April 17, 2013

What’s Right

On Monday night I came home from work feeling a little more alive. It can take a surprising slap of a disaster to do that. On the sidewalk, I looked into people’s faces. When the D train traveled over the Manhattan Bridge, I looked up from my reading and out the windowโ€“โ€“at the piers stretching out into the mirrored surface of the water, the tall buildings reflecting that golden hour of the evening. When I got home, I kissed Sebastian in the doorway a little longer and moved through a yoga class as my bedroom went from warmly lit by that orange-red sun to dark. Look up, the teacher said time and again, in tree pose, in crescent. There’s an optimism there.

Did you know we are genetically wired to remember negative moments more than good? It’s our DNA’s way of keeping us alive. We’ll remember the bitter snap of winter, the terrifying snarl of a wild animal. We have to work hard against this predisposition, which is why everyone from Buddhists to psychologists suggest we keep a gratitude journal. My blog posts have felt a little heavy to me lately, and I wanted to counter that by listing what was right. In light of recent news, looking for the good took on a new weight.

Today I am 31. I know! It sounds like such a grown-up age, one that comes with a mortgage and a mid-life crisis not too far behind. I still feel like a silly girl inside, one who sings impromptu made up songs and wants to take tap dancing lessons. I have a feeling that never goes away, does it? Last week, anticipating my birthday, I felt disappointed at how much this year looks like last. I live in the same apartment, in the same neighborhood I’ve called home for nine years. But last night I went to sleep thinking how different something can feel from the inside, even when it all looks the same. And this morning I woke up. I’m looking up at the horizon and working against every ancient cell that wants me to remember what’s wrong. Here’s what’s right:

The daffodils are blooming on the hillside in the Quaker cemetery tucked inside Prospect Park. My muscles are sore, whether from the first bike ride of the season or a yoga class on Sunday. I have muscles. Right now, I’m sitting on a chair, my feet up on a matching ottoman, slip-covered by my mom in white cotton duck and driven into Brooklyn in the back of her black minivan as a surprise for my birthday last year. Next to me, on a square table salvaged from the street, is a jade plant that’s been hanging on for years, despite improper care, and my little Copenhagen coffee cup. On my left is a window that looks out on to a parking lot. There is a vine climbing across the screen with popcorn kernel-sized red buds. These are just within the little dotted circle I draw around my day, and I haven’t even mentioned the spare and beautiful first pages of the novel I began on Sunday night, or the way the morning sunlight hits our living room or the new coffee shop I’ve started visiting, where the owners are in love and punk rock and relentlessly cheerful. I haven’t mentioned this space, which is a tribe that feels more important to me than ever. I haven’t even gone outside the circle of the past few days, or out into the larger circles beyond my little life, into our communities, humanity, the universe. As Melissa wrote recently in the comments, “We are mere specks in this universe. Our only task is to put good energy into it.”

But I will leave it there, in this small, sweet little circle filled with good energy and within which there is plenty right.

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  • Cadi: First off, HaPpY BiRtHdAy SaRaH!! Enjoy your day!

    Second, I love the line above about the small circle and good energy in it. It starts with the small circle; the energy closest to you is what is naturally the easiest to project outward, whether good or not as much. It’s something I try to be mindful of, and thanks for the reminder that comfort in the little things closest to you are some of the most important each day.5 years ago

  • Sasha: Happy Birthday Sarah!

    I know this is a little weird to be telling you, but it’s so unusual I had to share! You were in my dreams last night, but in a tangential sense. I was looking at a book in a bookstore that you had published relating to all your blog postings! It was your second book, by the way, in the dream, and I was a tad jealous. I think this must mean that good things and very much that is right is in store for you for the future! ๐Ÿ™‚5 years ago

  • Melissa @ Hilltophausfrau: Happy, Happy birthday Sarah! Will be thinking of you especially today…sending you lovely thoughts.

    Your positive thinking will supersede negative thinking. You have muscles. HA! That’s great…

    I think I may have mentioned this before, but writing a gratitude journal helped get me out of the dark place that is post partum depression. Some days the entries are sparse: ‘a person smiled, said hello and held the door open for me and the stroller’. ‘Mr. Hausfrau came home an hour early’. ‘Spaghetti dinner was just what I needed’. Slowly but surely, I became focused on needing to add to my entries, almost creating good things to later enter in my journal!!

    I still keep the journal, but it is now my blog. I love sharing notes on what keeps me moving forward ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you for sharing what is moving you forward today.5 years ago

  • Amy: Happy, happy birthday, you beautiful soul. You’re inspiring. Thanks for sharing your ability to see such beauty in the world so willingly. xoxo5 years ago

  • Pattie: Happy 31st Sarah! My long ago 31st was filled with a new love and endless possibilities. I sincerely wish you the same.5 years ago

  • Kristina Strain: Happy birthday! Funny, I’ve heard the exact opposite– that we’re wired to remember pleasure and forget pain, which is why women give birth to multiple babies. And perhaps, why this girl gives herself over to her vegetable garden, year after year…5 years ago

  • Thank you all for the lovely birthday wishes. So sweet.

    Sasha, Your dream nearly made me fall out of my chair with happiness/inspiration/gobsmackedness. Thank you for sharing!

    Melissa, I love how the gratitudes grew into something bigger. That’s really inspiring. Kind of amazing what a small ritual can do.

    Kristina, I get all of my “science” from Tara Brach, so I could be completely and totally wrong. Both make sense to me, but who knows?5 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: Happy birthday, Sarah. I love this – all these glimpses of what’s right in the midst of so much wrong. Love from Boston.5 years ago

  • Ruth: Happiest of Birthdays, Sarah. May 31 be filled with light & love.5 years ago

  • Renee: Happy Birthday! Here’s to all good things ahead for you.5 years ago

  • Rachel: Happy birthday Sarah! May the universe return to you all the goodness you put out there.5 years ago

  • Shannon: Happy, happy birthday! I love your blog!5 years ago

  • Jennifer: Happy Birthday Sarah! I will be turning 30 this year, and it’s good to know there are other grown up women walking around with silly girls inside! ๐Ÿ™‚5 years ago

  • Jaime @ laviejaime: this is a lovely post–happy belated bday!5 years ago

  • molly: happy (belated) birthday, sarah!

    look up, indeed. thank you for that one.

    molly5 years ago

  • Julie: Happy belated, Sarah! This is a lovely little exercise. I’m going to write up my own little “what’s right” note to myself, too, because really, there is so much.

    Yay 31!!!5 years ago

  • Julie: Happy, happy (belated) birthday, Sarah! Thank you for the thought-provoking posts so filled with light, love, and wisdom. May your best day of 30 be your worst day of 31!

    Oh, as for still feeling like a silly girl inside–I’m turning 40 in a few weeks and my inner silly girl is alive and well!5 years ago

  • sebastian: So beautifully written. I was reading all this horrible stuff in the news, per usual, and I just needed a refreshing dose of positivity. I love this.5 years ago

  • Linda: Sarah I hope your birthday was fabulous! Thank you for the reminders about all the little things. I really needed that as I am finding it easy to be overwhelmed by the negative. Will start today5 years ago

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