Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Search of...a New Year's resolution

I've been thinking a lot lately about what is worthy of a resolution. Sure I could stand to lose weight and exercise more regularly. I could stand to curse less and laugh more. I could use less excuses and more results. But truthfully, who couldn't? And are all those things entities in and of themselves, or aren't they just symptoms of a bigger picture? And if so, what is that picture supposed to look like?

Last night, or this morning...however you choose to look at it...I went to an intimate party, a before New Year's New Year's gathering, if you will. While there, we bypassed most of the small talk and went straight for the subjects that are known to be not only taboo for party conversation, but rarely broached, even among friends - religion, politics, death, and the meaning of life.

This was not lighthearted fodder, but rather open-hearted conversation and communion with kindred souls along the journey we call life. As the evening progressed and we laughed until we cried, the subject of living authentically was linked to divinity. And that's when the light bulb in my little brain went bing! That, I believe, is our purpose, the reason we are here - to live as we were authentically created to be. That's the bigger picture. That is what is worthy of a resolution.

So on this last day of 2011, I resolve to let my choices and actions be guided by this question: Is this who I was created to be? Is this what I was created to do? Is this what Ilene would do if she were being one hundred percent Ilene?

Being authentic is such an overused phrase that it sounds cliche, when really it takes courage and bravery to do that. And the reason I know it takes courage and bravery to do that is because so few people do it.  But the ones who do stand out.

So here's to a new year of listening to our better angels, of stepping out in our own truth instead of what is commonly accepted by the masses, of doing that which we've never done before, but that which we know we are called to do. Here's to unexpected new directions, living with an open heart, taking a leap of faith. Here's to recognizing the fragility of life, the inherent beauty and greater compassion gained by loss. Here's to wisdom that comes only with age and youth's joyous exuberance. Here's to old friends and new beginnings. To family, friends, and being loved and known for who you truly are. Here's to radical kindness and limitless opportunities.

May 2012 be a year of discovering who we are and walking proudly in that knowledge so that we may inspire others to do so, too.

Peace, Blessings, and Happy New Year!!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Search of...a toast as one year ends and another begins

As another year draws to a close, I find myself assessing not only the 365 days gone by, but all the years that preceded them as well. Sure, I try to celebrate a future yet to come, but truthfully I am more reflective and somber than giddy with anticipation. I know I am not the only one, either. That's why we make resolutions - in the hopes that we will right the course of our lives. We long for that clean slate, that second chance, or maybe just some distance from the aching grief of loss. Whatever it is that you wish for, I hope it is granted.

I wanted to share with you some lines I wrote as well as those I found both moving and fitting as we raise our glasses to the end of 2011 and the start of 2012:

"Of all the money that e'er I spent
I've spent it in good company
and all the harm that ever I did
Alas, it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all." - Irish folk song

"Pass the tea & sympathy for the good old days are dead
Let's drink a toast to those who best survived the life they've led." 
- Janis Ian

"We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how." - Dan Fogelberg

"Here's to love and all that breaks
Here's to us and our mistakes
Here's to scars that make us human." - Tanya Leah

"Here's to us, the dreamers
The last romantic souls
The true believers that never give up hope." - Ilene Angel

And to paraphrase Mike Dooley -

I wish that your every dream come true. That you find yourself surrounded by friends, laughter, and good times. I wish that your every cup runneth over financially, romantically, spiritually, and creatively. That good health be your faithful companion, peace your guarded ally, and love your perpetual guide.

Thanks for stopping by.
Peace & Blessings to you all in 2012,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Search of...Christmas envy

So there I was, driving around listening to some of my favorite Christmas CD's - Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, heck, even Harry Connick, Jr. and I had to chuckle as they sang songs penned by Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser. Yes, we people of the tribe love nothing more than to write about, sing about, and by golly, partake of the holiday known as Christmas, a day celebrating yet another member of the tribe's birth.

As a child, I desperately wanted to share in the Christmas festivities, but I was hesitant to sing carols that hailed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, so sure was I that the God of the Old Testament would smite me with a bolt of lightning the first chance He got. Yes, there was more than enough guilt and shame to go around as I dutifully ate my latkes and lit the menorah. But the Christmas allure did not diminish with time, nor was I smited, or smitten, or whatever the correct tense of that word is.

I didn't care about the reason, I just wanted some colored lights festively hung anywhere and everywhere. So when I moved into my own apartment, I bought some. I could have gotten a tree, because (for all you misinformed Fox News reporters) the tree is a PAGAN tradition, not Christian. But I just stuck with the lights.

Of course, never having hung Christmas lights in my life, I had no idea how exactly to string them up all over my apartment. For several years, clear packing tape and precarious balancing along bookcase and door frame moldings were my method of choice. I also draped them over my keyboard, atop my TV and really, wherever I could. It took years for someone to finally tell me that they made clear hooks that adhere to your walls but leave no marks afterward that make light hanging not only infinitely easier, but far more attractive. Hey, I came late to the game, remember?

I would turn off all the lights except the Christmas ones, and sit reveling in the glow. One year I bought pink lights, which were, sadly, a much better thought in my mind than in tacky actuality. I also find eggnog to be a much better thought than in actuality, but I suppose that's just a taste thing.

As I contemplated the actual deeper meaning of Christmas -  the birth of the Messiah, and the conditions under which that birth took place, it occurred to me that the common theme between that and the Festival of Lights is the possibility of miracles. And that exists for all faiths. The mystery and awe of seeing that which is seemingly impossible come to pass is universal, and should draw us together, because none of us are the authors of miracles, but all of us, at one time or another, bear witness to them.

Einstein said, "There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." I am inclined toward the latter.

So as I light my menorah this evening...before watching the SNL primetime Christmas special, I will be celebrating a Season of Miracles, both large and small. I will be on the lookout for the good in people, the unexpected beauty available in any given moment, and most of all, I will stay present to the miracle that is Love in a world that desperately needs it.

So Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas. Peace and Blessings to everyone.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Search of...little things that make us happy

Well, it's one week until Christmas (and a few days until Chanukah), and I've officially joined Twitter. I won't lie to you, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with that, and I really don't have time for one more distraction, but in my moments of procrastination, I find myself going on there and poking around, usually looking for people I know or something funny. But more on Twitter another time.

So today I've been thinking about this time of year, and how, for some, it is the most difficult time of year, a painful reminder of loved ones gone and memories cherished. For some, it's a chore to be gotten through, and a relief when it's over. For others, it's a happy beautiful time where people are a little nicer to one another, and hope is renewed in the human race.

This has been a tough year for many whom I love and hold dear, and so it is my fervent hope that this year in particular, we all take nothing for granted and we savor each moment of joy, regardless of how big or how small.

I hope we remember that to someone, we may be the only example of kindness and compassion they encounter. So that smile, that door held for someone, that driver who's trying to get in your lane - let him in. Even if it's just for a season, and I hope it's not, but even if it is - be the bigger person, the one who forgives. Be the friend that lends a hand or listens without judgement or agenda. Your kindness may be the only true example of a miracle that someone experiences.

So sing a carol, build a snowman, bake cookies with your kids. They'll remember not only the recipe, but the love they felt doing that with you, long after you're gone. (I say this as I'm baking my mother's cookie recipe and missing her.)

It is easy to get caught up in the endless frenzy of our daily lives, but this time is precious and sacred. Every moment and every encounter is a chance to step into our best version of ourselves. So to my family and friends, colleagues, strangers, and nemeses (I'm not really sure I have nemeses, but I do enjoy the way the word sounds!), I appreciate you, I love you, and I hope your holidays are filled with beauty and fun!

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Search of...a great line, some regular folk, and the tell

Everyone has their "tell." In poker, that refers to the thing you do that gives away your hand. It could be as minor as a finger tap or throat clearing, but it reveals what you are trying to keep hidden. I'd suggest that in the large scale poker game we all witnessed tonight known as the Republican debate, there was a tell as blatant as a flashing neon sign.

Sure, there was the opportunity for a drinking game in which we all could down a shot every time they mentioned "Obamacare." I stopped counting, but I was only drinking Chardonnay. Note to self: purchase Tequila before next Republican debate.

The best soundbite of the night award goes to Newt Gingrich for his smackdown of Mitt Romney: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994." We could have all packed our bags and gone home after that one. Nicely played, Newt.

Then there were the camera shots of the loving and supportive spouses in the audience, particularly and repeatedly Michele Bachmann's husband...and the man sitting next to him. (A friend???)

There was the offer of the $10,000 bet by Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, winner of the most awkward moment of the evening award, only to be outdone by the frenetic scrambling for tales of personal poverty necessitated by a write-in question. Kudos to the questioner. But let's face it, these candidates are not starving, nor are they choosing between medication and a place to live in the frigid winter months ahead. No, this crowd of wealthy presidential hopefuls could not be more removed from your plight or mine.

But here's the kicker, the tell, if you will: the rules of this debate were discussed and agreed upon by all the candidates prior to the start of the debate this evening. Yet, no matter how much reminding, cajoling, gentle nudging, or outright admonishing my beloved moderators Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos did, this group would not and did not abide by what they had previously agreed to. They broke the rules. And that, my friends, says more about each and every one of them than the content of their words or how many years most of them have been married. We now know that their word is not their bond. Yes, even you, Texas handshaker, Rick Perry. If they can't do what they said they would do in a setting as benign as a debate, then rest assured, they will not keep their word in office.

Oh, I could go on and on about the revelation that I may be the only one who does not refer to the Prime Minister of Israel as "BB," or how I firmly believe that the crazy numbers all the candidates bandy about as if they actually would know them are made up. Seriously. It's kind of like that "fake it 'til you make it" concept. If you say it with certainty, they will believe you. The only thing is I don't.

So here's my take away when all is said and done: Newt won. Mitt "Sears Roebuck model" Romney lacked the authenticity to stop his downward spiral. Ron Paul still manages to both entertain and horrify me at the same time, while Rick Perry and Michele "I miss Herman Cain" Bachmann just flat out horrify me. And who's left? Oh yes, Rick Santorum, still fighting, unsuccessfully, to be taken seriously as a legitimate candidate in the race.

Yes, we're in full political swing now, boys and girls. Here's hoping for peace on earth, good will toward men - at least until Christmas.