip.

Chances are you've watched it, as it's gotten over 16 million hits since it was posted in mid July.

It's titled, 'JK Wedding Entrance Dance.' In case you haven't seen it yet, I don't want to spoil the fun for you, so I'll simply say that it is, indeed, a wedding entrance dance, but it's not necessarily what you'd expect. (I've posted the video at the bottom of this entry.)

What's made the clip even better is that when the bride and groom saw how many views it was getting, they added an appeal toward violence prevention, and included a link to a website they set up to help collect donations.

(I just sent a contribution.)

I can't think of a better way to start a marriage! First, they've brought smiles to the millions of people who've watched the video of their wedding entrance, and then they decided to put that good will to a much needed cause.

Kudos to Jill and Kevin! My way of saying thanks for all the smiles you've brought me is to make a donation through your website, and to post the link to both your video and your website, in the hope that others will also reap smiles and good deeds.

To view the video, click here

To visit Jill and Kevin's website, click here

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Love Dark Chocolate, But I Prefer a Sweet Life

My husband just posted this quote on his Facebook page:

"Having faith in G-d means having faith in other people, and the measure of our righteousness lies in how many people we value, not in how many we condemn." Rabbi Sachs, Great Britain

I'll discuss faith in God in another post. Right now, I'd like to take a look at the end of the quote, 'how many people we value, not in how many we condemn.'

It's sort of a 'do you view the cup as half-empty, or half-full' type of thing, and I think
s a good measure of a person's character, and a guideline for each of us to use as a springboard for self-evaluation.

Lately, I've been coming across articles, letters, and editorials in all sorts of forums and publications that talk about how good manners, graciousness, and respect seem be falling by the wayside. Some say it's a symptom of the failing economy, others attribute it to a lack of parenting skills, and others say it's yet another result of the 'me generation.'

People complain about fellow travelers who cut in line, throw tantrums when their demands and/or expectations aren't met, and who generally behave as if they are the only ones who matter at any moment.

I've read of incidents involving a shameless lack of respect and compassion for the very young, for the elderly, and for the infirm.

Personally, I've noticed an alarming rise in people on eBay who accompany unreasonable demands with threats of leaving bad feedback, or of filing falsified claims of bad or deceptive services to the eBay 'authorities.'

I shake my head at all of these, and wonder is it that people don't want to get along, or is it that they don' t know how to?

We've all interacted with people who seem bitter with the world, who just seem to be brimming with anger. Many years ago, I had a small blow up at a friend, and when I had finished my little tantrum, he calmly asked me, 'so, do you feel better now?'

Over the years, his words have often echoed in my head, and I used to work at moving to the 'feel better now' stage without needing to throw the tantrum first. But, a couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to get to a place in life where I didn't need the anger at all.

It seemed like an impossible goal, but it turned out to be easier than I ever imagined.

For brevity's sake, I'll jot down a short list of how I maintain a state of calmness, happiness, and acceptance:

  • I meditate daily, at least once a day, but if I feel under stress, I'll add another round or two. I've found that even just a few minutes of meditation is often all I need.
  • I tell myself to smile! I walk around with a smile on my face (and in my heart), and a bounce to my step.
  • I avoid people who have 'negative energy'- people who are always complaining, who can't or won't find a positive spin to a situation, or to life itself.
  • I never hesitate to lend a helping hand, a kind word, or a hug of support.
  • If I find myself in a difficult situation, I take a deep breath, brush off all negative thoughts, and then leap in to the challenge.
As I mentioned in a previous post, besides opening my eyes each morning with smiling expectations, I've experienced impressive improvements in my health, not only in my blood pressure, but also in every recent lab test.

I feel a sense of pity for people who can't shake off their anger and bitterness. I know men in their 60's who seem to revel in feelings of anger toward their parents. When I tried talking to them about it, asking them why at their age they didn't want to work through their feelings, they looked at me in confusion. They seemed to identify so strongly with that anger that they couldn't imagine separating from it.

I wonder: Are people who hold onto such intense anger toward another person expressing a sense of self anger? If you haven't found peace with yourself, can you feel peacefully toward another? (Yes- it seems like such 'psycho-pop', especially if that anger is being directed toward a parent. And if you groaned at that, just wait until you read my next paragraph..)

Taking a leap, and reflecting again on what I talked about in my 'Quest, and the Game of Life' post-

If on a personal level, we can't find peace within ourselves...if we can't show love and respect and compassion to others...if we approach life as a competition we have to win... then what chance is there for peace in the world?

Getting back to the quote from Rabbi Sachs, wouldn't it be lovely if we chose to speak highly of others, rather than to disparage them? When I was little, our rabbi's wife literally never had an unkind word about anyone. She could be talking about an extremely physically unattractive person, but by the way she described them, you would think they were a beauty queen. I had to grow up a bit to realize that she was talking about inner beauty, but I know that even at a young age I was in awe of the respect she showed for others. I'm still in awe of her, and every year, I strive harder to model even a small part of myself after her.

As my husband and daughter-in-law (and now myself) like to say, it's easy to be nice. And it makes a world of difference