Saturday, December 22, 2012

The REAL Santa Claus

What's with all the Santas?

Every kid gets to a point where this question comes up. Whether you notice that year after year your pictures with Santa look like they are with a different guy, or (like my brother and I) you are dragged from mall to mall to mall and notice every single mall has their own Santa sitting in center court all hours of the day.

It is simply impossible for Santa to be in all these places at once. Magic or no, every kid starts to wonder what is going on after a while.

I suppose my brother or I approached my mother at some point this quandary, because my only memory of my belief in Santa is an unshakable faith in who the real Santa Claus was and how he spent his pre-holiday time.

In our home we were told that the real Santa asked for hundreds of thousands of "helpers" to go out to the malls all over the country - including the guys right here in our Staten Island Mall - because he could only take pictures in one place.

The real Santa is at Macy's in Manhattan. The mere evidence of this fact comes from the magnificent Macy's Thanksgiving Parade where the whole country watches as Santa comes into New York at the end of the parade.

This made perfect sense to my brother and I because the couple of times we took the trip out to the City to visit Santa and take pictures with him, the line was EPICALLY long!

Who was your "real Santa"?

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Child Inside

Today marks one week from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. This morning there was a moment of silence held, nationally, at 9:30AM. I participated, from my home, while watching Connecticut broadcast on the news. Shortly after the ceremony, I posted this to my Facebook timeline (you can click the image to make it large, if you need to):
I can't remember a time in my life when I have not seen the beauty in children, or their great example.

I'm writing about this today because my instructions in my Learn to Meditate "class" today brought me right back to this personal perspective of the world once again. Today's meditation is instruction on how to meditate in a crowd of many people. The instructor said to sit still and quietly observe each person in the crowd, but to think of them as angels, as goodness, as another piece of the divine spirit.

In my own way, I do this all of the time (I had no idea I was meditating!). When I am amidst a group of people, like on a bus, for instance, I try to imagine each person as they were as a child. I try to see their innocence. I also do this whenever someone upsets me, or if I am tempted to call someone "evil", because I do not believe that anyone ever starts out evil. This often leads me to the same question, "What happened to this person?" The answer is usually other people happened to this person.

So, after my meditation I am left thinking that I don't want people to just take a moment during the holiday to live like a child, but I also want people to treat each other like they would treat a child. Now, of course, I am not suggesting that we all start patronizing each other, or helping each other out at the potty! What I am suggesting is that we smile at one another, we expect nothing from each other, we are extra understanding in the face of mistakes made, impoliteness and ignorance, we teach each other, we share and care. The thing is not to see each other as children now, but to remember that every person was once a beautiful child and that every single one of us still has that small child inside of us.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Writing Every Day

For the last ten days I have been consistent in holding with a new routine I am very happy about. I have been meditating, thanks to the Learn to Meditate Podcast by the The Meditation Society of Australia. It has been pretty amazing so far and, almost instantly, I felt the benefit of my new action.

Next on my list is to build in the same kind of rewarding routine for writing. While I have been writing in my journals daily, some days feel more like little jots here and there rather than the true focused type of "writing time" I think I owe myself and my words. About a week ago I decided to change the wallpaper on my computer to be something more writer-oriented so that it could serve as both a reminder and an inspiration. After a thorough search of what Google had to offer me one morning, I found a wallpaper with a quote from Norman Mailer that, I believe, is just what I need:
I love this quote because it speaks to my greatest weakness: the bad days. Now, I am not sure what Mailer characterized as a "bad day" in his own life, but, for me, with my crazy chronic illnesses bad days are pretty well defined across the board. When I was a teacher I would work through the bad days. However, I did this so much that I made things much worse for myself in the long run. So what did I do to fix the damage done? Well, after two years out of the classroom and on my healing path, I learned a new way to live that has its benefits and its drawbacks.

My solution was to let the pendulum swing the other way. I gave the bad days priority. While home healing, I pulled back on working through anything and just rode out whatever symptomatic wave came my way. The benefit in this type of existence is that my body was given full focus to heal, the bad thing is nothing else happened. In my two months of physical therapy (actually, it was vestibular therapy due to my extreme dizziness) I began to see how weak - physically - I had become from the utter stillness of my life. It takes no real genius to see that this phenomenon was not isolated to the physical part of me. My therapist said to me, on my second session, I think, "We have to work to get you back into the world of the living!"

It was something I didn't think my body would ever allow me to do again. I realized that day, that I had considered "a normal life" as something not in the cards for me. I was wrong. Of course, my "normal" is going to be a little more low key than those without my conditions, but everyone's "normal" is unique anyway, so there's nothing to fret about there.

The compromise for me is this: The classroom is gone for me for now (and maybe always), writing isn't. I can write through the bad days without fear that I will make things worse like I once did. I have to stop being afraid of pushing myself like I once relished in doing. Writing is not as physically taxing as my previous career was. I can allow the workaholic Nicole come out and play again without huge fears of physical repercussions; I have already made the major adjustments needed for my "new normal".

So I am going to commit to being a "real writer" as per Norman Mailer's definition - I am going to be able to do the work, even on a bad day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Words On My Screen

Right before Hurricane Sandy hit, my husband and I ran up to Barnes & Noble to stock up for what we expected might be a couple of days without power. We bought a book each and a box of dark chocolate Moose Munch (it's an addiction... I'm at the point of admitting that). As far as we were concerned, we were prepped and ready for the oncoming storm.

And we were. Thank God, even though we live in Staten Island, we are blessed to be located in the middle of the island. While most of our neighbors lost power for days, we actually only lost it for three hours and that was because the electric company intentionally shut it off to work on the rest of the neighborhood's power. And while huge sections of our island saw complete devastation including loss of life, home and business (DONATE HERE TO HELP!), we came out unscathed - we lost two medium branches from our street trees.

I can not begin to even express how grateful I am for every blessing I have been given.

In the interim, the book I purchased on that day has given me a bit of perspective about my writing and took me down a different path during the time I have been reading it. The book is called Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg and it has been recommended to me for quite some time now. A quote presented on Write On Edge today embodies the exact mindset Goldberg's book put me into:
Thanks to Writing Down the Bones and a two month stint in physical therapy where I worked to enter into the world of the living, I have been writing differently in the sense that I have been virtually silent.

This is not a permanent situation.

I am on a path of discovery right now that happens to require more focus than I had been giving it while typing away on the walls of my blog. For some reason I was unable to do both without stepping back, crawling inside and understanding (or maybe just remembering) why I love to do this in the first place.

I'm coming back. I'm thinking about a bit of a redesign. I'm happy to see my words on my screen again. It's wonderful how bright the day can seem after a nice long hibernation.