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Mind and heart

A book that I recently completed included a quote from an elderly man to his son. The suggestion was that the father was on his death bed and he was imparting words by which his son should live. To paraphrase, he said that you can be robbed of everything except what you have learned and what is in your heart. Since reading the statement, I have dedicated quite a bit of thought to its current relevance.

During our time that is limited and identified by a deadly virus, many have found themselves quite alone, physically and psychologically. It is tough to have no options to leave home except for essentials and emergencies. For those unfortunate enough to be affected by the virus, isolation, quarantine and hospitalization are all solitary journeys.

What enables us to prevail? My quotation suggests that it is what we possess in our hearts and minds. I am not sufficiently naive to believe that only the strength of conviction will enable survival. Many other factors come into play, including medical procedures, seriousness of the virus, underlying medical issues, etc. But I do believe with all my heart, soul and mind that we cannot and will not survive without wanting very badly to do so.

To those who might be inclined to underestimate themselves, I hope that you derive strength from the power of your mind and intellect over your emotions. Medicine cannot calibrate or compute those entities but they function entirely on your welfare.

No-one can rob you of who you are unless you encourage and permit it. Your knowledge is your private stock of immunity. And your heart, for yourself and for those you cherish, is more powerful than any medical treatment. If you want to maximize your opportunities to prevail, trust your mind and your heart. Shalom.

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Let’s walk

When you think about going for a walk, what image does that conjure for you? Does it seem like something that old folks do? If you were young and agile, you would be running, right? Another alternative is that you walk when you have nothing better to do. Race walkers and those who walk in competitive races might disagree with your interpretation but that is not my point here.

One of the habits that I have come to identify as a special courtesy is to invite someone to go for a walk. The first images that come to my mind are two managers, in different positions, who would invite me to go for a walk, generally without a specific reason to do so. Sometimes we would walk to get coffee, sometimes we would walk to have some privacy about a certain issue and sometimes it was simply to spend some time.

Here we are, some years later, and I know that one of those managers has died. The other fell out of my circle of friends and I haven’t spoken with him in a number of years. But I still have very positive memories of that walking time and the information or observations that we shared.

Today is as good a time as any to invite someone for a walk or take one for yourself. Most of the time, I think about subjects other than walking while I am doing so. If I’m not alone, it is typical to carry on some form of conversation. But neither is obligatory. It is perfectly fine to observe the plants and animals along the way, to see how others garden and simply to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating in your home for days or weeks or months.

It is absolutely irrelevant to me that we are quarantined as far as walks are concerned. If someone with whom you would like to walk is at another part of your city or town, you may or may not be able to enjoy that person’s company. But it’s almost as good to extend the invitation for whenever the quarantine is over.

Take a walk, clear your mind and your lungs and appreciate the fact that you can put one foot in front of the other. That is a pleasure I will always enjoy and hope that there will not be any time when I cannot. Shalom.

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Remembering

As the Coronavirus proceeds with its deadly path through the world, we are often advised of the many thousands of people whom it has taken in the process. It is easy to become accustomed to these numbers but I would suggest that we all spend a moment of our time reflecting about the people that these numbers represent.

Recently, I found a statement often used in Judaism to honor the memories of those who have passed but it’s something I believe to be apropos at this time. The statement is often used to honor the memories of rabbis or other religious leaders and reads as follows: May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

We don’t use the word “righteous” very often but I am thinking that it applies to many of those whom we have lost. The doctors, nurses, caregivers and other health care workers who have died are certainly righteous. The teachers, scientists, parents, retail workers and everyone else who has served others and died in the process can easily be considered righteous.

Let us not trivialize our losses by thinking of large numbers or categories. All those who have succumbed to an illness that no-one anticipated or could prevent are heroes in my opinion. They are often those who were attending to the needs of others, often without concern for their own safety and without the appropriate protection. The families that they have left behind will never forget or be able to replace their presence and it disrespects their memories to think only of the class of people to whom they belong.

A lesson that emerges is that of appreciation. If you haven’t recently appreciated those who have survived the disease or have been so fortunate to have avoided it so far, express your gratitude for the existence and influence of those people. Any day without mourning is a good day and we are blessed not to say goodbye to our loved ones. May the memory of all the righteous be for a blessing. Shalom.

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Enough is enough

Finishing something as formidable as a book, the book that I have described as the defining work of my life, is a process leaving me extremely ambivalent. On the one hand, I am confident that the story is told, the critical points have been made and I have adequately covered the book’s central meaning. The expression that occurs to me is one that I heard frequently as a child, “Enough is enough.” From the competing perspective, how many areas could I expand or improve? It is a certainty that the book will undergo two or three or more edits before it is published and that should sufficient.

Enough is enough is an intriguing concept for me, especially right now. Arguably, there are entities or actions that can reach the state of enough. These would include learning, giving, teaching, traveled, observed and saved. At this moment, however, I could make a good case for the fact that we can have enough of very few things.

Is there such a thing as too much kindness? How about tolerance, generosity, contemplation, worship, gratitude, patience and love? Is it possible to love too much? In other words, I’m of the opinion that the quality of “enoughness” is  very rarely seen and desired less than it is observed.

Some might believe that I have taught enough for one lifetime. To that I say a hearty “no,” primarily because I love the entire process. Almost daily, I get an indescribable opportunity to encourage a child to reach for the moon and accomplish much more than anyone thinks he or she can. Does my health determine when I’ve taught enough? My answer is only when it prevents me from walking around a classroom. On a daily basis I miss being with my students.

Likewise, can we garden to the point of enough? Watching plants of all varieties grow is a joy that should have no limits, other than those dictated by space or budget. We cherish our family members but that process will never be more than enough. The same is true for feeling good, supporting the causes in which we believe and in my case, writing.

As I remember, the occasions for which I heard “enough is enough” probably had to do with spending money, staying up past bedtime or some other mundane context. And so I recommend, don’t let the idea of enough keep you from doing what you love and what makes you happy. There will never be enough tomorrows for you to run out of options. Shalom.

 

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Always do right

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Mark Twain

 Wisdom is one of those entities that is uniquely and consistently valuable. Some of us seek wisdom from those whom we love and trust. Others look to politics, medicine or religion for a set of truths that are viable, timely and relevant.

Because I seldom take credit for my own wisdom, I find it available from writers such as Mr. Twain. This is another of those examples, as we are doing our best to handle the constraints and frustrations of quarantine. This quote is so good – it really answers any questions we may have about right and wrong behavior during a global crisis.

If you have any doubts about whether or not to wear a mask, wear it. And if you are wondering if you are six feet away from the nearest human, extend that distance.

Some of doing right consists of giving to others less fortunate. There is also a component that I would call restraint. If you have something negative to say to anyone involved in observing the quarantine, keep it to yourself.

Yes, I realize that some of this is extremely difficult, much more so than feeling sorry for yourself. Like you, I would love to go to my favorite restaurant, sit on the patio and have a glass of wine while looking at the mountains. The best statement I can offer is that the wait will make the event more pleasurable than ever.

Our children are watching how we deal with crisis. Being the best we can be must be the answer. Generosity is a good trait to demonstrate. So is patience as is imagination. Some of the games and activities that I have seen parents develop for their home schooling are extraordinary. And I try my hand at creativity in the kitchen or at my keyboard.

Doing the right thing is always easier than the alternative. The very good news is that outcomes from right actions are generally more enduring than those that are done in anger or haste. Take a breath, realize that our situation is only temporary and give more than you receive. Shalom.

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Not her fault

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has been difficult for all people who are capable of understanding its power and presence. That includes most of us, if we are old enough and smart enough to realize how insidious it is.

We all have different methods by which we can respond. Denial is one and is probably the most dangerous. Obsessiveness is another, if you are fond of living in a sanitary bubble for the foreseeable future.

From my standpoint, anger is not an acceptable response. Barking at retail employees doesn’t improve the lives of anyone. In fact, it does no good whatsoever. The only byproduct is embarrassing onlookers and hurting the employee’s feelings.

What led me to this observation was sitting in my backyard and having the misfortune of hearing one of my neighbors who was at least 500 feet away. It seemed that her child, probably four or five, had injured herself in some way.

The “mother,” instead of offering love or support, yelled at the child. This was not the first time I had the misfortune of hearing her. On this occasion, at least ten times, I heard her bellow, “Why are you crying?” Not surprisingly, the child continued to cry.

As a mother, grandmother, educator and someone with basic good sense, I couldn’t stand to hear it. The child probably doesn’t know Covid-19 from WD-40 or 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s reasonable to believe that the mother was stressed because most of us are. And of course, I don’t know the nature of her interactions before I heard the child crying out for help. But the child doesn’t understand the stress and she didn’t cause it. By doing what the mother did, the child was compromised and most likely, didn’t feel any less anxious.

We can be kind to each other. Many of us are accustomed to thinking only of our worlds, priorities and pressures. This truly is the time to be part of the earth community and refrain from punishing others for what we are enduring. Shalom.

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Today

Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Don’t put the cart before the horse. If your childhood and early life were anything like mine, you heard warnings like these associated with doing kindnesses to or for yourself. Now that I find myself thinking about the life behind and in front of me, I am beginning to wonder whether or not there was any wisdom in these words of wisdom.

Somewhere and somehow, we have found new and creative ways to deprive ourselves of those events or items that would improve and enhance our lives. It may be that we are saving for the future. Or it may be that we consider this or this or this an unjustifiable extravagance. At this point, I’m over it and I am ready to live each day as the only opportunity I have to maximize my enjoyment.

Here’s a small but representative example. For the past x years, I have been using a particular product as part of my daily hair routine. Recently (6 months?) I have found that the compound makes me sneeze as part of my overall battle with allergies. Up until yesterday, I continued to use this junk because I didn’t want to waste the $8 or $10 that I had spent on it. Pitiful. In a flash of I don’t know what, I poured out the stuff and recycled its container.

My friendly recommendation (notice, I make no attempts toward wisdom) is that you do what makes you happy and relaxed and fulfilled and toss the stuff that is reminiscent of outdated messages. If you’ve written a poem but haven’t entered a poetry writing contest for fear that you might win, submit it. And if you’ve been using the last inch or half inch of something that you really don’t like because you can’t bear the thought of tossing something that you haven’t finished, toss it. If a brand new pair of shoes would make you and your feet happy and you can afford them, buy them.

Today is the only reality that is for certain. We owe it to every day that preceded it and every day that may not follow it to do what is beneficial or fun. It’s time to be whatever you are and want to be, while you still have the chance. Then pat yourself on the back. Shalom.

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A day for Mothers

Today is Mother’s Day and for all those who have a mother, are a mother or celebrate one mother or more, I send my wishes for the happiest of Mother’s Days. This is one of the most powerful and emotional days of the year for me, a day for which I am grateful and humble.

Those who know me understand the two realities about this holiday – one that I did not have nearly enough Mother’s Days with my own wonderful mother; the second is that my motherhood was a struggle to attain and one that was not expected to occur. Neither of those two conditions mitigate the fact that this is an supremely special day.

Each of us has a preferred method by which to celebrate. If it’s baking a cake, supplying an extremely special (and sentimental) gift, going out for brunch or dinner – it doesn’t matter. But I can tell you with no hesitation, that the mother you commemorate and honor will be enhanced by your efforts, no matter what she may choose to articulate.

If you believe that this is merely a greeting card type of event that promotes the sales of chocolates, flowers or greeting cards, enjoy your cynicism and please keep it to yourself in my presence. If you agree with me that being a mother is the loftiest and most sacred of designations, you and I agree.

And so, I say thank you for the two extraordinary, kind and incredibly thoughtful young people who have created my privilege to be called their mother. You are beyond my ability to express how much you represent to me and I will always be grateful for what you have both become and how proud I am of both of you. In my world, you are the ultimate of God’s gifts.

For the rest of the world, I sincerely hope that you take the time and effort to honor your mother. She has done more for you than you can possibly realize and is entitled to every expression of love that you can muster. A happy, healthy and blessed Mother’s Day to all. Shalom.

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A tribute

My best guess is that most of the cities and towns in our great country have taken important and formidable steps toward helping those less fortunate during this pandemic. It is customary for the organizations such as Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way to step up and provide valuable commodities such as food, clothing and funds.

Beyond that, I am touched and amazed at the grass roots efforts of my neighbors and fellow New Mexicans. The news and the streets are filled with remarkable acts of charity and generosity.

On any given day in local news, we see examples of people doing extraordinary actions. We’ve seen a young boy who used the money from his tooth fairy visit and solicited additional funds to bring meals for health workers. We see volunteers assembling and delivering meals to those who are standing all day doing virus testing. And all the news stations show Americans paying tribute to health care workers with parades, flyovers and pallets of gifts.

These are gratifying to see as are the employers who sell, sacrifice and supplement their employees rather than laying them off. Our local television station does weekly donation campaigns; one lady called in to donate $20, apologizing that it wasn’t more but she had lost her job during the economic crisis.

My hat goes off to my fellow Americans, with and without large bank accounts, who have stepped up in a time of need that is beyond description. For my part, I choose to make my actions or contributions private. But to watch others suffer without doing what I can to help is simply unacceptable.

We must all support those who support others. Your thoughtfulness and phenomenal efforts will get us through this crisis standing tall, not lying down. Like this toxic virus, you show no signs of slowing down; the fact that you are selfless and relentless makes our country undefeatable. We never stop or falter at being monumental. Shalom.

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Victory

It doesn’t require a great deal of work to list those forms of measurement that are completely subjective. How fat is too fat? How tall is too tall? How much money do you need to have to be wealthy? How many meals must you miss to be truly hungry?

And so it goes with success, especially as it pertains to this deadly Covid-19. If you’re in New York City and have fewer than 1000 deaths or hospital admissions in a day or (one can hope) a week, you have success.

This is all for the sake of celebrating each success we experience at this point in the pandemic, regardless of size. When you see an 87-year old woman beating the virus and leaving the hospital, I call that a victory.

Other victories are easy to spot and, I believe, must be celebrated. Seeing stores such as Target, Walmart and Costco establish protocols, plexiglass shields and masks for all staff is a huge positive. They are spending time and considerable money to protect themselves and me. And I prefer to think that much of it is self-initiated rather than mandated.

As I often report, my glass is always half full. If we reduce new cases and deaths, it’s a victory. If I can leave some toilet paper at the aid station established by one or more of my neighbors, it’s terrific. We each have the opportunity and subsequent good feelings to turn this pandemic into something characterized by kindness and giving. Surely our healthcare workers display this compassion on an ongoing basis.

Create a bunch of successes and you can see them reproduce into a better life and the greater good. We will prevail if we continue to help one another. Shalom.