Find a Bench

Why wooden slats can transform your life.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

When my brother died three years ago, his family and friends decided to dedicate a bench on his favorite bike trail to his memory. Gathering there every year around his birthday has given us a way to celebrate his life and all the joy and innovation he left behind. (He has three super-talented kids and he worked on the precursor to Siri and Alexa.) I sat on the bench this weekend.

Today, I went to my favorite bagel store on the East End of New York (where my parents honeymooned and I spent memorable summers and holidays with them and later on with my own family). Over the past ten years, I’ve gotten flavored coffee from the shop and sat on a bench in the sun, thinking about my life and my visions for the future.

A combination of Vitamin D, caffeine, memories, and morning calm helps me focus on the things I’ve done over the years and what I want to do next in my life and work.

The term “benched” has taken on negative connotations in the online dating and sports world, but for me, benching is transformational. Here’s why:

  • Sitting in the same place at the same general time of day is comforting. The world is changing rapidly around us, but a bench is in the same place (usually). Like me, it’s weathering with the years but still relatively stable.
  • Benching, like meditating, forces us to sit still and think.
  • Watching the real world (rather than a tiny screen) is relaxing.
  • Sometimes random strangers or people I know will join me on the bench and we’ll have fun and interesting conversations.

I’m not the only person who loves benches. In New York’s Central Park, more than 4,000 benches have been “adopted” and personalized with plaques. Many movies have prominently featured a bench in their storylines.

Whether you’re sitting solo on a bench or having a meaningful conversation, the moments you spend there can be special ones. “That looks uncomfortable” one of my Facebook friends posted on my wall when I put up a picture of “my” bench.

He was right on one level. Sitting on wood is not nearly as comfy as sprawling on a duvet or tanning on a chaise or warm sand. But it can result in incredible moments, memories, and decisions — throughout a lifetime.

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