4/27/2020 – Little Things

While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things. ~Saint Francis de Sales

Reading these words felt like a gentle slap across the face. I really, really needed to hear them in a way that should have been more obvious to me.

For the majority of my life, I’ve always sought out those “big moments”, whether it be the crucial play of the game in sports or grand romantic gestures for a love interest (which usually only took place in my imagination instead of reality). Unfortunately the side effect of this type of movie magic romanticizing was that I often found myself bored with the everyday moments, the little things. They just don’t capture the imagination quite as dramatically, do they?

Last week I took a break from writing. If I’m honest… I just didn’t feel like it. I sat down a couple times and stared at the keyboard endlessly before ultimately giving up, again and again. Coming off a couple tough weeks, I was lacking the creative inspiration. And when paired with the lack of momentum of habit, there just wasn’t anything there. So I gave myself a break. I decided that if it wasn’t going to be authentic, I wasn’t going to do it.

One of the other problems with this “seeking the big moment” approach is that, by default, I am constantly putting myself under the pressure to one-up myself in a way that can become unhealthy. Not to say that reaching higher is bad, it isn’t, but there is an intelligent balance to be struck, and I’m not always very good at finding it. 

So lately, I’ve been trying to find more quotidian things to mindfully appreciate and enjoy. It almost feels uninteresting to write about them, but I suppose that is kinda the point, if I’m serious about learning this concept. Some of these simple things have been making my own coffee (I buy my beans from local roasters i really like and I use a Moka Express to pull espresso shots), or riding my bicycle (which i haven’t done regularly since childhood), or building playlists on Spotify and channeling my inner high school kid making mixtapes.

Yesterday I woke up and made myself a beautiful cup of coffee. I took my time to grind the beans extra fine for the espresso I desired and spent a whole minute just appreciating the aroma of the fresh grind, taking note of the differences and similarities between scent and taste, and the gift to appreciate as I began brewing with my Moka Express, I added a little oat milk to make a cortado and then slowly enjoyed the complex flavors of such a remarkably simple beverage.

Not long after that, I was on the road, muscling my way through a 20 mile ride (which isn’t impressive to serious riders, but I’m just getting back into this!). I took particular pleasure to feel the wind in my face and the burn of my lungs and legs as i pushed myself faster and harder along the bike path. I stopped at the halfway point at a park and laid down in the grass, soaking up sunlight, imagination drifting along with the clouds in the sky as I listened to my American Southwest-themed playlist. I imagined I was a cowboy resting alongside my old horse in the middle of a long journey in search of some wistfully unknown adventure. It was a silly little fiction in my mind, but I let it float along until it ran out of energy. I then practiced a breathing exercise for 10 minutes before hopping back on the bike and finishing the ride.

It was an incredibly simple day filled with numerous little things. And yet, when I was finished and laying in my bed that night, it felt like one of the greatest days I’d had in a very long time.

4/13/2020 – Restorative moments in brutal times

Last week was a tough one. If you’re reading this, you likely know that my day job involves a mission that started with a little girl with severe epilepsy that found success and life with a cannabis oil years ago. Last week, we lost her.

I’m going to share what I wrote on my social media accounts, and below that, I will share a hopeful update…

Devastating news to wake up to.

I first met this little girl at a backyard party a few years ago at Joel Stanley’s house. I was having a beer and chatting with friends when I noticed her sitting quietly a few feet away, just taking in all the social interaction around her. The conversation I was in ended and I found myself alone for a few minutes. Typically not being very good with kids, and very aware of Charlotte’s fame as the face of the world’s cannabis-as-legitimate-medicine movement, I actually found myself slightly intimidated by her presence and avoiding eye contact as she gazed curiously at me. And I don’t get intimidated. Ever. Yet here I was, being reduced to nothing by a 9-year-old’s stare.

After standing alone hanging onto my beer for dear, insecure life, hoping someone would come back and save me from Charlotte’s inquisitive watch, I finally caved and made eye contact. 

Nothing happened for a minute. But i already felt stupid, so I decided that I wasn’t going to lose a stare-down with this damned kid. Our eyes remained locked for what seemed an eternity, and with every passing second, my resolve steeled and my confidence returned.

And then something magical happened. Charlotte’s seemingly blank expression made an abrupt right turn and a radiant, goofy smile erupted onto her face, completely disarming me, and letting me know that it was indeed funny, even if I hadn’t gotten the joke we’d just shared. Now, even more than before, I felt really stupid about how I’d just reacted to the previous 60 seconds, but the image of that silly, playful little smile was now burned into the backs of my eyelids and I didn’t care. My icy heart was completely melted, stripped of it’s protection. She gave me one last patient look and turned away, searching for someone new to observe.

Charlie, I didn’t know you as well as many, but that isn’t really the point, is it? Your impact on this world was felt far and wide, and you created a path where there was none, providing a hope for people who desperately needed one. And you also gave people like me, with no real dog in the fight of “alternative treatment,” something to take up arms and fight for.

You may be gone now, but we will all remember you, and the cause you represented. But maybe more personally, I’ll always remember that time you gave me a mental ass-whooping without even saying a word. You may have been given a tiny, feeble body, but I saw only a towering giant.

*UPDATE* :   last night a large group of people parked their cars outside of Paige’s (Charlotte’s mother) house, raising up mobile phone lights, glowsticks, and candles from the safe distance of each person’s automobile. Unaware of what was happening, Paige and her husband came outside to see well over a hundred people directing their love, support, sympathy, hope, and positive energy to Paige and her family. Overcome with emotion, Paige and Greg approached every car individually (maintaining proper social distancing) and thanked each person through tearful smiles.

I’m not going to elaborate much, but the moments I got to share with them are some of the most raw, authentic, and painfully restorative moments I’ve experienced in my life. My heart was broken wide open for them, but even now I’m not quite able to articulate my feelings. Loss is such a powerful wave, sometimes all you can do is let it take you.

But I also came away from the experience with a sense of healing, and positivity, and hope in humanity. The fact that so many people were willing to suddenly and creatively venture out and show their support and love, especially in such dark and perilous times, is something that I desperately needed to see. And Paige, with tears on her face and a humble smile, I could still feel her fiery courage beneath the visible pain she was experiencing. It had a renewing effect on me. It reminded me of how important and beautiful and powerful that little girl was, and how this lioness of a woman had fearlessly fought for her, against every law, doctor, and politician that stood in the way. It reminded me that every sacrifice, though small in comparison, that I’ve made to work alongside this cause has been completely worth it. Thank you Charlotte, and thank you Paige.

4/6/2020 – This will all make sense someday

“Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason.” 

~ Epictetus, Discourses

About 4 weeks ago, this quote was a featured topic of the day in my “The Daily Stoic” readings. I knew it was a good reminder, so I wrote it down, but I didn’t realize that it would still be sticking in my brain over a month later, due to drastically different circumstances.

It’s a funny and simple reminder that I want to pass on to you today. Obviously everything is such a strange upside down world we are all living in right now, and the surreal, sobering reality of it is impossible to avoid anymore. And with that, reasoning with yourself that someday you’ll be able to look back on all this and say “…and that’s why that all had to happen” with a degree of awareness and wisdom is comforting to me.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday and I mentioned wistfully how badly I wanted to go camping up in the mountains and get away from all this. He replied matter-of-factly with a “yeah but it’s cold up there at night right now.”  It ended the topic pretty quickly.

Understandably, I was simply dreaming of better days, and there’s nothing wrong with that, even if it isn’t very productive at the moment. But my friend’s response also put things in perspective in a real, yet helpful way. The point is that while it’s okay to dream, it’s also useful to keep some small measure of reality nearby. Would a camping escape solve all my world’s problems right now?  Not if I was freezing to death.

And so it is with that semi-humorous reminder that I look at our present situation and remind myself that it won’t be so long before I’m looking back on this time of pestilence and isolation with a sense of greater understanding and perspective. I encourage you to see it this way as well.