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Entries Tagged as 'noticing'

Small Connections Can Make a Big Difference

December 10th, 2015 · No Comments

(This article is reprinted from The Huffington Post, where I’m now blogging.)

The day before Thanksgiving, I stood in a long line at LaGuardia Airport waiting for a taxi. I’d flown to New York to spend imagesthe holiday with my family. The couple just ahead of me was finally sent to a taxi, but they quickly returned.

The woman began to shout at the dispatcher. “That driver doesn’t know where we’re going. We’re not riding with her. We have to make a connection.”

Behind her, a frazzled female cabbie was waving her arms and yelling in a thick Russian accent. “I didn’t refuse to take them. I know where we’re going. They didn’t give me a minute to think.”

“We’re not going with her,” the woman said, more loudly than before. “Get us another cab.”

The dispatcher turned to me and asked, “Where are you going?”

His eyes were stony.

“Brooklyn,” I said.

“Go with her.” He pointed to the female cabbie. My heart sunk. She was still waving her arms and trying to be heard above the woman, who was still insisting that they needed another cab.

“I didn’t refuse them,” she yelled over her shoulder as she led me to her cab. “I didn’t refuse.”

I considered going back to the dispatcher to ask for another cab. But before I could, the cabbie grabbed my luggage, stuffed it into her trunk, and slammed down the lid.

She took a few steps in the direction of the dispatcher and yelled again, “I didn’t refuse them.”

The dispatcher waved his arms at her like he was shooing a dog. His face was expressionless.

“Okay,” I said to her firmly. “Please just forget about it. It’s over. I’m with you now.”

She turned to me. Her face was contorted with anguish. “I can get in trouble if I refuse a fare. I didn’t refuse them.”

We got in the cab. She was still muttering about it as we pulled into the heavy traffic. “I can get in trouble. I didn’t refuse them.”

This woman is clearly crazy, I thought. This ride is going to be miserable. She’ll get us in an accident if this continues. I fastened my seat belt and tried to reason with her.

“Well,” I said. “There’s nothing you can do, now. At this point, all you can do is forget it.”

She ignored me and continued to mutter. I contemplated asking her to pull over so I could get out. But we were already on the expressway, in heavy traffic in an area I wasn’t familiar with. I’d just have to hope for the best and see if I could get her to calm down.

“I understand,” I said in the soft, soothing voice I use with upset clients. “But there is nothing you can do right now.”

I might as well have been talking to a wall. Her muttering continued.

I spied a lanyard printed with the words “Albany Law School” hanging from her rearview mirror. I asked her who went to law school.

Her voice softened. “My son. He just passed the bar last week.”

“Wow! Congratulations, Momma,” I said, relieved that I’d distracted her.

For the rest of the ride, we talked. As we did, she relaxed. I learned that she’d emigrated 35 years ago and had driven a cab ever since. Her husband left her when her son was 2 and she raised the boy by herself. We even talked about the incident at the airport and how much pride she took in maintaining a complaint-free record.

I relaxed, too, and observed her impressive driving through the clogged streets. She was by far the most skilled driver I’d been with on that ride I’ve taken dozens of times.

My dislike of her turned to admiration. That same dogged determination with the dispatcher was surely the same quality that had gotten her through what had to be impossibly tough odds–a single immigrant woman with a young child, enduring an arduous job, never giving up.

I recalled my own tough years as a single mother. It was so hard there were times I didn’t know how I could continue. Except that I had two kids, so there was no choice — I had to continue. Yet I was a lawyer with advantages I was sure she could only dream of — a decent income, a comfortable home, household help.

And right before my eyes, this woman transformed from an unpleasant, perseverating crazy person, to a courageous, tenacious champion. I was transformed too. My anxiety about riding with her had vanished. I was relaxed, happy to have met her, and grateful that my trip was off to such an auspicious start.

At the end of the ride, she jumped out of the cab and took my luggage to the sidewalk right in front of my daughter’s apartment. No other cab driver had ever done that for me — they typically just dumped my bags onto the street and took off. I smiled, thanked her, and gave her a generous tip.

The lesson for me was one I continue to experience over and over — the power of social connection is phenomenally transformative, even in brief interludes with strangers. When we can drop our assumptions about others, when we take the time to get to know them, they nearly always magically transform into amazing people.

Social connections transform us, as well. They’re one of the most simple, direct, and important ways we can lift our spirits, improve our physical and mental health, and lengthen our lives. Even a fleeting connection like the one I shared with this cab driver can be powerful.

So as the holidays unfold, and as we shop, travel, and prepare to deck the halls and celebrate, chances are we’ll find ourselves in the company of an unpleasant, frazzled crazy person. If so, perhaps you can find a way to engage with them and connect. You might find, like I did, a wonderful surprise waiting for you both.

Tags: compassion · connection · noticing

Declare Your Independence! (from being nice at any price)

July 2nd, 2010 · 12 Comments

A wonderful client of mine, a smart, hip woman who lives in Manhattan, recently got a lesson in the high cost of being too nice in the NYC subway. A bedraggled man got on the car, took the seat beside her and, in a series of escalating advances, attempted to engage her in conversation and then began to touch her.

Frightened, she quietly waited until the train came to a station, told him it was her stop (yeah, she actually gave him an excuse for leaving), and re-entered the next car, which had more people on it.  He followed her, continued his advances, and luckily this time, several men on the car restrained him, and summoned the transit police, who took the very mentally ill man away in handcuffs. My client was grateful because it could have been worse, but she was tremendously upset and shaken.

What was she thinking? As we deconstructed the event, she realized that she saw him initially approaching her, felt uncomfortable, but she sat still because she didn’t want to seem impolite.

We do it all the time, us nice girls.

I recently visited a new hairdresser.  I walked into an elegant salon and was greeted by a man dressed in black and chains, like an old British rocker.  I did not like his look or his vibe, but nonetheless, I politely sat in his chair.  As I picked at my hair, trying to describe what I wanted, he abruptly told me that I was paying him to cut my hair, not drive him crazy, so I had to keep my hands out of my hair.  As he roughly raked through my hair, my eyes welled up with tears.  “I’m extremely tender-headed.” I told him. “Well I’m not known for being gentle,” he replied. I was aware of a sickly feeling growing stronger in the pit of my stomach.  But I did not leave.

You know the ending of this story, right?

Of course.  I left with three inches less hair than I wanted, a lousy, unflattering haircut, and the prospect of finding someone else to repair the damage.

What was I thinking? I was operating on the same frequency as my client in the subway, as the woman who doesn’t get off the elevator when the creepy guy gets in, the woman who doesn’t get up, walk out, scream, or do whatever it takes to live her life in peace, exactly as she pleases.  I ignored all the signals from my gut, because I felt too uncomfortable standing up and leaving.  I ignored my feelings because I was afraid to tell him the truth.

We’re such good girls aren’t we?  In the name of being nice, of not making a fuss, not offending, not drawing attention to ourselves, and a passel of other sometimes valid but not universally applicable motivations, we tolerate all kinds of inappropriate people and behavior. We ignore the clues in our bodies, sometimes whispering, sometimes screaming at us–get up, leave, walk, run, speak up, yell, don’t sit here, don’t stay here, don’t do business here, get the hell out of here and don’t turn back.

Enough!  I’m Declaring my Independence.

I’m ready, finally ready, to declare my independence from being nice at whatever it costs.  I’ll have a wonderful daily reminder as my hair grows back.

I declare that henceforth I will put my desire to be happy and safe over my desire to be polite at any price.  I will listen to my body.  I will listen to my gut feelings.  And I will never, ever again fail to speak up for myself, and just stay quiet, sit still, and not leave, speak up, scream, or whatever it takes to look out for my best interests, in the name of being a good girl.

Won’t you join me?

Tags: listening to your body · noticing · risk

Which one is the real world?

September 8th, 2009 · 14 Comments

Londolozi, South Africa

Each dawn we bundle up and sleepily climb into an open Range Rover.  We pull thick wool blankets across our laps, gratefully tuck our hands around the hot water bottle nestled inside, and head out across a network of dirt trails traversing gently rolling hills and grassy fields.

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We pass leafless tree-skeletons

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and quiet ponds ringed with vibrant green marshes.

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It looks very much like the open lands in the Colorado foothills, with one very significant exception.  Londolozi teems with an incredibly diverse array of animals and birds not found in the wild in North America.  Nyala, kudu, duiker, impala, hare, vulture, eagle, bat, heron, mongoose, monkey, warthog, baboon, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, water buffalo, hippopotamus, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, hyena, crocodile, duck, stork, lizard, guinea fowl, lilac-breasted roller–the list is endless and in short time, we see them all.

And it’s up close and personal. . . .
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We sit motionless, spellbound by the antics of lion cubs pouncing on their macho but indulgent father.

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We’re awed by the sublime

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And the ridiculous

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We’re even charged by this grumpy, one-tusked bull elephant.  Our adrenaline was running so high, I missed the photo op.

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He’s probably responsible for snapping the tree limb here, so luckily he only wanted to chase us off.  We happily indulged him.

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The full moon is shinier and fuller and more beautiful than ever before when sitting atop a termite mound.

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And just as we were getting used to the idea that we really were in Africa, that we really were seeing the African land, the African moon, and that the animals really hadn’t escaped from the zoo, it was time to leave.

Toward the end of the week, a couple of folks in our group voiced their dread of returning to “the real world.”  Which raises a fascinating question—which one is the real world anyway?  Is it the one at home, with careers, relationships, fashion, television, mortgages, the internet, and animals who eat from cans?  Or is it here, in the African bush?

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Tags: noticing · truth

What do you do when life unfolds with ease?

June 17th, 2009 · No Comments

wave-on-beachSometimes good fortune arrives in our lives so effortlessly that we can’t believe it.  We hesitate and hold back.  Surely it can’t be this easy, we tell ourselves.  Our smaller, more painful interpretation of life is so much more familiar so it seems safer and more real.  We shrink from the beauty and magic unfolding before us.

Rumi urges us to seize life fearlessly, to let go and merge with it, and to embrace with ease the joy and opportunity as it comes to us:

The Seed Market

Can you find another market like this?
Where,
with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
Where
For one seed
you get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
the divine wind?
You have been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry, at once, quickly,
for God’s sake!
Don’t postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching
will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.

Has a perfect falcon landed on your shoulder?  What do you want to do with it?  Do you welcome it wholeheartedly?  Will you honor yourself, believe it, and allow it into your life?

Or are you thinking “this can’t be real if it comes so easily”?  Or “this can’t be valuable if it has come so easily”?  Are you believing that struggle is a necessary component of your life?

Where can you be more open to the rose gardens, the divine breezes, and the magnificent oceans which come to you?

Tags: fear · happiness · noticing · risk

Is there something you’ve been missing?

May 26th, 2009 · No Comments

mango-tree1There’s an ancient mango tree next to my cottage; it’s magnificent, with a thick, gnarled brown trunk and long glossy leaves.  How many hurricanes it’s withstood is anybody’s guess.  It’s been barren for at least 35 years, which is how long I’ve had this place.  This year, inexplicably, it flowered, and then, magically, massive clusters of fruit appeared.

A few weeks ago, its mangoes began falling.  I sampled one, but it was tasteless.  The fruit drops day and night, thudding on the roof and plopping to the ground, but I’ve ignored it, except to gather it up from time to time and bury it, to keep it from attracting insects.  I have two other trees providing fruit, so I gave it no further thought, except at midnight whenever a hard, green mango smacks onto the roof and rolls to the ground.

As I cleaned up the fruit this morning, I spotted a couple of really pretty, golden specimens.  Curious, I took them in to sample, and they were an extraordinary surprise–sweet, tender, and delicious.

I think the tree is telling me that we can always regenerate,  sweeten, and offer the best of ourselves to the world.  And that sometimes, our assumptions may not be true, even when we think we’ve investigated them.

Aren’t those messages we can always take to heart?  No matter how many times we’ve told ourselves we couldn’t do something, no matter how many times our creative mind seemed barren, no matter how many times we’ve failed to seize the opportunities that come to us, we can always regenerate and bloom and sweeten.  And even when we’ve told ourselves the same old story, over and over, we can look inside again, and find liberating new truth.

The mango tree is just outside my bedroom window, and late at night, as I’m drifting off to sleep, I hear it out there, releasing it’s sweet golden offerings.  I hear them rustling through the palm fronds as they descend, then landing in the thick jungle of vines below.  Each time I hear it, I remember all of the regeneration and opportunity and sweetness and truth in the world.  And that whether I pay attention or not, they’re there–delicious surprises,  just waiting for me to notice.

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Tags: desire · happiness · laughter · noticing · risk · stillness · thinking · treats · Uncategorized

Why are some people so lucky?

March 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Four Leaf CloverI once met a woman who won the lottery.  Even though she’d already won about $500,000, she still bought lottery tickets regularly.  She told me it is very common among lottery winners to continue to play the lottery.  She absolutely knew she was lucky, and actually intended to win a second time.

My friend Kathy says she has great parking space luck.  Every time we go somewhere we park right by the front door of wherever we’re going.  She says this always happens.

I no longer think that this is random or coincidental or weird.  I think we create our luck.  We choose to allow it into our lives.  So how can we create more luck in our lives?  Try these suggestions:

Notice the luck you already have. Remember how you found that amazing jacket that fits perfectly, the last one in the store, the one that was on sale?  And how all of the traffic lights were lined up green as you drove downtown?  And how you sat next to someone at a luncheon who became your best client?  You are lucky already, aren’t you?   Now, just notice it more.

Believe that life happens for you, not to you. Even when circumstances are tough—you are laid off from work or your teenager is picked up by the police for violating your town’s curfew—know that this opens a doorway to something positive, something better for you.  Maybe it will be a more satisfying job or a chance to connect more deeply with your teen.  Whatever happens, allow it to be an opportunity to move forward, to allow something better, to grow.

Think like a lucky person. Our thoughts determine our feelings and from there we act in ways that bring us the results we get in life.  Lucky people think they are lucky, and act in ways that confirm it.

My friend Kathy has good-parking karma because she begins and ends her search with the best parking spaces in the lot.  She does this because she expects an opening there.  If she searched for a space in the back row, that’s where she’d find one, and that’s where she’d park.  And she would never think she was lucky.

Because they think they are lucky, lucky people feel lucky and act like they are lucky.  In other words, they make their luck.

So what would happen in your life if you thought you were lucky?  What if you expected life to be filled with wonder and magic and luck and great parking spots?  What thoughts would you think?  How would you feel if you believed that wonderful things would come your way, all day long?  Would you act differently?  Would you look for the best parking spaces in the lot?  Try it.  Then just notice what happens.

Tags: creating your reality · creativity · noticing · thinking

Some tough, amazing questions to ask yourself about what’s bugging you.

March 14th, 2009 · No Comments

pest-control3What’s bugging you?  Is there anything going on in your life that you think shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t be happening?  Here are some tough yet amazingly compelling questions to ask yourself.

How is this situation right?

How is this situation perfect?

What difference is there between the two questions?  What is the difference in the answers you got?

This is a powerful way to get honest and to see reality from another perspective.  For me, it cuts right through all of the noise and clatter of self-righteousness and victimhood and blame and excuses.

I find that when I do this, I get all of my icky judgmental thoughts exposed to the light.  What’s left is honesty.  Sometimes that honesty still hurts.  But it’s a very different, clean hurt that I can allow myself to feel and move through.

The shift can be amazing.  Try it.  See for yourself what happens.

Tags: noticing · truth