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Today in My History

2000:  Maybe it was the Ham
2001:  She's Gone Global
2002:  It's Only Money, Right?
2003:  Disney Was Wrong
2004:  In the Name of Freedom
2005:  So Much, So Much, So Much
2006:   Ho
w Do You Know?
2007:  Just a Wonderful Illusion?

2008: Saving the Aligators

42nd Stree

Books Read in 2010
Updated: 9/6
How to be Sick"

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 3/17/10)


A Taste of Uncle Vito's from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

On You Tube

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Mitzi Gaynor said WHAT?

Spirit of '43
Ned's Video for Bri's 2nd birthday
No You Can't (John Boehner)
Jim Brochu closes NASDAQ
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Cousins Day, August 2010

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7 September 2010

This kind of goes hand in hand with an idea of something I have been thinking about for the past week or so, the notion of compassion.  It was sparked by a status update on someone's Facebook page, something about walking a mile in someone's shoes before making judgements.

I thought about how that related to this post on Vibrant Nation (the chat space for old female farts):

Of all the people I know, very few demonstrate true empathy and compassion for others. They are too tied up with their own lives, their own thoughts, their own needs, to give a "fiddler's fart" (to quote Frank McCourt) about the lives of others. Such egocentrism is also abundantly apparent in my conversations with them, if one can call a monologue a conversation. I'm quite tired of being the one-way listener, the empathizer, the compassionate friend. If I tell them this, I'll hardly have a friend or acquaintance left. Do you suppose that people can LEARN to be empathetic and compassionate?

And then I read a book I didn't expect to feel so affected by.    The book was written by my friend Toni Bernhard and it's called "How to Be Sick."  This is the review I wrote on my "books of 2010" page

I am not sick, so this seems a strange book for me to be reading, but Toni is a friend and I wanted to be supportive.  I knew Toni when our kids were in the jazz choir and we went on trips as chaperones together.  She and her husband Tony (yes--Toni/Tony) were lovely people and we enjoyed spending time with them.  But we hadn't seen them in many years, which was not really surprising, given that we don't cross paths with most of the people we know from our kids' school days any more.

I ran into her again on Facebook and learned that she has a chronic illness, which has been labeled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which often is just a catch all phrase for "I don't know what's wrong with you and I can't cure you") developed on a trip to Paris in 2001.  She has been unable to leave her house, and sometimes her bed, except on extremely rare occasions, in all those years.   She has now written a book, the complete title of which is subtitled "a Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers."

Not only am I not sick, I am also neither a student of Buddhism, nor a caregiver.  Yet I found this book beautiful and readable and a guide for many things that touch our day-to-day lives.  Yes, there are a lot of technical terms "metta," "karuna," "mudita," and "upekkha," among others, but she makes the terms user-friendly and relates them to experiences to which we can all relate.

Who should read this book:  people who are chronically ill (I bought a copy for my cousin), caregivers, and anybody who wants a approachable guide for dealing with the negative things in their lives.

I've been trying to slow down my thought processes when it comes to irritating situations.  Trying not to rush to judgement about people.  It's so easy to do, as the Vibrant Nation comment shows.  But I remember times--lots of times--when there was something really seriously going on in my head that I chose not to share with people...you meet someone you haven't seen in years and they say "how are you?" and you don't want to say "well...my son died last week and..." so you say "fine," but maybe you're distracted and you don't feel like chatting and maybe the person goes home and tells her husband how stuck-up I acted.

We are so quick to rush to judgement.   Maybe that car speeding past you on the freeway is taking a woman to the maternity hospital.  Probably not.  It probably is some jerk trying to get home 3 minutes sooner by putting everyone on the freeway in danger, but the thing is that you don't really know.

Now the problem with letting the jackasses in our lives upset us is that it has a negative effect on us too.  We spend our time stewing about the jerk who cut us off in the parking lot or the woman who snubbed us in the supermarket or the fathead who won't let you get a word in edgewise.  The thing is that we can't do a thing to change what happened, but we can change how we react to it.  Instead of making ourselves miserable for an hour and making everyone around us miserable by telling them of our awful experience, if we can learn to let it go, as Toni suggests in her book, how much better our life in this moment would be.  Of course Toni is speaking of the pain and frustration of her illness, but most of what she writes about easily translates to our day to day life as well.

And if we take time to give the irritating situation in our lives the benefit of the doubt, instead of raising a finger to someone who makes us angry, try to think about the circumstances in their lives that might be making them so objectionable.

The ultimate result can be a good one for us.  Instead of feeling miserable about a situation which has passed and over which we have no control, we can be in the moment, enjoying the nice day, the egrets in the water, the fluffy clouds overhead and we can be calm inside ourselves.

I have to admit that I am not often successful in this practice, but when I think about it and think about the choices I have when I react to a situation, I realize that my life would be much happier if I can learn to let it go, to think kind thoughts about the person who pissed me off, to sincerely hope that whatever is making him/her act like an asshole will go away soon, and to just enjoy what I can find about the good things of my moment instead of making myself miserable about something which is over and over which I have absolutely no control.

I don't guarantee that I'm going to always be successful, but I'm going to try to think about things in that way from now on.

Tomorrow is Cousins Day, so you know what that means....  (It's also my mother's 91st birthday!)


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I dunno...I just liked it!



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