_Have you read The Secret? I haven’t, but I saw the film, a quasi-documentary/religious infomercial sloppily collaged to the point of comedy. But that said, I think there is something to The Secret’s philosophy. I noticed this again as I sat down in Martha and Bro’s Coffee Company, a café on Cortland St near our new house. There were two men at the table next to me, taking a late afternoon break from the office. They seemed to be in the middle of an interview. As opened my computer and settled, the guy next to me started selling himself, talking about all the times he had taken on a project without having any real background or prior experience, and how he had succeeded. He was obviously in sell mode, but the moment was genuine and reminded me of a few things.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we expect from ourselves, how they reflect or don’t reflect reality and how they shape what we actually accomplish. In this regard, my boyfriend Raul is a huge inspiration to me. He has the fantastic habit of always expecting the best of himself. Though he doesn’t always get or do all he wants, he often does, all because he simply expects it and acts accordingly. It’s really remarkable.
I’m also thinking about this because the process of moving was such a large, intimidating task. I’m still unpacking. The worst is over, but a few weeks ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed as I looked at the totality of things to do, and thought of all the details that would have to come together before we could start a new chapter in our lives. And yet somehow, by moving one thing at a time, persistently, everything got into its own box. And then, box by box, things left our old house and appeared in the new. Swiffer wipe by Swiffer wipe, the house got clean. Piece by piece, every picture and Tupperware container came out of the box, every lamp got set up, and the towels got put away. And it may sound funny, but moving my physical life from one place to another made me think a lot about how much I– like every one of us, am capable of.
Anyway, back to the laws of attraction. About a week and a half ago, I went to the Pete’s coffee in Palo Alto after teaching my 8 am class at Be Yoga (sadly, I had to give that class up since moving). The night before, a loved one and I had had an argument, and I was feeling pretty down. Hidden, I hoped, by my massive, hooded parka, I sunk into a corner seat with my latte and looked for writing gigs on my IPad. Before long, a woman came and sat down at the table next to mine. A few minutes later, another woman joined her. They hugged, the second woman complimented the first on her necklace, and they exchanged small talk for a few minutes. I didn’t really listen to much of their conversation until the first woman’s voice took on a different tone. “So, I haven’t told anyone else from work,” she began, “but last week I was pregnant. And now… I’m not.” The air got heavy. The second woman extended her hand over the other’s, and they kept talking.
A few minutes later, a man and a woman came in. They looked sweaty and wet, like they had just come from an early morning Bikram class, and both of them had the same tall, sun-tanned, waifish quality. I think they were in their forties, but life had been hard on them. Either that or they smoked. As they sat down next to me, I noticed the way the woman extended her foot affectionately between the man’s knees, she tapped him with her foot from time to time as she shifted and adjusted in her seat. Of course, being by now a shameless eves dropper and the respite from my thoughts it gave, I listened. “She sent me an email yesterday, she said mother is depressed, some days she can’t even put her face on, and you know how vain she is. And I started thinking about my mother, and how I would feel if I were her. How I would feel if I had no teeth.” And then she said the thing that really struck me. “Caring for your parents is the opposite of caring for children. Kids get stronger and more self sufficient every day, but parents just keep getting weaker.” She started to cry.
I hope that if these people knew I could hear them, they didn’t mind. Listening to their sorrows helped me remember that we all have pains and challenges. Their strength in the face of pain reminded me that I too could move through my own issues. Furthermore, I think that all of us somehow attracted each other. Not necessarily that we were all meant to sit there in the enclave of Pete’s on a rainy Saturday morning, but that we unknowingly moved towards each other using some inner, sonar-like signal that none of us really understand. It’s like traffic tickets. I can go years without getting one. But get me behind the wheel of a car while I’m upset, maybe even crying a little, and I’ll get two in the span of one hour. It’s happened before.
So in conclusion. If you want to be healthy, happy, successful, expect from yourself. Believe that it has already happened. Attract it to you with action and thought. It can’t hurt.
_ This week, my boyfriend and I moved from Menlo Park to San Francisco. And man, what a move it is! Here are some of the things floating around my head.
Moving. Need I say more? I bet your shoulders are already creeping up to your ears, your chest tightening as you recall your own ordeals of lugging an oddly proportioned, so-comfortable-to-sit-in but so-uncomfortable-to-lift chair up a narrow flight of stairs, flanked by boxes. Moving is hectic, stressful thing that not only tends to coincide with big life decisions, but also tends to stimulate them. After all, what could be more revealing than sorting through your own stuff every single bit of it, item by item? It’s a lot like therapy, really. The process starts off with surface things. The small-talk of packing. Your jewelry, your coats, pictures on the wall, those things you store in plain sight. The pretty things, often those you treasure. The things you let new friends see when they come over for dinner.
Then, if you keep going, you get a little more into the nitty gritty. The books go next. You ask yourself, should I keep the text books? And, also, is Eat Pray Love worth storing on the shelf? Or should you free up that spot for something more literary? By now the pots and the pans are going in too, so are the bath towels, the electronics, the rest of your clothes. The stuffed animal someone won you at a carnival– does it have sentimental value? You ask yourself as you stuff it begrudgingly in the “new house” box, perhaps wishing you could toss it in the Goodwill pile instead.
Of course, it doesn’t really get interesting until the next phase. In this phase, most people are typically de-hydrated, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed by a desire to become a Jain monk, shave their heads and renounce all worldly possessions. In therapy, this is when you start to cry. And therein lies the beauty. Because within the gummy, dust ball-covered interior of this hellish phase is a time of serious possibility to see your life as it is. This is when you get to the back of your closet and find whatever you’ve been too afraid to throw away, even though it’s been in a plastic bag, unused since you moved the last time. This is the time when you look in your fridge and see, from a bird’s eye view for a change, what you put in your body. Is it fresh? Moldy? Artificial? Would you feed it to someone else? This is when you have become so tired of stuff, of your own junk, that you’re at your most likely to throw away things you never actually needed in the first place. In the midst of so much stuff, stuff that has become a part of your life, stuff that you have spilled coffee on, or crumpled, or cherished, or hidden from sight, you just might get a glimpse of who you are when you’re not looking.
Like therapy, moving is expensive, time consuming, and often painful. But if you can harness your outside reality to learn about your inside reality, it just might free you up to let go, make space, re-create and take yourself where you want to go– in stuff, body and mind.