Finding Joy Everywhere

images-7I am not an Oregon Ducks Fan. To tell you the truth, I am not really even a football fan, but I live in Oregon and today there was a buzz throughout the city. The Oregon Ducks are at the Championship Game tonight in Texas. I attended meetings and appointments today where many friends of mine were wearing Ducks gear. Everyone was excited and people were saying Go Ducks all day long. The last time we were in the championship was in January 2011 and the Ducks lost.

Even though I don’t have much of a stake in the game, having not attended this school or really being a football fan, there seemed to be a certain joy that was present today everywhere I went and I wanted to share in it. Call me a joiner but I thought, why can’t I be excited and share the joy that my friends are feeling today? It reminded me of something Sylvia Boorstein, author and mindfulness teacher, spoke about last year during a lecture. She said that if we let ourselves experience the joy of others this allows us greater opportunities to experience joy than if we only noticed our own singular joy. I love that. We all know that when people get older there is much more “kvelling” over children and grandchild. Of course, there would be more joy in our lives if any joy experienced by another was a joy we could experience too. Certainly, when someone I know gets a new job, or gets married, has a baby, or experiences some other joyful event I like to share in their excitement. But expanding that to experiences like our state team being in a championship game or even hearing a story on the radio or reading something in print about a stranger, why can’t we also experience joy in that moment for that stranger as well.

There certainly is plenty of bad news to go around these days and I am choosing to consistently add the good news to my life as well. Even though I don’t have a vested interest in tonight’s game, I can be excited for something that is happening for my friends or my community that is positive and joyful.  You also have the opportunity to choose to enjoy others joyful moods as well! Go Ducks!

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

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Yesterday, our dear Rebbetzin Elizabeth “Lisl” Geller passed away. I feel blessed to have had her friendship for nearly 20 years of my life.

Everyone should have an older friend. I am not talking about someone a few years older than you, I am really talking about someone decades older than you. Someone who has lived their life significantly longer than you and might have a prospective that can help you see your situation in a new way. Someone who can teach you that this too shall pass, both the good things and the bad things and they’ll help you when necessary clarify what’s really important in life.

In my late 20’s, when my husband and I relocated to Portland, Oregon we befriended our Rabbi and his wife, Lisl Geller. They visited us in the hospital when both of our children were born and we shared dozens of meals and events with them over the years as our children grew from toddlers to teens. After the Rabbi passed away several years ago, the Rebbetzin remained in their family home. She was much less mobile these past few years but continued to remain independent and had quite an active life with a large extended family that visited her frequently.

I continued to visit with the Rebbetzin as often as I could. I was surprised when people would remark how nice it was that I continued to do this because the truth was she had become a dear friend to me. I loved our visits and was sad when a few weeks would pass and we hadn’t had a chance to share a cup of tea. Even our frequent two minute phone conversations allowed enough time to check in and wish each other well. Lisl never seemed to need very long to make sure things were okay. Even though there was a 50 year gap in our ages, I was continuously surprised how we could discuss subjects pertinent to my life and how her advice helped guide my actions. For example, a few years ago while discussing teenage relationships my 90-year-old friend brought up sex. She may have been over ninety, but having reared three children of her own, seen the growth of several grandchildren and dozens of great-grandchildren she had plenty of experience to share with me. Despite the age difference and the fact that she was from a  previous generation many of her suggestions were still very relevant and helpful.

She also provided counsel and guidance. There was another time I had used my husband’s car while he was out-of-town at a conference and gotten an expensive parking ticket. I was so irritated and mad at myself and knew my husband would probably be just as irritated. I shared my distress and unhappiness with Lisl and she said, “Linda dear, you don’t have to tell your husband absolutely everything. You are already upset about it. Just pay the ticket and forget about it.” I think it was more than two years until I actually came clean to my husband about the incident.

Befriending an older friend who offers wisdom and guidance offers incredible two-way benefits. I was as much the beneficiary of any visiting I did with my dear friend as she was with me.  I feel deeply saddened by the loss of this incredible friend who offered counsel, love, guidance and always made me feel special. I know I was not the only one who felt this way either. Lisl your memory will always be for a blessing and you will be deeply, deeply missed. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

Eyes Wide Open

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer

I have been a huge fan of Wayne Dyer for years. Today, I had an “aha” moment and his quote jumped into my head. I smiled as I realized I had internalized this possibility.

I was short on time for a walk this morning and feeling disappointed that I wouldn’t have time to walk in the forest, which I have been attempting to do more often recently. I didn’t even have enough time to walk on a path near our house that at least gets me out of the neighborhood and our residential streets. So feeling a little bit down, I headed out for my walk. Not twenty feet into my walk, I noticed that the lighting this morning was particularly beautiful, backlighting many flowers and trees. I was grateful I had my phone in my pocket so I could snap a quick photo. I know they aren’t often that great but I like being able to savor the moment and having a photo seems to help me do that.

Around the corner from my house was where things got interesting. I spotted a tree I know well. I often peek at it because it has peeling bark and always looks so unusual. But today when I stopped for a moment and snapped a photo, something appeared that I had not seen with my naked eye.

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Old man in tree

That’s when I knew today’s walk had shifted for me. I thought of the Wayne Dyer quote and was now actively looking for what else was going to be unusual about today’s walk. On the last stretch of the walk I saw a house for sale and walked a little closer to the door to peek inside. When I turned around I saw a fairy garden on the ground below a tree.

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When we are open and looking for the joys and abundance in our world. We see it with new and fresh eyes.

The blessings and curses of social media

facebook_like_button_blue-625x1000Over the past few weeks, since my mom’s death, I have spent time both on this blog and my Facebook feed as well as other social media sites looking for comments my mom had made to posts I’d written.  For a senior, she was one well versed social media expert, in fact, my mom got on Twitter before I did and had both a blog and Facebook presence. Most of the comments on my blog were lovely, supportive opportunities for her to share her own experiences like this comment after a blog post I’d written about giving a young girl $10 at the airport or this comment on a post where I ‘d shared a recipe from my paternal grandmother and she remembered her fondly as well.

When she commented on my FB page sometimes those were more tricky. I was often upset that she was sharing so much in reply to something I’d written, listing her own life story or mine in the comment section for everyone to read. She sometimes shared comments on my wall that made me uncomfortable. These past few weeks, however, rereading some of her comments both on my Facebook and my blog, I am filled with a new perspective. In fact, I honestly wish there were more, because with these words I feel like I have a piece of her and some additional insight into something that was important to her or something she wanted me to know. It is baffling to me that something that was such a source of conflict and irritation just a few months ago could actually provide some comfort to me now. I guess that’s life, in different circumstances your prospective changes.  Today mom, I am grateful that you were a no holds bar, share it all kind of woman even though that used to be very hard for me.  Thank you for being on my blog and Facebook page so often and leaving a piece of yourself on-line. I am so grateful for the gift of those words now. I love you.