of tornados, phlegm, and doing better next time around

September 20th, 2010

Over the weekend, the weather experts confirmed what I figured out by driving down Sixth Avenue the morning after last week’s big storm and seeing scene after scene like this:

And like this:

Yes, Auntie Em, it was a twister. All around my neighborhood of Park Slope, trees uprooted. Not just knocked down but torn up FROM THE ROOTS. Even I, a girl from the Coasts, understood that this kind of specific destruction comes from tornadoes. But tornadoes happen in Kansas. In Oklahoma. In Texas. But in Brooklyn? Apparently so. Shrug. One of the many things I love about NYC is the craziest shit will happen here and people just don’t bat an eye.  At the beach last summer, there was a flamboyantly bearded man, dressed as a gypsy in flowing skirts, turban, tons of makeup, with birds (note plural) perched on his head and shoulders. He marched up and down the sand. Nobody, not even the kids, thought this was weird. Similarly, while we all sort of gawked at (and mourned) the downed trees, and were grateful that nobody was hurt, the next day, the trees were in the chipper and life went on and that was that.

Still, kind of surreal. Maybe because I didn’t even know it was happening. Maybe because our apartment is slightly subterranean, so like good Kansans, we were already in the cellar, but the storm hit so quickly and the girls were in the bath and the lights surged and yes, we lost yet another patio umbrella (the third so far) to the wind but it wasn’t until the next morning I fully understood that was what was going on.

I suppose I should feel all freaked out about global warming and the increase in violent climactic activity and yes, in a larger sense I am. But there was also something kind of cool about a storm so fast and so intense—and I can say that because no one got hurt and I don’t think anyone’s property got too messed up beyond maybe a smashed car. It was a reminder of how fast things can change. How intense life and the forces of life can be.

I’ve been thinking about that on smaller scale lately because I’ve been sick, small s sick. Bronchitis, flu, fever, never-ending cough that makes people stand back like I’ve got the Consumption. But sick that went on for four weeks of feeling achey and lousy and tired, which is crappy anyhow but really crappy when you have two small people who rely on you and extra-helping crappy when they are not yet in school and not in camp and home and watching you as you cough so hard YOU BARF UP YOUR SMOOTHIE. You wake up every day and think, Is today the day I’m better? And then hack for a few hours and feel exhausted and then wonder what it would be like to be truly sick and then feel grateful you’re not but then wonder what it is that got you into such a compromised state in the first place (answer: burning candle at ALL ENDS?). And that nagging little voice that tells you you’re not a youngin’ anymore and you MUST START TAKING BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF kicks in and you ignore it and take another puff of your inhaler that’s not helping and go back to bed.

Fortunately, all of this is happening in September, not just Back To School, but also the Jewish New Year, which is not just a bane for New York City school parents (school started on a Wednesday and then we immediately had the next two days off for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which sucked as a parent who was eager to get kids back to school but how much do I love living somewhere where the most major Jewish holidays are school holidays?) but happens to be a sort of ten-day period when you are meant to THINK. Think about the year that was. Say sorry  and seek forgiveness for all the crap you did to people. And—this is the part I really like—think hard about the vast difference between the person you want to be, the person you can be, and the person you are.

This year, the timing was pretty good. Because whether or not me being sick for four weeks had anything to do with the way I’ve been living my life or just a very stubborn virus, it was just the catalyst I needed to look at the whole me—physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual social—and realize that indeed, something needed to change and wasn’t anyone out there gonna make it happen but me. So, dear reader, you know what I did?

I made a list.

That’s how you know I mean business. A list. Of things I want to do differently. To be the person I want to be. Or take steps in that direction because this is a lifelong pursuit. It had categories even.

I won’t put the list up here. Because it’s private. And very embarrassing. But so far, so good. I will tell you that one of things includes turning OFF the computer BEFORE I pick the girls up from school so there is no temptation to do any kind of social networking or non-urgent emailing (I took Twitter and FB off my phone, too). So this probably means you’ll see less of me in the Interweb-o-sphere but I’ll try to blog more because I like the immediate connection I have with you guys here. (Which also means comment here if you want me to see what you write, not on Twitter because I’m not reading Twitter anymore; I can’t; it does bad things to me). We will see how this holds up once I’m in novel-writing frenzy mode; I will probably turn the computer back on when the girls are in bed, but that’s fine. The point is not to be so distracted, to be more present. In general, I am trying to detach from my computer. To be more social. To hang out with friends more and to make some new friends to replace all my close friends who abandoned left my beloved New York City after having their second kid. (Not me. Not even tornadoes whipping up my block could do it.)

Anyhow, it’s  a start. I know that New Year’s Resolutions, which these essentially are, just a different new year, are notoriously hard to keep, but I’m not trying to quit smoking or lose weight. I’m trying to be happier. To be calmer. To be kinder. To be more generous. And the funny thing about this is the the first two will make the last two happen. It’s called a virtuous cycle. You just gotta get the cycle going.

In the name of happiness, and total random asides, I’m posting this Dude, You Have No Quran Autotune Remix because it makes me happy and the story behind it encompasses kindness winning out over ignorance and fear. Also, it’s so catchy.

Happy New Year, all. A year of kindness and health to everyone.

  1. Wishing you a complete recovery, Gayle!

    fyi, I just got the combined flu/swine flu shot available at Walgreen’s (and other drug stores). Last year, it was two separate shots. I was psyched when this program started last year, because I was treated so well at my neighborhood Walgreen’s, and it was so easy to access a positive step toward good health.

  2. Thanks, Ruth. I have a feeling I actually had the flu. And then bronchitis from the flu. And then a sinus infection. It’s not uncommon to get secondary infections from the flu. But August seemed early for the flu. Then again, I’d been on lots of airplanes. The only other time I’d been sick for this long was the flu. *Counts blessings now.*

  3. Happy New Year, Gayle! I hope you are feeling better and successfully getting through your list–the holidays really snuck up fast this year!

  4. Hey sweetheart, this is a beautiful inspiring post. So sorry you’ve been sick for so long! I wish you a healthy, peaceful, calm, kind, unplugged, joyful new year!

  5. Wonderful post, Gayle! The worst that has hit us here in Australia (at least in NSW-Sydney) lately is the dust storm earlier this year. Pretty good that no one seemed to have gotten hurt in the midst of the storm…

    Hope you’re feeling better. :)

    Make that list happen! Lists are pretty funky, and I think that the spend less time on the computer/internet is a good step towards infinitely bettering your life. It’s hard when staying inside and surfing with the click of a mouse is so much easier and comfier than being thrown out into the outside world. :\

    Yay for Jewish New Year! I learn something new every day.


  6. Glad to hear you survived the great park slope twister! I’ve been missing you. Let me know when you’re feeling 100% and I’ll strap Teddy into the stroller and get ourselves over to see you!

  7. You have another Courtney?! Hi, other Courtney!

    Also, I stand by my diagnosis of Restrictive Lung Disease. I have a doctorate, you know.

    xoxox again


    (B) I hope you’re feeling better soon. A month is a long time to feel sick. Also, I hope that no more smoothies will be barfed up, because smoothies are delicious and deserve to stay in tummies.

    (C) I love that your list includes cutting back on the internet. It’s something that’s been on my mind frequently this year, and I’m seeing a lot of resolutions about it lately on blogs. Good luck.

    (D) Oh, Autotune. This is the ONLY THING you should EVER be used for.

  9. I hope you start feeling better soon Gayle. Last December (I think it was??) I got incredibly sick with something similar to what you are describing. I ended up going to an Urgent Care because I could not breathe, and they said my oxygen levels were really really low. They gave me an inhaler and some cough medicine and said it was a virus and they couldn’t do anything else… I was sick for 2 months.

    Also, I too have been trying to be more present in my life and have made some HUGE changes in the last few months. My new mantra is Do not go gently… ;) Every night before I go to bed I meditate on 3 things I am grateful for in my life. You can never have too much gratitude. And then when I wake up I think of 3 things I want to focus on for the day. So far so good! Now if only I could cut out some of that internet time… baby steps :)

  10. Two months, Georgia???!!!! How awful. It’s been about a month here and though I’m still coughing, I feel on the way out of the swamp. I think the horrid Chinese herbs are helping immensely.

    “Do not go gently…” Did MATCHED inspire that? Or the Dylan Thomas in MATCHED? I love the poem. Though I need to do less raging. I love the gratitude thing. I do that with Willa before bed. Studies show that keeping gratitude journals makes you happier. You get a little re-hash of the happiness you felt for the thing you feel grateful for by remembering it and you train yourself to focus on the positive. It’s a great thing.

    And yes, Dr. Sheinmel, I know. For all of you who do not know this YA (and now middle-grade) author Courtney Sheinmel was an attorney before she was an author so she is totally qualified to diagnose my disease. Never mind that your step-sister’s diagnosis was totally wrong (not Dr. Sheinmel’s fault, btw).

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