Thursday, November 22, 2018

the giving of thanks


Gratitude feels like a buzzword to me lately, much like “thoughts and prayers” – devoid of some of its earlier meaning due to overuse and being under-actualized. So I’m going to spend some time today thinking about all the people in my life, giving thanks, and staying present to the wonder and beauty that is this life I’ve been given.

The other day I was in a doctor’s office with my father, and there was a lady in the waiting room in a wheelchair with oxygen. She was alone, and couldn’t stop sobbing and saying, “My family doesn’t care about me. No one cares about me.”

I couldn’t help but weep for and with her, though that solved nothing. And I also couldn’t help but think about how many people were exactly like her, with no one to give a damn.

It is an awful moment in our shared humanity when “you do you” has replaced “how can I be of service.” It is a time of phenomenal technological interconnectedness and yet, epidemic isolation and loneliness.

So in the midst of my own turkey day, I am sending up a prayer for every single person left alone and feeling unloved or unwanted.

I’m also sending out some gratitude for the creature comforts and working appliances I enjoy. Wait, what???

For the past few years, every holiday has brought with it something ceasing to accomplish its designated duties. Two years ago, it was the oven breaking on Thanksgiving, last year this time, the hot water tank broke and flooded the basement, which is not to be confused with this past 4th of July, when we had a real whopper of a flood, or the Memorial Day heat wave, when the air conditioner broke.

If I was the superstitious kind, I would steer clear of holidays and pull the covers over my head, but instead, I just keep checking the basement for water and move on with my day. So far, so good, by the way.

Traditionally, I conclude my Thanksgiving blog with a random list of whatever pops into my little noggin that I am thankful for, but before I do that, I want to make sure to specifically let you know that if you are reading this, I appreciate you and am very thankful you are here right now.

I am thankful for…

…my family, near and far
…warm clothes on cold days
…seeing dreams to fruition
…mercy and compassion
…coffee
…the ideals of freedom and democracy
…living another year
…words that inspire and empower
…my hair colorist (priorities!)
…friends that are family to me
…theater, musical and otherwise
…having the ability to change, and then actually doing it
…hope
…sunsets that take my breath away
…puppies
…angels in human form
…songs
…those who have passed, but remain in my heart
…love, in every way it shows up
…lessons learned and new adventures
…time spent both in contemplation and conversation
…having more than enough
…football (totally kidding! I was just seeing if you read this far)
…the courage to manifest my greatest desires
...enough wisdom to be grateful

May your Thanksgiving be one of love, fellowship, and more than enough. Thanks for stopping by and spending part of your day with me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How to Calm the Hell Down and Be Happy


I read that in order to become a master at anything, you had to work at it for at least 10,000 hours. 

I took out my calculator, because I wanted to be sure I had the numbers right. Yup, I am a master 46 times over at worrying, fearfulness, and anxiety.

People were telling me to calm the hell down years before “calm the hell down” was even a “thing.” At the pinnacle of my panic, the more anyone told me to calm down, the more pissed off I became.

Did anyone really think I hadn’t tried? 

Finally, I decided I would do everything I could find that was recommended to relieve stress and anxiety and chronicle my findings in what I was certain would be a snarky little novelty book, more sardonic than serious and perfect for holiday gift-giving. 

If you are new to this blog or to me, well, first – welcome! Thank you for stopping by. Second, I should preface this by saying I had already written one book, a memoir called In Search of George Stephanopoulos, and I swore I’d never write another book again. Oh, not because it wasn’t a fantastic experience, but because, a) it took me ten years, and who has a spare decade of their lives to spend writing another book? b) I still considered myself a singer/songwriter first and foremost. And c) I had the overwhelming feeling that I did not know what I was doing, which, frankly, never stopped me before, so what the hell, I’ll write another book.

Life enjoys surprising us, when we let it. And in my better moments, I let it. In this instance, it was taking me down a different road entirely. 

It’s as if the Universe said to me, “You want to calm the hell down and be happy? I’ll give you some food for thought.” And it grabbed the steering wheel and made a sharp left, while I lurched involuntarily to the right and nearly fell out of the car. 

What began as a lark became serious when I reached the point where all the recommended remedies fell short. At my core, I was still worried, scared, and anxious. And the stress was already wreaking havoc on my health. I could take all the deep breaths in the world, listen to soothing sounds, and put a statue of the Buddha next to my bed and I was still gonna be worried, scared, and anxious. 

Until I could get to the underlying cause, nothing would significantly change. And that, my friends, is true for all of us. 

It is easy, in the insanity of the world around us today, to believe our problems would be solved if outside circumstances were different. But the world has gotten this crazy because we have gotten that way. And if we want it to change, then we must change. Out of necessity, I’ve figured out some ways to do that that have yielded good results for me.

So I decided this time to let my courage win out over my fear, and my bravery to exceed my insecurities. I decided to allow for the possibility that I could actually help you in some way, because I’d not only worried for more than 10,000 hours, but because I spent far more than those 10,000 hours finding my way out of a lifetime of stress. 

I hope you take me up on it, not just because I need to pay my electric bill – although I do, in fact, need to pay my electric bill. But because I think I can help you calm the hell down and be happy. I hope you’ll give me that opportunity.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Here’s where you can pre-order How to Calm the Hell Down and Be Happy

Sunday, September 9, 2018

...what and whom we ask for


I just received a text from a friend requesting that I pray for someone. I do not know this person in need of my prayers, and it didn’t look like a group text that was erroneously sent to me, either. Also, I do not know why this person is in need of my prayers, only that they are.

One would think that this would be a strange or rare occurrence for me, but the truth is it is not. I receive requests for prayers all the time, and my response is usually one of two things – “I’m on it,” or “Done.”

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to prayer lately, and how it has changed for me over the years. I am especially pondering the topic on this Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year.

People the world over will be asking for forgiveness, mercy, and to be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year. Many will be atoning for “sins,” both known and unknown to them.

Me, I have mixed feelings about this, not because I don’t want forgiveness, mercy, and another year of life, but because I think asking for those things alone is coming from a place of fear and powerlessness and absolves us of our own responsibility in having those things.

My prayers are no longer that of a child, begging for a present. They are that of an adult, looking at the world and knowing that it cannot be anything that I am not willing to be in essence. So while it’s great to seek forgiveness, I seek to be forgiving. And for as much as I want mercy, I pray to be merciful.

We are co-creators, inextricably linked to one another and to our Creator. So knowing that, it is impossible for me not to pray for the stranger, or the ones I seemingly despise or don’t agree with on, well, anything.

I think we are met at the level of our expectancy and our willingness to become more. This world desperately needs us to become more, more of our best selves. More courageous. More brave. More peaceful. More loving. More grateful. More engaged.

The world needs us to do the right, and just, and merciful, loving thing – without an opinion poll.

It needs us to be the friend we’d want to have, the leader we desire, instead of merely following whomever. The world needs us to stop falling into line and start forging a new and better path.

We will rise or perish as one. And that’s why, when someone asks me, I say a prayer. Because that stranger is the person someone loves most in this world. That stranger is a reflection of my own need and despair. That stranger is the least among us or the messiah. That stranger is you. And that stranger is me. And we will rise or fall together.

So in this New Year, I ask to be mercy, to be forgiveness, to be love, and to be peace. I ask for all of us to be inscribed in the Book of Life, but maybe more importantly, I ask for whatever days we are given to be of abiding value, and to leave a legacy of what good is possible.

I will say a prayer for all of you. I hope you will do the same for me.

Wishing you peace and blessings and a sweet New Year,
Ilene