life lessons

WE BELONG TOGETHER


“Weeeee Belong Together!” Ricki Lee Jones belted out from the fancy stereo in my silly yet stunning car I recently leased. I was headed to Connecticut on a very early morning this past week -so early that it was still dark out. The light mist caused me to use the windshield wipers and the defroster because April hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is in fact Spring, not winter.

This was no game of chicken, you were aiming at your best friend,” she sang slowly to get to that luscious build up to the chorus of “Weeeee Belong Together!” She seemed to be in the seat next to me singing her brilliant prose. I feel like we grew up together as she was always one of my favorite female vocalists all of these years later.

And just like that I was seventeen. Driving in my beloved 63 VW bug, my first car purchase. Eighteen hundred dollars and I bought it without even test driving it. No parent along with me to help me with my purchase or to even guide me in whether it was a good idea to drive to the house of the owners with a pocket full of cash. My two dear friends, John and Andy were my chaperones. I was afraid to drive the car by myself for its first run so I made Andy drive it back for me. And now that I think of it, I don’t even think I asked my father who I was living with, kind of, if I could purchase it. This seems so unbelievable to me now that I reflect back, but that car was an introduction to life for me. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that my father who really didn’t have a clue on how to parent anyway wasn’t micromanaging this very helpful life experience.

And just like that, I was propelled back to 1982. My Christian Dior pale pink vintage gloved hands were on the steering wheel in the lightly drizzling nighttime. This time though Ricki Lee Jones was belting out “We Belong Together” from her new album, Pirates, on the cassette player I had installed as any respectable seventeen year old teenager with her first car would have. Pirates was the album after her first one with her famous song, Chuck E.’s in Love.

Windows fogging because for anyone who has a history with any Volkwagon bugs, Halfbacks, Hatchbacks or Vanagaons would know, the heat never worked and if it did it was full throttle on or off, no in between. A defroster would be the little fans you would have to buy at stores like Benny’s to attach to the dashboard hoping this would help you see out of the tiny windshield. I can still hear the puttering bubbling sounds of my beloved 63 Volkswagon driven on a very quiet North Rd in Jamestown, RI headed to my boyfriend’s house in the evening.

And it was one of those moments. One of those magical moments when everything worked. The car, the music, the weather, the smells, the sounds. And my life.

At seventeen for a brief moment in time, there was nothing better than that particular moment and I remember it like it was this moment. A perfect time travel back to that time as I made my way almost forty years later to Connecticut on a rainy Monday morning. I could almost smell it. I don’t know what made that moment so special for me, but the distinct memory of it has always stayed with me comforting me like the soft blanket you had when you were a little girl that you had to have to fall asleep easily.

Music can do this, sensory awareness, sounds, smells, tastes all can make it easy to time travel. As I reflect back on to that evening, I think it was my first experience of completely living in the present moment. Though I didn’t realize this at the time, I am sure that this was what made that particular evening so special to me all of these years later.

Ahhh that often unattainable PRESENT MOMENT we know we are all supposed to be striving for. Right? Oprah says it. Every guest she has on her Super Sunday says it. Deepak Chopra says this, Wayne Dyer used to say it before he left us. Eckhart Tolle says it. Podcasts, blogs everywhere I turn screaming the importance of LIVING IN THE PRESENT! Another task we are supposed to be striving for and improving on and checking off our lists.

What I know for myself to be true is that when I do manage to carve out just a few moments in the day to make an attempt to take on this call, I feel better. Way less anxious, worried, concerned and stressed. Consciously striving for this is no easy task in our busy lives especially as caregivers, business owners, parents and just humans. Living in the present is a practice– not a one and done check it off my list and move on to the next life goal on my quest for perpetual zen status.

Living in the Present is not compartmentalized into some neat little box ‘over there.’

It is about living in the moment while the moment is occurring. Using driving as a metaphor for this since this piece today features my 63 VW Bug, there are those moments in time when I am driving from point a to point b and when I get to my destination I have almost no memory of how I got there. Some call it absent minded driving, I like to call it driving while thinking too much.

When I was married to Dave, he wasn’t much of a talker and I was. I liked talking about feelings and working on improving but this wasn’t his way of marriage. Often times when I wanted to talk about something, he would go quiet and say, “I’m thinking!” And I would sigh with frustration and think “What is there to think about?” If I would bring the conversation up again at a later time, he would say, “Alayne, you think too much.”

This drove me bat shit crazy, but often in hindsight there was some wisdom in this. I do think too much at times though it serves me well many of these times, there are many times it does not. Being present is being here. Being nowhere and NOW HERE. All I know is that as I get older my goal is to feel good. When I am in the moment, I feel good. When I am fretting and worrying about the past and the future both of which I have no control over, I do not feel good and this is not good. For my health, for my mental and physical state. And for my ability to lead my team and be a great mom and a better human, I must choose to feel good as often as possible.

Perhaps this recent trip down memory lane with Ricki Lee in the passenger seat was a reminder of this. Goodness knows that I must be constantly reminded that I have choices in how I think and what I think. We all do. Our minds are powerful allies when we choose to use them for the good they offer.

Today is my second #noplanthursday so I am off to remember that WE BELONG TOGETHER is a great phrase for me and my present self. Together again.

this isn’t my exact car, but it looked almost like this one except mine was way more perfect.

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CONTEMPLATION AND ICE CREAM

CONTEMPLATION AND ICE CREAM

This should be the name of a new treatment, I thought as I decided yesterday that I couldn’t live without ice cream because I went to my second funeral in a week yesterday of another young woman. Ice cream was soon to be some much needed therapy that only ice cream can be. I found myself with the day off and no plans and a bag of freshly bought edibles from the compassion center in Portsmouth where I am a proud and loud carrying card member. Rather than day drink after the funeral, surely not a solution to anything, especially since the young woman who died was sober for a good part of her life, I cut a very small piece of the caramel square, placed it on my tongue and decided that today would be a day to relax. Medical marijuana has been a savior for the band of tightness that has become like a Siamese twin on my upper body and though I don’t need it as much as I used to, it is definitely helpful for stress and anxiety and taking the edge off an otherwise weepiest of weeks. Yes I know we must go through the pain, not around it, delve into the grief, but sometimes just taking the edge off moves me there a little faster. Like ice cream. And a bike ride and a caramel edible.

Gretchen, the superchick who died, whose funeral I attended had six nieces and one nephew, many who spoke. The service was sad, but beautiful and I could tell the priest really knew her. I don’t often feel moved at Catholic funerals, sometimes they feel a little rote and sometimes I feel an ironic lack of spirituality. Not this one. I was so moved by the Good Father’s words I actually felt like I could be a member of this church for a brief moment. His language about our grief was spectacular, encouraging us to stay in the present moment, to free ourselves from the what if’s what could have been and in Gretchen’s honor, live in the now, with zest and joy and spirit. If there had been a gospel choir singing along with this message, the service would have made me want to stand up and wave my arms in the air singing I BELIEVE!

Funerals like weddings bring up a lot of matter, matter from the past, seeing old faces, not seeing some faces. Funerals like weddings have a way of bringing you up close and personal to your own life choices, love lost, aging, sadness, happiness, a virtual mecca of emotion. I found myself at Gretchen’s funeral yesterday starting to plan my own funeral in my mind which I know is bat shit crazy, but I couldn’t stop the train. Funerals do this, they make you think of your own mortality and how you may want your own exit to be if you had the ability to make the plan. Trying to control my funeral even, clearly I need more therapy (or more edibles or more ice cream). One of the nieces made some references to overeating Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream so much that their stomachs were beyond full at sleepover with their Aunt Gretchen, how Gretchen loved bouquets of wild flowers and many other delightful antidotes about a life well lived albeit shorter than it should have been. Their personal words were touching and heartwarming and when I got home to figure out my remaining day, I just knew ice cream would be part of its recipe.

With dinner already in the works on slow cook, I got on my bike and rode like the wind, just me, no friends along for the ride, just the wind in my hair, water in my basket and a freedom like no other. Bluebirds and yellow finches flew fast and furious in my vision, cardinal sounds warmed my ears with hope and the notion that everything is alright. Ospreys communicated in a way that took me off my bike just to stare. It was refreshing to see so many kids on the bike path without their parents for a change. Kids actually outside, moving their legs with no cell phones in their hands. The sky was bluer, the trees were greener and the air was that perfect breeze that made the bike ride comfortable for either a slow or fast pedal depending on my mood and energy level. I pedaled and glided and freed myself with a much needed second week day in two weeks off, though this one was not playing hooky. I actually had this day off and forgot that a funeral doesn’t take all day and there was no way I was going to do paperwork after.

Before I left for the bike ride, I noticed that one of my employees had a two hour opening, but I didn’t want to take the appointment in case it could be filled last minute, always the possibility. On my way home from the bike ride, when I stopped to look at the ospreys, I texted the front desk to find out if the appointment was still open and when the answer was yes, I took it. But first I had to fulfill my ice cream obligation. Stopping by the ice cream parlor to discover it wasn’t open for another 2 hours, I made my way home and walked the short distance across the street to Pick and Pay praying they would have mint oreo cookie. They did proving that there indeed is a God and that Gretchen was indeed with me in the Pick and Pay.

I still had a full half hour before my appointment so I made it home cranked open the ice cream and stuck my spoon in the creamy cool delight knowing that I still had my treatment ahead. This treatment would end my afternoon with perfection, a spassage, an hour and half warm oil rubdown like nothing else by Katelyn, a long term employee who has a smile and an innocent happiness like I seldom see in people. Katelyn usually freaks out when she sees my name, her boss’ name, in her schedule for anything other than waxing, but she greeted me with her sincerest warmth. I told her I was there purely for relaxation, that I didn’t want to talk, I just needed to chill out. As soon as her hands touched my back, I felt her care, her maturity, her strength and I understood immediately why women would want to go to her for their appointments. She had beautiful light and I was immediately taken into her arms for an hour and a half of meditative peace.

As I lay there in a dreamy state going in and out of REM slumber, I couldn’t help my creative brain from going into full gear coming up with new treatments and new business ideas. This is a sign that my brain is clearing from the cobwebs and fogginess of grief, that I am very much alive and in Gretchen’s and Lesa’s honor will seize whatever is remaining and march forth. As I finished my treatment, joined Michael C outside in the garden for an afternoon glass of wine, headed back inside for dinner and the news, I was looking forward to finishing my day. First off though, I would finish the pint, something I have actually never done before, I know, hard to believe for those of you who know me, in Gretchen’s honor and in honor of a life that was finished too soon. I cut some flowers for her, finished off the ice cream and reflected on my day. Satisfied and belly full.


for gretchen