Essay

Parking space selfies.

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I started losing my car several years ago.

I easily lost it in parking lots and on the street. Even better, I began losing it in my own neighborhood. I would walk in circles around my neighborhood, making myself late for everything, just trying to remember where I had last left my little black Civic.

One night I met my brother and his kids for food and music in Silver Spring, a part of town I tend to get confused in anyway since it’s gotten much bigger and busier in recent years. We had a great time, as always, and then walked back to the multilevel garage where we had both parked. After walking around two levels where I was sure I had parked, my brother drove me around the lot until I found the car.

My niece, maybe about 7 years old at that time, suggested that next time I take a picture of where my car is parked.

Best. Advice. Ever.

And now I photograph everything.

The history of my car’s whereabouts can now be found in my phone and I have cut way back on being late from car loss.

Here are some other tips too, from lifehacker – including how to locate your car on Apple maps, Google maps, and with an assist from Siri.  You can use Waze too.

My nephew’s best piece of recent advice was to unplug devices, not just turn them off.

Another winner!

I no longer debate with myself over whether I turned my curling iron off before I left home.

I still need to find ways of not losing my keys inside of the house.

Maybe it’s time to start taking house key selfies.

xoxo, d

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

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Focus on your breath.

It seems so simple.

So why is it so hard?

I learned to breathe back in the late 90’s in Takoma Park.  I was rebuilding my life after a debilitating health crisis and needed tools to help me move forward. After a period of personal and professional dysfunction, my skills were shaky and my confidence was at an all-time low. I was looking for building blocks, bits of accomplishment that could provide a new foundation.

I ended up in Takoma Park on Sunday nights through a friend.  He had been attending a meditation class was sponsored by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

The class met in a yoga studio.  We brought cushions to sit on while we were guided through a inspiring talk and then a period of sitting.  Maybe it was twenty minutes of sitting.  Maybe it was more.

My friend and I both struggled with the task of emptying our minds. My friend had something called monkey mind, where thoughts bounce around in the head like monkeys swinging from tree branch to tree branch. His head was filled with constant chatter and he couldn’t quiet it down.

I had a different problem.  My mind would focus on a subject, but any subject was filled with doom and negativity.  I was hard wired to think the worst and couldn’t point my mind in a different direction.

We went to those Sunday night classes for some time. And then we added a popular Wednesday night meditation where a few hundred people gathered to hear Tara Brach talk and then guide us through a shared time sitting quietly.

I was relieved, over time, to realize that quieting the mind was a challenge for many people. It gave me hope that many had eventually discovered ways of emptying the mind that had worked for them.  Instead of focusing on my own negative, I decided to do the simplest thing the instructor suggested: I focused on my breath.

Focusing on one’s breath is really simple.

You feel yourself breathe in. You feel yourself breathe out.

Then you feel yourself breathe in and breathe out again.

It’s really easy because the breathing pretty much happens without much effort.

The key is to just keep focusing on your breath.

But it’s a bit tricky since the mind tends to wander.

My mind wandered all over the place. My mind left no topic unpondered.

So I ended up getting strict about focusing on my breath. And eventually, I learned what it feels like to think about nothing. While breathing. And sitting.

Eventually, I also learned how to use my breath outside of the formal medication class. I learned how to use my breath when I needed to refocus or calm down or shift my thinking.

The good news about the breath is that it’s alway there, available for you to use as a tool.

Little by little, I added to my breathing experience. I found soothing music that I could listen to whenever I felt my mind going to dark or disconcerting places.  Sometimes I added a comforting mantra that helped me to distract my focus from a bad place.

And I listened to so many of Tara Brach’s talks, available for free on her website.  Some I listened to over and over, memorizing the words of comfort and reassurance. I ended up being able to hear her voice.  And I ended up believing that I could learn to laugh again after going through such a hard time. I heard Tara Brach laughing genuinely, without taking anything away from the depth of her advice.

And years later I started writing cartoons about sitting quietly. Because no matter how good I got at focusing on my breath, my mind was constantly trying to outsmart me and drift to anything and everything else.  And eventually it was comical.

Seriously, though. Try focusing on your breath. It’s really helpful.

And if you’re into it, listen to Thich Nhat Hanh whose stories of sitting quietly and breathing purposefully are delightful and addictive.

My favorite story of his is about apple juice.

Hope you read about apple juice and enjoy.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

In the meantime, remember to breathe.

xoxo, d

The Importance of Hope

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I try not to think about how much of my life has been focused on my brain trying to kill me.

It’s depressing to think about the waste of years.

It’s been decades of my brain urging me to do destructive things to myself and me trying to hang in there because hanging in there is what we’re supposed to do.

The problem with hanging in is that it becomes more and more exhausting as time goes on.  The strength you relied on in your early years just isn’t reliable decades later.

It gets harder to hang in and even harder to want to. (more…)

The Problem with Depression: Again. And again.

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I was on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional from DC  to Baltimore when I got the alert that Kate Spade had ended her life.  I couldn’t believe it and I desperately searched the internet for posts that proved the news a hoax.

But it wasn’t a hoax and the horrible news was confirmed immediately by credible sources.

I texted my sister-in-law.

Kate Spade killed herself.”

Knowing she would be pressed for the best way to respond, I added “I can’t un-know that.”

Kakki, the sister I had always wanted, texted back.

oh no,” she said.

(more…)

Something borrowed, something blue.

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I’ve been considering loose structures for a regular blog.  I feel like having a loose structure would be easier to maintain than the current ‘when I’ve got something to say‘ approach.

Even if I don’t have much to say, a loose structure would provide me a nudge toward something, right?

But none of the loose structures I’ve imagined have inspired me.  For some reason, I keep coming back to “tell me your peach and pit” or “what are your top ten whatevers?”

The problems with a top ten list are obvious.

What if you can’t come up with ten items?

Sure, I know. You can change the number.  You can make the top ten list into a top three list. Or a top seven list.

Whatever.

But what if you can’t decide on the theme of the list? (more…)

Fa la la la la ly2…

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I’m a big fan of leaving the house.

I don’t do it often, but I enthusiastically support the practice.

One of the great things about leaving the house is witnessing other humans’ experiences of life.  Other people are a good reminder about how little influence your own perceptions could have if you’d just give them less rope to run around with.

This morning I left the house.  I went to an office I go to now and again. (more…)

Anything But Quiet

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I don’t think I need to say that it’s been anything but quiet around here.  My little corner of here and the greater world of here have been loud and chaotic, demanding attention.

But you knew that.

And I said it anyway.

Because it helps me to process the noise if I first acknowledge that THERE IS NOISE. (more…)