Olympic Feldenkrais?

olympic-ringsWhether you are a rabid sports enthusiast or strictly a fair-weather fan, all agree that there is something extraordinary and engrossing about the Olympics. The combination of youth, beauty, perseverance, and the pursuit of one’s personal best, all wrapped in a tricky balance of national pride with admiration for the whole human family – makes for captivating viewing and a positive focus of attention for a couple of weeks.

We have watched thrilling achievements by Houston-area athletes Simone Biles and Simone Manuel. Rumors abound (satirical ones, of course) that Michael Phelps and Katie Ladecky are actually the spawn of dolphins. MIchelle Carter in shot put, Ibtihaj Muhammad in fencing, and Anthony Irvin in swimming, have captured the attention and wonder of the world. Additionally, the rugby team from Fiji, Jamaican dominance in track, and countless other inspirations expand our goodwill and admiration beyond our national borders and sensibilities. The Olympics provide an opportunity to indulge the noble human impulse to be genuinely happy for others when they do well.

Yet, it’s not all pretty. The latest is that US Swimmer Ryan Lochte and friends were robbed at gunpoint while returning to the Olympic Village from a party. [See update below.] Several athletes have been seriously injured. The political and economic woes of the host country are well-documented. Doping scandals dog the usual suspects. Snarky internet memes cast the public’s fickle interest in “niche-y” individual sports and scratch the itch of cynicism. Sexist and ageist comments and interviews by the NBC team have added a time-warp quality to the proceedings. Zika Zika Zika. And, in spite of those obstacles, athletes make the journey for the Gold, and seem to understand that their experience is extraordinary by any measure.

Whenever Feldenkrais people get together, eventually there will be a joke about the Feldenkrais Olympics. It’s a comical oxymoron. The notions of competition, team unity, and speed-strength-power are outside of the intentions on the mat. A gold medal in team tumbleweed rolls? HI. LAR. I. OUS. The most “in” of in-jokes! And yet, there is more than a slender thread of connection. Most forget, or are unaware, that Moshe Feldenkrais wrote a book on “Practical Unarmed Combat.” He was a street fighter who caught the eye and the respect of JIgaro Kano, the founder of modern judo. He earned a black belt and remains a respected figure in the martial arts. As one practices the Method, one learns that it is about much more than lying on the floor and relaxing.

Our amazing Olympians all possess an unusual degree of physical self-awareness. Their intentions manifest in action. They know what they are doing. They focus their attention on the present moment, while simultaneously playing the long game through years of training and aspiration. These aspects of the “inner game” are available to anyone who wants to improve in any aspect of life. You can develop them quite effectively in Feldenkrais classes.

I’m inspired by the older athletes, who have persisted and endured, one for a record seven Olympic games. What’s her secret of sustainability and peak performance, I wonder? I’ve heard many “comeback” stories from athletes who overcame diseases, injuries, and even childbirth to reclaim their elite Olympic status, and then excel again. How do you find that internal combustion engine that keeps the fires of ambition burning? As I hear 35-year-old athletes field interview questions about “retirement” (and don’t know whether to laugh or cry), I see an opportunity for a massive reality check. It’s not just about ageing. The question is: is there life after a personal best? And if so, who gets to define that? How can we develop the resilience to survive success?

I love watching these elegant movers who make everything look so damned easy. The most successful ones seem to pursue progress, rather than perfection. They are engaged in a process, expressed by Feldenkrais the elite athlete: “To make the impossible, possible; the possible, easy; and the easy, elegant.” Anyone who follows that process will improve. The process translates from pool or mat or field to living a full life, well. Go for it!

UPDATE 8/18/2016: The Police Say Ryan Lochte Lied About Gunpoint Assault (New York Times). Most disappointing, to say the least.

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Before and After

Workshop at the Feldenkrais Center of Houston on 02/21/2014.
Workshop at the Feldenkrais Center of Houston on 02/21/2015.

What happened to these people? In the top photo, they look distressed. In the bottom photo, a transformation has clearly occurred!

We had a bit of fun taking these snaps at Saturday’s workshop, “Ease for YOUR Neck & Shoulders.” The photos may have been a teeny bit staged, the people may have received a bit of direction. But despite the levity of the moment, everyone agreed that, indeed, they felt noticeably different — and better — after the gentle movement explorations provided in the workshop.

So, what happened? What did they do? How might YOU create the conditions for transformation?

In the Feldenkrais Method, we teach people how to pay attention. That’s it.

Good luck with that! See ya!

Obviously, it would be helpful to say a bit more about that. What happened was, the workshop participants arrived in a state of curiosity, with a willingness to experiment, hopeful that CHANGE WAS POSSIBLE. They understood that the change would come from them, from what they learned, and not from any outside source. They set aside some time to be quiet, and they enlisted the help of a “tour guide” — yours truly, an intrepid Feldenkrais teacher — to interpret the unfamiliar terrain and point out the interesting insider information. With just a little guidance and just enough time, they found new ways of moving comfortably, and they learned new ways to care for themselves.

What sets the Feldenkrais Method apart from other modes of exercise and self-improvement in our “Just Do It” culture, I think, is that opportunities for reflection are embedded in the process. Students are challenged to make distinctions: how did this movement feel before? How does it feel now? “Same? Or different?” is one of the most powerful reflective questions one can ask. In this climate of attention and inquiry, you can experiment your way to a better state. You can create your own well-being.

It takes a little practice and a little help, but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly. Change is not only possible, it is inevitable. We facilitate change for people in profound and quiet ways. What would you like to see in your own “Before and After” picture?

5 tips to fall-proof your life #Feldenkrais

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932), via Wikipedia

Falling in love is wonderful! Yet, accidental falls are a leading cause of injury and emergency room visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that, on an annual basis, falls affect 1 in 3 older adults.

Follow these 5 tips to “fall-proof” your life, at any age:

1. Improve your awareness.

Distraction and boredom are the leading causes of accidents behind the wheel and at work. Both pull you out of the present moment. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, yoga, and Feldenkrais, can develop your capacity for awareness to “be here, now.” When you improve your overall awareness and ability to pay attention, you will increase your personal safety.

2. Take your time.

“Hurry” creates carelessness, distraction, error — and greater risk of injury.  You can learn to move quickly without hurrying! When you stand up, take just a few moments to “get organized” before you go lurching off immediately and risk a fall. In less than 10 seconds, you can feel and re-position your feet so that you can walk without turning your knee or ankle. Feeling the surface of each foot on the floor (whether barefooted or not) can help you feel more stable and secure in movement.

3. Develop coordination, along with strength and flexibility.

The value of exercise to maintain overall health is well known. And yet, coordination seems undervalued in many exercise programs. The appearance of proper form may not tell the whole story. If you are holding your breath during an action, or if you feel unpleasant twinges with the exertion, then those are clues (learned through sensing) that your coordination could be improved. In fact, well-coordinated movement feels like it flows easily, and there is no feeling of strain (as distinct from the work required). Classes or lessons in the Feldenkrais Method can help you to fine-tune your everyday movements for better coordination. This fine-tuning process will also positively affect your balance, posture, and gait – all elements of organized movement. Improved coordination can help keep you safe.

4. Adapt to prevent falls.

In your home environment, make sure that floors and walkways are clean and cleared. Rugs should be securely fastened to the floor to avoid slippage. If you need a rail in the tub, install one. Wear shoes with skid-proof soles. If you must use a ladder or step-stool, be sure that it is properly braced, and see if you can get a friend to spot you. Line yourself up (and your center of gravity) directly with what you are reaching for. Re-position the ladder, rather than leaning.

Sometimes, YOU must do the adapting. Get your eyes checked and corrected if necessary, and turn on an extra light if you need to. Alcohol, sugar, and some food allergies can cause impairments that affect your balance, awareness, and attention, so “know thyself” and take appropriate action.

5. Learn to fall.

For high-performance martial artists, falling is an every-moment possibility. They don’t try to avoid falling. Instead, they learn to fall WELL, and they practice it until they have mastered it.

The usual reaction to the feeling of falling is to powerfully contract the extensor muscles (also known as the “anti-gravity” muscles) of your back and neck, and to “brace” the fall with a rigid and outstretched limb. The resulting stiffness practically guarantees that you will, indeed, fall – and that you’ll be hurt. Regular lessons with a Feldenkrais teacher can safely and gently teach you how to feel softness in your body, how to fold and roll with minimum impact – and get up again!

Mindful movement can help you to move safely and comfortably at any age.  Let us show you how!

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What are we doing here?

ImageIt’s January 1, 2012 — a time when people are reflecting, resolving, reacting, re-treading, rebooting . . .

And so, I thought it might be a good time to clarify for myself, and for you, Dear Reader, what I intend to be doing here.

You’ll notice the tag line at the top of the website, underneath the title “The Feldenkrais® Center of Houston.”  It says, “Open to Possibilities. . .”

You might or might not know what Feldenkrais is, and “Open to Possibilities. . .” might or might not make you curious about what’s going on here.  So here’s my attempt at a short summary.

My audience is people who are “stuck.”  Dissatisfied in some way, wanting more for their lives.  Some of them are in physical or emotional pain, or both.  Some are on a frustrating plateau of achievement in their jobs or hobbies. In either a literal or metaphorical sense, they can’t move. They are people with a fundamental awareness that they might be able to discover and learn something new that will help.  If you’re stuck, you need new possibilities.

SomaQuest helps people to discover or create new possibilities in their lives, their thoughts, their emotions, and in their actions. The posts on this blog reflect on daily life, and on using a specific set of tools, known as The Feldenkrais Method®, to live a happier, better, more highly functional LIFE.

The major tools used by the Feldenkrais Method are 1. your brain, and 2. your body. Get the two working together, and you have 3. movement, and the “special sauce” is 4. awareness.  With these four tools, you can drastically reduce or eliminate your experience of pain; improve your posture, balance, and coordination; clarify your thinking to lead to effective and intelligent actions; enjoy a sense of child-like wonder and exploration in all that you do.  Whatever it is that you enjoy, that gives your life meaning — these tools can make it, and you, better.

I write a lot about how the Feldenkrais Method can help people.  I also write about food, cooking, culture, travel, people-watching, technology and gadgets, the arts, self-expression, relationships, and random streams of consciousness. Everything is fair game for reflection, and for exploring new possibilities. 

Catch phrase – #resound11

What is your trademark phrase, or a quote or saying that you repeat often?

Via allstarpuzzles.com

My normal schedule throughout the year is to teach four or five Awareness Through Movement classes each week.  I enjoy it because the vocabulary is rich and varied, and I tell my students that “in this class, you’ll always be doing something a little strange. . .”  However, if you were to make a “word cloud” out of one of my lessons, I think the biggest one would surely be

NOTICE.

Not a catch phrase, really — more of an invitation.  Each part of a lesson is like a tiny experiment, or like inventing a recipe.  You add an ingredient, and then “taste it” to see if it what you intended, or if you like it, or if it is interesting.  And then you continue, based on that new information.  In Awareness Through Movement, you are asked to experiment with very gentle, yet non-habitual movements — and then afterwards, to pause and “taste the recipe:”  NOTICE how you feel now.  Notice what is different.  Notice what you sense. Notice what you notice. It’s a very subtle and gentle practice of paying attention, learning to pay attention both specifically and more broadly.

This process is remarkable, and enjoyable.  Through the lessons, people feel less stressed, or move with less pain, or gain better posture (among a slew of other physical benefits).  But more deeply and more importantly, I think, is that they learn how to surprise themselves once again. They learn how to appreciate and enjoy small things.  They become more patient and compassionate and sensitive, with themselves and others.  They discover new capacities and enlarge their thinking to include new ideas and possibilities.  And it all starts with “NOTICE.”

What do you notice?  Please leave a comment.

[I am posting daily (ish) during December as part of #reverb11 and #resound11.  Join us here.]

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Vices – #resound11

Did you slip back into any old habits that you wish you hadn’t? Did you gain any new habits that you wish you would have walked away from? Did you discover the evils of Nutella? ‘Fess up … we won’t tell.

Cropped screenshot of Mae West from the traile...
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“Vice” is such a good, old-fashioned word.  Juicy and judge-y, you know it’s gonna be good.

I’m reminded of the quote by Mae West (although it is often attributed to Helen Gurley Brown). “Good girls go to heaven — bad girls go everywhere.”  Well, I’ve always wanted to go everywhere. I love a little innocent mischief, and all the pleasures of the flesh — in moderation. So alas, no vice for me.  I’m too active with a busy practice and happy home front at this stage of life to have the luxury of vice and debauchery.  But habits?  NOW we can talk!

My work as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method, is, in large part, about recognizing habitual patterns of action:  one’s own first, and then those of others.  A habit is not necessarily a “vice.”  Moshe Feldenkrais said that habits are good, as long as you can break them whenever you want.  Funny, isn’t it?  We try to develop “good habits” over the course of a lifetime, and to eliminate or break the “bad habits.”  Whether the habit is judged to be good or bad, more important to me is the element of mindlessness.

Is mindlessness a sin, or a vice?  I guess it depends on the vocabulary you are comfortable with.  As far as “doing things I wish I hadn’t,”  well, sure.  And the characteristic they all share is mindlessness.  That automatic, without-thinking-clearly, default, knee-jerk, “why am I doing this when I know it doesn’t work?” state that is too often recognized in my metaphorical rear-view mirror.

My worst habit is worry and fretting, triggered in one very specific field of my attention.  In almost every other domain of life, I am action oriented, and recognize worry as an ineffective strategy and a time-waster.  However, with great regularity, I begin to fret.  My fretting takes me out of action and gratitude, and throws me into fear.  And when I am in fear — no bueno.

This fear and frustration launches a tired old story in my head, about couldawouldashoulda, and ain’t-it-so-hard, and gigantic pity party.  And I have to watch myself and hear myself inside my head, and say, “Cut it out!”  The sooner I change my frame of thinking, the less damage I do.

I’ll do almost anything to stay out of fear.  I’ll even muzzle myself and discount my needs and desires so as not to “rock the boat,” or piss people off, or make sure that a situation remains harmonious.  Those are reactive behaviors.  Mindless reactivity is the habit that I am now keenly aware of.  And awareness is the first open door. . .

Mindlessness is an auto-pilot.  I guess we all teach what we most must learn.  Mindlessness creeps in to eating, drinking, social interactions, movement through shared space — it’s freakin’ EVERYWHERE, once you start looking.  But it all starts right here.  Look no further.  It’s on the doorstep.

Feldenkrais brings me back to paying attention.  It brings me back to myself, helps me to come to my senses, and to feel effective in taking appropriate action when necessary.  With that mindfulness comes a growing compassion, for myself and for others.  That seems to be a pretty good foundation on which to begin a new year.

How about you?  Habits, patterns, mindlessness?  Please leave a comment.

[I’ll be writing daily — ish — each day in December, as part of #resound11. Join us here.}

The Whole Enchilada

Enchiladas 2

I am five days post-op from cataract surgery on my right eye. The procedure was a complete success,  no complications, and steadily improving vision.  I have not written anything for the blog for a few days because it’s still fatiguing to look at the computer screen.  However, it’s time to empty out some of what has been bouncing around in my brain for the past few days.

Because I am a Feldenkrais teacher, all kinds of things were and are interesting as I recover. It’s like a laboratory experiment! A qualitative experiment, to be sure. I’m getting lots of anecdotal data as I reflect upon the entire process to this point. In the Feldenkrais Method, a big part of our learning process is devoted to learning how to pay attention — REALLY pay attention. We learn how to notice, how to drink in information through our senses. We learn to become exquisitely sensitive — and, I believe the process has also made me exquisitely appreciative of all the amazing detail there is in the natural world, in individual human beings, in technology — the whole enchilada of life experience. An increased appreciation for enchiladas themselves may or may not be a side-effect of doing this work over time.

Personal awareness is our stock-in-trade. The hallmark of awareness is the frequency of dawning moments where you say to yourself, “How did I not notice that before?” I’ve learned that awareness isn’t something that you have, or you don’t. I think everyone has “it.” The differences arise from how much an individual is willing, or able, to allow that awareness to grow, develop, and include more about oneself and one’s surroundings.

Back to this eye thing. BEFORE:  vision through my right eye was completely clouded, like looking through a think haze. I could tell that I was relying more and more on my left eye, which has always been identified as my dominant eye. Gradually it also seemed that the prescription lens for my left eye was just slightly “off,” and so somehow I was making adjustments for that, as well.  I called it “living life in soft focus,” a lovely, impressionistic outlook.  It was also exhausting and frustrating.

AFTER: the vision through my right eye is now bright — WOW is it ever bright — and clear. Clear as in not cloudy, and also clear as in distinct. Objects have edges on them, and I can perceive where one thing ends, and another begins.  I ask myself — is this how other people see? And, if you can see this way, how is it possible to still NOT SEE so much that is around us?

Perhaps it’s never possible to see everything, just as it is not possible to be aware of everything. Perhaps our brains and nervous systems would be completely overwhelemd with all the data, and all the resulting choices. Our natural and habitual filters may calibrate just the amount that we can process at any moment. My sense is that I am doing a lot of processing right now.

I believe that I can actually FEEL my brain re-wiring itself to adapt to my newly acquired superpower. At least, that’s what I imagine is happening, based on my geeky appetite and enthusiasm for all things about the brain and neuroscience, especially neuroplasticity. Our brain is capable of re-forming, re-shaping, and making new structures in response to new information, building new pathways for that  information to travel, and for skills and capacities to emerge and improve.  Simply, this is called LEARNING, and it happens throughout one’s lifetime. And so, I feel a “bump in the road,” so to speak, as I realize that my brain now receives higher quality information from the surgical eye, rather than from my “dominant” eye. I notice when I read something, like a book or a computer screen, that I am looking through my left eye and not including my right. And all of this will continue to change.

I also notice that, for the past few days, I can’t concentrate very long — my “cognitive stamina” is depleted temporarily. I’m usually capable of laser-like focus of attention when I am absorbed in something, and I lack that absorbency right now. The tiredness, the fatigue, even the emotions arising, I recognize as signs that my brain is working really hard to sort out what is valuable and meaningful in the new flood of information.

This weekend, I pondered that perhaps the caution against driving for a few days has very little to do with impaired visual acuity. Instead, I recognized that I was seeing more clearly and accurately than I had in several months — and that I was in no shape to drive because of my distractability and lack of attention. I had always assumed it was because you couldn’t see enough. It didn’t occur to me that it could be because you’re seeing too much at the moment.

I’ll be playing with these metaphors and with my continuing real-life adaptations to my new super-power.  The implications are intoxicating — probably another reason to have a designated driver for awhile yet.  In the meantime, I’m craving enchiladas!

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Desert Island Music

Lakshadweep, comprising tiny low-lying islands...
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If you were stranded on a desert island, what ONE “album” would you want to have with you?  I’m always interested in the answer to this question, so please do leave your responses in the commments.

SO let’s assume that my iPod also made it to the desert island, and that it had a solar charger on it.  Because, frankly, just having an album on a desert island would be the equivalent of having a frisbee and a bunch of fuzzy musical memories.

I could actually be happy without a recording — if I had had a large ziplock bag that would keep a musical score safe and dry, I could be happy with just the Barenreiter edition of the Mass in B Minor by J. S. Bach.  I remember a peak experience performing it when I was in college, and just looking at the music would bring it all back.  If I could have a recording of it, I would choose the 1970’s Deutsche Grammophon recording by the Concentus Musicus Wien, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.  The recording quality is luminous, the temp are sparkling and based on  the most contemporary research in performance practice of the period, and the performance is flawless.  Recording of score, there is so much glorious musical material there, such craftsmanship, such invention, such pathos, that I never tire of it.  I might be cheating, because as I recall this actually took three LP’s — but hey.  It was “an album.”  ANd it’s my alternate reality.

If I were limited to one disc, and if it had to be a pop album, I would choose the BeatlesSergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Plenty of innovation there, as well.  The emotional and thematic arc traces through just the right balance of optimism and fatalism.

Both of these recordings — whether I am on a pop island or a classical island — have enough novelty to sustain interest over many listenings.  I can also sing along with each, requiring an exercise of memory and sequencing that would keep my mental processes sharp.  Music changes your brain — listening to it, making it, reading it — music changes you for the better.

I think I could be happy with that music, waiting, washing my clothes, getting a tan, and scanning the horizon.

Am I stranded all alone, or am I stranded with one other person?  Or stranded with a small group, like on Gilligan’s Island, or a large group, like Survivor? The best of all musical worlds would be that we have assembled a variety of favorite desert island music.  I’d spend less time with the heavy metal and gangsta rap enthusiasts, but I would welcome the opportunity to learn about and understand music tht I might not choose for myself.

As I was progressing through my school years, it was at the time when memorization was deemed to be a waste of time, or irrelevant.  As a result, most people of my generation never had the experience of committing anything to memory.  Now that we have devices with unlimited memory, readily accessible and virtually incorruptible, we have even less reason or occasion to remember anything for ourselves.  I was in a marginalized group, however, who did need to memorize stuff.  I was involved in theatrical productions, and choir performances, and solo voice and piano recitals — all of which required the memorization of lines, words, music.

Social being that I am, being stranded is a fantasy of hell on earth.  However, I am an only child.  I grew up with long stretches of solitude, and with no siblings to torture or demand entertainment value from, I had to be satisfied with amusements of my own creation.  I developed an imagination, and I retained the basics of what I saw and read so that I could “replay” those experiences when I was alone.  Much of what a memorized at a very early age is still accessible in a moment, as near as the next breath. I count myself lucky that I still have access to vast “files” of memory in my brain:  poems in English, French, German, and Italian, from my training as a classical singer; practically the whole Bible, by virtue of many years singing excellent music in beautiful churches that valued fine music; musical theater and operas that I performed or conducted; and a store of family folklore, received wisdom and anecdotes accumulated in aggregate over many generations.  I can create new ideas easily, partly because I am familiar with and have access to so much that I have memorized.  I actually can survive without a TV or radio, since I can recreate so many experiences in my imagination by virtue of my memory.  Memory is fluid and selective.  As you use it, it gets better.  Memory is the vast internal “reference library” from which we create NEW.

My practice of the Feldenkrais Method has also improved my ability to remember, and my ability to create.  Each lesson is constructed like a musical theme and variations. The end is never the end, just a stopping point.  You can always find more to explore and be curious about from within your own inventiveness, experience, and willingness to explore.  If I were stranded on a desert island, I would do everything I could to move, think, sense, and feel in new ways each day. Music, and movement, has always helped me connect with who I am.

 

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Daily Gratitudes

Oprah made gratitude trendy.

Two things are true.  1)  Oprah is smart.  2)  There’s nothing new under the sun.

Gratitude, counting your blessings, looking on the bright side — all are time-tested practices that have a really good track record for improving your perspective. With an improved perspective, or outlook, more possibilities come into view.  You can actually change your situation, or the way you view it, by looking for something to be grateful for.

I’m not talking about denying reality, or sugarcoating anything, or being one of those insufferable New Agers or [fill in the blank with name of most irritating religion in this moment] who make you feel like you can never have a “down” moment.  Nope, I am talking about just taking time,, at the beginning and end of each day, to stop and remember everything you have to be grateful for.

I’ve faced some pretty daunting challenges in my life — who hasn’t? — and this I have learned:  After I have identified a problem, it does no good whatsoever to wallow in it and bitch about it.    Nothing changes until I change.  Nothing changes until YOU change.  The easiest thing you can do is change your thoughts, your focus.  What you focus on, expands.  The more you focus on your problems, the bigger your problems become.  Problems can quickly overtake your whole life. However — you can change that on a dime.  The key is to get control of your thoughts.

I’m grateful that I have good friends.

I’m grateful that I have a home to invite them to, so that we can watch a movie together.

I’m grateful that I have a nice TV so that people can come over and watch a movie.

I’m grateful that I have wonderful work, and colleagues, who are friends. . .(see #1)

I’m grateful for days so full of clients that I am really, really tired at the end of the day.

I am grateful for days that have few or no clients, so that I can work on other projects, or be spontaneous and do whatever I feel like doing.  I am grateful to have this flexibility in my work life.

I am grateful to have a loving and supportive partner.

I am grateful that my fabulous adult children turned out in spite of me.

I am grateful to have the pleasure of being a cat slave.

I am grateful to be part of the cultural, artistic, and innovative fabric of my city — one of the great cities in the world!

I am grateful for all the people who choose to work with me, who find that work to be of value, and who compensate me.

I am grateful for my warm pajamas and snuggly bed that await me as soon as I finish writing this.

I am grateful for EmergenC, and that I am feeling better than I did this time last night.

I am grateful for the prospect of a pleasant, interesting, and productive day tomorrow.

That didn’t take long to come up with a list of fourteen items.  I was already having a pretty good day, and now I will go to sleep with a happy and grateful heart, instead of full of worries and complaints. Sometimes, the list is not so long.  Sometimes, it is a struggle to come up with just three items.  But you must.  I am convinced that remembering to be grateful — thankful — appreciative — is one of the most important things I do.

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Present and Accounted For

Ceramic neti pot; neti pots can also be made f...
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I’m a small business owner with three employees — me, myself, and I.  You could stretch that to two more, if you count my cats, who serve as office staff, reception, and coat check.  Absenteeism is not much of a problem.  If someone is absent, it’s me, and it means I am on vacation, or sick.

As I sit here at my computer, having slipped into pajamas shortly after arriving home from work at 7:30 p.m. I am congested and sniffly.  I have considered an almost-sore throat for the last three mornings upon arising, but it always gets better after I have drunk my first glass of water for the day. Allergies, Houston temperature changes (60 one day, 40 the next), or the beginnings of a cold that won’t make a commitment?  Who is to say?  The fact is, if this is the worst that it gets, I will probably just drink more fluids, breathe stem,  hit the neti pot, and get more rest until I feel decent again.

I insist that I’m not contagious, because I’m not running a fever, and I’m not sneezing or coughing — I just have really annoying congestion and drainage. But today, one of my clients came in — a five-year-old germ factory.  She exhibited full-blown cold symptoms, all except for the fever — but she was cranky enough that it might be on the way.  Suddenly, I feel the need to take better care of myself.

Our Puritan work ethic has made this country great — and our unwillingness to stand down, even with a legitimate illness, costs US businesses about $150 billion a year.  This phenomenon has been called “presenteeism,” rather than “absenteeism,” and I think it is also a contributing factor in our overall state of wellness, or lack thereof.  People have valid reasons for not wanting to miss work.  However, think of this:  if you take a day or two off to really get well, aren’t you coming out ahead, as opposed to never quite getting over whatever it is you have, and limping along, sub-par, for weeks?

I think I’ll pop a couple of vitamin C and turn in for the evening — it is almost 9:30 p.m.  A lighter schedule the rest of the week will help.  Sometimes, stopping is the best way to get a fresh start.

Read here for when to call in sick, and when it’s OK to go to work.

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