After receiving a coupon offer from UBER Eats for a free Starbucks delivery, I rolled my eyes in disbelief, and quickly ordered a latte, to be delivered to my front door in 17 minutes. It’s 23 degrees in Cleveland and no clients until noon. Yeah, I did that. I waited for my coffee at the front door in my pajamas, profusely thanked the delivery person, and got back into my warm bed with my hot latte and The Sunday New York Times. Things started out smoothly.
According to The NYT, I’m a few weeks late to join “Veganuary,” (a promise to eat no meat in January), there is a new virtual reality app allowing face recognition to a degree that the paper says, ‘We’re all screwed,” and that a ban on foie gras is swiftly gaining momentum potentially putting hundreds of people out of work in the Hudson River Valley.
I gave up on the paper. I checked my phone and then started to think about something that’s come up in my psychotherapy practice a few times in the past month. Let’s call it “Reading Bedtime Stories-anuary.”
The children and families I see in my practice face complex problems in their daily lives. Divorce, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. I’ve recently became aware of a trend in parenting. Children are being tucked in by Alexa and Google Home at night. I am gobsmacked. I am having judgements. Here are these precious developing humans whose parents are missing the opportunity to have a certain kind of relatedness with their children and vice verse. Ideally the scenario looks like this; dim light, a warm blanket, the hush of bedtime, and maybe a beloved stuffed toy on the pillow with an adult reading at their side.
I am outing myself as a Gen-Xer. I was a latchkey, Sesame Street, Free to be You and Me kid. My mom went back to school to finish college went to grad school, went to work, and told me to play with both trucks and dolls. She was becoming a feminist. My reaction to bedtime stories brought to you by Alexa is partly because of my own longing to have had more time with my mom and less with my burgeoning existential loneliness.
As I stared out the window drinking my latte, I understood myself and my dilemma a little bit more.
As parents we do what we do. We are under-resourced as far as deeply knowing how to parent. Children want to be known. Humans want to be known. How do we recognize our compasses that will lead us to those who we want to know us? How do we seek out people we want to know? Intimacy starts to develop when we’re held as a babies, are seen, talked with, and reflected back to.
The VR space, (as I’ve learned to call it by my millennial family members), isn’t the same as human contact, but it’s a resource some families have that wasn’t around when I was a kid. These interactive platforms like Alexa provide bed-time stories. “Alexa, read me Little Women,” is becoming a new normal for children at bedtime. It’s not the same as human contact, not at all. Resources change, parenting changes, but the precious tender moments of being read to as a child cannot be replaced….and
who am I to judge?
In Italy there is a saying, "dolce far niente." Time expands if we let it. When we take the time to really slow down and be present to what is, time becomes irrelevant, and we notice what is right before us. Yesterday I was taking a walk with my daughter and she noticed a big slug on the sidewalk in front of us. I had not even seen it. I had a to do list, go to the airport, grocery store, make the movie by 7:25. We all know how to do this, to be in our heads, and not in the world around us and present with others.
I was sitting in a cafe when I took this video, doing nothing, watching people, enjoying the music, and I made contact with this musician, and we laughed. I will always remember this moment, because I had nothing to do, nowhere to be, no agenda. I recently learned that my brother-in-law wanted to be a flaneur, French for lounger. idler-or someone who sits in
cafes all day. I think I want to be a flaneur too, and enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing.
The seashore is full of metaphors; tides, storms, waves, surf, rocks, shells- gifts all. In Anne Morrow Lindbergh's
seminal book "Gift From the Sea" she says,
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows
not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience , patience, patience , is what the sea teaches.
Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea."
So many times in the past I used to myself walking on the shore and looking at the beautiful rocks and shells, thinking that I shouldn't be looking down, I'm losing out on the bigger picture. Looking at the different kinds of rocks so closely takes me away from the sensory experience of being at the beach, taking in the salty air, feeling the breeze, listening to the waves, and noticing the reflections of the clouds in the water and on the sand.
What I have become aware of over the years is that I can't stay in that sensory place for miles on the beach. I need both. I need to feel and be, and I need to spend time looking and focusing on the rocks and shells. The rocks are part of the whole, the gestalt. The whole experience touches my soul, that's the gift the sea gives me.
In my life I have to be present to what is, in all of its forms.
What's your metaphor?
1. Music in Grand Central Station. I was walking from my train and here is what saw, these talented young musicians, all studying classical music.
2. Fountains. This one happens to be at Rockefeller Center, they're everywhere though, you just have to look.
3. The view from Central Park.
4. Street art. This is down in the East Village.
5. The walking. Miles and miles of endless places to go, and walking to do. This is my friend Kris and her daughters in the park.
6. The food. Avant Garden is a vegan restaurant down in the village. This is cauliflower, spinach, oyster mushrooms, dates,
and vadouvan. All of the dishes are for sharing, and all were delicious.
7. Museums. This show at The MOMA was insightful and explored the depths of the work of Degas. I highly recommend it.
9. Next to last, but not the very least; time with my friend Kris. We always pick up right where we left off.
10. Coming home. I love the city, but I always love coming home to my family, my own slower pace, routine, work, and my pillow.
In the midst of so many important conversations right now, political and otherwise, I am jonesing for some java.
I've had to give up coffee and chocolate
(it's a stomach thing).
I'm finding that what I miss most about giving up coffee is the ritual.
The smell of Stuart's coffee in the morning tugs at my longing.
I can easily laugh about my coffee addiction, and as we say, it's a first world trauma, for real.
We were out with friends the other night discussing the political climate right now. It seemed to be on everyone's lips in the restaurant. The air is charged, people are arguing, taking a stand, and it reminds me of The North going Zax and The South Going Zax in Dr. Suess's "The Sneetches". Two Sneetches digging in until an entire highway system gets built up around them and then what they started arguing about in the first place has no meaning. Remind you of the media?
These arguments happen daily in life to lesser and greater degrees. Whether it's an inner struggle to give up sugar,
something for lent or Passover, or some java, we all have to give up a little to make our democracy work.
Geisel, Theodore, 1961. "The Sneetches," Random House, NY.
Here in Ohio it's been pretty darn cold these past few days; nose hair freezing kind of cold. The line on everyone's lips seems to be, "but we've been so lucky," meaning that we had a really warm fall and these are are first cold days-so don't complain about it. I have a dear friend from Nashville arriving tomorrow who can't stand the cold. She already emailed to
ask about snow. I love the cold and snow. Mabel, our Newfie and I prefer winter. I am happy
bundling up in my favorite sweaters and watching the kids sled down the tiny hill across the street.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, kids home from college, visitors, parties, cookies-and for us-a new puppy in the mix, I'm very grateful that it's January. As much as I love all of the above, I am ready for some gathering in and
quiet time. My favorite January things are Downton Abbey (so sad it's the last season), starting a knitting project I rarely finish but enjoy tremendously while I watch Downton Abbey, ice skating, taking walks with my one of my best friends in the snow-only when it's the perfect temperature (warm enough to snow, not too cold to freeze my *&% off). Seeing the
predicted Oscar nominated movies with Stuart, reading a juicy novel, and last, but not the very least, staying in my
jammies on Sundays and reading the newspaper all morning.
I don't make new year's resolutions. I used to when I was younger, and then I learned that just because the day changed, and the year changed I was not going to change overnight. I believe change happens over time, and that we have to learn more about who we are before we can change (this is called The Paradoxical Theory of Change-one of the core concepts
of Gestalt Therapy).
So far, so good. The first episode of Downton was delightful, this week has been quiet so far, and I have not changed
anything, except I put a little more mustard in my favorite chicken recipe.
Happy New Year, and stay warm.
Mustard Chicken Recipe:
I leave out the bacon, use coconut milk instead of creme fraiche, and use chicken breasts for a healthier alternative
Poulet a la Moutard: David Leibovitz