Tuesday, February 26, 2019

It All Matters.

I imagine many of us sometimes have thoughts (and not infrequently) along the lines of "eh, it doesn't matter if I do this" (or, dont do it).  "This little thing doesn't matter."  "It doesn't make a difference."  These thoughts can arise and be in reference to all manner of things, from smiling at a colleague (or not), to taking three minutes to write a short and sweet love note to our partner one morning (or not), to spending 10 extra minutes on the treadmill (or not), to eating an extra cookie (or not), to picking up the phone and calling someone you care about in those free minutes during break today (or not).

Often enough, we brush these things off and think, eh, no big deal.  Ill get to it another time, sometime soon.  It doesn't matter so much.

It does.  It matters, very much.

Every single thing we do (or do not do) has rippling effects.  A few of which we can observe or sense, though most of which we have no awareness of.  Everything we do matters, whether positive or negative.  All of it.

Smiling at your colleague might brighten their morning where it was otherwise dark.  Giving them a momentary boost.  Making them feel good for a second.  It may be a brief, fleeting, though worthwhile positive feeling between the two of you.  This is worth it.

Writing that love note, even just 3-4 sentences, may just be a token your love will carry with them throughout the week.  Reading and rereading it, feeling buoyed, loved, and cherished each time they do so.  Their heart warming and filling.  That seeming small gesture, something that resounds within them long thereafter.

Those extra 10 minutes spent working out can mean the difference between looking slightly more toned in the week or two to come or not.

Eating an extra cookie can be the difference between feeling crappier, more lethargic later on, guilty and bummed with yourself, or on not eating it, significantly better.

Calling someone you care about can leave both of you feeling a glow of joy for several hours, even for a few days afterward on recounting the great conversation you had with and thus, connection felt with someone whom you care for in your life.

These things, they all matter.

Getting home early and starting dinner can lift your partners spirits on their walking in the door, tired and hungry.  Sending a hand written thank you note in the mail, giving someone the return gift of feeling appreciated and joyous for their gesture towards you.  Pausing for two seconds to snap a photo can mean a memory saved, and even framed, for years to come.  Taking a deep breath and being kind to someone on the phone (when actually, you feel impatient) can leave them feeling warmed for hours following.

Skipping the gym one night to go home and work on a personal project on which you have been yearning to, can mean the difference between getting it done or not.  Deciding on an alternate route home one day can be the factor that results in your meeting someone whom you wouldn't have otherwise.  Picking up and reading a particular book can lead one to flourishing personal passion or interest, one they didn't have prior, which takes their life in a totally alternate direction from what where it seemed previously headed.

These things can matter in the opposite way too.  Saying "no" can mean protecting your time to be better spent elsewhere, or leaving what feels like an iffy situation or person can mean the avoiding of what might have been a bad moment or choice.

It all matters.

On a slightly different vein, though certainly connected, many people struggle with the notion that their work (aka their job) isn't good enough, or even, is meaningless.  That what they do "doesn't matter."

In our culture, which largely defines one another by "what we do," this can be an easy thing to feel insecure or disheartened over.  (Asking ourselves questions such as: is my job prestigious enough?  "Important" enough?  Do I make "enough" money for my worth?  Am I known in my field?  Am I "making a mark"?  Does my title or work sound good to others?  Will other people be impressed by my job?  Am I doing something relevant and interesting?)

Quick side, separate point: if you hate your work and cannot find any meaning within, this is something worth exploring, and imminently.  We get one shot at life.  One chance here on this earth, and its going fast.  Do not waste it spending most of your waking hours doing something you hate and that feels void of meaning.  This is not the time to be passive or inactive.  Seek out, search for, and pursue that which fills your heart with light and meaning.  It may take some time and efforts to find and build this, but it can be done, and will most certainly be worth it.

However, that aside, whatever your job might currently be, the questions we tend towards asking ourselves such as "do you make a lot of money," "does your title and work sound good," "is what you are doing important enough," these are missing some major points and potentially focusing on the wrong thing.  In what way?  Because all of the things we do, minute and significant, throughout each of our daily lives...they matter.  Whether you have yet landed a job that fills your soul or not, that aside, still the makings of your day and the choices you make, all of them are relevant and do make a difference.

However it all stands right now, you have the power every single day of your life to make major differences in the lives of those with whom you interact, both directly and indirectly.  You are probably just not tapping into those thoughts and almost endless possibilities at the moment.  You are not harnessing and taking hold of these opportunities and potentials, which exist in abundance.  Imagine all the potential beyond the realm of the little bit which you can see.  Its immense.  

Meanwhile, everything you do has power, makes a difference, has meaning, and matters.  There can be such meaning, as well as shifting and altering potential, found throughout your day.  Both related to your work, and not. 

If you select a varied, delightful, delicious catered lunch for an upcoming work meeting (something different, not the same old menu), this can thrill and make someones day.  Because come on, who doesn't love delicious food?  If you spark an engaging and interesting conversation with some colleagues, this can be something they return to thinking about, long past the conversations conclusion.  On doing a favor for someone a work, you might lighten their load and make their day in the process.

And then beyond work, if you post an article on your blog, though feel disheartened because "your numbers are low," still there are people reading it, at least a few.  And whom you may have inspired, provoking thought within, lifted or brought joy, moved, or entertained.  Your words, affecting or even altering someone else.  That is big.  If you recommend a book to a colleague, friend, or love that changed your life and they read it, you might well be affecting theirs profoundly as well (in their reading it too).  If you surprise someone you love with a gesture of affection, caring, immensely love, this can be something they never forget.

In playing five or ten extra minutes with your beloved pet during the evening, you may lift their spirit and bring a sense of contentment and happiness to them which makes their day.  Grabbing a small treat that your love or roommate or family member loves on the way home from work to them, you can make their day.  In attending a class on a topic which interests you, it can change the trajectory of your life purpose and career.

Embarking on an adventure which unnerves you, though which you long to traverse, this can enrich your life by leaps and bounds, be something you revel in and cherish forever (as opposed to, if you hadn't and instead, let fear dictate your path).  In applying for a position you think is out of your league, still, it might change everything.  In turning towards someone instead of away (in a moment which you may be wishing to do anything other), it can make all the difference in their life.  In asking a particular question which scares you, though burns bright in your heart, it can be the game changer of your life.

None of this is to say that one should be wracked with anxiety over every choice in their life, worrying about whether they say yes or no, choose "right or wrong."  Instead, its merely saying that regardless of the nature of ones choice or path, that all of it has weight.  That everything we do is relevant. 

Our lives are laden with meaningful moments, potential, and important, relevant experiences as well as interactions, throughout each and every day.  Both, inside of our jobs which we do daily to fund our life, as well as far outside of and beyond such.

It all matters.  Ruminate on that as you go through your next days.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cozy Cafes in New England

In tune with the chilly temperatures, the blanketing snow, and the blustery days, here is a roundup of cozy cafes for conferring with friends, cuddling up with a romantic partner, reading or writing the day away, drinking something warm and eating something sweet, and reveling in their inviting atmospheres.

The Thinking Cup. Dimly lit, with decadent desserts and all manner of mouthwatering items on offering.  The warm macadamia nut milk with honey added- so good.  Love this place.  The lavender and chocolate macarons are also bomb.  Its my go-to writing spot.

Tatte.  With a mouthwatering sweet display and very Instagram worthy atmosphere, this is a great place to go for meeting a friend and a tasty treat (lines out the door aside, the one not insignificant downside to this place).

1369 Coffee House. European-esque, small wooden tables with little lamps and candles atop their surfaces throughout the cafe.  With scrumptious sweets, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items on offering.  Love this locale for conferring with a friend.

The Map Cafe in Boston Public Library.  Another dimly lit, inviting, enticing cafe.  With vast ceilings boosting intricate detailing, and an extensive afternoon tea menu, in addition to a plethora of sandwiches, salads, and pastries available.  The best part?  Its attached to the library!!

L.A. Burdick Chocolates.  The inside is eye catching and artisan looking.  With all manner of imaginative and intricate chocolates on display.  Their desserts in the cafe section, though a tad pricey, come in a unique array of flavors and shapes.

Three Little Figs.  Though its a bit out of the way, this bright, white and vivid blue themed cafe (feels very Grecian) with small tables and window seats abound, offers toasts with fun toppings, grilled sandwiches, salads, pastries, and soups.  A lovely place to come and hang the afternoon away.

Darwins Ltd.  This quiet, colorful cafe has an entire sandwich (as well as breakfast) menu, a boatload of pastries and sweets, an extensive tea and hot drink menu, and with three locations in Boston.

The Beehive.  Though not really a cafe...more of a bar/restaurant, but with glam, shabby chic, totally cozy and unique atmosphere.  This is a great locale for drinks, appetizers, and getting together on a weekend night out.

George Howell Coffee.  Trendy, bustling, though a great place to sit and chat, as well as read and write, this bright, intimate cafe is a sweet spot in Boston worthy of spending some time.

Caffe Nero.  Granted, its a chain, but its the most atmospheric of chains there is.  Akin to an inviting, slightly worn through stately, comfy cozy library or bookstore.  The inside is fun and eye catching, the light fixtures are funky and trendy.  The macarons are surprisingly good- especially the chocolate one, which is decadent and fudgy.  And prices, fair.  Its a nice spot for an affordable hot drink and sweet.

Render Coffee.  While the inside is no frills and somewhat small, its heavily wooded and inviting.  The sweets on offering here are good, especially the almond croissant, with its interior laden with a sweet paste.  The heavily windowed alcove makes a nice spot for sitting, with views to the red bricked neighborhoods outside.

True Brew in Concord, NH.  A charming little cafe, with outdoor seating that entices on the happening brick lain patio during warmer months.  Board games on offering for playing inside while drinking something warm.  They have an extensive tea menu, and tasty treats available, as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches.  There is another small, additional locale housed within the Gibson's Bookstore in Concord too.

Book and Bar in Portsmouth, NH.  Oh my gosh, one of my favorite cafes ever.  Hybrid bookstore and cafe, I cannot imagine a better pairing.  The cherry on top, this one sells used books, and in awesome condition.  The drink menu here is interesting and intriguing, they have a decently sized food menu, and aisles and aisles of books for ones perusing pleasure.  I could spend a few hours in this place, no problem.

Crackskulls in Newmarket, NH.  While slightly cramped and a bit worn, this is a cool little spot.  Artsy, with several overflowing bookshelves in the back, scrumptious looking sweets available, and an intimate feel.  Plus, its right in downtown Newmarket.  Cant get much better than that ;-).

The Local Moose Cafe in Manchester, NH.  Heavily wooded and no frills in terms of appearance, this spot made it onto the list of "best coffee shops in every New England state."  With delicious donuts on offering (in cool flavors such as orange blossom buttercream or pistachio cream cheese), to a list of brunching foods and snacks, its a sweet little spot to be sure.

The Schoolhouse Cafe in Warner, NH.  Just like the name implies, this restaurant is housed in, none other than an old schoolhouse.  The food is super yum.  From thick, buttery, fluffy pancakes, to omelets, crisp slices of bacon, and homemade sweets such as whoopee pies for sale to take with you.  Homemade and homey, highly recommend this spot for breakfast.

The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery in Amherst, NH.  This succulent spot has an extensive menu, from lunch and dinner, to Sunday brunch, cakes, tarts, pies, and pastries, cookies, and a lengthily list of portable sweets.  An awesome additional aspect?  Its cozy and cute. This one also made the list of "best coffee shops in New England."

Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar in Nashua, NH.  This is an artsy, intimate, funky, and cool spot.  Another one that made the list of "best coffee shops in New England."  With live music playing often, and an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu (mostly made up of sandwiches, though with other stuff sprinkled in too).

Last but not least, Crust and Crumb in Concord, NH.  This place has decadent, absolutely phenomenal treats, and a sweeping offering at that.  From cheesecakes to whoopee pies in all manner of flavorings, brownies, flourless chocolate cake, cookies, muffins, bars, and even savory snacks.  One of the best bakeries I've sampled in a long time.  Everything here is superb.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

What is Commitment really? Hint: its not marriage or living together.

With regards to commitment in our culture, we tend to base our assumptions of such on what we see outwardly and simplistically. 

If, say, a couple is living together or married, they are far more committed than a couple who is "just dating."  But, those who are married are "more committed" than those who "just live together."  We have hierarchical, unspoken tiers for assessing the seeming level of commitment between two people, based mostly on their hitting certain outwardly observable "milestones" that every "legit" relationship must meet, at some point, in order to be the "real deal."

When we compare a married couple to those who are unmarried (regardless of longevity of the relationship), we automatically label the married couple as more "legit," authentic, and more committed, simply by means of their having that status and title.  Somehow, it automatically carrying more weight, garnering more respect, seen as the pinnacle of relational authenticity.

Yet, none of the above actually has any bearing or symbolism, nor is it implicit of the true level of commitment between two people.

First off, these shallow means of commitment assessment between others are misguided and silly.  Consider all the marriages out there which are largely miserable (as in, sure, they may have sporadic, happy moments, but by and large, the relationship isn't a great one).  Consider the marriages that, whether they love one another or not, are stressful, glaring mismatches.  Or, the marriages that have reached their natural conclusion, as many relationships (both romantic and platonic do), yet the two people within cling tight to such, regardless.  Consider also, the marriages that are complacent, resigned, dull, and uninspired.  The ones that stay together mostly out a combination of laziness, fear, shared history, and comfort.

Folks, marriage is not the pinnacle of relational status.  It being held up as the utmost, golden standard of relationship statuses is a mirage and misguided.  Its a status and image which doesn't necessarily reflect any authentic truths within the actual relationship.

Just because two people are married tells us absolutely nothing about: their love for one another, their actual level of commitment to the relationship, their respect or treatment of each other, the health or satisfaction of their relationship.  A marital status gives us no insight to any of this, and is by no means, in and of itself, an indicator of relationship success.

Of course, many people marry and have healthy, incredibly happy marriages.  Just as many though, do not.

Delving further into the topic of commitment: one can get married and yet, be largely lazy within the relationship.  Absent.  Distracted.  Unwilling to move an inch towards any semblance of change or growth ever.  Fairly disengaged.  Unhappy.  You name it. 

Simply by means of regurgitating vows and signing the document does not actually a commitment make.  That one moment is not indicative of a continued, regular, active commitment to someone.  While marriage and commitment can be connected, they are not a synonymous thing.  Many people marry and are crappy partners, are not especially actively engaged, nor authentically emotionally committed to the partnership via their actions.

Same deal with shacking up.  We assume that because a couple moves in together, they have ratcheted up the commitment.  That, "whoa, they are getting serious."  Or, "wow, they are really committed now."  Yes, and no. 

Sure, literally, moving in with someone makes it much harder to extract oneself later.  The more entwined your life becomes with someone else, the more difficult emotionally and in actuality, it becomes to later on leave if need be.  There is a common concept in which people who live together often "slide" into marriage, even when some 30% of them have major doubts.  But because breaking up and moving out seems too daunting and terrifying, they stay, and marry, to often down the road, regret it.

However, living together (like marriage) says nothing of true commitment, both within the heart and in action.  Plenty of people live together and, as in the example of marriage above, go through the motions of their relationships and are even contented, but do not do the necessary work that comes with true commitment.

So, what is commitment really?  (An authentic, mature, true adult commitment).

--Commitment, like love, isn't a singular action or even a feeling.  Its a continual, consistent, regular display, as well as mindful and focused choices, and active engagement in the relationship.

--Commitment, as well as love, are both choices and actions.  Commitment is a verb.  It requires active effort, decision making, and conscious intent.

--Commitment, true commitment, is not premised on vows blindly followed, nor on convenience or shared history, nor on ease or security, nor on having married or shacking up.  Frequently, these instead become reasons and reactions that, instead of signifying commitment, people fearfully or lazily stay in relationships that are not good fits, or arent healthy, or should be concluded.

Instead, genuine adult commitment depends on both people in the relationship actively doing what they need to do, on a consistent basis, to attend to the relationship and to nourish and love one another.

--Commitment means doing at least half the work, regularly, of what it takes to be a great partner.

--It means being open to feedback and growth, as well as showing interest toward and pursuit of such within your actions.  It means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.  It means seeing the growth and change within your partners actions.

--Commitment means being flexible, brave, and present in the relationship.

--It means being focused, giving, and open hearted.

--It means giving your partner the 5 As of love often, which are: Attention, Affection, Allowing, Appreciation, and Acceptance.  These 5 As are present, and frequently, in all truly loving relationships.  That includes not just romantic ones but platonic and familial.

All of the above?  That is legit commitment.  None of which has anything to do with marital status, living together or not, longevity of the relationship, or any of the other outward, simplistic markers we tend to use to asses such

People can be married, and not especially emotionally committed.  People can be living together and not be especially actively engaged in the relationship (aka committed).  People can be together for years and years, and be resigned, relatively satisfied, though somewhat disengaged and not really committed.  You get the picture.

And when any of the above aspects of actual commitment cease for longer and more consistently than brief occasions here and there?  Truly healthy, mature, insightful adults relieve their end of the commitment.  

Vows or not.  Marriage or not.  Living together or not.  Lengthily shared history or not.  Even love or not.

Healthy and mature adults will let go and walk away, when their partner is no longer bringing to the table what they need to be.

This is why wedding vows can be problematic and are, in a major sense, misguided.  In that they promise and prompt a sense of blindly following and staying, "no matter what."  ("I made a promise so I have to keep it, unhappy or not"- misguided and not especially mature, brave, healthy, or adult thinking).

This is not how mature or healthy adults function.  Instead, healthy adults leave relationships that are no longer functioning well, in which their partner is no longer doing the work (routinely and often) that they need to be, in order to be a great partner themselves.  Love or not, mature and healthy adults will walk when its no longer working.  Vows are dangerous in that they can keep people in denial and locked into relationships that arent healthy or no longer fit.

So, what is commitment really?  It isn't saying marriage vows, nor living together, nor "staying together for a long time which proves we are "committed" or "we have remained married for years so that is a badge of honor" (note: it isn't) even if resigned and unhappy.  None of this is commitment.

Commitment is an active doing.  A continual growth.  Focused intent.  Commitment is a verb.  One that should be apparent in your relationship, every single day.  Its an obvious and both outward and inner pursuit of growth.  Of continually seeking both being, as well as growing into the best partner one can be.

If your partner isn't doing these things frequently and on a regular basis, love or not, this is not a real commitment.  Its merely an arrangement which maybe to outsiders looking in, appears as such by our misguided societal standards.  A true commitment though has nothing to do with vows, or rings, or sharing an address, or longevity of a relationship.  It entails so much more.  And truly healthy adults let go and walk when their partner is no longer fulfilling their end of the bargain regularly.

Interested and want to read more in depth, both on this topic and others in relation to emotionally close, truly healthy, long term successful relationship?

Check out this article/book review: "How to be an Adult in Relationships."