Dan Wonders If Being Hopeful is a Habit that Can Be Learned

Hannah and I get the New York Times most every Sunday.  For me, it was a tradition started by my parents back in the 1950s in New Jersey.  My Sunday morning begins with a cup of joe, one of Hannah’s biscuits, and the Sunday Sports section; next, before I try to decipher the Sunday Crossword with my trusty iPhone, I read the Sunday Styles section.

NYT sunday styles 2

The Sunday Styles section has the weekly Modern Love column which has folks writing about their relationships (e.g. For last Sunday (4.28.2019), the titled piece was It’s Not You, It’s Men: I re-evaluated my life after two long-term girlfriends broke up with me while coming out).

I then move on to Social Q’s by Philip Galanes who gives advice about, again, relationships.  (e.g. My good friend, who is white, is raising her young biracial daughter as a single mother.  She is a loving mom, but in my opinion, she has not given enough thought to helping her daughter form a healthy self-image as a person of color…)

I then move on to the wedding stories, and this is where I get to my point.  Cheese and rice, Dan, it’s about time!

NYT Small Victories anne lamott

Under the Vows heading, the piece is titled A Writer Finally Gets to That Happily-Ever-After Part.  It’s about Anne Lamott!  I have been a fanboy since the 1990s when she wrote the popular guide for writers, Bird by Bird.  She gives Ted Talks with humor and insight.  Click here for here for her entertaining 15-minute talk on 12 Truths.

In the review of her wedding to Neal Allen, Lois Smith Brady offers background on each one and how they met.  Married at 65, Anne says, Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take.  Don’t quit before the miracle.

NYT Neil and Anne

Anne with Neil at their wedding

What caught my eye was this paragraph.  In some ways, they are opposites.  She [Anne] is afraid of almost everything, whereas he’s [Neil] afraid of almost nothing.  ‘It never occurs to me that anything will go wrong,’ he said.

That makes me think , could being fearful be a choice, not part of one’s DNA.  Many of us learn to be fearful at a young age and hone that “skill” over a lifetime.  But could it be that with some self-talk, or what some would call prayer, we can “reprogram” ourselves from looking for the possible pitfalls, the dangers, and the roadblocks to being hopeful.  I’m not suggesting the transition would be easy, but it seems feasible if one has the “want to” to transform from fearful to hopeful.

NYT choose hope 2

Case in point.  Hannah and I have water issues in our upstairs bathroom.  The stains on the plaster walls are disgusting.  With a  contractor coming in the weeks ahead, I am hopeful that any damage can be dealt with successfully.  I’ll not go down the path of what could go wrong.

Being hopeful, like getting to Carnegie Hall, takes practice, practice, practice.

Dan Learns to say Yes and Gets A Kick in the Pants from Anne Lamott

At the Unity service Sunday, Hannah and I speak with a woman who tells us she has begun saying Yes when opportunities present themselves.  She’s trying not to overthink things and go for it.  A Yes can be filled with possibilities.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott

That same afternoon, I read online a piece by Anne Lamott in response to Robin Williams’ death.  Live stories worth telling!  Stop hitting the snooze button.  Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit.  I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

Ice Bucket Challenge Dan

I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but I’m thinking that the Universe is trying to get my attention.  Oh, I take the occasional challenge.  I jumped at the chance to take the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS this past week.

And now that I think about it, this past Saturday, a young man in town approached me to sign a petition to make the possession of one ounce of marijuana legal in York.  I signed on the spot thinking the public had a right to decide how they felt about this issue.

So I am putting Yes in my frontal lobe to see what happens.

This Sunday after church a Yes presents itself.

Camel's Hump, Vermont

Camel’s Hump, Vermont

Sunday – Having planned an overnight in Vermont to hike Camel’s Hump in the Green Mountains with Hannah, I thought it a great two-day getaway of hiking and staying at a B&B for us two.  I had previously emailed Phyllis and Wally, a couple we randomly met this past June ago atop Cape Smokey Mountain on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, when we were biking the Cabot Trail.  I wondered if they were free for a glass of wine late that first afternoon after we hiked.

Today Phyllis responds most positively and asks us for a casual dinner and to stay the night with them.  Though really wanting the getaway with Hannah, even more I want an evening Wally and Phyllis.  One Yes to the Universe.

Yes D at gym

Monday – Going to our gym, Coastal Fitness in Kittery, Maine for nearly three years since I retired from teaching, I wonder if a Yes lies here today.

In the locker room after my work out, I start up a conversation with an older gentleman.  Truth be told, he’s my age.  I’ve seen him at the gym for much of the last year.  He’s quiet, self-effacing, with eyes averted, often looking at the floor.  He’s the kind of guy in school that did the right thing, didn’t cause trouble, and sadly nobody noticed.

Today I take off my blinders and notice.  How’d your workout go?  He lights up and we have a few minutes of back and forth.  Now we each have someone to talk with in passing.  That’s Yes #2.

Owen and Max

Owen and Max

Tuesday – With our daughter Molly and family having moved north to New England after seven years in Virginia, Hannah and I drive Tuesdays to Billerica, MA, a little over an hour’s drive from our home in York, to spend the day with our grandkids – two year old Owen and four month old Max.

While Molly teaches during the day, her husband Tip spends his days with their sons.  By traveling south, Hannah and I can give Tip a break and also free him up to have time to run errands (e.g., to buy a potty chair insert for Owen or to register their cars) while we take the boys to the playground.

Yes Owen in the sandbox

Pushing the boys in strollers, we head for the Billerica playground thirty minutes away.  There, Owen has the choice of slides, swings, or his personal favorite: the sandbox.  We hold Max while he watches the helter skelter pace of his big brother.  Today my Yes is breaking new ground for I will be the one to feed Max his bottle.  Usually I slink to the background at bottle feeding time.

Today I have no place to hide.  While Hannah is off with Owen, I cradle Max in my arms for his afternoon bottle.  Pressing the nipple into Max’s mouth, I am pleased to see him begin sucking right away.  When he pauses, I pull the nipple out just a little and that’s all it takes to get him sucking again.  Fifteen minutes later Max has drunk four ounces of breast milk and I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself.  A third day in a row of Yes has me pumped.

Yes Error Message to use

Wednesday – Today’s Yes is brief.  As I sit down to review the draft of my blog, I see the dreaded error message Your file appears to be corrupted.  There is nothing on the page when I open it.  Gone.  Out of here.  See you later.  I have nothing left of my blog draft that I now think was a superb, even legendary, dare I say Hemingway-esque!  Nada!  Zippo!  I can be quite delusional.

My Yes is dealing with this glitch.  The entire file being gone is what it is.  Pissing and moaning isn’t getting it back.  I open a new document, just suck it up and begin rewriting.  You know, it could be better the second time.

Thursday – I must not have been listening to the Universe for I see no Yes opportunities.  My streak is over, but I’m ready for tomorrow.

Yes Max on blanket

Friday – It’s big day with lots going on.  After beginning the day at the gym at 6A, Hannah and I have Owen and Max in the morning while Molly and Tip empty their storage unit and organize their stuff.  Our friend Bill will soon arrive from New Brunswick, Canada around lunch time for the weekend.  To top it off we are off to Saco, Maine in the early afternoon to spend the mid-afternoon biking, then have dinner with our amigos, Donna and George.

When Molly and family arrive after 11A. we text Donna and George that we may be a little late.  While Owen naps and Max is just being cute on the blanket on the floor, Molly organizes at our place while Tip loads the truck with his Dad.  Lunch is pushed back til 2P and it’s clear now that our bike ride in Saco is just not happening.  My need “to come through because I said so” crumbles when Owen and Max are in the picture.

I call George and Donna that dinner with them is on, but our bike ride will not be happening.  Donna answers, Don’t hurry; spend time with your grandkids.  Good friends get it; they roll and these two rock.  Today’s Yes gives us permission not to do what we have planned, as the Universe deems Owen and Max time a higher priority.

Yes universe

My Take-away.  When lying in bed when I first awake each morning, I will take the time to think, even plan where I might say Yes today.  For me it will take 30 or 60 or 2000 days for this to be a habit.  Intention will take me half way and the Universe will do the rest.