#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 15 (Final) My Epic Success and Failure

Friday, March 27th, 2020 – 6:24pm – The Ending Of my Challenge.

The good news is, in so many ways, my 30-day challenge, that I only ½ completed, was a great success. It pushed me to write at times I’ve never written before. That was huge.  Breaking out of my systematic way of writing by hand and then transferring written work to a digital format was/is time consuming. I feel comfortable in saying, I don’t need to do that anymore.   Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer to write with pen and paper, especially when it comes to my journal or writing the first draft of my second book, but I’m not against writing straight from keyboard anymore. In that sense, mission accomplished!   

My failure is that this coronavirus situation in our country and world has done me in something fierce.

Emotionally, I’m an absolute mess. I’m keeping it together, mostly for my friends and family. I have family who work in hospitals and clearly we’ve all heard the horrible circumstances they’re dealing with just not having enough of the basic equipment and gear (PPE’s) to do their jobs.  But there’s also a mental toll they’re taking on. Watching people die. That’s hard at any time.  Sure, it’s part of their jobs but it’s never easy. It’s made even harder because it’s continuous. And, I’m sure, some people would not die during this pandemic if we had been more prepared.  If our government… 

I can’t even go there. This is not about THAT. My point is, being there for my friends & family on the front line as best I can – listening to them when they finish a shift, is what I can do to help them.  But hearing them vent and just watching the toll it’s taking on them has been heart-wrenching to say the least. I don’t let them know I’m crying, I want to be strong for them. But inside I’m dying. And when I finish the call, I cry. Deeply.  And then I move onward.   

I have friends – mi familia – with young children who’ve never had to spend this much time with them regularly. In one way, it’s very funny.  I remember these friends wanting so desperately to have children. And of course, they love their kids, but yeah, damn!  I couldn’t spend that much time with a 6 year old either, let alone 4 of them.  I’ve done my best to answer every call and be the “Auntie” who’ll talk to the kids for a bit on WhatsAPP or Skype or Zoom just to give mom or dad a break.  I mean it’s not much, but it’s what I can do to help. Again, I don’t share how bad I feel for them – but after I’m done, I say a prayer for all them. 

I have a couple of friends whose marriages were on the rocks to begin with but now this situation is making it even worse in a lot of ways.  Relationships are hard always. Harder when you’re basically in quarantine and your responsibility is to your kids.  So… I’m happy to hear them vent too. One of my friends shared a glass (or bottle actually) of wine over Zoom.  I literally watched her get drunk via video cam, all while she complained about her fiancé.  Yikes!  

I’ve also had to revamp my own job/business. Like everyone else, I’ve been considering long-term changes to my own industry and possible job/client loss and adjusting accordingly. It’s tough.  I’ve seen major businesses get stuck in this and I’ve heard small business owners and CEO’s cry because they had to let their staff go and can’t pay them anything because they have no sales to cover the costs. Better to let them file for unemployment…  It’s been sad to listen too and yet I continue to do my job as well – even though I know I’m not getting paid either. It’s the right thing to do. 

My epic failure, if you will, is not being able to finish the challenge because by the time 9pm rolls around and I eat my dinner and think about my writing challenge, I end up falling asleep – lately on the couch, with the TV on, watching some show I was sure to start binging, humming in the background.

So, I’m okay with finishing my 30-day challenge today.  I didn’t complete it, but I accomplished my goals and for that I’m so grateful. 

More importantly, I’m so blessed to have so many friends and family who feel comfortable to talk to me or reach out to me when they need a hand. I wish it were like normal times where life was just doing it’s thing and we were all hanging out together because that’s what people do – but this works too.  Our true character is tested not when things are easy, but when things are hard.  And so far, I think I’m doing okay. 

I hope you are too.

Much love & thanks for stopping by.

Carm~  

This just made me feel so good… We all need a little more joy.

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 7 and Day 6 Missed

March 11th, 2020 Wednesday 7:33pm – Michael, Hershey Bars & Quality

Yesterday, my “Day 6” of this late night journaling thing — I got a call from my dear friend Alice.  She lives in Boston.  I’ve known her since I was just 11 years old.  When Alice calls, I stop what I’m doing and pick up the phone. It’s rare to get a call from her – usually we exchange texts and emails around special holidays and such and when we’re in each other’s “town”, we visit with each other if and when we can. It’s a solid friendship. An old friendship. It’s one of those friendships that needs no explanation or excuses. We just pick up from where we left off. Easy. Doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It always feels like just yesterday we last spoke…

I picked up the phone, excited to have seen her number and name show up on my cell so I answered happily.  Sadly, she was calling to talk about Michael having died the Friday before and thought, because I was on social media, I might have already known through his brother’s post or something. But I hadn’t.

I wasn’t shocked that he had passed away. But it hurt my soul nonetheless. It bothered me the rest of the day.  Michael had recently gone through a liver transplant about 8 months ago.  He’d had this pretty interesting and incredible life…so many ups and downs, and yet, he always found a way through them all. In so many ways he was a pillar of strength.  It really seemed like he had 9 lives or was just indestructible. He’d been through so much, I just never thought he’d pass away.  Alice mentioned something that made me feel so much better – she reminded me that after all Michael had been through in his life, the idea that he would end up passing away, on the couch,  after talking to his mother, might really be the blessing none of us would have guessed would happen. She’s right. He had a quiet and simple passing. At least compared to what might have been many times before…it really was the blessing.     

I’ve been thinking about his family and friends all day. I hung out with Michael when he visited Los Angeles on New Year’s in 2009. I picked him up from the airport and then we drove to Simi Valley or somewhere like that to spend the weekend with another friend, Donnie.  I told Alice about that time and reminisced for a bit and I think she heard me get pretty sad, because she then reminded me to eat some chocolate in his honor – Michael loved Hershey bars and I could honor him by doing that. Eating chocolate! It made me laugh a bit… 

What I thought about today though was how easily one life could change another’s. I keep having these thoughts in my head that I’m not doing enough in my life, that I’m wasting away somehow because I feel that my reach is not big enough and that I should be helping more people. I should be doing more.  I’m honestly not sure what it is I think I can do to help the world, but does anyone else out there ever feel like you could be doing so much more, if only if…? I find myself feeling inadequate most days, like I’m wasting too much time and just not doing enough…

But I realized today that Michael, just like my mother, changed and molded my life just by being simply who they were. My mom’s influence is pretty obvious.  But I met Michael when I was just a kid and even though he was going through his own private hell, he made sure to walk me through, by paying attention to an annoying teenager and by offering a tough-kindness and words of wisdom that I still hold onto today.  Michael is one of the people I wrote about in my book.  And this is in no way a push of my book on anyone, but to actually demonstrate how important Michael was to me. His presence in my life mattered and there’s no doubt it helped make me the woman I am today.   

I guess what I’m saying is simply this:  It’s not the amount of people you know that matters – what matters is the quality of the moments you have with every person you do get to meet. And whether Michael was talking to high profile folk (he knew quite a few) or just a kid like me back in the day, Michael was authentically Michael!  There was nothing fake about him.  Michael changed me and made me a better person, just by being himself.  Our moments together in the big scheme of things were few, but they were quality times and life changing for me.  I’m so grateful to have spent the time I did with him and I’ll always cherish the letter he wrote to me (that I still have! I found it today) and that crazy fun New Year’s Eve weekend we spent hanging out in Donnie’s living room laughing and reminiscing about life in Jamaica Plain (Boston).  

I’m gonna run out and grab a couple of Hershey Bars before I call it a night.

I love you Michael, forever and a day. Godspeed my friend. Godspeed.

For The Love of Alden

I was out running.

I had forgotten to silence my cell.  The music and mind are not to be interrupted for that one workout hour. Every. Day. That’s the goal.

The text chimed loudly amidst Prince’s “Purple Rain”.  I stopped cold, annoyed at the interruption.  I checked the phone, attempting to just turn off all sound, I saw the alert message anyways.  It was from the East Coast.  Alden was in the hospital. He’d had a bike accident.

I skipped the rest of the text.

My heart sank.  This has happened to me before.  A text message and then, dread.  I felt my eyes well up. And I reminded myself to read the whole text first…stay calm and read the entire text.

Alden & Jame Startt, lead guitarist for the Parisian funk band, Urban Groove Unit; incomparable vlogger (Tour Talk); and the best photographer of cyling alive today (see Peloton Magazine).

Alden is this beautiful man who is a cross between Robert Redford, Anthony Bourdain and the best friend you could ever have – even if you’d just met him a minute ago, you’d feel it.  He’s intellectually brilliant, his voice is sexy and his energy perfection. I honestly think he’s maybe the hottest guy I’ve ever known – definitely the most beautiful man I’ve ever laughed with –  and I know if he were reading this right now, he’d be blushing, giggling.  He’d try real hard to be mad at me all at the same time humbled by my awe of him. His genuine humility, his authenticity, is probably the sexiest thing about him. And yeah, he’s easy on the eyes for sure.

Alden is a cyclist.  He travels the world and adventures for most of the year meeting the most amazing people, taking the most incredible pictures and just personifies to me – “enjoying life”.  He calls Vermont home, but I think Alden brings a sense of home to wherever he is and to whomever you are. He connects with everyone, from any background, anywhere.  You can’t help but be comfortable in his space – he just has that kind of energy. It’s a gift.  I honestly don’t know one person who has ever said a bad thing about him. But then again, no one would dare say a word to me – I’d kick their butt if they did.

I read the entire text.

Alden was reading my book while “recovering” — he broke his femur. “Call him, he would love to talk to you.”  I felt comforted by that line in the text.  Part of me laughed at the thought of him reading my book for any kind of recovery – but yes, my heart settled a bit. Tears had already rolled down one cheek, as I dialed.

The first words out of his mouth were “CARRRRRRRRRRMEN!” — and then, “Do NOT get on a plane to see me. Don’t do it!”  He was being sarcastic and yet, he wanted me to come – he knows that’s exactly what was about to happen.  I’d done it before when a mutual friend of ours was in the hospital. That time, there was no conversation about it, I just got on a plane and was there as soon as possible.

We talked for a while.  It was nice.  I had forgotten how much I loved talking to this beautiful soul.

In India hanging out with High Schoolers

He’s funny and endearing without even trying.  And whenever we chat it’s both a giggle fest and a learning moment.  Mostly for me, but I think for him too.  We shared our love of Anthony Bourdain and how much we missed him.  I kicked myself for not calling him when “Tony” died – but you know, I thought of Alden so much.  He truly is the most realistic version of a REAL Anthony Bourdain I know – minus the food and tats, add in the avid cyclist and skier.  But Alden is a story-teller, a lover of people, a traveler – an adventurous soul.  His natural good looks are nothing compared to his naturally pure gorgeous heart.  I am so lucky to have him in my life and so grateful that although his injuries are fierce and yes, he’ll be out of commission for a while, that it was nothing worse.   He’ll make a full recovery.  And that’s the thing about Alden – even while I’m tearing as he explains how bad the break was and how devastated he is knowing he’ll be in rehab for bit, he then expressed how in the big scheme of things, he was fine. He’s never a victim. And he’s always more concerned about others and their stories – he wanted to know more about my book and how it was going.  And he reassured me that even though he was still suffering from a concussion that he was excited to read it.  Hilarious!  But that’s who he is. It’s never about him, even when it completely should be.  He’s always curious about others – lovely, charming and so damn smart. I’m honored he’s my brother, my friend. And I’m so glad he’s okay.

Alden riding in West Marin County, CA in the spring.

So, I’m not jumping on a plane today to visit Alden. Though I did look at flights and I will be out in August for sure.  In the meantime, I put together a care package for him – I took a pic of a recent mural of Anthony Bourdain by Jonas Never at the Gramercy here in Los Angeles. I added in some other little funny-isms and sent that out yesterday after our talk.

Today, I thought about writing this blog post knowing that he’d hate me sharing his pictures from his private facebook page – knowing that he’d hate all the accolades and love I send his way.  I gush too much I’m sure.  But then I thought – I don’t care.  If I had LOST him, if my boy had died in that bike accident, I’d be writing this and sharing about him because I waited too long.  It would be a miserable thing.  And sad.  And you know what?  I don’t want to make that mistake.  I want to praise him while he’s here.  I never want to take for granted ever again the people I love the most.  Priorities.  He can be mad all he wants. I welcome his wrath.  I’ll be grateful for it actually.

Reach out to your loved ones today.  Seriously. Take this as a sign.

With love, Carmen

 

 

 

 

Two minute movie review: Paddington

When it comes to movies, I’m rarely surprised.

This weekend I went with my beautiful 6 year old God-daughter and her mom to see the movie Paddington and we had the best time!  Talk about being surprised!

Laugh out loud funny moments for both kids and adults.  A story line that works brilliantly, with wonderful acting, great music moments (one of my favorites without giving anything away – I’ll just say two words:  Lionel Richie) and a beautiful teddy bear that feels life-like right from the start – Paddington is great fun and a perfect family movie that all will appreciate and certainly enjoy!

Oh, and just to add a little more – it teaches empathy, love and about what family really means (and a whole bunch more).  We give it two bear-paws up!    Enjoy!