Tag Archives: Gratitude

It will be worth it.

For the past three years I have been a shepherd, so to speak, for young international students who are leaving home (some for the first time) to come to the United States to spend a year, maybe two, living with an American host family as an au pair. My training school has ushered thousands upon thousands of students through its doors, welcoming and grounding them in preparation for their adventure ahead.

The question “what’s next?”is the common theme that bonds all of the students together, and our facility is a place where transition begins the process of transformation. At the Training School our students are on the precipice of an enormous change, perhaps one so drastic that they may not even recognize their former selves upon returning home to their countries at the end of their program.

And it is this raw energy of change that has fed my heart and soul, and which has driven me to work harder than ever before. Over the past few years I’ve come to discover that I value nothing more than pushing and expanding boundaries, stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting that the “what’s next?” will be effortlessly handled when and as it is meant to be.

So as I prepare myself for a life transition of my own, I think it’s pertinent to reflect on some of the lessons my students and this school have taught me over the past 3 years.

1. The unknown is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. I’m literally reminded of this one hundred times a week. When I ask an au pair how they are feeling about meeting their host family for the first time 99.99% of them will say “I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.” And well, duh! That’s because they have only the faintest idea of what their life is going to be like in a mere 48hrs. Nothing is more unsettling than not being able to plan two days in advance. The thrill of it all is the adrenaline pumping through their veins and the realization that, “well, shit, I am here and I’m doing this and soon I will walk through their door and I will figure it out.”

2. Be aware of your point of no return …and embrace the momentum.  Each week as the au pairs fly in from all around the world and arrive to the Training School in New York, I sense they are feeling that they have crossed their point of no return. And while this isn’t exactly accurate, they are autonomous beings who can exercise their free-will and return home at any point, there is some genuine truth to the statement. After all, they got on an airplane. They flew around the world. They’ve now invested both their time and their money into this adventure and turning around feels harder with all the momentum pushing them forward into the next segment of their experience.

The point of no return, however, is where most humans begin to flip out. You’ve set the wheels in motion and guess what baby — physics. An object in motion will remain in motion, so unless you’re going to quickly build a huge brick wall to smash yourself into (which I don’t recommend by the way) your only other option is to hang on for the ride. Let it take you where you are meant to go and trust that you are going to make it to the other side.

I often use the metaphor of a roller coaster to explain my emotions to people, but this situation is quite literally the most accurate time to employ this visual.

You willingly get on the rollercoaster, possibly even choosing the front seat for greater effect. You buckle in for safety and as the roller coaster clicks higher and higher, you realize that return is no longer an option. This is when your heart begins to beat faster, you fear for your life, your stomach drops into your butt and you panic like a small child lost in Costco. But as you peer over the edge you begin to let go into an inexplicable trust that the structure to which you have so willingly entrusted your life has been soundly built. What’s more, in less than two minutes you will be back at the loading station with a few snapshots to purchase of your smiling (more like scream-cry-laughing) windblown face.

3. Know that you are never alone. One of the greatest aspects of the Training School is that everyone is in the same boat. The community of students is strong, even with so few days to get to know each other, the bonds that are formed are very strong because they are able to comprehend in such as deep way the nerves and excitement that their peers are experiencing.

This has served as a reminder to me that in any kind of transition, it is crucial to seek out those who are or who have recently gone through something of similar sorts. Taking care of yourself is your number one priority during any transition, but the task can feel daunting if you are trying to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and significant others for support and comfort. Let them know that you believe in the process, and that you want them by your side to remind you that the trail you are blazing still leads to Rome.

4. Take off your armor. The most gratifying moments for me at work are when a student will come to me or a member of my team, and wearing their heart on their sleeve, demonstrate their exquisite vulnerability. Just this week I had a lovely girl from France reach out for help with her transition from home to the U.S. In speaking with her she told me that she has always been a pillar of strength for her family, and that being an au pair has always been a dream of hers. As her dream began to turn into reality, the pressure of holding  not just herself, but her family together as well, was weighing heavily on her. She was homesick, she couldn’t stop crying. She felt she needed to be strong and forge ahead.

My advice to her was take off her armor. Be vulnerable. Soften. It takes an incredible amount of energy to put on a face that exclaims, “everything is fine” when you’re actually feeling more like, “holy shit, everything is upside down.” That energy should be conserved and used to process your emotions. Don’t use your valuable energy to cover them up because the ramifications on your mind and body will be grave. Your future-self will thank you for doing the hard work.

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Transitions are super hard and can be incredibly uncomfortable and trying, but they are also pregnant with possibility, excitement and growth. It’s crucial to remember to be mindful. To be where you are. To observe what you are feeling and to give thanks to it. It’s ok to ask for guidance. It’s ok to ask for support. Trust. Soften into the discomfort — it will  be worth it.

 

 

 

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Feeling All the Feels– A Subjective Analysis of Why We (I) Cry

The science of crying is fascinating, and there is a lot of research behind the mechanics of our tears. We cry to protect our eyeballz as well as to regulate an overwhelmed nervous system.  The kind of crying I want to talk about here is not so much the I’m-cutting-onions cry or the I’ve-got-a-piece-of-lint-in-my-eye cry but rather, the I’m-so-overwhelmed-with-emotion-I-need-to-ugly-cry cry.

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It’s a well known fact amongst those who know me that I unabashedly let my salty tears flow. I wear them proudly, my mascara bleeding down my face, my face red and blotchy, my eyes puffy and swollen. What isn’t so well known, however, are the reasons behind these tears…

…so let me flush out a few of my fave tear jerkers: 

The I’m-so-grateful cry:  An overwhelming sense of gratitude for a person, place or thing will get this type of tear flowing for me. Nothing feels quite as good as the I’m-so-grateful cry because it signals to my brain how much abundance I have generated. This direct link between gratitude and abundance is most advantageous for those who wish to manifest even more things to be grateful for into their lives. By focusing on your abundance you align your energy to attract more of the same.

The I’m-so-grateful cry is a fantastic indicator that you are on the fast track to a vastly abundant life. Simply put,  you are hard-wired this way, and this physical response is your body working hard for your success, so you don’t have to. Let these tears runneth over, cuz you’re #blessed.

The standing-on-top-of-a-mountain-one-with-nature cry: Another cry I am a big fan of. This cry comes from the overwhelming feeling that goes something along the lines of “Woah, I feel humbled by the magnitude and beauty of creation. How am I, in the grand scheme of it all, so small and insignificant and yet so uniquely a part of this?!”This mind blowing feeling and the consequential tear drops can be induced by a double rainbow (what does it mean?!) or the constellations in the night sky or standing beside the ocean or being high on a mountain top.

The reason I am a fan of these tears is their intuitive understanding that we are one with everything around us. They are a homecoming of sorts, a reminder. They signify to us the bigger picture and allow relief from our everyday woes and squabbles.

The empathy cry: This cry is an interesting one, and I’m not actually sure how common it is. Personally, I tend to cry when I am in the presence of others shedding their own tears. I conjure these tears as I do the passing of a yawn. If someone is opening up to me with their tears, there is a 99% chance that I will shed a few of my own, even if their pain has not triggered me in any way (that I am aware of in that moment).

I consider this cry one of my super powers. I don’t know why it happens to me, but I know it is directly linked to my life’s purpose–to help others help themselves. This kind of cry notifies others that they can trust me and be open with me. I will not judge their tears and I will provide a very safe space for them to find some catharsis.

Like all super powers, though, it is important to use them for good. Sharing a tear in empathy can be very helpful in helping people heal, however, crying too much can further trigger their stress and cause things to spiral out of hand. If you also have this super power, remember to check yourself before you wreck yourself (and another), aiight?

The broken-heart cry: For obvious reasons, I think it’s safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with this cry. It’s the ugliest of ugly cries, and yet, in a twisted way, it feels so good.

Clearly the bruising of one’s ego from being dumped is different than, say, grieving the loss of a loved one. However, these reasons for a heartfelt sob can be lumped under the same category for scientific reasons, which I will attempt to explain (plagiarize) via multiple sketchy internet sources.

Some scientists believe that having a “good cry” can release toxins and waste products from your system, which is why we generally feel physically and emotionally better when we wring out your stress and/or grief in a good sob sesh.This kind of cry is very cathartic and supports our health and well-being, so I am a major proponent! Get it out of your body so that it doesn’t manifest into something more severe down the line.

The nostalgia cry (aka the transition cry aka the growth cry): Last but not least is the nostalgia cry. For me, this is generally linked with the gratitude cry, though it can also stand alone in its own bittersweet melancholy. The nostalgia cry is temporal and beckons fond memories that have or will soon come to pass.

This might be my most common cry as I am a being in constant motion. I cry during transitions because they are a time of great reflection for me. It is not so much the fear of the unknown or moving away from people who are dear to me–this is merely at the surface level. Deep down I know that the unknown thrills me to my core and I that I will forever be connected to those who matter most to me.

The reason I personally cry tears of nostalgia is because they are indicators of my amazing successes. They are my growth tears. The tears I invoke when my psyche wants me to recognize how far I have come, how much I’ve conquered. They are my own way of recognizing of my hard work–my blood, sweat and tears if you will. What’s more, the more profound the experience or lesson, the harder I will cry.

According to my own very un-scientific reasoning, this cry is also closely linked with the science of the broken-heart cry as it allows for a softening of the nervous system. With this kind of cry I induce a feeling of total relaxation. For a brief moment, I am able to relish the satisfaction of seeing something through to completion. This pause and time for reflection is ever so important before I begin the next leg of my ascent.

So let us embrace our tears so that we can relish our vast abundance, be a part of it all, change the world with our superhero powers, support our well-being and rejoice in our accomplishments.

Tissue anyone?

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gdansk with the Stars

When I started to plan this trip to Poland I read travel blog after travel blog about the best things to see and do. Knowing myself and how I like to travel, the two non-negotiables on my list of things to experience were culture and nature.

I made up my mind that I would first go north to the city of Gdansk in order to experience what one blogger called “the most charming and romantic city in Poland.” However, as my trip drew nearer I realized that I had booked my flight to arrive over the Easter weekend and that the “charming and romantic” inhabitants of this city were going to be eating eggs and borscht and kielbasa with their families, as I strolled the empty streets and peered into windows of shops whose signs read, “zamkinęty” or “closed.” But I wanted a taste of the city nonetheless, so I started to email anyone that I knew who was Polish to see if they had family who would take me in and celebrate a traditional Polish Easter with me.

No dice.

Two days before I was scheduled to fly I thought that I would send out a few messages via couchsurfing.com and see if I got any replies. I sent out 8 requests and got 7 “declines.” But there was one family who agreed to host me.

At first I only had communication with the father, Mariuscz. According to their profile, they were a family of four–a husband, wife and two daughters. As soon as I accepted the invitation, however, I started to think…I hope this is legitimate. As I boarded the train to Gdansk my thoughts were, this could be great…or this could be a nightmare. Crossing my fingers for my good karma to bring me into the home of a nice Polish family, I got off the train and was greeted with a big hug from Mariuscz and Matilda, their eldest daughter. As we drove back to their house I breathed a sigh of relief as 15-year old, Mathilda, told me that I was their very first couch surfer and that they were so excited to take me in and share their home, culture, holiday and city with me.

When I arrived I met the mother, Patricia, and youngest daughter, Melanie. I settled in and we sat around the table drinking tea and getting to know each other. We shared tales of travels and hiking expeditions. They love to travel and see the world and they have instilled this value into their beautiful, well-rounded and mature daughters.

As we talked I learned that Patricia and Mariuscz met walking on a pilgrimage to the relic of the Black Faced Madonna–a 500km trek by foot from their hometown Gdansk. When they met, Patricia gave Mariuscz the travel bug and they have made seeing their country and the world a top priority for their family. They also told me about a piece of graffiti he did many years ago on the top of the tallest building in Gdansk, that reads “kocham moja Pa” meaning “I love my Pat,”which had become very famous in the city. It’s a symbol of their incredible love, which knows no boundaries, and it’s for all the world to see.

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This morning when I woke up, Easter breakfast was on the table. We had an egg fight and then ate lemon salmon, stuffed eggs, potato salad and desserts until our stomachs couldn’t handle anymore. After breakfast the girls searched for their Easter eggs and then we got ready to go to church.

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Because we knew we had another Easter meal at 2pm, we decided to walk so that we could burn off some of our breakfast. We bundled up and set off in the direction of their church. We had walked less than 300 meters when I stopped dead in my tracks. Low to the ground on a metal highway divider was a trail marker for El Camino de Santiago. To my disbelief, the trail that I had walked 800 km on to Santiago de Compostella in Spain 2 years ago was right outside their front door!

The spirit of pilgrimage came up once the last night, when Mariuscz and Patricia recounted their love story to me. In the back of my head I thought of my own pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, but then quickly brushed it to the side in order to let myself fall in love with their love. This morning, when I saw the marker, however, I was truly astonished. It was like El Camino was calling out to me to remind me that I am always on the way. I felt the magic of the trail once again and my heart swelled. The trail showed itself two more times throughout the day, and I laughed thinking that there was no coincidence. I was meant to be here and meet these amazing people.

After mass we drove to Mariuscz’s mother’s house for MORE food. Seriously, these people have opened their doors and kitchens and hearts to me in a way that is so generous and kind and fattening. I’m going to need to buy some new jeans. I thought I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality and sharing of their family’s holiday, but then they offered to drive me into Gdansk and give me a guided tour of their city.

Gdansk is a stunningly beautiful and an amazingly strong city. It was burned to the ground in 1944 by the Russians, who were fighting over the city with the Germans. The devastation was massive and you can still see scars of the war everywhere. However, the rebirth is something like a phoenix from the ashes. It was a reminder to me of the resilience of humanity. Life is not always going to be easy, but sometimes we are meant to be burned to the ground so that we can wear our scars like badges of honor and flourish in the wake of catastrophe.

We arrived back at home many hours later, exhausted from our epic day out. Mariuscz, Mathilda and I squeezed in a workout, and kick boxed against each other in the living room. The end to my perfect day was 10+ punches to the face…and I mean that in all seriousness. This family gets me.

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The gratitude is flowing as always.

Happy Easter to all!

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Attitude of Gratitude–I Stopped Counting–What Lies Ahead

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I landed in Warsaw this morning and I am currently sitting in a cafe at the Central Station waiting for my afternoon train to Gdansk. I will be here for the next two weeks on a 50/50 business-pleasure trip and I am looking forward to discovering all that this country has to offer.

Today I will travel north to Gdansk, a city on the Baltic, and spend Easter with a host family that I met on Couchsurfing.com. They have offered to host me through the holiday and share their traditional celebration with me. There are promises of a massive Easter breakfast, which can be compared to our Thanksgiving feast because of the amount of food. And on Monday apparently everyone throws water on each other…? Like a good dousing. Not sure how I feel about this tradition seeing as it’s cold as ice here, but I’m looking forward to the cultural experience nonetheless.

Right now I’m feeling excited and mildly prepared for what’s to come–which is how I like to travel. I like to have a general game plan, but also to let my journey evolve as I go. I don’t need (or want) to follow a set itinerary. I have always found that they best opportunities reveal themselves in the present moment, and traveling allows me to tap into that flow in a way that I don’t get in my everyday life. Traveling requires flexibility and a sense of humor. It can make me feel vulnerable in many ways, but it’s also thrilling. My senses–visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory–come alive and enhance the emotional charge of the moment.

It’s romantic, really.

I’m grateful today for this opportunity to travel and explore a new country from top to bottom. I’m grateful to the new people I will meet who who will share their culture with me. I am grateful for the ability to learn more about myself as a solo traveler and for the myriad possibilities that lie ahead of me in these next two weeks!

Stay tuned for pictures and more stories.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 34–Creative Process

The final countdown to Easter Sunday has begun, and I will admit that I find myself a bit relieved. This Lenten promise has been fulfilling for me, but I am curious to know from my readers how they’ve experienced my gratitude writings. Part of my reason for writing comes from an innate people pleasing place. I write because I love to, but I love to because I love what my writing does for people.I love to observe, digest, share and inspire with my writings and recently I haven’t quite felt like I’ve been achieving that.

Last year when I wrote about gratitude during Lent, my life was significantly more interesting. I had just moved somewhere new, I had a brand new job, and I was experiencing so many new highs and lows. This year, I feel like my life is a lot more predictable. I have a schedule that I follow and I can usually tell you where and what I will be doing a week or two in the future. Maybe every once in a while I have some SUPER AMAZING news to share that will make my readers feel inspired, but more often than not, I just living my Long Island existence…A.K.A. kickboxing and drinking wine.

Personally, I have felt a sense of boredom with my own words recently, and while I still give thanks everyday, I have found myself wondering if my little moments of gratitude are thrilling enough for my readers. Even more so, if the repetitive nature of my schedule and the gratitude that follows suit, will keep my readers engaged and interested. I have been doubting my writings because they feel monotonous to me.

So I guess I can say from a place of honesty that this year’s Lenten promise to write about giving thanks every day has been upheld in my heart, but that I am frustrated by the challenging of writing for an audience. As usual, though,it is the most frustrating moments that I am able to find the most interesting things to be thankful for.

This year’s gratitude promise has turned into a true challenge to my ego. The constant furrowing of my brow when trying to come up with a topic that I deem creative and interesting enough for my audience of 400 followers and my mom’s Facebook cohort, has created a few unwelcomed wrinkles on my face. I haven’t felt very in touch with the element of creativity that I need to drive my writing forward in this past year, but then again, is exactly why I renewed my Lenten promise. How can I be creative if I don’t practice?

I am thankful today for the process my writing takes. I am thankful for the moments where I have bursts of creative energy that inspire me and that inspire my readers. I am also grateful for the opposite–the moments that are dull and repetitive–the posts that have already been done before, whether by me or someone else. I am grateful for them because they too are part of my creative process. Maybe I have to write one hundred stupid blog posts to get one really worthy piece of writing. But one thing’s for sure, if I write nothing I will never produce that one worthy piece let alone a multitude of worthy pieces.

In general, I am grateful for my writing, which allows me to observe, digest, share and inspire others. I am grateful that I sat down today and plunked out nonsense until it turned itself into something that I am ok sharing with the world, and I am grateful to this space that the internet provides me to ramble on and on about the things that matter most to me. Last, but not least, I am grateful to those of you who’ve made it this far through my blog today– a gold star for you.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 33–Quality Time

When I left home for college in at the age of 18, I knowingly stepped out of the nest. Poised for a big adventure, I moved from Vermont to California to be a wide-eyed freshman at the University of San Francisco. For four years I would come home to my family during Christmas and summer vacations only. I became so used to the distance between me and my family, that when I decided to move to France after college, I hardly batted an eye at the idea of being a 7-hour flight from home. Morocco would be next on my list, and again I lived with a ocean of separation between me and my family. By this point, the notion of being so far from my nest was so commonplace for me, that a little more distance didn’t seem like a big deal.

Living so far from my family over the years was selfish, though I don’t regret it. I did it for me, and for the opportunities and for the moment in time in which I was beautifully whisked along in. But I must say, a skype call can’t compare to having those you love be physically around you.

When I moved back to the U.S. in the fall of 2013 I crashed landed back in the nest of my ecstatic parents. It had been 6 years since I’d fully depended on them for support, and while it was humbling for me to feel so young and vulnerable again, it was also wonderful to get a chance to become friends with my parents as an adult.

SInce I moved back to the States I have moved again, though this time the distance is much more manageable.I’m now at the maximum an healthy afternoon’s car rude from Vermont and a hop, skip and jump from my dad’s place in New Jersey.

This weekend I drove out to durty Jerzee to hang with my dad. We had a great time together, going for walks, cooking dinner, watching movies and hanging out, and we both acknowledged how wonderful it is to spend quality time together. We get along so well, which is a testament to the unique bond I have with my parents. This weekend I am so grateful to the time I got to spend with my dad, and for the proximity to my family that my new location provides me. I hope that over the next years of our lives we can grow even closer together, strengthening our connection and providing love, guidance and support for each other, as a family does best.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 32–Me Time

Feeling alone is a challenge for many people. We live in a society where connection can be summoned in an instant by the click of a button. The internet is fantastic and supports connectivity, but it is also a distraction. I am subject to the distraction, and the addiction, if you will, of the desire to connect. I have created a life for myself that requires me to be physically alone during most of my free time, but the facility in which I can access my network of friends and family, and yes, sometimes even complete strangers so that I don’t feel so alone, is astonishing.

This morning during my freetime I caught myself craving connection. I call it a craving because it was ravenous and imbalanced.  My fingers were poised to text message someone, anyone–but when I drew a blank as to who to send a message to, I realized that I might be overindulging in connectivity for the sake of filling a void.

I’ve noticed that recently I have slowly tipped the scales to the side of social butterfly, which is both great and exhausting. It’s great because it means that I am meeting people and expanding my small Long Island network. I also  feel like I am finding out about who I am as a person in relation to the people I surround myself with.

All of this is good, but sometimes being alone in order to reflect is what I really need. Sometimes I want to fall into my own void and see what I come out with–forget everyone else, who am I in relation to me?

Today, I was teetering on the edge of that void craving both human interaction and alone time. Oscillating between the two, I recognized that the pendulum had swung towards social, but that the physics of life was about to pull it back the other way.

Today, after my massage, I allowed the pendulum to swing in favor of alone time. Blissfully content to make a simple dinner, not even setting the table, because really, what’s the point of all the pomp and circumstance when you’re alone? I ate quickly, keen to enjoy the sea salt and caramel icecream I’d purchased for myself at the grocery store, and then I chose a movie–Frida–to watch before bed.

Today I am grateful for “Me Time.” It has been too long since I’ve consciously dedicated myself to the simple pleasure of my own company. I can be alone and I can be social. There is a time for it all, but finding a healthy balance is in my favor.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 30–Feelings

Most people only like to feel “good” feelings such as happiness, excitement, love, joy, awe, or inspiration (to name a few). But what about “bad” feelings like jealousy, anxiety, fear, sadness, and boredom? Don’t they deserve to be felt too? It’s a natural tendency to want to feel all the good things and to push away bad feelings, but I would argue that it’s important to feel everything, because it provides contrast and reminds us of our human nature.

I am a very sensitive being and I feel things to the core. Today, I felt a sense of disappointment when a friend of mine indefinitely postponed some of our plans that I was really looking forward to. I was moping around, feeling bad and wondering how I was going to give thanks today, when it dawned on me that the thing I had to be grateful for today was my disappointment.

I needed to be reminded today that this feeling is equally as fleeting as the “good” feelings and that if I can give thanks, I can turn anything into something positive. Not only do I feel more human, I also know that when I feel the contrast of this disappointment, it will be so much more gratifying.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29–Meetup

About a month and a half ago, my colleague from Switzerland, Kerstin, was here on Long Island for a business trip. We spent a good amount of time together, both working and hanging out. We were talking about my life on Long Island and the usual blah blah blah of how challenging I find it to meet people with similar interests as me when she suggested I try Meetup. She explained that Meetup is a website and an app that you can download that you plug your interests into and it finds groups of people in the area who come together around their shared interests.

I’d never heard of the app, and I was curious to find out more so I downloaded it and proceeded to tick off my interests in this order: hiking and outdoors, spirituality, yoga, reading, meditation, politics, and languages. Hundreds of Meetup groups around the area popped up and I could choose to RSVP to any of the gatherings.

One particular group that peaked my interest off the bat was the “Center Reach French Club,” which meets at Panera in the Smith Haven Mall every Tuesday night from 7-8:30pm. It seemed do-able and safe and if worst came to worst I could always get a soup and baguette and pretend that it never happened. I joined the group, RSVP’d, and then didn’t show. The other day on a Skype call with Kerstin, she asked me if I’d gone to a Meetup group yet. I gave her all my excuses and then told her that I planned to go to the French Meetup this Tuesday as long as nothing else came up. Today she sent me a friendly reminder via Skype and so I right then I pulled out my phone and RSVP’d before I could change my mind.

This evening I hopped in my car and drove 25 minutes to the mall, all the while telling myself that I had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was welcomed by a small, yet diverse group of francophiles of varying language level, age, nationality, sex and race. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was dedicate to speaking in French, with the occasional Franglish sentence thrown in to make up for lacking vocabulary. We held a lively conversation that touched on subjects such as issues with the Common Core Curriculum, differences between American and French schooling theories, favorite places we’ve traveled, and then the usual stuff, like introductions, occupations etc. I was quite pleased that I hadn’t lost my French completely…though frustrated with how rusty it has become after being back in the US for over a year and a half. But I felt good about my grammar, conjugations and my accent….and in general I just felt SO good to be speaking French again.

Beyond the explicit function of this group being to practice and upkeep our French language skills, there is also a strong element of community involved. This small but mighty group has been in existence for over two years meeting once a week to speak in French. I immediately fell in love the idea of having a weekly friend group consisting of an Indian mathematician, a Guadalupian middle school teacher, an Italian immigrant police office, a retired high school French teacher and a young American woman who was also a former English teacher in France like myself–such a diverse group of people, all of whom shared my passion pour la langue Francaise.

I felt the accueil chaleureux (warm welcome) of the group as a whole, and also an immediate bond with the young woman, Audrey, who taught for a year in a French school near Versailles. We stayed after the group left and ate dinner together, getting to know each other a bit more and sharing our similar experiences teaching abroad in France. It was a monumental moment for me to connect with another female in general, let alone someone that I have something in common with! Honestly, I could snap my fingers and have a date with a dude around here in two seconds, but meeting girls to be friends with is another story completely.

Tonight was a homerun, and I’m super grateful for all of the pieces that fell together to make this night happen so beautifully. I’m grateful to Kerstin for introducing me to the concept and then pushing me to join a Meetup group. I am grateful to have spent an hour and a half using my brain and practicing my rusty (but functioning!) French. I’m grateful to the group for their warm welcome, wonderful conversation and diverse perspectives, and finally I am grateful to have met Audrey, a young, smart, and interesting woman with a brilliant handle of the French language and my newest official friend crush.

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