I’ve Got Sunshine

Dude(s). This first quarter week has been absolutely insane.

Reminder: Earlier this week was the first quarter moon, the week between the new moon (new beginnings) and the full moon (realization of intentions), and this is the week where challenges present themselves. [Additional reminder: You’re reading a blog written by a hippie.] Somehow this week has presented me not only with my own challenges, but those of my friends and family as well. That’s not to complain at all, though it may seem that way. In fact, in most cases, I purposely inserted myself into people’s challenges, and not because I’m nosy or rude, but because despite my greatest efforts for so many years, I’m an eternal optimist, and the best and worst part of that is wanting to share that sunshine with everyone who needs it.

I always thought eternal optimists were those annoying AF smiley happy people who say things like “things will turn around!” or “everything happens for a reason!” when you’re fuming in the corner about everything and using all of your worldly restraint not to kick them in the smiling teeth. I branded myself a “realist” for many years, which in the way I interpreted it was a clever masking of total pessimism, always taking a situation at its worst without even considering the possibility of the best, because it’s easier to handle disappointment when you were prepared for it all along. My life followed that path for a really long time, always looking for the worst and therefore finding the worst, and so that’s what I assumed life was like. Life is pain, life is hard, life sucks; we’ve all said and thought these things, some more than others. I don’t know when the shift happened – honestly it’s probably the fault of yoga, as that’s the fault of many of the good things in my life – but I’ve realized in the past six months or so that to my semi-horror, I’ve become that happy person that most of us hate.

It’s so easy to hate something for the sunshine. It’s easy to call yourself a realist and shit on everything that hints at a glimmer of hope or a happy ending, it’s easy to put up that wall and pretend that the world is a terrible place and the idiots smiling through it will get theirs. I know it’s easy because I did it for a really long time. And then one day I made a small decision to hope, just a little. I made the choice to look on the very small bright side of situations, and that little decision felt like a big deal. I almost had anxiety trying to look on the bright side, because there were parts of me screaming that what happens when everything goes wrong. And in that tiny decision, what happened when I decided to look on the bright side?

Nothing. Nothing happened. That is, nothing changed in my world. Things kept happening as they were happening, and things kept moving forward the same way that they were moving forward. But in that tiny little nothing, everything shifted. Suddenly my world view became a different kind of realistic, the kind where you pick the tiny good moments to focus on instead of the tiny bad moments, the kind where you can appreciate a bad moment with a quiet sort of focus instead of an all-encompassing mess of consciousness. Whereas focusing on the bad moments in life and anticipating the worst colors every moment with that terrible haze of the “what if,” finding that tiny bit of optimism makes everything seem clearer, like you know things are going to come in waves and life is just riding them comfortably. This eternal optimism of mine isn’t something I try to force on anyone necessarily, but it does come in handy during weeks like this.

This week is one where I’ve had more than a few people reach out to me just to vent a little, and while I know my last post says negativity begets negativity, this wasn’t a case of negative energy. These were friends and family who just needed to vent a little about their bad days, and their days were really bad. Contrary to popular belief, my eternal optimism in this case didn’t lead me to say the nonsense things like “Things will get better!” and “when one door closes another opens!” because through eternal optimism you have to recognize and appreciate the rainy moments too. The best I could do for everyone and the only thing I wanted to do was to let them vent. Let the people I love unload their stress, their worry, their incredulity at how things unfold, let them unload all of that onto me without any expectation of advice or sunshine. I can take on their problems (most of the time) and I can take on that energy and hold it for them until they’re ready to let it go. And in the little moments when I’m taking on their problems I’ll send back just a little bit of my sunshine. So it’s been quite a crazy first quarter, filled with insane drama and bad moments. But it’s also been quite a first quarter, filled with just enough sunshine to keep us all going, or so the eternal optimist that I’ve become, hopes.

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First Quarter

When you have a unique tattoo in a super-visible spot, people have a tendency to approach you about it in public. Strangers at Whole Foods, on the subway platform, hell even strangers in the office frequently approach me, usually with some variation of “I love your tattoo! What does it mean?” Some people are offended by these questions, as tattoos are next-level personal, but I don’t mind that much. I explain it’s the phases of the moon (“Oh! I thought that was the moon!”), and it represents the yoga journey I’ve been on in the past almost-two years. I don’t get into the nitty-gritty of how the phases represent the larger journey of life, that everything comes in waves if you know what to expect and when; that preparing yourself to face life head-on based on where the tides are currently turning helps put the hard days in perspective, blah blah hippie stuff, etc. Usually just saying “it’s the phases of the moon for yoga” is enough for most people to move on.

This week leads up to the first quarter moon, halfway between the new moon and the full moon, and this is the week where challenges present themselves. The new moon is a time to sit, reflect, set hopes and intentions for the moon cycle and look ahead to possibilities; the first quarter is where obstacles manifest and your goal, leading into the full moon, is to find ways to handle them. Once I started tracking the moon, I noticed that the second week of the cycle, one of two things would happen: there would be a number of tiny frustrations (bad commute, long day at work, can’t find my favorite yoga leggings, etc.), or something would happen that triggered a strong emotional reaction. Honestly, I prefer the former of those two things. It’s easier to breathe through a number of small frustrations, especially when you know everything will be okay. It’s harder to breathe through a cold, hard truth staring directly at you, and it’s even harder to stay focused on the fact that everything is going to be okay.

On Monday, my boss/friend stopped by my desk to download on my life, asking pointed questions about my weekend and teasing me lightly about this crazy 2016 life plan of mine. We had a silly, easy conversation, but in his teasing, he said something that’s been on repeat for me ever since. Essentially, he made me realize that for the past month, I’ve been living in a really comfortable bubble of denial that I’ve been purposely ignoring for fear of it popping too soon; and he made me realize that I’m holding onto my comfortable denial, because I’m afraid if I confront the situation head-on, everything will not, in fact, be okay.

Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile with the fact that things won’t always go our way. This is a lesson I learn weekly in NFL regular season as a Jets fan, this is a lesson I learn daily as a New Yorker forced to ride the subway, and this is just a lesson we all learn in life over time; but just because we know and understand this lesson doesn’t mean it sticks with us. I found myself trying to bargain with the moon this week, like maybe if I hope hard enough my challenges won’t be related to a conversation I don’t want to have that is rapidly approaching. Hope is deceptive; it’s wonderful but after an eventful few years I have a tendency to distrust hope and optimism in favor of “preparing for the worst.” Now I find myself in a situation where I’m finally feeling hopeful and optimistic for the first time in years, and I feel like I’m sitting on a ticking time bomb, with no way of seeing the clock. It could be two months or twelve hours or ten seconds from exploding all around me.

Again this morning someone approached me at the office to ask about my latest tattoo, what does it mean, it’s beautiful. I started joking about it being the first quarter this weekend, so if work is crazy to blame it on the moon. I suppose to an extent when anything gets crazy, my instinct lately is to check the moon, and map out a plan for when the issue could be resolved; but not this one. Maybe in theory I know in time, this will all work out, but for now? Nah. It feels like enough to know the challenge is there and start planning how to move past it. I’ve got the ink on my arm to remind me that I’ll have to deal with it eventually. But for now, nah. I’m going to enjoy the little bubble of denial and keep a close eye on the explosives under me, waiting to fight back when that clock finally ticks all the way down.