Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Black Lace and Groovy Vibes

I got in my car and blasted the heat, turned up the music and headed for the highway. Despite the freezing temperatures, the sun poured in my windows and lifted the edges of my smile. I left town. I left just enough to say that I had skipped out, just enough to call it a road trip.

What is it about the open highway that feeds my soul?

I was feeling a bit dead inside. The staleness of winter, the drudgery of too many days spent in mechanistic routine, routine that in no way made my heart sing or my brain dance. One can live, after all, without actually living. It is possible to go about entire days or weeks or months, years even, and only LOOK the part of those who are thriving. Inside, thoughts rot, feelings decay, and the soul lies gasping for air.

Not to get all philosophical or morose, but it is amazing to me the number of people walking around dead. What is more amazing is the number of those people who seem to be okay with that. I got glasses when I was in seventh grade. To that point, I had no idea what the world really looked like. It seemed fine. Not great, but fine. I knew that something was not right but could not, even if pressed, tell you what that was. The day I went to have my new glasses fitted was, and I insert a shameless pun here, one of the most eye-opening experiences I have come across. I had been walking around with an okay life, and I was okay with that. I had no idea the colors, the vibrancy, the life I was missing. I had no idea the world without those specs.

I have spent the past couple months walking around without my figurative glasses.

So I jumped in the car and went wherever the road took me.

I began my day browsing a cute little bookshop. I visit this place as much for the earrings as I do for the books. And chimes. I love to run my fingers through the chimes. I am like a two-year-old listening to the pretty sounds and looking in wonder and awe at the crystals and stones, impressed by the magic of it all. I sat among the New Age section poring through titles on astrology, soul mates, near death experiences, and manifesting. I smelled the soaps and candles, the potpourri, and got my daily dose of inspiration from the excessive fridge magnet displays. I grabbed a book by an author I enjoy, carried it around the store like a little kid with her security blanket. I went from the bookstore to the mall. Usually, I am disgusted by malls. They radiate an ugly aura of mass consumerism, but I bought myself a few little pretties and am totally over that for now. I can’t tell you what the pretties were because it would not be appropriate for the page, but my purchases were lacy and black and très, très girly. They made my heart dance and my eyes smile. I finished my day at one of my favorite lunch spots. The food is gorgeous and the vibes groovy. It is a definite elixir for that which ails the soul.

As the day ended I felt life, REAL life, once again flowing through my veins. I believed my shot of soul feeding to be complete. As I woke this morning, however, I felt the need for just a bit more joy.

Day one was all about me. Day two would be for others.

THIS particular “road trip” would bring life to those around me. I looked at my world with new glasses. I looked at spots I had seen a million times before, spots that were good, that looked the part of thriving, that looked to be filled with life, but that in reality were just okay. I filled those spots. I filled them with smiles and kind acts and unexpected surprises. I filled them life, with REAL life. I meant the day to be for others, but it turns out that it was just as much for myself. For others, it was an exclamation point in their day. For me, it was a long ride down an open road.

My soul lay dying on the ground. I breathed into it the gift of life. I breathed into it the gift of life with nothing more than a few good tunes, some beautiful food, and the slightest hint of sexy black lace.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Crunchy Snow and Barking Dogs

I am only halfway through my day and, already, I have complained of the snow, my homework, the dishes, the dogs, my back. I have flung a little negativity in the direction of my family, my friends, strangers, myself. And this, my friends, is a GOOD day.

Do NOT misunderstand. I have a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I am glad today to be on this earth, sharing pleasant greetings with those I pass. If it be possible for a girl to have an actual twinkle in her eye, I would indeed have that twinkle. If I fling such negative vibes on a GOOD day, I wonder, oh the sludge I sling on a bad.

In an attempt, then, to look at the glass half full, or perhaps as all the way full, I rephrase my complaints into a list of thanks.

I complained of the snow because it is time for it to pack its bags and fly north. I have seen enough and am missing my good friend the sunshine. It has also reached that stage that snow does when it hits a certain age. It is crunchy and dirty and piled in inconvenient spots. If I am to rethink, however, I would confess that the snow is my favorite part of winter. In Michigan, it snows in November and does not melt until April or May. I have always appreciated the beauty of the season. Growing up just a state south, I became accustomed to crusty brown grass as winter’s wear. At least now, if it is cold, it is just damn gorgeous.

I complained about my homework because it is boring and dry and all about computers. I am learning of the software used for research, data analysis, geeky stuff like that. If you know me, you know that I am about the heart, the person, the workings of the soul. I am not about merging data files or eliminating variables. If I am to confess, however, I would tell you that I have a dear love of learning of any sort. I am thankful for the opportunity to further my education and have come further than anyone probably expected I would or should. I am thankful to be able to develop the gifts I have been given in order that I might use them for the good of others. And, honestly, if I did not have homework that was assigned I would create some for myself.

I complained about the dishes piled in the sink and the dogs barking at the window. I have three newly adult children still living at home. They love to cook, but they do not seem to equally love to clean. The dogs are constantly under foot and always barking at neighbors walking or biking past the large bay window at the front of the house. I feel as if I have no space to hide, no quiet in which to bathe. This is, though, the world that I created. I love a home that is full of life, that is full of love and laughter and commotion of a happy sort. I love a home that is used and appreciated, one in which my children WANT to be. The dogs make me smile. I can be stressed or angry or generally discontent and, they, in their infinite dog wisdom seek to comfort at my side. I am fortunate at my age to still have a home that is brimming with noise and activity. I am not the empty nester that most of my friends are as I made the choice to have children when everyone else had stopped. My life is busy, yes. It is busy, but it is rich.

As for my back, I slept many hours and then passed the morning reading in bed. I was feeling achy from lack of movement and too much time spent prone, but again, I slept many hours and passed the morning reading in bed. That is the very definition of a life well lived.

I am penning this now at some point later in my day. I am glad. I am glad for the snow and the homework and the dishes and the dogs and my back. I am glad for the opportunity to live the life I have been given, the life that I chose. I am glad. I am glad for crunchy snow and barking dogs and the gift of another day.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Aren't We ALL a Bit of Gandhi?

“It’s the difference between creating an enduring piece of art meant to move versus throwing together an entertaining piece of fluff meant to distract.” This is the thing about working with writer friends. They can never let you just play. All of conversation is a critique. Maybe I want to dance around the page batting my lashes, blowing seductive kisses, and flinging my feather boa around your neck. Maybe I don’t feel today like putting on my big girl panties and moving seemingly immovable mountains. Let Gandhi and Mother Teresa take care of that business. I want to make you smile, make you laugh, make you spit your coffee through your teeth. Besides, how is that NOT helping humanity?

We get so darned serious.

I talked to a guy the other day who was so uptight it seemed he had zero joy in his heart. Zero. How does one come to that point? How does he get to the place where he can’t even crack a smile? Not that everyone HAS to smile, but I’m pretty sure a chisel would not have been enough to carve a piece of happy from the stone I saw. If I can bring a bit of joy to this man’s heart, how is that any less important than crafting an essay on the impact childhood poverty has on cognitive growth? I think of all the people this one man will impact in his life. I think of those whose days he will destroy. He shared with me in very boastful terms the supervisors he had torn down in front of their charges. If I can bring even one bit of compassion or joy into this heart, how is that NOT impacting lives?

I spoke with a single woman who was heavy into the wine. Her happiness, she believed, depended on having a man at her side. She was a beautiful woman with much to offer this world, had friends who loved her, and family who cared, but all she could see was her inability to attract the right sort of guy, to hold onto love, and to have what she assumed would make her whole and complete. I penned a few words. I touched very close to her emotional home. I injected a bit of flip and sass and sarcastic wit. I empowered her with my words. I helped her to smile and think and to love herself. I am certain she took that out into her world. I am certain she spread that joy to her neighbors and her colleagues. I did not go all Gandhi in the essay. If anything I pulled off my best Marilyn. Neither did I lift all of humanity in those words, but I lifted her. And that was good enough for me.

Why do we forget? Why do we forget to laugh and love and play? Why do we take ourselves and our worlds so seriously that we do not enjoy the day we are given, do not enjoy the life that we have?

A student came to me the other day. She apologized for missing class previously. Her brother had passed. Her brother, it seems, had been in a forklift accident at work a few months prior. Among other complications, his stomach had been ruptured. Despite surgery and quick, attentive care, the doctors were not hopeful and prepared the family for the young man’s impending death. He was twenty-six. He was twenty-six-years-old with two small children and a wife. He had gone to work that morning as if it were a regular day, as if it were NOT the last day of his life. He and his wife probably argued a bit. He may have complained about his boss. He might have looked in the mirror and criticized something about his appearance. I am guessing here. He could just as easily have kissed his wife goodbye, told her how beautiful she was and that he was so glad to have her in his life. He may have complimented his boss on his management skills, thanking him for giving him that break when he hired him on. He may also have thanked the Lord that morning when he looked in the mirror, thanked the Lord for his health and his family and the opportunity to provide for them. Again, I am guessing. Regardless the routine, this was to be his last day at it.

No one imagines that his life will end. On an academic level, we know that it will happen. For some reason, though, we can never wrap our minds around the actuality of it. We imagine that our death will occur at some point in the very distant future and will most likely happen to others and somehow magically not to us. Except that it will. Because we breathe, we will die. Fact. We will die at any point in the lifespan, at any point, and not at one of our choosing. Fact.

If, then, I can parade myself around on stage, painting rainbows and flinging glitter, bringing smiles and lifting hearts, I think I am going to be good with that. I am going to be good with that because maybe, then, YOU will take that joy out into YOUR world and lift another. Maybe YOU will lift another on HIS last day.