Three Awesome Things This Week, and One Sad
Another cold and wintry week, another little handful of awesome things that I have stumbled upon. I reveled in a rustic winter wonderland that miraculously exists in the middle of the densest city in America. I started reading a book that kept me in the snow, inside my apartment, while giving my brain a much needed work out. And I found inspiration from two excellent essays, which convinced me that, perhaps, it might be a good idea to lighten up on the casual drinking…
1. Unexpected snow…
Living in New York City is a constant detente between the very good and the very bad. Many a long, soupy winter day have I stared out the window of my tiny apartment, asking myself why the hell I live here. But then, just when I need it most, my fairy god city sprinkles some magic dust, sending me an unexpected little snow storm. This is all it takes to turn me into a rapturous evangelist for the wonder and beauty of living in New York. We grabbed the kids, threw them on the sled and headed to the park.
First we had to endure the the sledding hill. Don’t get me wrong, I love sledding. But our sledding hill tends to be mobbed like Times Square. Density. File under: “the very bad.” But after sledding, we headed deeper inside the park. There, everything changes. For me, there is no greater magic than the paradox of these vastly different landscapes butting right up against each other. In the span of a ten minute walk, we went from the cityscape of our front door, to the hushed horse paths inside Prospect Park, where we could have been anywhere in the world.
When you live in an urban environment, parks are a great gift. The overwhelming beauty of my park reminded me to be grateful for the people who, years ago, had the foresight to bestow these green jewels upon future generations. And to remember why I live here.
2. Meanwhile, inside, Dr. Zhivago was challenging my brain and probably lighting up some otherwise-about-to-die brain cells.
After reading the excellent Gentleman in Moscow, I wanted to delve into some classic Russian literature, which is a kind of big hole in my literary education. I chose Dr. Zhivago because I wanted to learn more about Russian history. And snow. (Though I assume you get snow in all Russian literature?) I knew this would be an ambitious read, now that my brain has a hard time staying focused on anything longer than a tweet (thanks, internet). But it seemed important to pursue for that very reason.
So I bought a guide to read simultaneously.
I mean, who consumes culture nowadays if it doesn’t also warrant consuming ten different “recaps” as well… am I right? I admit it. I am a recap reader. Sometimes they are annoying with the over-theorizing, but sometimes you need a little help in understanding what you just read/ saw. Like it used to be, in school. Naturally, the more you understand, the richer the text becomes. The greater chance of your mind being blown. So if I need New York Magazine to provide added context to Game of Thrones, I knew I was going to need some guidance through Dr. Zhivago.
And I was correct. The guide powered me through the difficult early chapters, which would have otherwise been confusing. Now I am getting thicker into the plot and enjoying it. But not in the way I enjoyed a Gentleman in Moscow. This is a work-out for my brain. And that is something I need.
When we make our brain sweat, we preserve it for the long haul. Assuming we even get to that point, before every last brain cell is eaten alive by a digital junk food diet that is draining our ability to focus and think.
3. Mindfully Spent and Raptitude convinced me to cut back on the drinking.
Mindfully Spent is one of my favorite blogs. Melanie talks about a lot of things that are solidly in my wheelhouse and I love the way she writes. She recently wrote about having a month of no drinking, which I read just as I was already fretting over indulging too much.
She inspired me to resolve to cut back on alcohol. When I went back to her page, she had new post linking to a blog called Raptitude, which I had never read before (though I am seemingly the only one). The writer, David Crain had just published his own essay about quitting drinking for a few months. It is excellent.
I feel like this is one of those times that the universe is talking to me. And it is telling me that I need to drink a little less. I see the calories adding on (which I will vainly admit is my main concern), and I feel certain that that glass of wine or beer that I so crave after work needs to be put into check. Hopefully this will go better than my no spend January.
Finally, Obama’s Farewell
Sad! As Donald Trump would say. Except, really sad. I was not planning on watching Obama’s farewell because I knew it would depress me, but I reconsidered. Bearing witness to history on the days when it is unpleasant is perhaps our most important duty as citizens.
So I watched this classy, dignified, eloquent, graceful gentleman implore the country to find unity and to take part in protecting our democracy. He spoke with respect to people who will never respect him (I noticed he referred to his fellow Americans, rather than his enemies) and he set an example that a generation of young, idealistic people can be proud of. He looked to the future and refused to give in to despair. He will be judged by history.
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