The most powerful thing we have to offer is our story. Be inspired by lovely stories of lovely lives.
Please describe a typical day living in New York City?
For me, it’s much like anywhere else in that I walk my dog, commute to work at an office, pick up groceries and hang out at the local coffee shop. What is different is the level of intensity. It’s as if the city is a living organism with an energy all its own. Life is a little more in your face here.
Something I would have never expected, being amidst all of the excess New York City, is that my life is much simpler than when I was in the suburbs. I don’t need a gym membership because I walk several miles each day just getting where I need to go. My apartment is small which requires me to think long and hard about every item I buy. I can’t carry bags and bags of groceries so I pick up just what I need for the next few days. It’s been a complete shift in mind-set.
How do you find quiet in the hustle and bustle of the city?
Sometimes it takes a real effort to find patches of stillness in this urban jungle, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. When the city gets too overwhelming I escape to the roof of my building. From there I can see the panorama of Manhattan and beyond — the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island. There is a beauty in the asymmetry of the buildings. I can appreciate the vision of everyone who had a hand in creating it. It’s not completely silent. The city hum is ever-present, but up on the roof, I’m away from the urgency of sirens and horns and it becomes a kind of meditation.
Please tell us about the “SHINE” page on your blog and what inspired you to start it?
I have to admit it was a selfish motive that prompted me to start SHINE. I was feeling uninspired, confused as to what my calling was or if I even had one. I’d always thought of myself as an author — I’d written a novel and several short stories — but what if there was something else I was supposed to be doing?
Meanwhile, I was fascinated by stories of people who were following their dreams and living deliberately as Henry David Thoreau wrote. They seemed to have some kind of innate sense of the path their life should follow, and I wanted to learn from them. Maybe if I uncovered how they got on the right path, I could apply that knowledge to my own life.
I figured I must not be the only person seeking clarity so I reached out to friends and people I’d admired from afar with the idea of posting their stories on my blog. What I love is that each SHINE-worthy person is doing it in his or her own way: planting healing gardens, starting a local guerilla kindness movement, bringing rescue dogs into schools to teach kids compassion. But there is a common thread which is that their dreams are being served perfectly by their personalities and talents. Now that is the question I ask myself: how can I best use my personality and talent to follow my dreams?
What makes you smile?
So many things! Each day I write in my journal something that made me happy or grateful. It doesn’t have to be big or life-changing. A few days ago it was guacamole. I posted a list of 50 things that make me smile and whenever I’m having a bad day I take a look at that list and I instantly feel better.
How do you make your life lovely?
I make my life lovely by honoring this moment. I learned this from my dog Reggie. No one knows better than him. He’s not worried about what toy he’s going to play with tomorrow. The only choices we have are right now. All creativity is now. All action is now. Knowing that simplifies things.
Part of honoring the moment is not forcing a situation. Sometimes in my rush to “do something,” I try to put a square peg into a round hole. I’ve come to realize through the SHINE posts that truly inspired moments generally happen organically. Everything fits together as it should and then, as they say, the universe conspires to help you.
Jackie Cangro is an author living in Brooklyn, NY. She recently published a collection of essays about the New York City subway system. When she’s not editing her novel, she teaches creative writing at The Loft. Please read more about SHINE here. If you or someone you know should be featured in SHINE, she’d love to hear from you.