My Commute: Bordering on Joy

Commuting by bike to the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side is a pleasure. Last year at this time, I was working two part-time jobs and commuting between Morningside Heights and the Financial District. I spent way too much time on the subway. I tried to remain centered and calm despite the subway crowds. I tried to follow a path of mindfulness.

I’m not alone. I dig this story from today’s New York Times on how to meditate on your commute by Jonathan Wolfe:

Can you listen without attributing a positive or negative emotion to the sound?

Take it one step further, Mr. Gelles said: Practice metta, or lovingkindness, meditation by silently wishing well to the people around you.

Sometimes the subway’s too hot; people get cranky. My daily bike commute, riding through Central Park, is just lovely. No one’s in a bad mood.

I try to practice lovingkindness from my bike. I mentally say “Good for you” to the people I pass. (Or the lycra-clad bicyclists who pass me!) I find it especially easy to say ‘Good for you!’ to the birders, the children walking with their parents, or the old people.

And occasionally I hit a solitary patch on my ride, especially if I ride through the Ramble. It is totally quiet and peaceful. It is as if I am in the country woods, not in the center of the hustling bustling city.

Ladies, if you want to start Citibiking, you can link to Women’s Bike Month for a free ride. Once you try commuting by bike in the city, it’s hard to stop. But sometimes it’s hard to start and you need a nudge. Take it from me. When December and January roll around, I will not be so lucky to ride so much. Until then, I’m enjoying every minute.

one-fifth

via Daily Prompt: Border

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Talking Transitions

One thing I love is curiosity. The other night, on the way home from my co-working space, new work city, I spotted this pop up tent at Canal and 6th Avenue. I wanted to know what this random townhall was all about.

It is a place for New Yorkers to say what matters to them about the city. I didn’t talk to anyone. I felt shy. Some dudes were drumming. The Talking Transition tent didn’t seem a real social place when I stopped by. Though I’m sure the place gets hopping with cool events, panels, and cultural offerings.

I just played around with an iPad questionnaire. The Talking Transition tent is not affiliated with the new mayoral team; it’s a private effort to get people to converse, especially the less-than-affluent people who have not felt they were heard in the Bloomberg years.

I voted for di Blasio. We went to college together though he was a year ahead of me. We lived in the same NYU dorm — super-nice guy. Back then, he went by the name Bill Wilhelm. He changed it because his father suffered post-traumatic stress and was cruel, so Bill took his mother’s name. Sometimes, my kids want to go by my last name. So I get that. That’s cool.

And the transition tent was cool. You’re invited to write on a sticky note what you want to happen in the city.

I wrote that I wanted more bike lanes and Citibike extended to the Upper West Side. Sure, it’s great for me to use my own bike. But sometimes, if I stay late somewhere, I’d like to subway or cab it home. Citibike is perfect for that.

That’s another thing I love about myself — in some small way, I have been a leader in the bike culture in New York City. I have been riding a bike in the city for decades.

The city just keeps getting better for bicyclists. And biking is such a cheap, healthy, and eco-friendly way to get around.20131117-152933.jpg

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“Talking Transition has created a new gathering place for New Yorkers to talk about the future of the city. Open 9AM – 9PM daily November 9th – 23rd, join for events, activities, food, and culture, and come to talk transition.” At Sixth Avenue and Canal, right by the #1 Train.

Earlier this summer, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park
Earlier this year, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park

Biking Adventure

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my view while teaching. And the shadow of my students
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This is an awesome place to explore.
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Along the West Side bikeway
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Around the uptown Fairway
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The George Washington Bridge and the little red lighthouse creep up on you

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The detour under the highway

Yesterday I took a long bike ride, from where I was teaching — around Central Park and 77th to 180th and Broadway for my girlfriends’ craft club.

I took the bikeway. Around the uptown Fairway, I had to detour under the West Side Highway.

Like when I run, when I ride, I am not fast. That gives me time to talk to myself. And time to think. Too often, I scold myself. So last night, I was trying just to be. Just to notice.

Notice the generosity of the Hudson River. Notice the crazy summer flowers that refuse to believe summer is almost over.

Coming back home, in the complete dark, I did not have so much fun. Many places along the path are pitch black and I don’t have a light. I need more light.

Stronger than the Storm

We kept singing the New Jersey jingle, Stronger than the Storm, when I visited Long Beach Island last weekend. Small businesses on the Jersey Shore are back.

The beach is beautiful. The Atlantic Ocean is freezing, 59 degrees, but there’s nothing the board of tourism can do about that. The ice cubes in the ocean didn’t stop us from dashing in. And dashing out, victorious, refreshed.

Every one rides bikes on Long Beach Island.
Every one rides bikes on Long Beach Island.

This stronger-than-the-storm theme applies to my life – raising my rambunctious teens, hanging tough with Chris, working on a novel, freelance writing, and all the while, procrastinating on the much-needed workout.

I admit some of my life’s storms I seek. I am a storm chaser. I could take the easy way out of town. But I like a challenge. It feels like starting my own biz is a perfect storm. But one that I can ride. I don’t think it will swamp me.

Sometimes, I avoid the storm, hunkered down in a safe sanctuary. I plug in my ear buds and wait for the storm to pass. I read a book, escape through literature.

Sometimes I seek safe sanctuary by making art. I started making collage art again. Making a collage is like creating and resolving your own storm. You get caught in the whirlwind of creativity. My teacher Mariano says, you can’t make a mistake with collage.

The Atlantic Ocean refreshes you.
The Atlantic Ocean refreshes you.

I rode out Hurricane Sandy last fall. I was leading a writing weekend in the Adirondacks. I was alone in the Big House.

Outside the third floor bedroom window, a big tree rattled the window screen. The scraping of the branch sounded like the knuckles of a witch trying to get in.

I beat it back to the hunkered-down city rather than stay alone in the mansion. I made it back to my wild and restless kids, my somewhat overwhelmed husband, my weathered city. I stayed stronger by rushing back home.

I should know I cope by rushing in. Just like I rushed back into the Atlantic weekend, though the waves hit me hard and the water was an ice cold bath. Life is all about rushing back in.

On the 5 Boro Bike tour

I learned when you suffer, you suffer alone. Right towards the end of the 40-mile bike tour, you hit the Verrazzano Bridge, (the second longest suspension bridge in the world). The incline goes on for-ev-er! You just keep climbing and you think, “Surely, this is some kind of illusion. How can something just keep going up?” You cannot answer that voice in your head, because you just have to keep pedaling and keep suffering.

There were many people walking their bikes up the eternal incline. But not me, because we borrowed our awesome friends’ road bikes and my bike had a will of its own and the wheels just kept turning.

But during those grueling moments of riding uphill, that’s when I thought, “I’m suffering alone.” Surrounded by 30,000 other riders, still, I felt alone. Suffering makes you feel all alone. As if you will never reach the top. Fortunately, my son waited for me some ways ahead. I was not alone.

The coast down was pretty sweet. And we did it very fast together, whizzing by the signs the volunteers held that said, “Slow down!”

We enjoyed the finish and the festival and the ferry ride from Staten Island.

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That’s me and Hayden when we were returning to Manhattan from the ferry. This was taken only a few minutes before Hayden fell asleep like the rider behind us.
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We were still pretty chipper at the Queensboro Bridge.
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At the Brooklyn Rest stop. So nice!
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I discovered it’s hard to take a pic while bike riding.
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Thanks, Dara and David, for letting us borrow these sweet rides!
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Waiting to board the ferry
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We liked getting all the free samples at the rest stops. I especially enjoyed the sample grilled cheese. And Hayden liked the Red Bull.
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There’s no place prettier to bike than Central Park.

I did the 5 Boro Bike Tour in 2011 too. I didn’t do it last year because I didn’t sign up in time, even though I was going to join the Team Fox and raise money for Parkinson’s Research.

Next time I do the bike tour, I have to remind myself not to suffer. I have to remember that eventually the path will lead downhill.

I would like to write more about the bike tour, but, honestly, I’m ex-haust-ed. I have to go to sleep.

other cool posts: DIY cycling

bike new york

I Get Social Media

Do you feel like you “get” social media, or do you just use it because that’s where all your friends and family are?

I get social media. But to get it, you have to give it.

I am Facebook, Twitter, Instagram girl, but I put myself out there. I’ve seen studies that show the more engaged a social media user is, the happier she is.

Some people complain about social media, “I don’t want to know what you had for lunch.”

I admit I occasionally report what I’m cooking. When I recently updated my FB status, “Making chili, meat and vegetarian,” several cyber friends in several states were also making chili. Coincidence? I dunno. But it was interesting and fun and I felt less alone in my solo chili-making kitchen.

Sometimes I overshare. That’s me. I overshare IRL too.

As a wife of someone with Parkinson’s Disease, I feel connected to friends and family through social media. Apathy is a side effect of my husband’s disease. On social media, I can’t tell if people are apathetic towards me. I try to notice only the thumbs up, the cheers, the interactions that lead to deeper sharing. I affirm people, just like I like being affirmed.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve connected in person with two different high school friends who were visiting New York. I wouldn’t have stayed in touch with them without Facebook. When we got together, we talked about deep stuff — how we felt different, theater, how we parent, what’s new with our siblings, how we work.

Of course, it’s scary to put yourself out there and swim in the social media community pool. It’s easier and safer, emotionally, to lurk, dangle your feet in the water.

My social media mania has one downside.

I was reminded of this jealousy factor, when I read: More kids than suitcases’ blog post about torturing yourself on spring break. Because yes, just by the look of some other people’s spring break pics, they’re having a lot of fun out there. I saw in friends’ feeds palm trees and London tea (different people obviously.) That made me wish I was somewhere fabulous.

But I was. I was somewhere fab. Making every day fabulous is one of my life goals. (Thanks to my former colleague, Klay Williams!)

Compare and despair. I try to post awesome pictures of me and the kids having a really good time out in the world. (See below!) Because a picture of one of my kids staring at the phone, laptop, or TV is boring. I post about things, people, and events that I want to remember. I don’t want to remember boredom, bickering, apathy, and negativity.

I want to remember doing cartwheels on the beach. I want to remember bike riding. I want to remember making each other smile and laugh.

This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt – Social Network.

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Daily Prompt: Time Capsule

2012 is drawing to a close (3 weeks left!). What would you put in this year’s time capsule?

collage for UMCOR
collage for UMCOR

I would put:

  • My collage art to promote UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Am so proud! This was an early version.
  • My bike. Oh, my bike. I love my bike. Biking in NYC makes me happy.

    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
  • My first (ever!) unemployment direct deposit check. Definitely mixed feelings, but overall grateful.
  • My new business cards.
  • Masks that the girls made at Art Students League. We all play roles, wear masks, make art.
  • Chris’s SAG movie pass. Going to the movies together has been a great way to connect. Due to Chris’s illness and our busy-ness, I feel we are ships passing in the night. But we’ve sat together at such amazing movies this year! Yesterday we saw Amour. Formidable! (my favorite French word!) Today we are going to see The Guilt Trip.
  • Abeach handful of sand from Siesta Key beach. The kids and I had such a restorative time hanging out at the prettiest beach in the world last spring. Great times, too, with my bro, Nicole, dad, and Marty.
  • A mosquito from the kids and my ill-fated camping trip to Fire Island.
  • Yoga mat. Because my mom still practices yoga and stands on her head.
  • Shake Shack fries. After teaching a semester of middle school creative writing, I take my kids to Shake Shack to celebrate.
  • School Swimming Pool and Van Cortlandt Park. I watch my kids play basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I spend most of my spectator time on the sidelines of the long benches of the pool or on the edges of the Van Corltandt Park track.
  • all the cousins
    all the cousins

    All of the cousins. Being with my four siblings and their kids for Thanksgiving was definitely the highlight of 2012.

  • President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Just in case anyone, in the future, has any questions. The man is an American, all right already. Forward.

2012 was a very good year.