Winter. A whole lot of cold and yuck. I’ve written before about my utter disdain for cold and that I’m 100% a summer girl.
I thought about something last week, though, that led to another thought, then another, then they morphed into a whole train of thoughts, one right into the other, like a hamster running in a wheel. He starts slow and then gets going at a pretty good clip and just runs and runs and runs and runs and……..
That’s exactly how my brain works. It starts slow and then snowballs into the one giant mass of what-ifs and connections. While writing this, in fact, I have decided to name my brain hamster Dave. An entity that’s been with me for almost 46 years deserves a name and its own identity.
Now that Dave has fallen off his wheel, let me return to the point of my post…
I see the snow outside my windows, and I no longer cringe. I feel the coldness by the windows, and I no longer hurl expletives. Those who know me are probably asking, “Who IS this person, and where did Jill Go?” She damns the winter every chance she gets!”
Surprise! It’s still me, but I am no longer that cranky winter-hating curmudgeon. I have a better attitude about this winter for three reasons.
Number One: I finally know I am on the right path, one that coexists with a natural progression of life. I’m where I need to be right now, and with that, comes winter. I can’t do anything to speed up the seasons, and while I prefer summer over winter, this is where I am, in the beginning of January with a whole lot of winter ahead of us. I think about the line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “The night is long that never finds the day.” Well, despite how long it might take to arrive, that day is coming. It’s in my plan to march forward not despite the seasons or the weather, but because of the seasons and the weather, and along with that, comes the experience of living. Besides, winter will give me time to focus and write without the wonderful distractions summer provides.
A quiet blanket of new fallen snow covers everything as the lighted snowman and his candy canes brightly shine in the darkness, waiting to greet the arriving day. It is dark, save for the Christmas tree and the Santa and Snowman lamps keeping me company. With each sip of my peppermint coffee, I embrace this tranquil moment, which is an experience in itself.
There’s no sound except for the ringing in my ears and the keyboard clicks as I type in a vain effort to preserve this moment of seasonal peace.
It is devoid of worries, stress, and doubt, this experience of now.
I just sit and be as each strand of silver tinsel on the tree dances in the breeze from the heat, shimmering and shining and swirling and twirling just like the snowflakes on the other side of the windows.
Night gradually evolves into morning as streaks of light appear in the eastern sky.
Little by little, I hear a different sound coming from outside as the delicate snowflakes transform into rain. Each droplet strikes with a resounding wet “plunk” alongside the new day’s advancing brightness.
Working together, the drops intentionally erase their own night’s masterpiece. The quiet blanket slowly dissolves as the whiteness bleeds into nothing.
The rain picks up pace as each drop falls from its height with more urgency in the light of full morning.
And just like that, the December night’s magic disappears with a swift twirl of its wand.
~ Written on December 17, 2016 by Jill Ocone. Author’s note: I intentionally did not include a photograph so that you could imagine the scene based upon my description.
Three nights ago, the first flurries of the season swirled around in the air, illuminated by the street lights as they danced in the darkness.
I stopped for a minute and let a few snowflakes hit my face like cold zaps of electricity.
Earlier this month, I held the little hands of two of my nephews as we walked around a neighboring town in search of very elusive candy canes, mirroring how we walked around the week before at a local tree lighting. Later today, I’ll get to hold those little hands as we visit a hometown tradition at a local park.
Yesterday I opened our first holiday greeting card of the season (from my cousins M, J, A, and B) and put it our new card display on top of our television center.
A friend gave me a candy cane last week, and I savored each taste of that peppermint sweetness.
When I come home late, I take my time walking in so I can enjoy the sights of our lighted snowman and candy canes, of our red and green laser lights shining along with swirling candy canes on our house.
I take a picture every day of our perfect tiny 2-foot tall real table top tree, decorated in white and blue lights with tinsel and special ornaments.
We begin Secret Santa at work tomorrow, and I’m excited to give my Santa all of the trinkets I’ve been collecting with clues to throw her off as to who I am. Likewise, I’ve been finding the perfect little presents for people in my life who are so deserving of gratitude.
I listen to my favorite seasonal songs every day. Each song brings back a wonderful memory or two while simultaneously creating new memories with 2016’s cosmic time stamp.
I’ve been quoting my favorite Christmas movies…”Hello, everybody? I should say it?” “Fra-Gee-Lay…it must be Italian!” “Ho HO ho…You are a sad, strange, little man!” “SANTA! I know him!” “You smell like beef and cheese.” You get the idea…
December has been a difficult month for me over the past few years, and there are times this year when it’s been a little trying. However, I’m appreciating every little thing this season, more than I ever have.
The wonder is outweighing the struggle, with joy and peace winning.
And it’s the damndest thing…
I’m actually loving each and every moment of this warm December.
I spent Monday with a dear friend wandering around New York City. I’ve always loved spending time in the Big Apple, and this day was no exception. We had no itinerary and no real plans of places to go other than to find the New York Public Library and Library Way. For the most part, our plan was just to wander and be.
You’d think that in a city as large and as loud as New York City it would be difficult to find a place for calm and peace, especially on thisday: the day before this year’s tumultuous Election Day, and one with numerous terror warnings issued as well.
Well, we found not only one but many. And I have been mentally escaping to each amid the post-Election rancor and animosity over the past 36 hours.
We took an early train and were on the streets exploring before the time our first-period block class would normally end. Ironically enough, fate brought me a chance meeting on 33rd street during rush hour with a very special former student! We talked for a few minutes and then went our separate ways. Within a few minutes, my friend and I were in Bryant Park.
I’ve passed by Bryant Park before but never wandered into it. And I am so glad I did this time.
It was before 9:00 AM as we walked by the boutique shops set up as a part of Bryant Park’s Winter Village, then we soon found ourselves in front of the skating rink. (Sidebar: it’s free admission! And the price to rent skates was very reasonable!)
There were about 25 or so skaters making their way around the ice rink at that time, some by themselves, some holding the hand of a little one, some couples skating together, some doing advanced spins and jumps in the center of the rink. Jazz music was playing, and each person skating was enjoying their moment on the ice, sans technology and to do list. There was even a man in a suit skating round and round the rink, sometimes passing us by facing forward, sometimes skating backward.
It was a sight to be had, a very peaceful and serene sight so early in the morning. I could have stayed there all day watching this calm and refreshing scene amid the hustle and bustle of the city.
After a while, we made our way to the next block in hopes of visiting the New York Public Library, but as fate would have it, the main branch was closed for a fund-raiser. At least I got pictures of the front steps where Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz ran down in the first part of the original “Ghostbuster” movie. Yes, you can see what motivates me sometimes!
We instead visited a smaller branch of the NYPL across the street. We found the NYPL Collection of Photographs room and perused the pictures in the folder for John Lennon, which we agreed was a great subject considering his rich history with New York City.
About 45 minutes later, we left the library and found Library Way. We then spent the next 45 minutes or so taking pictures of each of the literary and library focused bronze markers along the 2-block stretch of 41st Street between Pershing Square and the NYPL main branch.
I found this peaceful yet energizing as I have been writing a novel of my own and needed some inspiration. These quotes from writers such as William Styron, Kate Chopin, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, and more lit a fire under me, so to speak, and were a push in the right direction for me to get going with my work.
At the end of Library Walk, we turned left and took in Grand Central Terminal, another iconic NYC location that I had never visited before. What a beautiful place, so much different than Penn Station. The building was beautiful with marble and brass and good white light everywhere. As I stopped in the main terminal area to take some photographs, it amazed me that with so many people passing by, it wasn’t crazy and chaotic at all. An added bonus was seeing so many people proudly wearing the 2016 New York City Marathon medals, which took place the day before. Here I was surrounded by people from all over the world in one of the busiest locations in the city, yet it was calming, just like what I experienced at Bryant Park’s ice skating rink only two hours earlier.
Our bellies were calling, so we went to the dining concourse level and….man! So many places to choose from! We decided upon Shake Shack and were both very pleased with our choice. I was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the cleanliness of the entire concourse, but that didn’t compare in the slightest with how happy I was with my chocolate milkshake and cheeseburger lunch. So good! And they had crinkle cut fries (my favorite) cooked just right. Again, I looked around to take in where I was at that moment, and still couldn’t believe how peaceful it was despite so many people.
Our day would then take us back through Bryant Park, which was now filled with people, to visit the shops and take in more of the Winter Village atmosphere. Each little store that sold food contributed its own aroma to the wonderful smells that teased my nose and my stomach. More people were skating now, or sitting at a little table enjoying lunch or a coffee, or buying a new pair of gloves, or reading a book to their child in the children’s area, or even demonstrating their juggling skills. It was glorious, a true amalgam of human behaviors all rolled up into one giantly awesome experience. I was only a watcher, but I was present for each and every moment and observed all that made up the human experience at this moment in time.
My friend and I took our time leaving, then also took our time wandering back towards Herald Square. Upon stopping for a minute outside of Macy’s we looked to our left and there it was, the grand and majestic Empire State Building. Despite the numerous photographs of the building from ground level we have both already taken, we shot a few more to add to our collections.
Then we looked at each other…we had almost two hours to spare until the 3:45 train home, so we decided why the hell not? We played tourist and went to the top of the Empire State Building! It was a great day to do so, as the lines were very reasonable. Again, there were a lot of people with marathon medals around their necks. I congratulated one man from the Netherlands who was here in the USA by himself. That got me thinking…so many people pursuing their dream HERE, a place that’s only like 70 miles or so from where I live. It put a lot into perspective….
Anyway, we stopped first at the 82nd-floor observatory, which was surrounded by glass. I looked down upon Macy’s Herald Square where we literally were only 30 minutes prior. The glare from the sun on the Freedom Tower side did not lead to great photos, but it was still so awesome to see.
Before long, we then went to the open-air 86th floor. Speechless. I was just speechless. Looking out above almost everything else in sight, the sun lighting up buildings I had walked past earlier in the day…just too awesome for words. I found Bryant Park and that weird building next to it that reminded me of “Spook Central” (Ghostbusters reference again), Madison Square Garden, the George Washington Bridge, and so much more. I tried to find Yankee Stadium with my own eye but couldn’t do so; later on, after I uploaded my photos to my computer, I did find it once I zoomed in.
What sticks with me? Here I was at the top of the Empire State Building, looking down upon millions and millions of people going about their day, and it was quiet, almost silent at times save for the breeze. I thought of people traveling from all over the world to stand in the same location I was standing in because it was an item on their bucket list. I remembered looking from the same vantage point 20+ years ago with my California cousins, the only other time I did so. Why did I not enjoy these sights more often?
I realized how much I do take for granted, and that life is pretty damn good.
When it was time to leave, I purchased an Empire State Building pin from the souvenir store to add to my collection and then we descended back to ground level. Once we got to Penn Station, we stopped at Zaro’s Bakery for our traditional NYC trip cookie and were on the 3:45 train headed home. We remarked how the world was going to change “tomorrow” (election day), and we were thankful to enjoy a day in the city to escape and just be before life changes for all of us.
As I write this, I’m listening to Jazz music, thinking of the skating rink, and my soul is happy.
I’m selecting which pictures to ultimately attach to this post and when I look at each one, I recall the exact minute it was taken…the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the aura of each moment frozen in time yet willing to be experienced again and again.
I’m escaping into calm as my NYC day memories, free from protest and violence, trump the hateful animosity rearing its ugly head minute by minute on my social media feeds (no pun intended?).
Most of all, I’m thankful that I have a friend who loves wandering, observing, and experiencing life as I do. Thank you, friend. 🙂
*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on November 7, 2016 and are copyrighted. It is illegal to reproduce or to take credit for my intellectual property contained on this post. Thank you for your compliance.
Indeed, it is back to reality now on all fronts, but this time, reality is wrought with change.
Please do not interpret this post as one large complaint, as that is not my intention. Rather, it’s my attempt at authenticity as I share a sliver of what it is like living with Lupus and Fibromyalgia.
Last week was a sea filled with many changes as I returned for my 16th year of teaching, including (but not limited to) adjusting to a completely new schedule and a substantial increase in daily physical activity (in part a byproduct of said new schedule).
I began each day with a short meditation and a smile. I put my best foot forward with my heart in the right place and a positive “Let’s do this!” attitude.
Each day proved to be a challenge, and at the end of the day, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of “Nope. I. Can’t. Do. This.”
The summer months off benefits my health greatly. I obviously get a lot more sleep, but I am also able to rest after any sort of activity. Whether it’s after mowing the lawn, exploring our world, or racing after my niece and nephews, I have the time to recuperate and re-energize. If I’m still tired, I take it slow. Even while in Dublin, the schedule I made for myself each day included time to sit and rest. I walked, then I sat, and repeated during the entire trip.
When September arrives, reality drops like a sack of cement bricks from the top of a 10-story building.
On the first day of school, the green flag furiously waves to start the race, and every day from then on through June, it’s go-go-go-go-go from the time I wake at 4:45 AM until well after the end of my work day.
I am depleted of energy yet “energized” with pain well before my work day is done. I chose the word “energized” because the pain throughout my muscles and joints is like an electric current, radiating and moving up and down while simultaneously throbbing in singular locations such as my inner hip bones and knees. Sitting only stiffens me up, but because I’m so fatigued, I have no choice but to sit when I can, and that’s not often.
My brain is also shot, full of fog and clouds and headache and other barriers to intelligent thought, creativity, and concentration.
It has been nearly impossible to complete any sort of professional responsibilities after my last class at school or after I get home. Likewise, I cannot do laundry, clean, write, or even take a short walk around the block. My eyelids begin closing well before dusk, all the while pain circulates throughout my body and pulsates in my head.
My symptoms are again in control already, and I hate it. So disappointing.
I honestly give everything I have, day in and day out, to my profession, but my diseases end up rendering me physically and mentally useless.
I really don’t think I’m asking too much by wanting to have a life after my work day ends, but with the pain and fatigue, how is that even possible?
After just one week, I already feel like I’m being pulled under and there’s no…
Wait a minute….
I notice a hand with manicured black fingernails reaching for mine.
The lifeguard who is trying to save me is my spirit guide, full of assertiveness, comfort, and hope.
SHE pulls me up and says, “Your purpose is stronger than your pain.”
I can hear her voice, in my head, saying those words, like she is standing right next to me.
And I want so hard believe her.
She also says, “Hey you…work on your book already, dammit. You can find time to write at least 200 words each day, you chump.”
In her unique and sassy way, SHE has already led me to the revelation of my purpose: teaching, writing, and living.
And now SHE is reassuring me, guiding me towards what’s ahead, what I should be doing, with emphatic certainty.
I can see it, a small glimmer of a speck of light, the light that’s shining ahead.
It’s going to take a while to reach, but it’s there.
Mind over matter, she says, mind over matter, and minute by minute. The light that shines ahead is nothing to be afraid of.
I breathe out my uncertainties. They are now dispelled from my being.
I inhale nothing but possibility and positivity.
My passions and purpose MUST be stronger than my pain.
Last week was nothing more than an anomaly, a road block, a mere short detour on my journey.
I sternly tell the pain it is NOT necessary or wanted, that it needs to vacate the premises immediately and to take the fatigue with it. It’s time for both to get the heave-ho.
My body will listen and adjust to my new “normal” for the next 10 months, as it doesn’t have a choice.
The kinks in my daily schedule will be worked out, and each day will be easier than it’s yesterday.
I will prioritize what is most important each day, balancing my teaching responsibilities with time to write and time to live. The three will live in harmony so I can live in joy.
My symptoms are no longer in the driver’s seat, rather, I am the chump who is in charge and in control.
I’ve GOTto believe…
I am stronger than my pain. My soul is stronger than my pain. My purpose is stronger than my pain.
Well, would you look at that?
Instead of feeling like I’m drowning, I am standing firmly on the shore with my focus on that tiny glimmer of light that shines ahead strong and steadfast.
Postscript: Just to reiterate so I am not misinterpreted, I am the CHUMP referenced in the title. 🙂
When they hear about my trip to Dublin, most people immediately ask, “What are you going to do when you are there?”
To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure.
I’m open to all possibilities, especially to seeing things in a new way, but one thing I must do is walk the path.
I plan to explore by walking in the footsteps left by James Joyce and his characters Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. I’ve created 4 maps of different areas of Dublin that contain sights that Joyce, Dedalus, and Bloom saw. The important sights are “must-sees”, such as Trinity College, the James Joyce tower, Dalkey, and Grafton Street, to name a few. There are a lot of pins on my maps, and I will do my best to see as much as I can.
I will appreciate everything I see with a new outlook and with a new awareness.
I will be present for each moment, for each minute, for each second.
I will look at the details and take in the colors and the visions for both SHE and for me.
SHE cannot see these sights, so my eyes will be her eyes. I will be her light.
While my own eyes will be looking out, they will also be looking in, looking inward, as I learn more about ME.
I will be my light.
The only set reservations my traveling companion and I have are dinner at The Brazen Head and a day trip to the Boyne Valley to see ruins and the like.
Everything else will happen as it unfolds.
Trust me when I say there are some locations I plan on seeing that have a huge significance.
I will see what the universe needs me to see, and learn from the universe what I need to learn.
When in Ireland in 2014, I had the distinct feeling that I had been there before. I felt comfortable and at home. In a way, it kind of feels like I am going home again, but this time, I am open to Dublin letting me experience all that I can, and all that it wants me to experience.
I’ll be honest. I’m a bit concerned about my health since I am not feeling as good as I had hoped. Even though I’ve been able to rest and have had 85% less stress in my life living as “Summer Jill,” I’m still very fatigued and in moderate pain most of the time (legs, back, hips, head). My energy drains very quickly, and even simple tasks wipe me out.
It’s very frustrating, wanting to experience life but being held back by my health. I will definitely listen to what my body needs and wants, and put my health and wellbeing first. I will plug along the best I can.
The one thing that I know?
Without a concrete reason, without a set itinerary for each day, and without fear, I HAVE TO DO THIS.
I have to go to Dublin.
I’m excited to meet ME.
Stay tuned for Part 6: Who Am I? tomorrow.
For the doubters of the signs, here’s one that literally just happened. The video below appeared randomly at the top of my news feed, having been shared several times then shared by someone I follow. It is an animated introduction to James Joyce and his literary works. Parts of it describe exactly what I have written about my “Mission from the Universe.” Check it out to learn more about James Joyce, his works, his life, and even yourself. 🙂
If you really know me, you are aware that I have some strange quirks.
Truth be told, I have a LOT of strange quirks.
One of those quirks is that I do not, under any circumstance, like to talk about or hear about a certain subject that is very natural to every single living thing.
The best way I can bring up this subject in a round-about way so I don’t get sick is by calling it….
not number one but the other one:
I don’t know why I have such an aversion to THAT, but I have been known to actually vomit after overhearing people talk about it.
When my niece was 4, she asked me to help her go potty. Yeah, it wasn’t just potty, it was the dreaded…..you know. I helped her, and when she was done, quickly rushed her out of the bathroom and proceeded to vomit like a champ.
I can’t even change diapers without becoming nauseous, one of the many reasons I am completely okay with being childless.
And I am not exaggerating.
I mean I literally vomit.
Funny I can talk about vomit no problem, but not THAT.
The source of this issue within me remains unknown. Friends have long speculated that something regarding THAT must have happened when I was little. However, I cannot offer any insight; when I think too hard about it, I will end up vomiting, queasy and sick, thus ruining my day and perhaps my couch in the process.
It’s taking a lot of control over here even as I type this, but I am up for the challenge of writing something outside of my comfort zone. Plus, this topic is the perfect response to today’s prompt of NATURE.
Let me explain.
Last week, a friend and I visited Batsto Village here in New Jersey, which is a historical site contained within Wharton State Forest. While there, we witnessed something that was interestingly ironic, considering my issues.
We sat in the picnic area, surrounded by trees, to eat lunch. As we ate, we passed the time by talking and catching up with each other. In the corner of my eye, I noticed movement on the ground to my left. I looked and saw something very small moving along about 20 feet or so from where we were.
Interrupting our conversation, I said, “What is that?” to my friend, and we both got up to check it out.
I thought it was a little mouse or mole or something, but as I got closer, I could see it was two very small things, not just one.
After watching it for a minute, my friend said, “I think it’s a dung beetle.”
And sure enough, that’s what is was.
Of all things, a dung beetle.
Cue the nausea.
He was all black and about the size of a quarter. He was pushing what I will refer to as his “lunch,” which was much bigger than he was. To put it in perspective, it would be like an adult human trying to push an ice cream truck.
Of course, I can’t fully describe his lunch because I’m ready to dry heave. Yes, yes, I know…therapists who might be reading this will hear a “cha-ching!” right here and immediately send me information about how to schedule an appointment.
So here’s this little beetle pushing his lunch.
I’ll be honest: I did feel a little queasy, but at the same time, it was a very interesting process to observe.
He would push, his lunch would roll, he’d stop for a pause. He’d push again, sometimes get flipped over, turn back around, and keep on moving.
This little guy advanced at a pretty good clip. He was a hard worker who let nothing stand in his way. If there was an obstacle, he figured out a way around it. He was on a mission to bring his lunch to….I guess his lair? His home? His cave?
After a few minutes, my friend and I went back to the picnic tables and finished our meal, all the while keeping an eye on the beetle to watch his progress. Then we became distracted by our conversation, and when we looked up again, he was gone, having disappeared into the forest.
This brief encounter with nature taught me a few lessons.
There is a purpose for all of nature’s creatures and nature’s things on this Earth, even THAT. While the idea might make me sick, it illustrates the whole “circle of life” concept.
The little beetle also demonstrated that hard work will pay off, and that it is possible to successfully navigate any obstacle in the way. I assume this little guy was successful in reaching his destination, the reward of his hard work being his tasty lunch (gag).
Simplicity in nature, friends. Some simple lessons from a simple creature in nature that I’m sure is overlooked more often than observed.
I intentionally did not include a photograph because, well…please excuse me while I go take something to ease my queasiness. 🙂
Nothing much on the docket this week, except time to relax and be with people I care about. SUMMER and RELAX are synonyms for me, but even during the summer, I find it difficult sometimes to get the hamster off the wheel that’s in my brain. Since I have difficulty with relaxing, several friends recommended that I try meditating, so I did. And it worked!
If you are interested in trying meditation but don’t know where to start, you are in luck. Every couple of months the Chopra Center puts out a free 21-day Meditation Experience featuring Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey, and guess what? One started yesterday! Even though you missed the first day, you can still participate. It’s free and everything is available both online and through their app for 5 days after the set date. The theme for this challenge is “Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life.”
I completed Day One yesterday and found it to be a wonderful way to end my day.