One Perfect Day

“What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?”

Some of you may recognize this as one of “36 Questions That Lead to Love,” a popular and oft-cited article by Daniel Jones in the New York Times in 2015, based on Arthur Aron’s study published in 1997. I could never generate a plausible answer, thinking superficially. And every time I read the article, I think of Nigel Marsh’s description of his ideal day–see 4:50 of his 2011 TED Talk. Basically he spends quality time with family, works about 6 hours, hangs out with friends, exercises, and has sex four times.

Coming across the question again in You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy yesterday, I realized how close to perfect my day off was this week. Here’s how it went, with brackets inserted that would have made it truly ideal:

Wake up after 7 hours of sleep, in a fantastic mood, giddily looking forward to the day.
Move through morning routine easily, no rush or urgency.
Talk to Mei on the way to school, discussing her musings on anything that comes to mind.
Eat a light and tasty breakfast, sweet and salty, carb and protein, and coffee–oh yes, pour over coffee, nice and slow.
Consume a book and/or articles: on audio, digital, and/or print, romance and/or other, in the kitchen and car.

Ethos class! Challenged, educated, strengthened, and energized through coaching and community. I am now quoted on their social media:

Lunch with Dear Friend #1, communing over gorgeous salad, an Arnold Palmer, and shared ideals of leadership, friendship, and inner work.
[Find squishy armchair in a bookstore coffee shop, where I journal my reflections from lunch, reveling in the time and space to meet my friend and feed my soul.]

Browse bookstore, purchase artistic yet understated journal for Dear Friend #2, because everybody deserves pretty paper to write on.
Run into Dear Friend #3 on the way to meet DF2, reconnecting after many months and checking in–yay!
Walk and talk with DF2 [on wooded trails of Summit County–or] near Lake Michigan, stopping to photograph beauty that catches our eyes.
We discuss culture and relational leadership, exchange perspectives, and brainstorm ways to help systems and their people flourish.

[Find a shady bench, near spring blooms and urban wildlife, to sit and journal again, recording ideas, plans, aspirations, BHAGs.]

Pick up Mei from school, she’s energized more than stressed.
Pull fresh ingredients from fridge, audiobook or Agape music in the ears while chopping and stir frying.
Have a light and easy dinner, somebody else cleans up.
Mill around enjoying the house and its memories [it’s clean and neat, all plants watered and thriving].
Complete a relaxed night time routine, including pleasant smelling skin treatments.
More writing [and reading] in bed, all leftover words effused [and/or absorbed] for the day.
Lights out, burrowed in the covers, some intimate connection, sated in all 5 reciprocal domains of health.
Still high the next day and beyond, absolutely buoyed.

So what makes this day so perfect? What makes me so unreasonably and residually happy from it?
The ingredients:
Good sleep
Communion with people I care about and who care about me
Good food
Alternating rhythm between activity and rest; among input, processing, and output
Nature, especially sunlight
Social, emotional, and intellectual connection, both intra- and inter-.

Would I want to live this day every day? I think not, even if it were possible… Although I could easily imagine repeating it a few times over a languid vacation.

When I cannot/will not get a whole day like this at a time, how can I incorporate something perfect into each day? This question excites me with potential. It wouldn’t take much of any/each of the ingredients above, in any combination, to make any day a little more ideal. Some advance planning, mindfulness, and real time gratitude could go a long, long way. By this time next year, regardless of what’s happening around me that I cannot control, my life in general—all days—could be a lot closer to perfect, even more excellent, than they already are.

Keep Going

Something is definitely better than nothing.
Keep with your healthy habits, even if sporadically and at low intensity.
Back at Ethos one month now
Very sore after the first week
Old occult injury aggravated
So accommodations made without judgment
Now fifth week completed
Took it easy these eight sessions
Afraid to get hurt and sidelined
Encouraged by coaches to challenge without overexerting.
Supervised, corrected. Cared for.
Increased load as tolerated within each session, along with confidence
Progress made in one month
Greater in some ways than the past three years total, in the basement at home
So keep doing your best.
Just keep going, however slow.
You will know when it’s time to kick it up.
Trust yourself.
Recruit your Tribe.
Onward in solidarity.

Thank you, Sisters Jennifer and Marian, and Brother Kinnier, for keeping me company on my slow persistence.

Thank you, Melissa, for pouring such a strong foundation with me 9 years ago.

It’s a Lovefest, OMG

“My gift from the universe is all the amazing people I meet.  My way of paying forward is to connect you all to one another.” –text from me to Tim Cohen

How does one person get so lucky?  For years now I am convinced, knowing this many smart, creative, loving, generous, and committed people cannot be for no reason. I am a magnet for my tribe from all over: readers, learners, helpers, leaders. Why would this be, if not for them all to know one another through me? What a win-win!

I met Tim at Ethos Training Systems before the pandemic. ‘Ethos’ is the perfect name for the business, and I felt immediately connected–we share a holistic approach to whole person health. Tim knows his clients as whole people, not just members of his gym. He studies how sleep, nutrition, and stress impact exercise performance, and takes an integrative approach to helping people–I consider that he and his team conduct a practice more than a business. I took a class in January 2020, led by Coach Ryan, and loved it. I was surrounded by people more fit and versed in the movements than I, and yet I felt welcomed and included. COVID shut down operations not long thereafter, and Tim invited me to an Instagram Live session to help clients understand, anticipate, and prepare for what was coming. I kept in touch and helped them prepare for reopening safely, and the place and its people have thrived since. Tim and I recently reconnected, and he invited me back to classes. Ryan still coaches, and this time I also met Coach Jacob. What sets this team apart is, indeed, their ethos (and it’s one of my favorite words). Everybody I have met exemplifies a growth mindset, always seeking new knowledge, integrating new learnings with existing expertise–faster, higher, stronger! They read widely and deeply, sharing enthusiastically with one another and me. Their collective vibe is palpable–we all matter, our potential is boundless, and we are all here to help one another. They attend to class participants with full engagement, watching for subtle breaks in position and stability. They approach with humility and caring, correcting while explaining the rationale and application in functional movement. I have only experienced such a holistic and loving training encounter with one other person.

I started training with Melissa Orth-Fray in January 2014, at age 40. In August of 2015, I wrote this homage (I’m so glad I have documented this journey!), concluding thusly:

“Melissa helps me stay on course in training with knowledge, application, openness and compassion. I can do the same for my patients and their health. When I withhold judgment about patients’ physical and motivational limitations, I make it safe for them to bring their fears and aspirations to every visit. I can meet them where they are each time, and hold space for the inevitable roadblocks: medication side effects, obstacles to behavior change, complications of treatment. We can then find a way through together, because we both know we’re in it for the long haul. Physicians and trainers may have more in common than we think.”

Melissa’s expertise has broadened, deepened, and integrated remarkably in the last few years. I don’t understand most of what she does (neuromuscular and reflex integration; somatic education-??). I just know it helps people and her work needs to be amplified and accessible to more people, no question. She has relocated to California, and developed a practice that works over video, as evidenced by multiple patients whom I have referred and who benefit from her help. When she told me she was coming back to town this month, I scheduled a session right away and invited the Ethos team to come and observe. We are all fluent in the mind-body, it’s-all-connected language; Melissa and I knew the ‘boys’ would appreciate the introduction. During our hours together, we invited their questions and feedback. I described my experience in words as they witnessed first hand the changes in my movements, my body and energy responses to treatment.

The whole time, all I felt was love and connection. I was under the care of my friend and trainer again. I was sharing her and all of her expertise with my new friends, whom I have adopted as brothers in the helping professions. What I most wanted to demonstrate, I only realized later, was the profound depth of relationship and trust between Melissa and me, and how foundational that is to the success of any therapeutic encounter. I think we all felt it; I left with a deep sense of mutual reverence and respect.

I have lived long enough to know that relationship and connection cannot be forced. I expressed to all parties in advance that nobody should feel obligation, pressure, or expectation for friendship and collaboration. Such bonding occurs organically, and often only over time. I simply wanted to facilitate the initial proximity, in service of possibility and potential. Now we go home, stay open, and allow complex adaptive emergence to occur as it will. SO exciting, and I hold it loosely.

My friends, this is what I wish for you: That you may find connection and mutual uplift from anyone you might meet, and that these connections help us all live more meaningful, loving, and fulfilling lives.

Ryan, Cathy, Melissa, Tim, Jacob