Lighten up, will ya?

I’ll start off with a quick apology for being so dark in my last post but I felt it was important to share what it means to be the physical me. In this post, I want to share many of the things that make my life lighter and joyful. It is not so much a message of “stop and smell the roses”, but more about investing in happiness. So let’s lighten up a bit.

I know I can be stubborn about my care and my changing abilities. For some time now, I’ve been writing this blog on my phone using a trackball mouse. Then recently my thumb started stiffening. The trackball solution is fading. Mary Ann has tried to help me position the trackball in my hand for some time, during which we both became frustrated, me with my lagging range of motion in my fingers, making it difficult to use the trackball, and she in constantly changing my hand position to help me out. For some time, she found another way to keep me writing which was eye gaze technology. . It is eye gaze equipment and software that allows me to use my eyes to navigate my computer and to be able to write, which is how I’m writing this right now. With her persistence, she has definitely lightened my load and for that I’m very grateful.

I had an expression I used long ago, “Life is so much easier without a backpack”. It means that we should be taking stuff out of our backpacks instead of adding stuff to our backpacks. When I finally listened to Mary Ann and adopted the eye gaze solution, it felt like I took a bunch of rocks out of my backpack. I’m now working on how to drive my wheelchair independently. If I can figure that one out, it will feel like another load of rocks can be taken out of my backpack. If there is a message here its to encourage you to take rocks out of your backpacks by not overloading your lives by doing more things to handle more than is practical, or to find ways of making life easier. Maybe it’s ordering in dinner instead of cooking, or taking a Lyft instead of driving into the city. We all deserve to take breaks instead of trying to do more and more. Sometimes its best to spend a few dollars to extend the pleasures of life.

Another way I’ve been lightening up is by being with friends and community. A few weeks ago, a friend and I hosted a reunion of friends, all who met in 1973. Forty-six years later, we are still in touch. It gave us a great excuse to reunite and have fun. The weekend was spectacular. Many of those invited could not make it, but regardless, for those who were there, it was important to all of us to know we still have each other, regardless of time and distance. For all of us, taking the time to make it a priority and show up was a realization that life can be capricious and connecting with old friends felt like we were living in the moment. Woody Allen was quoted as saying “95% of life is just showing up.” I think the message is clear, showing up is so important, not just for ourselves, but especially for others. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate when others show up for me. With life being tenuous, not just for me, but also for my friends who are aging, we all agreed that showing up for each other is so important – if not now, then when?

Forty-six years of friendship and still going.

Another example was this past weekend. Mary Ann needed a break. I had arranged for my friend Barry to stay with me overnight while Mary Ann was away. Instead of just him, he came with the three additional friends who are long time attendees of the Men’s Weekend. After letting the guys who are local of the Men’s Weekend know Barry and the Valley Boys were coming for the weekend, three of the four Bay Area guys were able to join and we had an impromptu Mini Men’s Weekend. It’s hard to express in words how happy and grateful I was that we were all together for the entire weekend. It was not just about the conversations or the eating and drinking together or watching movies. For me it was the fact that they all showed up for me.

A mini Men’s Weekend

Another way of lightening up for me is trying not to take life too seriously. It’s not about denying my situation but knowing it could be worse. Last night, Mary Ann and another couple were invited to a high ticket gala for the ALS Association. There were a few of us there in our wheelchairs, I felt grateful that, compared to others, I still have my voice and the ability to communicate and eat. After a few drinks, I felt I could lighten up a bit. I even dressed up in a suit complete with bow tie and my Kangol hat. While I was there, many people from the medical community who have supported came up to me a bit surprised by my being there. I responded by saying it’s really hard for me to miss a party. I don’t like feeling that I have missed out. I even started thinking how I’m going to miss hanging out with my friends at my own funeral when the time comes. Just another missed party. It reminds me of the joke (forgive me if I already told it) where a grandson went to visit his ailing and bedridden grandfather. At the bedside, he asked his grandfather what he could get him anything. The grandfather asked for his very favorite food, his wife’s kugel. The grandson went into the kitchen to get him a piece. After five minutes, the grandson comes back empty handed. Disappointed, the grandfather asked what happened. The grandson responded by saying grandmother wasn’t giving any up because she was saving it all for the funeral.

So are you feeling any lighter? What are some rocks can you commit to taking out of your backpack? One idea might be setting up some time to just talk out something that’s on your mind. Years ago, I used to carpool with three other people who I have become friends with over the years. Every weekday morning, we would take turns driving the long trip down to Silicon Valley, all of us with our own rocks to bear. We would share our joys and adversities with each other under an umbrella of trust we called ” carpool confidential”. What was shared in the car, stayed in the car. It felt good talking things out to get the day started on a lighter footing.

And finally, we need to lighten up about ourselves. Never had I thought I would look like the guy in the picture below. At first, I was self consciousness about how I looked in a wheelchair with a tube hanging off my nose. But, then if Snuffleaupagus and I have something in common, and he is lovable, well then sharing the same snout can’t be all bad. Be kind to yourself, especially in the way you look. We are all a portrait of the Divine’s making, so spend your time on making the most of each day, even if you look like Mr. Snuffleaupagus.

More to come…

With my dear family. What do Mr. Snuffleaupagus (see below) and I have in common?

28 thoughts on “Lighten up, will ya?

  1. So all the time I was making kasha I should have been making kugel for you to enjoy in your great big, love and adventure filled ( lighter backpack) life? See you soon. I’ll be there with the potatoes and the onions! Xoxo Robi


  2. You’ve got me feeling around behind myself for all of those stones I’ve been carrying in my backpack. I’m about ready to lighten the load, I think. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First, do you prefer sweet or savory kugel? I’m a savory guy myself. Me mom never made sweet. I truly loved the joke. Had never heard it again. You are one popular guy. Each time I went over to talk with you at Lee’s book launch (so wonderful you came ) you wee surrounded by your fans. As always I learn so much through your reflections in your posts. Thanks for encouraging us to better our lives. You are a wonderful person with visions of our living good lives.



    1. Thank you Norman for following my blog and for all of your wonderful comments. They motivate me to keep writing. I too am sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk more. I did have a few good friends there and we love to talk. I’m sure there will be another opportunity to meet.


  4. As always, your writing gives me perspective and inspiration. It is so easy to carry too much around. Harry, I am so grateful for you and your friendship.


  5. Harry my friend… Taking rocks out of the backpack: I love that analogy. Thanks for your strength, determination and willingness to share with us all. You sir, are an inspiration!


  6. And if it weren’t for you and Sandy, we might not have found CBT and it’s community. You were one of our first friends in Orinda and were so welcoming and generous and we’ll always be grateful for it.


  7. Eres grande Harry. Los quiero mucho. Gracias por tus sabios consejos y si, comenzaré a vaciar mi mochila, tienes toda la razón. Quiero escribir en español, porque mi inglés es muy limitado y muchas veces no puedo decir lo que realmente quiero.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yosvany, estoy tan feliz de que sigas mi blog. También estoy agradecido de que sigas mi consejo. Espero que sea útil. Sigue escribiendo en español ya que uso Google para traducir. ¿Has compartido el libro con otros? Espero que lo estés disfrutando.


  9. Harry, my parents recently passed along your blog to me and my sister. There is so much wisdom in this post! My yoga teacher often starts our class thanking us for showing up, not an easy thing to do some weeks. Thank you for reminding me the importance of doing less, and the relief that can come with that acceptance. My parents have so much love and respect for you, you are an inspiration to so many people, young and old(er) in the B’nai Tikvah community, and beyond.


  10. harry,

    thanks for your lightening and wisdomatic words (i’m making shit up here), and happy to have seen you last month at the reunion!

    i’m working on lightening my backpack, but in my particular case it’s my actual backpack that i’m taking with me to colombia. i have too much stuff and i don’t need it all, but also packing for 6 months is hard. thanks for the reminder, i really won’t need it all.

    please don’t apologize for being too serious or dark. if people can’t handle it – that’s their issue, not yours.

    sending so much love to you. keep the lightness and darkness coming.


    1. Thanks for the kind words. I think it’s good to go with the advice on packing half your clothes and bring twice as much money as you think you’ll need. Have a fabulous time, I’ll miss you and sending much love your way.


  11. I always look forward to your posts and insights. However, I need you to clarify something. I believe “Life is so much easier without a backpack” is a generalization of its first usage. The first spring weekend in 1981 was the last weekend in March. You, Careen, Tracy and I went on a backpacking trip in Harriman state park. After the trip, when we were back at work at Buckingham School, you said, “just remember, teaching is easier without a backpack.” Looking forward to seeing you and AM in January.


    1. You’re right about the origin of the quote and you’re right that I took the liberty of generalizing it to a bigger scale of life. I mean it had to come from somewhere, right? I vaguely remember that trip but I’m certain we had a great time. Looking forward to seeing you too.


      1. So i remember only a few things about that trip. we got to Harriman late Friday and couldn’t make it to the lake Kanawauke so, we wound up camping near a stream off the trail. I remember getting high Saturday night. And, on Sunday morning i remember Tracy using some fancy facial cleaner that require her to splash it off 15 times. But, the lake water was so cold she had to stop short of the full 15 “rinses”


  12. We are all indeed a reflection of the Divine! Such an important reminder for us all. Thank you Harry! Can’t wait for my next visit with you and Mary Ann.


  13. Harry, I love that you mentioned our carpool! Who knew that all of those hours on the road would lead to such treasured friendships? We went through pregnancies, marriages, break-ups, quick stops for a beer in East Palo Alto and many prayers for continuous traffic flow. We must have all spent thousands of hours together sharing our “carpool” confidential stories. How lucky we all were to have shared that experience. As you said, we all need to have a “carpool” place to share and to help lighten our load. Thanks for doing that for me so many times.


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