My $.02 | Happy, Proud, but Not Yet Satisfied – Just the Questions

Over the past few months, I’ve shared my approach to goal setting at work. A variation on a tactic I’ve used for almost 10 years to help people approach their holiday break productively; one that positions them to reflect a bit while also thinking deeply about what they want to pursue in the coming year.

It’s why, without fail, my teams, the people I work with, tend to have higher than normal turnover in January and February. People are encouraged to think deeply about what they want but hopefully, they also feel supported in pursuing it.

I’ll share more on Happy, Proud, but Not Yet Satisfied here soon; but in the short term, the biggest ask I continue to get is a list of the questions and/or slides people can use for reference.

Here’s a link to the slides I used to present these concepts this past holiday season.

And here are the questions.

Happy: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three things you remember from 2020 that still make you smile?
  2. What are (up to) three things you would do if you had infinite time and money wasn’t an issue?
  3. What are (up to) three things you can do seemingly forever without losing energy or passion?

Proud: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three new things you did in 2020 that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn Profile?
  2. What are (up to) three moments you recall from 2020 where you felt your confidence in your abilities grow?
  3. What are (up to) three things that happened in 2020 that would not have happened without your presence and participation?

Not Yet Satisfied: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three things you know you can do better in 2021?
  2. What are (up to) three new things you want to experiment with in 2021?
  3. What are (up to) the three most important things you want to arrive at this point, next year, having completed? These things will likely become your “Happy” and “Proud” items for next year.

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My $.02 | Faithpatches

I wrote the first version of this in early 2002, and the most recent version of this in 2007 (the version below is that last version). I saved it because I knew I’d want to revisit it. And here I am.

I’m revisiting this at 45. I’m still just as lost as I was then; if not moreso because I’m older, and with less time to figure it out. I vacillate between my lack of success against this happiness ideal as either thinking too much or, thinking too much of myself. Both are my own failures.

I am coming back to this concept during these times because maybe more than anything, I realize that the person who needs faithpatches is me? I had grand plans for this concept as a way to communicate the power of small good things as ways to start patching tested and even challenged faith. Now, at 45, I realize at least one thing: I’m the only one I know who needs patching. 

Everything below is where the concept originated:

In 1999 I was a little more innocent and frankly, life just felt right.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) went up almost 2,000 points that year. The Yankees of New York and the Braves of Atlanta, the two most prominent baseball teams of the 1990’s, met in the decade’s final World Series to settle the debate around which team would be crowned the decade’s indisputable champ (“The team of the 90’s”). The public’s national security concerns were focused on a PhD from China named Qian Xuesen and a “spy scandal”. 

 

And most importantly, even when things were going wrong, we had the confidence that things would end-up, right. 

 

We had faith.

 

And then things changed and the world started to feel a bit “off”. We had a presidential election wrought with failed processes. The DJIA has since spent years working its way back over 10,000, forget about approaching its peak at over 11,800. New national security concerns arise on what seems to be a daily basis, and the spy scandals we talk about today involve our own government ‘spying’ on its own people. 

 

And no human being alive on September 11, 2001 will ever fully recover from the affects of that day’s events. Ever.

 

Life had gained momentum, but in a very different direction. Now, when things go wrong, we still have confidence. We have confidence that things may actually get worse.

 

We have started to lose our faith.

 

Faith is a term which has been hijacked by the religious (right, left, center, anywhere). [You may alienate a large number of people with this language.  I agree that religion has no real bearing on your book, but I think this book may speak well to many religious people.  You may want to soften the language so as not to send them packing early]  When I considered the title of this book I struggled with the use of the word ‘faith’ and what it would inevitably connote. Considering its etymology, the word faith is derived from the Latin fides, which according to Mirriam-Webstier, is “akin” to the Latin word for trust, fidere. Definitions abound, the word faith universally implies a confident trust in some thing, some value, some belief. Whether that trust is codified in spiritual texts or social contracts is irrelevant. Faith, in its purest form, identifies the confidence with which we trust whatever we are accepting (or want to accept) as truth. 

 

When those planes struck the World Trade Center (the second plane striking right before my very eyes) they pierced through glass, concrete and steel. We have all seen the pictures. We have all watched the replayed broadcasts on TV. But something more serious was pierced that Tuesday morning. 

 

Our faith. Not a religious or even spiritual one; simply, our faith and belief in one another. Human faith.

 

In his book “The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation”, Robert Jay Lifton introduces the concept of “The Protean Self”, based on the Greek sea god Proteus, a god capable of adapting and modifying his form. The term Protean has since come to mean the ability to exhibit diversity and reflect variety—versatility. Lifton’s analysis was stimulated by a catalyst similar to that which inspired this work in-front of you. His goal was to analyze human resiliency in the face of ever-increasing uncertainty; life blossoming squarely in the face of a force working so hard to stifle it.

 

“The protean self emerges from confusion, from the widespread feeling that we are losing our psychological moorings. We feel ourselves buffeted about by unmanageable historical forces and social uncertainties. Leaders appear suddenly, recede equally rapidly, and are difficult for us to believe in when they are around. We change ideas and partners frequently, and do the same with jobs and places of residence. Enduring moral convictions, clear principles of action and behavior: we believe these must exist, but where? Whether dealing with world problems or child rearing, out behavior tends to be ad hoc, more ore less decided upon as we go along. We are beset by a contradiction: schooled in the virtues of constancy and stability—whether as individuals, groups or nations—our world and our lives seem inconstant and utterly unpredictable. We readily come to view ourselves as unsteady, neurotic or worse.” (Page 1, Chapter 1)

 

It is impossible to argue with human resiliency. It is prevalent, but it is not absolute. Our faith, too, is subject to similar bounds. Human faith is a powerful, radiant fabric which surrounds and protects the human spirit. It is supple, it is flexible, it is unsettled—but it is not impenetrable. Our faith can be pierced, the fabric can be punctured—but it can also be repaired. Our faith can be fixed, can be made whole again—but sometimes we need help.

 

Sometimes we need faith patches.

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PDA | AN OPEN HAND or BRINGING SHARING TO LIFE

“That’s mine!”

As parents, we’ve all heard that scream from across the room. Your kid saying it to another kid — another one of your own, another kid in general. Or vice versa. But you’ve heard it. And it’s painful.

How do you teach your kids to share?

On Monday, a funny day in the household overall given the range of emotions and performances displayed by Anaiya and Jaanu, I had a couple of strong parenting moments. The one I wanted to share here was my response to “That’s mine!” flying out of the Play Room like a bat out of hell with its wings on fire.

Anaiya had just wrapped up her class and made her way to the Play Room where Jaanu was playing nicely by himself; but with her toys. She grabbed her transformer back from him.

We were about to hit a meltdown.

I quickly grabbed her hand and asked her to put the toy car in mine. Begrudgingly, she did.

I then called Jaanu over and walked them through in spirit, a message that when you hold on tight to something, you leave little room for other things. So your tightened grip means that thing you’re holding will be held, but it also means you’ll be missing out on so many others.

I then demonstrated. By holding her car in my hand tightly clenched, and then trying hard to pick up other things. I tried to pick up another car. A spoon. A yogurt pouch. I couldn’t pick up anything because my hand was so tightly clenched.

Then, I turned my other hand over. Palm up. Fingers stretched. Car free to go where it wanted. And I started picking up other things. I then had the kids add things to my hand and a mini tower formed.

When you have an open hand, you have given yourself the space and made yourself open to new things.

We went a layer deeper.

Holding on to your thing with a clenched fist isn’t wrong; I just want to make sure you believe it’s so valuable that you are willing to forego what other opportunities may come. And if the whole world operates this way, well, we’ll all pass value between one another without fear of losing or fear of being empty-handed.

The visual resonated. The interactive demonstration resonated.

What I love even more though; is what happened next and what has happened since.

First, Anaiya ran up to me and gave me a hug. She said she finally got it. And she thanked me for always taking the time to tell her stories that help her understand. “You tell the best stories, Buhboo!”

Next, and every day since, when a grab for “mine!” has happened I’ve simply looked at the kids and opened my hands. And in return, they’ve nodded, and proceeded to open their hands, and share. With each other. With friends.

Parenting is hard. I’ve had more failures in conversations, education, coaching, and discipline that I can remember. But those moments where on the spot, an idea comes to life and opens up the way your child sees the world (and the way they grip their toys) is magical.

 

 

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PDA | A Reheated Falafel or Mommy, an Origin Story

Breaking up is hard to do.

The summer of 2000 saw me break up with someone I’d been dating for years. Our lives were so interconnected at some point, there was no place where hers started and mine ended — especially when it came to friends and friend circles — there was just life.

Breaking up was hard. Unraveling that was damn near impossible. So impossible actually that we never did; we stayed really good friends. Out of respect for each other and also, I think, out of an acknowledgement that we were both too invested in that life and those people that nobody should have to be unraveled.

In hindsight that seems simple. In the moment, it was hard. I threw myself into my work obsessively. I was working on the eBusiness side of a large financial services company in downtown Manhattan and living in Jersey City.

We had incredible perks; one of which was a car service to take you home after hours.

I made heavy use.

I’d come into work around 8:30/8:45 in the morning. I was trying to be the first in and I’d set 9am meetings to set the tone for the day. As one of the youngest on the team, and easily the youngest manager (I had a team of 4), I was always looking at ways to stay ahead. I had to.

I’d come in early. I roll through the day. I’d then find a way to skip out for dinner and drinks with some friends; come back into the office and work usually until 4-5am. At which point I’d take a car home. Sometimes, at least twice a week, I’d have the driver wait for me downstairs. I’d run up to the apartment, shower, change, brush; and then have him bring me back into the office. This was such a pattern that I started getting the same guy to drive me; and he’d tack on 30 minutes and let me sleep extra in the car when we got to the office.

I thought I had it good. He had a family, was working the night shift, and I’m pretty sure he know that I didn’t have it good; that actually, I wasn’t in a good place and so he wasn’t being generous as much as philanthropic.

The car, while moving, or a movie theater with a movie playing, were two places I knew I’d fall asleep. Because everywhere else, anywhere else, I didn’t want to sleep.

I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to lie down. I didn’t want to be home in that apartment. I didn’t want to stop doing things, anything, because doing so made me miss.

So I kept. I just kept.

It was frenzied. I’m notorious for not sleeping much. This was some next level operating fueled by avoidance, youthful lunacy, an aggressive desire to indulge, and a salary, lifestyle, and job that equipped me to do all of the above.

So I kept. I just kept.

This wasn’t a healthy lifestyle. I’d often go lengthy stretches without eating a real meal. There were a few points in my life where I physically felt my body get lean: 2000 (because of this), 2004 (before business school), 2011 (in Charlotte and before multiple surgeries), and this past COVID-induced quarantine (especially given that I can’t exercise due to knee and back problems — the fact that I’ve built muscle and lost a waist size is solid).

Nevertheless; I’ve felt myself go lean a few times. Sometimes deliberately; sometimes not. 2000, was not.

Avalon Cove

One night I came home on one of those benders and was ready to sweep into a transition from home to shower to back on the road, when I heard a voice call to me over our upstairs loft and fall perfectly at my feet as I entered our apartment.

Immediately as you enter the apartment, a small open kitchen was to your right. The first thing to your right was a cabinet; so the first physical thing you could add to the kitchen was therefore immediately past that cabinet on the right, on the countertop.

We used that first space we could influence to hold  a microwave.

Immediately as you enter the apartment, a bathroom door stood to your left. Then a closet door. And the first open space was reserved for stairs going up to the second floor which landed with a loft flanked by bedrooms on either side.

We used those stairs to go up and down.

What did you think I was going to say?

We used those stairs to go up and down. But words, sounds, traveled.

And on this early morning, words rose over the lofted balcony and glided to my feet; and in parallel, those same words descended those stairs and rested right at my feet. Actually, these words were so warm, so consuming, having come at me in every direction and way they could have, that they actually rested on my feet.

Caught me by surprise.

And shockingly comforted me.

Have you ever been shockingly comforted? You should try it.

Seriously.

You should try to feel it; and you should try to impart it on someone.

It’s an incredible feeling to simultaneously feel shocked and comforted. In order to do so you have to catch someone off guard, in a way they’re not expecting, and extend them an offer, that requires no convincing (because that would remove the “shock”), and the result of your actions has to leave them feeling comforted. Where their joints slacken, their shoulders relax, and the edges of their mouth lightly dispel gravity but without making a powerful statement, simply saying “I’m going to turn up a bit, just a heads up.”

Shockingly. Comforting. Words.

Now hugging my feet and making their way up to my ears.

A voice that was tired, sleepy, but simultaneously alert and so off-puttingly precise.

“Honey, there’s a falafel in the fridge. Open it. Take it out of the foil. Put it on a plate. And microwave it for 1 minute. Then eat it before you take your shower and go back to work.”

Guys. It was well after 3:30am and well before 6:30am.

Even if you’re preparing for this specific time and moment, nobody should be that precise in that time window on a weekday.

But this voice was. She was. It was my roommates sister who was staying with us in our loft. I knew her because … well she lived in our loft. But I can’t say I knew her enough to expect to be given, or be expected to follow any instructions at 3:30am.

Yet in honor of her precision; out of respect for her explicit instructions; I followed through, warmed up, and devoured a falafel.

It was a dope falafel. Which is really funny. Because …

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a reheated falafel. But they suck. They always suck.

They used to always suck, actually.

Except this time. When you’re shockingly comforted with precise instructions that fall at your feet, remove any thinking on your part, and fill a void in your stomach that’s so desperately calling to be filled.

It was a shockingly good and a shockingly comforting falafel.

She was precise. Mommy is always precise with her instructions. She talks in checklists. What you need to do to be a better you and for you to be a healthier you. With some people you get a prognosis. With others, you get a diagnosis.

With Mommy, you always get a prescription.

It took me a while to realize the power of that falafel. And by a while, I mean getting back into the car and heading back into work that same morning to realize that it wasn’t the falafel that was so wonderful. It was the prescription.

Mommy hadn’t filled a void in my stomach. She’d filled a void in my heart.

It’s been 20 years since that night that you went from roommates sister, to voice from the loft … to Mommy.

And you still find a way to shockingly comfort me.

It’s probably because no matter what you’re going through, I walk out of a conversation with you with a checklist. With a new ‘script. Doesn’t matter if we’re meeting at Variety, at a bar near your house, at the now defunct Argo Tea, or on the couches in your lounge. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 5 minute swing by that took 30 minutes to prep for; doesn’t matter if it’s longer and later at night.

None of it matters.

Except the ‘script.

For 20 years since that night you became Mommy, I want you to know that I’ve done my best to practice finding ways to be shockingly comforting. I think it’s shocking how discomforting I am and can be; but it’s not for a lack of effort, or on account of poor role modeling.

You crush as a role model. You suck as a nail model. But you crush as a role model.

I’ve gotten to a place where I actually feel my happiest when I’m able to shockingly comfort someone in some ridiculous way. Some unexpected way. Some simple way.

It’s been 20 years, Mommy. I’m still not healthy. I’m still finding reasons to avoid, to skip, to ignore. We all find reasons.

It’s been years since Charlotte and all that’s happened since and I’m also telling you right now that I’m past the videos and the #boom t-shirts and I’m dropping this for you because I haven’t had a falafel in a long-time (this quarantine is ridiculous on my food game!)

I’m dropping this because I felt like it was important to acknowledge one thing before I take that step into the second half of my 40’s.

Know this, Mommy.

If anyone ever asks me what my single favorite food is.

My answer is going to be one thing and one thing alone:

“A reheated falafel”.

Falafel

I love you, Mommy. You. Your ‘scripts. Your crazy reheated falafels. You #makemestronger. Daily.

Now. LEGGO!

 

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TYMMPB… | You’re the Best in the History

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I don’t remember the first time you said it. I do remember hearing it for the first time; and going absolutely bonkers.

We were doing yoga in the morning during the early days of COVID-19 and as we sat and talked about what the day held, what was going to make us happy, what was going to get in the way of our happy, what was going to be fun, and what was going to get in the way of our fun; in the midst of that logical juxtaposition of what you want, what you control, what gets in the way, and of that, what you control, somehow we stumbled upon “history”.

Your sister spoke first. And as her usual, eloquent and loquacious self, found a way into a spotlight where there wasn’t one, and then proceeded to find a way to own it.

What were you going to do? You were still a couple months away from knocking on 4’s door and here she was, the love of your life, your role model, choosing to go first in expressing her gratefulness in the morning leaving you to follow?

Was that even fair?

Do they have Mike Birbiglia open for someone who’s trying standup for the first time? You know?

She wasn’t better by design; only by years. At this stage in your life she’s got 50% more experiences than you do. It’s not reasonable to have you follow.

You let her roll. But your lips started turning up at the corners.

And when she finished, you dropped your greatest line and now the way I plan to talk going forward in celebration of amazing things always:

“The best in the whole history.”

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It’s so perfect.

It encapsulates you.

It’s succinct. Never take 12 words to say what you can say in 6.

It’s powerful. Never leave doubt on how you’re feeling at the moment.

It’s uniquely generous. Never just give, give in a way people haven’t experienced before.

It’s memorable. Never be forgettable, by choosing to be, say, and do things in unforgettable ways.

It’s sincere. Never fake anything. Ever.

It’s on your sleeve. Never wear anything in your heart or mind, that you wouldn’t wear on your sleeve too.

I love you. You are my absolute and undeniable homie.

I’ve never felt so comfortable expressing my love to someone. Even your sister, at some point, is like “Buhboo, you can’t love me this much!” But you? Naw’man. You? You escalate. When I tell you that you’re the best kid in the world.

Well; you tell me I’m the best buhboo in the history.

A few hours ago you were three; now, at this moment, you’re four. Even you’re reading changed from yesterday to today!

You will never be three to you again. But I want you to know, to me, you’ll always be …

…a little bit of you at one…

…a little bit of you at two…

…a little bit of you at three…

…a little bit of you at four … and I’m so excited to learn about what that means.

The world. We included. Did a lot to you this year. You switched schools a few times. You moved from your Nana and Naniji’s comfortable daily love to a new home without them. You faced COVID-19. You got scratches. And bruises. On your face, your arms, and dare I say and admit, your heart.

You had people debating you when you weren’t there to be.

But every single day I look at you and I’ll say, man, given what the world and we included have thrown at you, you’re so…damn…good.

We owe you more and we owe you better.

People rise and fall to the expectations you set for them, son.

You’ve called each of us the best in the history. It’s our job to rise to that level and I’ll tell you, we’re getting after it.

As for you? Today You Make Me Proud Because of how real you are; and how wonderful you can make the world feel. You have a gravitational pull that isn’t based on mass (that’s me).

As you step into 4 and build on what’s before, I am so proud of who you are fighting to become every day; and I’m more excited about the kid I’m going to be talking about going into 5.

I love you, homie. You truly are incomparable; you are the greatest son in the history.

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PS: This year I made you gummy animals for your birthday treat; the ones filled with NERDS are INCREDIBLE! We even made you a dragon one as a primer for How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World!

Image from iOS (5)

But going back to that whole “best in the history” thing we were talking about; you see, 3 days ago you woke up one morning, and when we were getting ready for breakfast you did this dance asking me for gummy bears.

Yeah. Gummy bears.

What’s funny is 2 days earlier I had decided I was going to make you Gummy Bears, ordered all the stuff, and it was on the way.

So I am wicked happy you’re going to have Gummy Bears on your birthday, homie.

And even moreso, that you proclaimed your craving for them while wearing a shirt that would have made JJ happy in pursuit of the Goodest of Times.

But, I’ll tell you, I’ll be as busy as a one-legged cat in a sandbox if one of the greatest moments in my history as a Buhboo (aka father), isn’t the fact that I tapped into your Gummy Bear longing days before you did …

…and then delivered on it.

We got 2020, homie. We got it; because we got each other.

I love you. And all you’re becoming. And all you’ve been.

 

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PDA | Butting Up Against the Limitations of Language or Thank You, My Children

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I’ve been trying to write this post for 3 weeks. I’ve tried many different hooks and patterns. I’ve tried to be simple. I’ve tried to be poetic. i’ve tried analogies. I’ve tried to be detailed. Yet every time I got about 350 words deep, I’ve leaned my head back away from my laptop, frowned, selected all of the text in the editor, and hit “delete”.

Nothing I can write does my feelings and my appreciation for you, justice. Nothing.

I have no words. There are no words. Language is limiting. As I understand it, there are over 1,000,000 total words in the English language, over 170,000 in current use, and on average, a person uses 30,000 of them.As I told your Mama when I proposed to her: “even 1,000 poets, writing 1,000 words a day, for 1,000 years can’t capture what moved me to propose to her”.

Now; for the second time in my life, I find myself verbally helpless; trying to find a way to bridge how I feel with the few words available and the even fewer words I know.

I don’t know how to capture what I’m feeling in words; in a way that you will read them at some point in your future and understand the weight of the feeling and the sentiments behind them.

But what I know, is that it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Anaiya. Jaanu. Buhboo.

For all of my worth as a human being: thank you.

There will come a day in your future; maybe a few, where you’ll wonder if you are up to the task. If you can pass some obstacle in front of you. If you can conquer some challenge. If you can go some Seussian places you want to go.

You will wonder. You will pause. You will hesitate. You will question.

And when you do, I want you to read this. And then, I want you to call me. On the phone. Over whatever device is in vogue when that challenge presents itself. And when I’m past my life while you’re still living yours, close your eyes and picture me. Reading this to you.

There is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Because at age 6 and age 3, you took the greatest punch the world has seen in over 100 years. You took something that crippled towns, cities, states, countries. You took a haymaker that brought humankind to its knees. In days. To our collective knees.

You took that. And you brushed it off your shoulder in a way that would make Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Barack Obama proud. You wiped a drop off blood of your lip in a way that would make Bruce Lee, and every Saturday afternoon Kung Fu theater hero (as well as your Dada Fua) proud. 

There has been so much discussion about the lockdown the world has experienced post COVID-19. Coronavirus. Corona – why us? There’s been some discussion about how resilient and adaptable human beings are. How if you had told us 3 months ago the way we’d be forced to live now, we’d never have been able to imagine it; and we certainly would have denied it would be possible .But when it happened, we adapted, and here we are.

Yes. Adaptable. Resilient.

But none of us are doing this adaptable thing, this resilient thing, with your grace.

And that is precisely where I lose all ability to express myself.

I want to tell you how one night you went to bed, ready for the next day. Your ordinary next day. An Alexa alarm. Breakfast and drop-offs. School and play time. Somewhere between 9 and 10 hours, a super majority of your life, for a super majority of your days each week, you were immersed in a world that we got glimpses of when we opened your backpacks, checked logs and updates from your teachers, hears mentions of when you had the time, energy and interest.

One night you went to bed, ready to do all the things we told you that you had to do. When we dropped you off at daycare. When we celebrated your first day of school  Make friends. Play nice. Listen to your teachers. Eat your meals. Be strong when you’re being bullied. Find strength when we aren’t there and when you feel like nobody else is, however fleeting. Do all these things because they are the most important things for you to learn now.

One night you went to bed knowing the next day was going to be filled with all those things.

And when Alexa woke you up that next day, we told you that wasn’t happening anymore. We told you that schedule, that way, wasn’t going to be the way. For a while.

If that had happened to me, I’d have needed a lifetime to plan, and a lifetime to prepare, and a lifetime to adjust; and I’d go through the motions and I’d do what I’m supposed to do.

But I don’t think, ever in my life, that I have operated with your grace. How can someone be so strong, so unwavering, so staunchly making progress, while doing so in a way that seems so effortless, so natural. You see, when I look at you, I don’t remember the way our life was 5 weeks ago. Because when I look at you, and observe you act, and watch you interact — I am only convinced that the way we’re living now is the only and obvious way we have been living all along.

When I look at my calendar. When I talk to people at work. When I read the news. Tonight is Sunday. Week 5 of quarantine. Poised for an even longer and more isolated road ahead. Into a new normal. Never returning to the way life was before. And it can be overwhelming.

When I look at you, though.

It’s Sunday.

What are we doing today, Buhboo?

Thanks for grading our worksheets, Buhboo!

Yay, we get to watch a movie, Buhboo!

I didn’t like my dinner, Buhboo, but I’ll eat it for you, Buhboo!

When I’m with you, it’s Sunday. It’s just Sunday for you.

And you’ve found a way to make it “just Sunday” for me too.

You can’t see your friends. Except, maybe from across the street. You can’t hug your Nana, Nani, Dadi, Tito Foi. Your Mamu is living with us, upstairs, in the guest bedroom and the best you can do is let him know when you’re downstairs so he can step out to get the tray of food we’ve left outside his door.

You can’t go to the park. You can’t go for ice cream. You can’t go to Charlie Brown’s (yeah, by the way, we need to talk about how for most of your childhood your favorite restaurant was a terrible chain restaurant that indicates you share a palate and a thirst for ambience with people born in the 1940s).

You can’t go to school. You can’t go to Tae Kwon Do. You can’t go to Dance Class. You can’t go to Bagels 4 U. You can’t go to Genus Boni. You can’t go to Shop Rite and you definitely can’t get the free cheese handouts there and at Whole Foods. You can’t … do … everything that brought you joy.

Yet you’re still, full of joy.

You are. Absolutely full of joy. It is because of you, I wake up with a bounce in my step excited about what we’re going to do today. Because of how you ask your questions, I focus on what we can and will do today; not what we can’t or can no longer.

“Buhboo, what’s our plan for tomorrow?”

What an absolutely beautiful question; Warren Berger would adore it. “What is our plan for tomorrow” is more intrinsically hopeful than “What are all the things we can’t do tomorrow that we could have done 5 weeks ago?”

It’s been 5 weeks, and you’re still asking beautiful questions.

You’re making me see the beautiful.

Your laughs fill our house. Your cries do too; but if we were to put them on scales, there would be no contest in terms of which direction we’re tipping.

I’m also watching you grow.

Anaiya: Yoga. Dance. Math. Reading. Mentoring. Eating. Breathing. Guiding. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate to lose at a level that would make Michael Jordan proud.) Love. The way you clutch my arm, at bedtime, at wakey time, and at so many times in-between, and hold it like it’s the last arm you’ll get to hold and hug on earth. I can’t help but feel that some of that has nothing to do with me, actually; you’re holding my arm so tightly because it’s the one place where all that’s been taken away from you is manifesting. And riding your bike with no training wheels. Yeah, that happened.

Jaanu: Dance. Gibberish. Letters. Tracing. Troubleshooting. Putting away dishes. Cleaning. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate being told what to do.) The way you proclaim to every person who’s ready to hear you that they are “the greatest in the history” is tagline and catchphrase I hope you never lose. I can’t help but feel that you’re expressing that as a way of defining a new baseline for history, and helping people find positivity and feel special in this altogether new way of being.

I’m words, sentences, paragraphs in; and as you can see, I’ve written so much, and I’ve said so little that captures how proud I am of you. How honored I am to be your Dad, your Buhboo.

1,000 poets. 1,000 words a day. 1,000 years.

Even when, as a family, we experience the most extraordinary of losses, you find a way to bring love, to comfort, to hug and support — videos weren’t designed to have this kind of impact and sincerity. You have managed to make video feel human and intimate.

Consolation is something you give to people. After loss. After disappointment. Right now, as I read what people write and say and share; I feel an excessive amount of consolation. I see a world full of people acknowledging loss and disappointment and sadness; and from that, trying to force a rose to bloom from concrete.

Consolation is what I see and hear in every interaction.

Except the ones I have with you.

With you, it’s “just Sunday”.

With you, it’s “what IS our plan?”

With you, it’s not resilience. Or adaptability. Or perseverance.

With you, it’s not about the new normal.

With you, it’s just what’s next. Your ability to make everything that is, seem natural; and to make what’s next, seem possible. Is what makes me, so uncontrollably humbled and so infinitely proud, and so eternally enamored.

Thank you.

So when that hill, or that mountain, or that sea, or that valley, shows up in your way. I want you to call me. On your phone. On your <<unnamed device>>. On your memory.

And I want you to hear me. Loudly. Clearly.

The world handed you the worst the world has handed anyone. And you flicked, brushed, dusted, and resumed.

Thank you, my children. Thank you, my kids. Your Mama and I wish the rest of the universe had you to wake up to, you to bring tomorrow’s schedule to, you … to look forward to.

Because then, they’d all be as happy, as proud, as hopeful, as we are.

(And just as speechless.)

How much do I love you? More than anything.
How long will I love you? More than forever.
When will I stop? Never.

Ever.

 

 

 

 

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DADDY | “WAIT, WHAT?” or HOW I GRIEVE

“Do not hang up the phone. You need to tell me what happened.” I told her. Calmly but directly.

“Your father. He’s no longer with us.” My cousin told me. She wanted me to call my mom and hear it from her, but when you get a phone call like that at 10:30pm, you know you need the information right away.

That’s how I learned my father had died. From a phone call late on a Saturday evening. He and my Mumma were at their home in India, on their annual visit. They were there, and then, in a flash, only she was there. That’s how real life gets. Quickly.

What followed was a whirlwind. Getting my sister. Looking for tickets to India. Coordinating a fly through Dubai where I could get my VISA so I could enter the country. Saying goodbye to my family here — and oh wow, talking to Anaiya about her Dadaji turning into a star. Arriving and seeing my Mumma. Then seeing my Daddy’s body in a clear, refrigerated coffin in the bedroom. And then everything that followed.

I had time. At the airport. On flights. But I had no space. I had zero space. I was instantly immersed in the entire world and sometimes all I wanted to do was cry. (Note: The two best places to cry in an airport are the bathroom, and, a gate that’s just been vacated. Push your face up against the window looking out and let it fly. If necessary, to distract even more, hold your phone up to your ear. It’s amazing the cues you can give to people that help you create space.)

The one place I found space was on Facebook. Facebook got me through. Because I could ignore everything and just write.

A funny thing happened. I found my voice. I found my POV about all of this.

A funnier thing happened. I realized quickly I was writing for all the people who loved my Daddy but couldn’t be there (we were in India, some were in other parts of India, others were in the US — few of the hundreds to thousands who would have wanted to be there were able to be.) My writing turned into a way to help people grieve and connect. I was humbled.

And then, an even funnier thing happened. People who had lost someone reached out and told me that what I was writing was helping them. Grieve now. Grieve for someone they had lost recently or even, years and years ago.

People reached out and told me to package this in some way. Package this writing because it could be helpful to others who go through this. Not just the words, but the approach of just laying bare all the truth.

Everyone grieves and heals differently. The only thing I can say with confidence is that this helped me. Which is why I’m sharing as I was asked to.

I moved everything from Facebook to my blog, and have for the first time, in years made this blog public. And I’ve organized it and summarized it below for anyone who needs it or wants it. I’m skeptical it will be shared, but if it is even once, then it was all worth it.

  1. February 4th: A Star – The announcement.
  2. February 7th: Ami Chhatna or Auspicious Rain – Observations around the cremation.
  3. February 8th: On Grieving or A Single Blade – Advice and context for people trying to console those grieving.
  4. February 9th: My Sis or Creating Space – My love for my sister and helping others understand her unique grief.
  5. February 14th: Love or The Insanely Finite – A short post for Valentine’s Day.
  6. February 15th: 12/40 or Happy Birthday, Priya – My wife’s 40th birthday.  She’s amazing.
  7. February 21st: Embrace It or On Your Shoulders – Acknowledging all the support and strength we were given, one Mama in particular.
  8. February 23rd: Memorial Service or Kishore Kumar Said it Best – Setting the tone for a memorial service that would honor Daddy and also, one he would have enjoyed. 🙂
  9. March 3rd – Forever Man or Forever, Man – One month after; I wrote a poem that I still read all the time.
  10. March 6th – “Thank you. For everything.” or Thank you for everything – For my Mumma. My first post after the memorial service and I always knew the first page would be turned here; and I had been writing this post in my mind for a full month.
  11. March 12th – Sir, I Gave you my Word or What Gives you Faith in Humanity – One of my favorite stories about my Daddy. We made this the program at the service; a takeaway, something to remember him and his values by.
  12. April 5th – Tending vs Trending to Entropy or High Hopes – A family wedding, two months after Daddy died. My thoughts on it, and a conversation with him to help me get through it.
  13. April 24th – Go Birds or Humbled by Thoughtful – One of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received; Daddy was a huge Eagles fan and this gift in his honor … I have no words.
  14. April 26th – 4 Years Ago or A Lifetime Ago – Amazing what a simple photo can trigger. Let it trigger.
  15. May 21st – Just Monday or Unvarnished Truth – It’s not easy. I missed Daddy a lot this day and I allowed myself to be truthful about it; but forward looking about it.
  16. June 17th – Dali’s Persistence or Happy Father’s Day – 4.5 months later on my first Father’s Day without you; I’ve found real peace in how I plan to move forward.

If you’re reading these, I hope you find them helpful. If you think someone else would find this helpful, share away.

Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.

Also, it helps that I’ve taken a bunch of his clothes and wear him with me as much as I can. 🙂

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167 or MY LOWEST WEIGHT AS AN ADULT

I don’t know how else to frame this: but today, I’m officially the lowest weight I’ve been in my adult life (after college). I’ve hit 167 before. Most recently while living in Charlotte. In 2010.

It’s an amazing feeling on the health side. I dropped 27.5 lbs in a year.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for what the past few months have made possible for my physical health. I think some of these habits will stay with me forever (some may just be more modest or tempered).

Vegan.
Dry.
Daily exercise.
Intermittent Fasting.

The best part? There are still a bunch of habits I can break (sugar); and I’ve got some things holding me back which should be resolved over the next 5 weeks.

It’s kind of funny that I lost 27.5 lbs and I look at myself and still see so much stuff to work on. Tells you how far off of healthy I was to start.

Happy. Proud. Not yet satisfied.

I’m going to use the next few days to reflect a bit. And then set some goals for the next quarter. New goals, requiring new habits, that stack upon the positive habits that got me here.

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HOOPS or BILL BRADLEY

Few things more fun than taking on Bill Bradley in a fun solo game of hoops. I love that we got this hoop up. And I love the days when I drop the kids off and get 20 minutes to just shoot around on a quiet morning.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful especially for the walkers and neighbors who all have a joke to crack about my old @ss shooting hoops!

First shot was rough. Rim was generous. Ended up playing three games agains Bill and winning 2-1. If you don’t know the game, lmk. Takes shooting hoops by yourself to the next level (fun, challenging, exercise).

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7 AND A HALF or EROTIC CITY AND PRINCE

Something, someone, took me through a Prince run the past 24 hours. And I’ll tell you, #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for it.

Never heard this dance version, teased out to 7:30.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbmGM_r_sc4

You know a song is great when you wrote it in one fell swoop after watching Parliament Funkadelic, and to return the favor, the great George Clinton covers it back. (Also, a dope version).

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A LITERARY JOURNEY or I MISS THIS ROOM

When we moved into Jersey City we had reserved the downstairs bedroom for our first kid. I had an image in my head of where I wanted to take it and with some vision, with a Craigs List illustrator to help bring it to life, we created this scene across two walls in the bedroom — weaving a path through my favorite stories as a child and ultimately, through what became Anaiya (and later Jaanu’s) favorite stories as well.

I miss this room. I loved going into it. Every night before Anaiya went to bed she’d say goodnight to each character and it’s those kinds of rituals that I’ll never forget.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful we were able to have fun and bring this to life; and I love that we brought that same energy to our new house.

I hope when the kids see rooms and walls, they’re inspiration around what they can turn a space into is open and unconstrained. Every wall you see every space you see, is truly a canvas as long as you ask the most powerful question … how?

Love FB for bringing this room back to me today. I needed the dose of inspiration and a reminder of the energy that was.

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RUMI or THE WOUND THE LIGHT THE HEART THE SKY

Today, in honor, I share two quotes from Rumi specifically, who I spent a lot of time with last night inspired by a young mind and heart.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.

”Cancer. Blood disorders. Affect us all greatly.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the example set by those facing, fighting daily. You are the best of us.

Sending love to so many.

Too many.

We all know Rumi. We’ve all seen his quotes. Last night I found myself reading about him. Learning about him. Privileged. Wealthy. Migrant. Refugee. Preacher. Writer. Student.

What resonated with me most was how he instructed his followers to treat his death like a joyous wedding night. Life should be celebrated always. Especially, I feel, when it is gone.

Thank you for pointing me to Rumi, yesterday, LO.

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FORKS UP or CELEBRATING YOUR LIFE, MASA

The most prominent single moment of the pandemic for me will be hearing from my cousins and my Masi, the woman who outside of my mom, defined mom for me since birth, that my Masa was sick, being put into comfort care, and then, died. A year ago today.

Masa was always around but also, never in the way. It’s amazing. He made his way to India for my fathers death, he was in San Francisco when my Fua died. He found his way to so many places while always finding his way out of the way.

Which is why his service is so memorable to me; because he found a way to get us all together as a family, a few times, while also not “being in the way” — no burdens.

When someone dies, I promised myself when I was a little kid — we all make these promises to ourselves as kids and as kids most of them are forgotten in seconds but this one, stuck with me — to carry a part of that person forward (the first person I remember losing to death was my Kaka, and I was so young, I remember mostly the dope blue bike he gave me and the fact that he’d promised his car to my sisters when they were of age, so I tried to do those two things, give gifts and save cars).

For Masa, I am trying to remember how in the chaos of the world he made sure to create cocoons and safe spaces for the kids. When the noise and chaos of families tried to swallow everyone and migrate left, Masa grabbed some kids and took a walk heading right.

#iamgrateful and #iamthsnkful for that lesson, Masa.

I am still haunted by how I haven’t given my Masi, Chanda, Oowaj, Megan, Miles and baby to be a hug yet; that’s just on pause as you all are the first trip we make when trip making becomes a thing again.

Forks up, y’all. Forks up.

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FORKS UP or CELEBRATING YOUR LIFE, MASA

The most prominent single moment of the pandemic for me will be hearing from my cousins and my Masi, the woman who outside of my mom, defined mom for me since birth, that my Masa was sick, being put into comfort care, and then, died. A year ago today.

Masa was always around but also, never in the way. It’s amazing. He made his way to India for my fathers death, he was in San Francisco when my Fua died. He found his way to so many places while always finding his way out of the way.

Which is why his service is so memorable to me; because he found a way to get us all together as a family, a few times, while also not “being in the way” — no burdens.

When someone dies, I promised myself when I was a little kid — we all make these promises to ourselves as kids and as kids most of them are forgotten in seconds but this one, stuck with me — to carry a part of that person forward (the first person I remember losing to death was my Kaka, and I was so young, I remember mostly the dope blue bike he gave me and the fact that he’d promised his car to my sisters when they were of age, so I tried to do those two things, give gifts and save cars).

For Masa, I am trying to remember how in the chaos of the world he made sure to create cocoons and safe spaces for the kids. When the noise and chaos of families tried to swallow everyone and migrate left, Masa grabbed some kids and took a walk heading right.

#iamgrateful and #iamthsnkful for that lesson, Masa.

I am still haunted by how I haven’t given my Masi, Chanda, Oowaj, Megan, Miles and baby to be a hug yet; that’s just on pause as you all are the first trip we make when trip making becomes a thing again.

Forks up, y’all. Forks up.

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SYMBOLS, SYMBOLIC or “WHERE CAN WE GET HAND SANITIZER”:

When we think back on March of last year lots of things come to mind. One of the most powerful symbols, outside of a lifetime of toilet paper anxiety, will be hand sanitizer.

We got this jug delivered a year ago. At the time I wasn’t sure how long it would carry us. So I bought materials to make disinfecting sprays for various surfaces and things we’d use around and in the house as well.

We were lucky.

Today, the jug is tapped. A symbol of the last year. And symbolic timing for it to run out.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful we got our hands on this and … we got this on our hands. We lugged this thing everywhere and even left it out for delivery folks, neighbors, you name it.

Maybe it was crazy. Maybe it was a momentary respite for folks who came across it.

This empty container is a badge, the emptiness took effort, took work, took consistency. Took effort.

We earned the nothingness in the bottle over the course of the past year.

Which is also why I took great pleasure in smashing it. Cleaning it. Smashing it. And tossing it. There was pleasure when my foot landed on the center of the bottle and stayed and pressed and stood firml until it was near flat.

I smiled.

Good f*cking riddance.

And then I turned. With the next moment. Turned.

And went to the basement and got the other gallon I purchased a year ago.

Because it’s not just a symbol of what’s passed, it is a symbol of what fight and vigilance still remains.

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COMICS ON A KINDLE or A PERFECT EXPERIENCE

I just read the second to last of Ta-Nehisi Coates Black Panther run … on the kindle app on my phone … and it was a great way to read.

They have an experience where if you double tap the page, it zooms in on one frame on the page and then as you navigate, instead of turning full pages you move to the next frame. You get to switch from portrait to landscape to optimize the view for that frame and it’s seamless.

This approach also eliminates noise. I have ADHD when I read comics. I’m sometimes so curious about the next frame or page I can’t concentrate. This helps me focus and therefore go deep on details.

Man. What a dope way to read a comic book! #iamgrateful and #iamthankful I gave it a shot! So much fun and I may explore more comics this way. (Note: I was a HUGE comic book collector in elementary as school.)

Here are some screenshots so you can see how the images flow.

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WORKING OUTSIDE or PORCH LIFE

Weather today looks great. Windy but wonderful. I’ll be working outside today and I’m blissful. I didn’t get a lot of these days last year for all the reasons we all know. I’m excited to get some of this time in today. For our porch and some new porch furniture, #iamgrateful and #iamthankful.

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