Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Now Cheer This!

Dear Friendlies -

( I started this post on the morning of April 15th, hours before, and miles away from, the events that would unfold in my beloved Boston. I'm finally ready to finish it today.)

I love Marathon Monday in Boston. Having lived on Beacon Street in Brookline for 17 years, participating in my city's important day was a treat and a happy obligation. In the early '90's I watched with the crowds at Coolidge Corner or Kenmore Square where the race, for me, seemed like a giant social event. Two or three times, when I worked retail in the Back Bay (always open, even on a holiday), I was right on Boylston Street listening to the applause and the shouts of encouragement near the finish line.

My favorite memories were the 10 years watching from the 1/2-mile stretch between Cleveland Circle and Washington Square right around Mile 23. The crowd was jovial, someone was always grilling in front of my building, beach chairs were set-up, and there was no shortage of beer. At this stretch in the course, only a few miles from the finish, there were no barriers and the runners were very close to the spectators. I loved this spot because I felt like I could make a difference there. Make a difference? Let's get one thing straight: Miss O does not enjoy running and is not entirely sure why someone would put themselves through a marathon. And yet, I never missed it.

From my bedroom window, I could see and hear the early spectators getting into place. I would check the tv and watch the progress of the leaders, listening for the news helicopters...when I saw them approaching Chestnut Hill Avenue, I would tear down the stairs and across the street to see the leaders fly by. It was always thrilling and always over in a second. Then I would return to my apartment to wait for the "real people".

At first I didn't understand why I was drawn to the marathon. It's not like watching a match with exciting action or the possibility of an thrilling play. In fact, it made me uncomfortable to watch a herd of strangers struggling, panting, sweating, sometimes bleeding, but I would watch and clap. I often got a sun-burn with the outline of my sunglasses on Marathon Day, my hands would be sore from clapping and my voice was hoarse. Sometimes I would watch with a pal, but often I would spend an hour or two by myself cheering for random runners. On Marathon Monday 2006, I was headed to the airport to fly to Paris with a dear pal and his mom, but stopped to put in my time on the course as he waited with our suitcases on the sidewalk. In 2007 I was at a friends' party down the street and we came upstairs (for more beer) to learn of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. By the 2008 Marathon, I had acquired a cowbell (a gift from a dear friend, an alumnus of Furman University) with the letters FU.

Armed with my cowbell, I was an unstoppable cheerleader...a one-woman noise-machine, a whirling dervish of encouragement and support for these unknown athletes. I say athletes, but sometimes I thought of them as poor bastards. "Why on earth would this poor bastard put him/herself through this?" I didn't get it. I still don't, but now I have many many friends who are runners, and I don't think of them as poor bastards. I think what they do is admirable, heroic even. I have a friend who has run the Boston Marathon 10+ times for the American Liver Foundation. I know another guy who ran a 50k to celebrate his 50th birthday.  On my 50th birthday, I plan to be lounging on a divan drinking champagne like it's my job, not getting sweaty and miserable with leg cramps. What can I tell you? It takes a village.

As my years as a spectator progressed, so did my cheering. First I just clapped and yelled "Whoo" randomly. Then I started reading the names on the runners' jerseys and calling them out by name, "Looking good, Bob! Keep it up!" Sometimes nothing happened, my voice was lost amid the stampede. Sometimes I saw an imperceptible smile or nod as they heard their name and pushed forward. Sometimes they located the source of the sound and made eye contact with me. Other spectators would stare as I went on for hours with my solo gig, yelling and ringing my bell. If a runner was wearing a shirt with their flag, I would (try to) yell in their language: Allez la France! Viva Italia! Foreigners were always very surprised and very appreciative of the support. In 2009, an adorable Asian gentleman in his 40's was so pleased when I yelled "Let's go Korea!" that he STOPPED RUNNING and took a picture with me by the side of the race.

Perhaps the most special moments were when the runners were very close to me, with no barriers, just 2 feet away, and I didn't need to yell, I could speak to them quietly.  I would lean as close as I dared without obstructing the path and say: "You got this, Girl. You're kicking ass, Buddy. Stay Strong. You're going to make it."  Often the women would mouth "thank you". The men had more of a visceral response, I could see them lean in and move forward with determination. These up-close-and-personal exchanges had a profound effect on me. Sometimes I could feel myself getting choked up. You're not even running, what the frack are YOU crying for?! It was my heart that was overflowing. Overflowing with joy, with purpose. If my voice, if my smile could help a complete stranger move one foot closer to their goal, maybe we can all make a difference?

Every man, woman, and child on Planet Miss O will be (should be) cheering for the Red Sox tonight, but tomorrow I ask you to find someone, a regular person, maybe someone close to you, perhaps a total stranger who needs encouragement.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb encourage:
1. to fill with courage or strength of purpose
2. to help the growth or development of 
3. to rouse to strong feeling or action 

Friendlies, helping someone achieve their goal, supporting someone who faces a challenge is a great gift. We are on this earth to be a blessing. I encourage you to share your strength, to use your voice, your kindness, your someone's cheerleader. You can make a difference!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Impeccable You

Darlings -

I hope you have been energized and enthusiastic living your New Years Mantra.

As promised here is my second installment: Be Impeccable with your Word.

The concept is borrowed from an excellent book, The Four Agreements, and I believe it is important for many reasons.

On the most basic level,  I see it as being clear in your communication. If you have something to say, say it directly. Few of us like confrontation, but far worse is passive aggressive communication. When I reflect on relationships (romantic, professional, friendly) that ended on disagreeable terms, most often the culprit was poor communication. I am blessed in the friend department, but the one close friendship that I lost (almost ten years ago) still haunts me in dreams/nightmares. It's not that I think about the friend  much, but the fact that it ended with poor communication causes my subconscious to continue fretting over it.

By comparison, a relationship that ended with clear, strong (trashy and tawdry even) words is much easier (for me) to file away mentally and emotionally. This person in question left my life saying: "You're really a handful, you know?" (He thought that was a huge insult.) To which I replied: "A-f*ckin-men!"  Period. The End.

So let's try to be clear with each other, and not just for break-ups, but to better our relationships.

On the next level, Be Impeccable with your Word should be to mean what you say. If you promise to do something, follow through. Even to yourself. Especially to yourself! I am skilled at helping others achieve their goals, but for my own objectives....I don't always follow through. What's with that? When I make a commitment to someone, only a natural disaster keeps me from fulfilling that obligation. To myself, not so much. Whether it is to make progress on my writing, to promote my business, or to finally make it out for a pedicure (Your Body is a Temple!), I have a hundred excuses ready that prevent me from completing my task. Pretty shabby, I say!

I have a couple of girlfriends that when we make plans to get together, I know there is a greater than 50% chance they will cancel. One whom I refer to (in my head) as "Flakey Jen".  I get it. I know things come up. Especially now as the mother of a little Dragon, my best intentions, my schedule and availability are no longer at my (sole) discretion. However, I believe the case of Flakey Jen and the others is not a matter of "things coming up". I think it is because they hesitate to say "no" to invitations, etc. They don't want to disappoint. Maybe they don't want to miss out. Or they worry there will never be another offer or opportunity. Perhaps there are not being honest with themselves about priorities or obligations. I still love these friends, but they are so unreliable that I do give it a second thought before I reach out to them.

Totally dated, but if you've seen Jerry Maguire, you may remember the scene where the top draft pick's father says:" I don't do contracts, but you have my word...and it's stronger than oak." And then, of course, he breaks his word. That gutted me.

If I am Impeccable with my Word, then I will honor all commitments to myself and others.

My final thought about Be Impeccable with Your Word is to use your word well. Sticks and stones, etc, but words will never hurt me? Mostly true. I do think it is a good lesson for youngsters ( for all of us!) to keep their chins up and not let their worth be determined by others' words.

One of the reasons that this post was late (besides the usual Miss O tardiness) is that I was not using my word well, and while I deeply wanted to embrace Be Impeccable with Your Word, I had not been living it.

Are you using your word to create, to inspire, to encourage? Or are you using it to talk behind someone's back, to gossip, to denigrate?

A few weeks ago, I came home from visiting with friends and said to Honey: "do you want to hear some gossip?" As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to slap my own face.  First of all, Honey didn't even know the person in question so why bring it up? Secondly, it wasn't "good gossip" like news of a long-awaited pregnancy or recent engagement. Thirdly, it was bad news, so was I celebrating someone's misfortune? And finally, the actual motivation was that I was hoping to provoke (or even manipulate) a conversation/response. It was the opposite of clear, direct communication and a total fail of being impeccable with my word. Luckily he was engrossed playing Forza Motorsport so I was able to create a diversion, change the subject, and leave the room to go examine my behavior.

Listen, Darlings, Miss O is no saint. I strive to create only the loftiest, most noble thoughts, but I can be judgmental, I can think poorly of someone, even someone I love. I can't control everything that happens in my brain (it's so vast ;) but I can control what I say. If you need to call someone out or have a difficult conversation, do it. It is better than talking behind their back which will NEVER resolve the issue. I would add: if you suspect that a topic is sensitive, think before you speak and choose your words well. And if you have so many bad things to say about someone, then why are they still in your life?

Your Word is powerful. Your Word has weight. There is so much crap and negativity being spewed into the Universe. Let's use our Word in the most impeccable way!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Year of the Mantra

Hello Darlings!

I started a post about New Years Resolutions back on January 10th. I edited it, twice, and let it simmer. I looked at it again, yesterday, and nope...still not resonating. Last night I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling for an hour, and finally The Oracle spoke to me. I hope you'll forgive the delay, but this message was worth waiting for (at least for me!)

Forget what you know about resolutions. If you're still going to the gym, bless you. If your best intentions have somehow fallen by the wayside, forgive yourself and MOVE ON. This is the Year of the Mantra.

I distilled this definition of Mantra from various sources:  A sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation. Any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power. Mantras may be spoken aloud or uttered in thought.

Take a moment to reflect on your priorities for this year. I propose that you choose one or two goals/ideas to pursue. That's not to say that you shouldn't have many things to accomplish, but for the purpose of the mantra, two is plenty.  

Here's an example: 
You want to run a 10k. (I started to write "run a marathon" but I broke out in hives, so let's start with a 10k.)  Your mantra could be: No Excuses. Every action and choice you make should be in support of your mantra. You don't want to get off the couch and train? No Excuses. Intimidated by other, more seasoned runners? No Excuses. The weather sucks and you stayed out late last night? No Excuses.

No Excuses could work for many objectives, though I prefer mantras that are affirming. 

I have created two mantras for myself. If they speak to you, use them as well, or create your own.

Your Body is a Temple
It seems to me that every week, I am hearing of another friend who is fighting cancer. Or another friend whose loved one has been taken from them by a horrible disease. More and more I am conscious of the importance and blessing of good health. If you are not thanking the Lourdes or the Universe or your lucky stars or your strong genes that you are waking up healthy, then get with the program, Friend. It's called gratitude and awareness.

Your Body is a Temple means (for me) throwing out old make-up. It means flapping my (bat)wings a few mornings a week. It means eating only high-quality chocolate. Miss O is not about to give it up altogether, so might as well eat the good stuff.

When I'm feeling lazy, burdened with bags, and I want to take the elevator, I tell myself Your Body is a Temple and it helps me get my ass up the stairs. Your Body is a Temple gives me the reason to go to bed early and get a good nights sleep. 

If you have been putting off getting a mammogram or having your prostate exam or your moles checked, please remember that Your Body is a Temple. It may not be the most fun activity of your week, but it could buy you another 40 years on this wonderful whirling globe.

Even Miss O is not perfect and sometimes she turns a deaf ear to her mantra. So maybe I didn't take off my eye make-up before going to bed. Maybe I indulged in  a "non-nutritious" meal. That's ok, do it the next time. Don't punish yourself with negative self-talk or guilt (a truly useless emotion). I recently caught up with an old friend, who told me that he had put on weight a couple of years ago from "angry eating". I was floored. First, I had no idea that men engage in emotional eating. Second, I was grateful that it was angry eating and not angry drinking or angry meth use. Third, I was impressed that he was able to recognize and name the behavior and put the kibosh on it. Angry eating, angry anything is pretty much the opposite message of Your Body is a Temple.

If Your Body is a Temple is a mantra that could work for you, I would add that anyone who has the pleasure to be intimate with you should also treat your body with reverence and respect. Frack that, they should worship it!  * If you are involved with a partner who does not worship your body, please see me during office hours.

Darlings, forgive me, the second mantra will have to wait until our next installment. This will give you a chance to get started on your own. Good Luck!  I have a hungry Dragon whose temple of a tummy needs to be filled.