Category: Harvard

All Grown Up I Can Now Be Myself

A long time ago my mother told me that no matter how old we are, we still feel the same on the inside – we feel like ourselves. That makes sense, at the core we are who we are.

Not sure we always notice the “Myself” in ourselves because we are busy navigating our day-to-day, immersed in whatever we are doing, who we are with, what’s happening on our own particular path and that’s our focus. For years and years.

But what if we change? I mean really change. Like “Myself” is not who you think I am, or even who I think I am.

I was sitting in church the other day – something I don’t usually do. I was forced to go every Sunday growing up, and it didn’t feel right to “Myself.” But since Sir Husband does multimedia communications for the Harvard Memorial Church now, I go when he’s covering a special event. It’s kind of like going to the theater. This church is the pulse-center of Harvard U, where big things take place – from Commencement or famous speakers or concerts to High Church holidays during the academic year. Neither of us are religioulsy-affiliated but subscribe to spiritual wisdom.

I sat there for the event and thought about when I was sitting in church as a little girl. I hated it and hated my parents for demanding I participate. I didn’t “feel” it, it didn’t seem right to me and I didn’t appreciate their disregard of “Myself.”

But this particular day, my past tapped me on the shoulder differently, like it does when we least expect it. I felt like a grown up. I had decided to go to church that day for my own reasons – to see the special event, to sit in what the Memorial Church calls Harvard’s “Space of Grace,” a safe place with an astounding history and a magnitude that spans brilliance and imagination, beauty, hope and possibility. Wisdom defines Harvard. And although I was never a student there, when I go, I feel like Myself. Not the struggling little girl who flailed through a lifetime of hard knocks, chaos, roadblocks and dysfunction.

Our experiences leave deep imprints, some good, some not so good. I spent the last decade trying to not be Myself. To unlearn what I learned growing up and reintroduce myself to Myself. And in pivotal moments, there she is. The birth of my children…unconditional love with Sir Husband after our childhood close friendship…finally moving home after a whirlwind eight moves. And sometimes it’s simply an everyday moment that seems pivotal.

That place inside my mother was talking about – the ‘feeling like myself’ place? Sure. No matter how old we are we feel like ourselves. But things change – circumstances, hopes, dreams – and it doesn’t require being in church to notice who we are. We just have to pay attention.

It may have taken me a few decades to learn all I really ever have to do is be Myself. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

 

 

There’s No Place Like A Home For The Holidays

That Irving Berlin song – Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep – from the 1954 movie classic White Christmas – is a great little tune I’ve heard every holiday season my whole life. I love it, and it only took a few decades for its meaning to sink in.

We’re a week away from Christmas and winter truly arrived last week with a polar vortex that brought record-breaking, dangerously cold temperatures to the Northeast and we felt it. Really felt it. So much so that I shed a tear for the poor animals who live outside when I could barely get from my car to my front door without legitimately feeling pain. Although we live in the city, our home is on 23-acres of conservation land where all kinds of creatures make their homes – deer, wild turkeys, birds, fox, coyotes, it’s quite amazing. I worry about them in the brutal cold.

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On the first day of the nasty vortex, grey and dreary, winds whipping over 30 miles per hour, I stood in the window and watched a flock of wild turkeys pecking for food around the front lawn. They had to be cold. There I was in my house, all decorated for the holidays and cozy, and I was overcome with gratitude. I not only have heat, but a big wood-burning fireplace we enjoy using several nights a week. It wasn’t just the warmth, it was everything. I was bursting with  gratefulness.

Finally feeling the peace, Sir Husband and I are finding this a lovely place to be – on the other side of hardship – dreams seized and nurtured. Sure we still have stress, but normal stress, the manageable stuff that doesn’t seem so huge when you realize you are overjoyed to have heat. And other things, like food, clothes, jobs, and a roof over our heads with indoor plumbing.

I never realized how valuable those things truly were until I was standing in the hallway after a holiday carol service a couple of Sunday evenings ago while it was still fairly warm out (funny that 40 degrees is now considered warm.) I noticed two people right outside the window sitting down on what looked like a ground-level ledge of the building.

161211carolservices32We were in a big, old Catholic church built in the early 1900s. It’s stunning actually, and the floor to ceiling windows reveal the fairytale-esque city square that looks like it’s right out of a movie. It was hard not to be mesmerized by the magic of this extraordinary church let alone the amazing voices of the choir performing there that night. And there these two people were, sitting there huddled together talking. I thought it was two college students since we were in Harvard Square. But when I looked closely I could see they were layered in clothing partially-wrapped in sleeping bags, next to them was a full plastic garbage bag – of something. They were homeless and settling in for the night.

I stood there wondering who they were and why they were there, tucked into the nook of a big, brick church trying to stay warm. They looked unfazed actually, I could hear them chatting as if it were two people talking over a dinner table at home. I assumed they would be there all night and wondered if this was their “home.”

While we were inside completely moved by the choir’s angelic voices singing beautiful carols in Latin, German, and old English by candlelight …  Silent night…holy night…all is calm…all is bright … they were outside with only the clothes on their backs and a garbage bag by their sides.

Count your blessings instead of sheep. Because baby, it’s cold outside.

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Happy holidays ~ See you next year.

 

 

(*winter scene photo courtesy of NOAA)

Today’s Short Message Is About Believing In Ourselves Regardless Of What We Think

Life sure has its mysteries. Like when Sir Husband was offered a job at Harvard University’s most revered Memorial Church and he is the most un-church-like person I know. Or when a person who can make or break my writing career told me that my name appeared at the top of her computer today when she was working on creating a potential writing team. Never mind that minutes later I actually appeared at her door just to say hello when I was passing by – and it took her by surprise – in a good way.

believeDo you believe in fate? she asked, because sometimes it’s plain as day.

My latest curiosity was why I was called back for three interviews to a job I never dreamed I could take. That is where I landed yesterday, and I caught myself off guard. I went in nonchalantly thinking that I wasn’t able or ready to take any job that would be what this one is. I guess I have more experience and background than I ever realized I had.

So today’s short message is about believing in ourselves regardless of what we think.

As I began the trek from my near-city home to the subway station and onto the train, where I rode peacefully several stops until I reached my destination, then walked the almost one mile to the building where the interview occurred, all I could think was, why am I doing this, I’m not really that great.

I haven’t been in the working world for a whole lot of years, although I’ve done a lot of work. My life’s path has been wrought with so much intensity as a stay at home mother advocating for a son on the autism spectrum whose life periodically hung in the balance, navigating complex systems with a fair amount of success, juggling and balancing my former husband’s addiction and all that entails, abuse and chronic illness, along with a whole lot more – like trying to raise three children and keep a family alive, I didn’t realize how much I learned over a couple of decades. I was so busy managing our lives that I never realized I had done so much.

sitting downWe all do that comparison thing especially when we’re buried in what doesn’t seem like the norm. I always look at the world around me and wonder how everyone manages their life. I didn’t follow a traditional path so I thought I was doing it wrong. But I didn’t realize until now that not only was I doing “it” right, there really is no wrong.

Going to an interview today was really a piece of cake compared to my strained past. I didn’t sweat much of anything because I just am who I am. I didn’t make myself out to be someone I’m not, or study up on what to say, how to dress or proper protocol. Instead I was just me – because who else could I really be.

Regardless of whether I get the job the experience was so clear. No matter where we’ve been, or what we’ve done, we can never doubt who we are. We can’t define ourselves by our perceived contribution, or where we’re trying to go. We just need to honor the mysteries and fate will tell us so.

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Park The Car In Harvard Yard … or, Find The First Parking Spot

What goes around comes around, and that doesn’t always mean something bad. This concludes Sir Husband’s first official week of work at Harvard U, where information abounds and enlightenment reigns. IMG_2648 copy

He was fortunate to be working the Baccalaureate ceremony that took place in his building – so to speak. He manages communications for the Harvard Memorial Church, which is in an of itself an iconic building of pomp and circumstance for many ceremonious events.

Just a few weeks ago he covered Carrie Fisher receiving a lifetime achievement award on that very pulpit, and most recently listened to the President of Harvard give a Baccalaureate speech to this year’s graduating class. That’s where the going around comes around.

For as long as Sir Husband and I have been in the car together, I have encouraged him to please park in the first or closest spot to the door of wherever we are going. He’s doesn’t care where we park, and always parked as far away from the door as possible for no reason.

But I have parking karma – one of those built-in good luck mechanisms that allows me to pull into virtually any parking lot and get the first spot. Although this is still much to Sir Husband’s amazement, he does not always comply with my good karma, complaining about my silliness of utilizing the gift. It’s an ongoing marital debate, when on occasion I have watched him drive by the first spot – usually empty – saying he didn’t see it as we approached. It’s almost like a game of chess. IMG_2649 copy

As he meandered around the Baccalaureate ceremony working and taking photos of the event, he listened to Harvard’s president tell the graduates to always go for the first parking spot, and if it’s not available, drive around the lot again until it is. Never, ever settle for anything other than the first spot she said, in a parking lot, or in life. She calls it the Parking Space Theory of Life.

Now he was listening. And all of a sudden what for years sounded like nagging to him, just became a symbolic key to happiness and success. What goes around comes around.

I imagine this is only the beginning of many new ways of thinking that both Sir Husband and I will embrace as he experiences the experiences of Harvard. Steven Spielberg gave this year’s graduation ceremony speech, another event Sir Husband worked beginning at sunrise that day. But I will save that story for another post. In the meantime, he’s found the first spot.

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The Parking Space Theory of Life

For years I have been telling students: Find what you love. Do what matters to you….But don’t settle for Plot B, the safe story, the expected story, until you have tried Plot A, even if it might require a miracle. I call this the Parking Space Theory of Life. Don’t park 10 blocks away from your destination because you are afraid you won’t find a closer space. Don’t miss your spot—Don’t throw away your shot. Go to where you think you want to be. You can always circle back to where you have to be. This can require patience and determination. Steven Spielberg was, in fact, late to class his first day as a student at California State University, because, as he put it, “I had to park so far away.”

Excerpt from Harvard University Baccalaureate address, President Drew Faust, May 24, 2016

 

 

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