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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jonesing on the Porch

Christmas in the trailer is so different than any before. It’s so quiet that I feel tempted to buy a used guitar, sit on the porch, and sing to the youngins. Of course I’d have to wrangle some youngins, because mine are oldins, but wrangling youngins might land me in jail. I remember the good old days when neighborhood kids were part of your extensive family, obligated to help you with your groceries, run to the store for you, and, yes, even listen when you sang.

The world has shifted, and for me, Christmas has shifted too. For those of you who don’t know this, we’ve recently moved from our 2500 sq ft home to a 300 sq ft trailer. We sold our furniture and stored our stuff. Actually, I was able to squirrel away an amazing amount of stuff in the cupboards, draws, and tiny closets of our tinny little trailer, but I have no idea where I’ve put most of them.

That’s kind of how I feel about Christmas this year. I have no idea where I’ve put it, or where TO put it, and this is making me blue. Not boohoo blue, but more of a brooding blue. I’m missing the familiar traditions, which I thoughtfully strung around my old Christmases, and because of this I feel a sort of vacancy inside. It’s like Christmas has gone out for a stroll, without telling me, so I’m here on my porch, wondering where it went.

I know that I have to start from scratch with Christmas, but it doesn’t seem fair, because it took me a lifetime to create the old Christmas. I feel totally polarized. Yesterday I stood in the middle of our trailer for 5 minutes holding a string of lights and then put them away because there was no place to hang them, and if that wasn’t crappy enough, I’ve been waiting over a year to finally have a working stove, so that I could make sleigh loads of holiday cookies, but now I can’t because I’m on a low carb diet, which was recommended by my cardiologist. “Oh” you say, “Don’t eat them. Make them and give them away”. That would be like telling a zombie not to go for the brains. I have no self control in such situations.

The truth is that I’m afraid to let go of my little holiday habits because the world has gotten so damn scary. My Christmas traditions helped to cushion me from all the chaos and clatter, like a soft pillow over my head, Christmas muffled out the discord. Okay, so maybe it was a bit limiting, even smothering at times, but I was willing to overlook it because, well…it’s all that I knew. But now my pillow has been taken away, and I’m jonesing on the porch, because that’s the only place I can string the Christmas lights.

I know I sound like a whiny ass baby, and maybe I am, but I’m hoping if I sit on my porch long enough I might discover something profound…that in the deep, Leah silence, I am being called to this very moment, where a powerful light is shining. Sort of my very own Christmas light, originating from a place that I’m sure I’ve been, yet I can’t name. A familiar place where Ma’s hot chocolate never grows cold, color crayons are perpetually pointy, and life is its own answer. A place where one needn’t look outside of their own full heart to find happiness, for love resides within, a generous love that desires to consume fear, hate, and indifference, and is capable of rocketing you into your incredible life every moment of every day. It is the reason for life, which also happens to be the reason for this season.

Wow! Where’d that come from? I must have been channeling George Bailey and Gandhi.

Happy holy days, people. May you discover that you are not as powerless and alone as you might believe, and that your small hands are actually God’s hands, waiting to ease the world’s woes. So go forth and be merry woe easers, and if you’re in the neighborhood stop by the porch for a little eggnog. I’d invite you in but...there’s no room at the tin. Ta dum dum.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Perfectionism Triggers Apocalyptic Melt Downs

The Booth
I’m a perfectionist. I used to believe that the badge of a perfectionist should be worn on the outside of the jacket; after all, perfection is the highest rung on the behavioral ladder, the blue ribbon of attributes, and the ideal to strive for. At least that’s what I believed. Yeah, what a crock of steaming you know what. Perfectionism is a disease like alcoholism, Tourette’s and pink eye. It’s a maniacal malady, which manufactures mirages, and measures mankind. God that felt good. And you know what else feels fricken good—letting go of perfectionism. Firing the police of people pleasing, the Nazi of not good enough, the shaman of shame. That felt good too.

Living, and running the family business from this tiny trailer, is an exercise in imustbenuts, for my first nature is to produce an aesthetically pleasing environment. Well, that lasted for about a day. It’s like trying to keep a white tablecloth clean at a pie-eating contest. So I choose not to drive myself, or, Mike, insane trying to keep up with that expectation. If I’m going to keep my sanity I’m going to have to go with the cluttered flow, and stop judging myself, and Mike, for the mess.

I’m also an idealist, which I believe is prerequisite for becoming a perfectionist. I get an image in my head of what something SHOULD look like, and then I go for it. I have images for everything, including people and food, and when something does not live up to the image that I created in my sick little mind I become unhappy. At least I see this now. For years I hated myself for so many things, but mostly for not being quite up to par.

So I’m probably living in this tiny trailer so I’ll learn how to appreciate the important things in life like love, truth, joy, and gratitude—things with real value that won’t burn up should an apocalyptic event occur.

Living here isn’t so bad. I actually appreciate some things about it—if I allow myself. I love that when I sit at the booth sometimes the squirrels will sit on the privacy fence, which hugs the trailer, and look directly in my window at me. They’re so close that I could count their whiskers. I love the canopy of tropical vegetation, which shades the courtyard on hot afternoons and dapples the ground with buttery drips of sunshine, and the urgent cries of the hawk, which wake me each morning inspiring the notion that each day is important. I adore Deja, the landlord’s Rottweiler, who stops by for a snack and a nap, snuggled in beside Little Dog, at the base of the booth, warming my feet as I work. And then there are the numerous fruit trees, bowing low with juiciness. Boy, I could wax poetic over some of the things here…there’s Duck Duck, the guard duck, who acts like she doesn’t like me, but lately I’ve noticed her quack softening when I walk by, and the tree house, which I’ve yet to christen, but I’ve purchased some rope so I can hoist my laptop and coffee up, leaving my hands free to help me climb the steep stairway.

Then there’s the blessed privacy from the world. Sometimes I can hear it out there, rumbling beyond the jungle walls, but if I pretend a bit, it’s easy to convince myself that I live on a tropical island inhabited by me and Mike, and a few friendly natives.

Yes, if I don’t listen to the stories in my head created by my neurotic perfectionist alter ego, about how a woman of a certain age should have more and be more, I could find it easy to enjoy this very simple life style.

My mother used to say to me, “Leah, you wouldn’t know what was good for you if it landed on your nose.” Well, Ma, I think I’m learning.

Monday, November 24, 2014

If the Trailer's Rockin

It's been a while since I’ve blogged. Why? Well, let’s just say that my life has radically shifted—everything shakable has been thoroughly shaken. (Thank you God/universe/big bang/karma/my own stupidity.) I won’t go into the gritty details, not in this paragraph anyway, but let me just say that life hasn’t turned out according to my script. You might want to put on a bib because writing about this could get really messy.

Soooo, 57 is a stable age. Right? One would think that my 401K would be locked and loaded, my mortgage paid off, my credit rating stellar, and my vacations well planned…I’m imagining annual treks with bffs, sharing morning mimosas, toasting our lifetime achievements.

Surely by now I should be self assured or at least pretty-damn-sure…breezing about in trendy linen clothing, taking a bit of Botox to soften the years, laughing too loudly at parties, and hosting family gatherings, where grand kids tumble across my expansive lawn, parading about in red white and blue gingham, proving that my life has been fruitful, my heritage proud.

It seems a woman of a certain age should be both financially and personally stable. At least that’s the message the media has been powdering my arse with forever, triggering a discontented itch—causing me to crave a much younger, thinner, richer version of myself, thus suffering for years over what I’m not—thinking if I only had the accessories I would be happy.

Oh. My. Gawd. Somebody give me a lobotomy so I don’t think like this any more! I wasn’t born to perfect my resume, decorate the house, or buy into the herd mentality that a good life should match your high dollar sofa. I wasn’t born to amass an acre of stuff so that my kids can sell it off like the pulled gold teeth of a cadaver. I was born to experience life not promote capitalism.

I was born to overcome the scary, and the ouch, of my youth. I was born to grow brave enough to question everything so that I can figure out who I am, and then perhaps help others to see who they are too. But mostly I was born to love, and then, whether I like to admit it or not, to die.

Yes die. That’s the natural way of this world and I am tired of death being presented as some sort of evil surprise. Of course I speak of old folks dying, not of the young. When a young person dies the loss is stunning, and the grief wider than the echoes of eternity, because their experience here was cut off, and we miss them, but for the rest of us old farts, death is our ticket to renewed vitality. Be a little more appreciative.

I always thought that the two paths spoken about in Stairway to Heaven, and all those other songs and stories, were heaven and hell, but now I know that the two paths are truth and lies. I’ve believed too many of the lies, and the scary stories that sprang from them, which caused me to lose touch with myself. For most of my life I didn’t know how to live it. I was struggling with a stringy ball of threads, pieces of fears and fables collected over the years, none of them long enough to knit a mitten of truth.

Why bother writing about it now?—because if I don’t write I’m going to explode. And now, after some major shifts in my life, I feel a drive to put things on paper. I’m not really sure where to start so I’ll start with this morning, and then weave in and out of the past present and future.

My husband, Mike and I have just moved from our spacious 2500 sq. ft. home to a 300 sq. ft. trailer, which has been permanently parked on a jungly lot behind a big house, and although I’m thrilled to be able to finally hang a sign on my door that says, “if the trailer’s rockin’ don’t come knockin’” I’m a bit squeamish with the whole ordeal…sort of like the way you feel when you first try canned tuna fish…yuck—wait for it—wait for it—YUM! Well, I’m still waiting for the yum.

Our decision to move into this tuna can wasn’t much of a decision; it was actually our only option if we wanted to stay in Florida and live independently. Our home was in foreclosure, and because of our stinky credit rating (due to said foreclosure), rental agents were holding their noses and crossing the street when they saw us coming. When this little trailer hit our radar at the 11th hour we jumped at the opportunity like a couple of greedy seagulls on a Mc-fry. The universe had finally spoken! We felt lucky to have it and still do.

Right now I’m typing at my booth. I have to sit center in the seat as the flooring is a wee bit soft in places, and lord knows what a pain in the ass it would be to fall through the floor before my first cup of coffee. Anyway, sitting in a booth makes me feel like I’m in a diner. I keep waiting for, Flo to refill my coffee.

The best thing about living in this tiny trailer is that nothing is too far away: bathroom, refrigerator, TV, pepper spray…they’re all within 10 steps of my centrally located booth. The worse thing about living in a tiny trailer is that everything is so close that it makes me to feel claustrophobic and off balance. I already have a collection of interesting bruises from bumping into shit. One looks remarkably like Jesus with an Afro, and I’ve spent half the morning trying to figure out how one would sell a bruise on Ebay.

Back to gratitude…we are to the moon and back grateful to be here, in a trailer home of our own, and even though my 4lb Chihuahua causes it rock like Elvis when she changes positions, and the only place to put our big screen TV was at the foot of our bed, so that my husband spends most of his spare time in a cinematic coma, nesting like a pin-eyed pigeon on a drive-in movie screen, we are extremely thankful to have our own little space in the jungle.

Happy Thanksgiving America, and to the rest of you...Happy Everything!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Winging it

I always sensed that something vital was missing from my life. Was it a person? A situation? God? I wasn’t sure, but I automatically looked outside of myself for answers, which, if I were to write a book on how to give your power away, would be titled, ‘Looking Outside of Yourself for Answers.'

I’ve spent my entire life dodging the shadows and measurers, those who delight in defining others. I’ve feared God, myself, and the future—flinching each time life made a quick move.

I’ve wrestled with the meaning of life, invested myself in the study of death, and tried using crazy glue to reconstruct the ashes of 10,000 yesterdays.

As a child I had a fascination with birds, always wishing I could fly high above the stained sidewalks of my gritty life, so high that the stains blurred into bunnies and well kept gardens, seeing the entire scope of existence all at once and finally “getting” it.

Well, after wearing down countless pair of shoes I’ve discovered that I do indeed have wings, and the joy that this discovery has brought into my life is unmatchable.

My wings are the knowledge that everything that I’ve ever needed to live a full, and authentic, life already resides within me, and that the best way to express this life is through bold creativity. Creativity is the voice of my soul, where inspiration becomes conception and concentration flows into timeless meditation.

Actually, I was about 51-years-old when I first discovered my wings, and began writing my first novel, Cosette’s Tribe, and I was 56 before I put brush to canvas, expressing joy through color, so it is never too late to begin.

But oh how tragic it would have been if I had never discovered my wings, and had spent my days anchored to my own limited stories, or even worse, bowing to someone else’s image of me in order to win their love and approval, never becoming brave enough to fly.

Genuine love coaxes us to open our wings. It challenges us to try new things, hushing shame and judgment, while inspiring us to leave our fearful little nests and launch our hearts into the endless blue.

Flying is a practice, and it requires lots of room, so give your wings the space they need to fully open. Breathe. Embrace your magic, and remember my dear one…you were formed from stardust and love; believe the rumors of your greatness.

Wing it!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Kid Got to Me

I met a girl, 17 and lean—her feet pointing inward, causing knees to bump foreheads as she spoke of her future plans—describing dreams as distant as the milky spills of new galaxies, pale against the pitch black uncertainty of the universe.

I found myself bowing to her naiveté, discovering a bit of my younger self in her newly set eyes. To be so eager and unafraid, like a rocket launching for the first time, piercing the conditioned “you cant’s", and the "don’t you dares” rocking life like a bubble-wrapped renegade from mom and dad’s front porch.

When she told me that she wanted to write books I knew that she had suffered. Only the scarred would dare to write, to make sense of, or at least to look at, the entrails of life. I wanted to pry, to find out why this perfect little prom princess would want to write books. What had happened to make her look inwardly, away from the rockets and the blistering pink of youth? But of course I’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps she’ll be a literary star, or pen cookbooks featuring a thousand ways to use cranberries. I don’t know.

I only know that the kid got to me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Run Like Hell!

Humans can be porcupinish in nature. You get too close and their adrenaline kicks in, triggering a panicky spray of barbed quills, homing in on your most vulnerable places, usually the face and eyes.

And why would one place their face so close to a human? Because of love and friendship of course. Because someone has to take the risk, step in deep, show their soul, and because one is willing to believe the best, for the conflict exists only within the mind of the porcupine, who cautiously welcomes you in, keeping the quills slicked-back, until you request some authenticity in return, which is perceived as a massive threat, thus triggering the impulsive attack.

And there it is lying on top. It’s always on top. The oily stain of “that should teach you”. But it rarely does, for the heart is both predatory and pollyanna, risking all for the hunt and the soul softening hug of answered friendship.

Sometimes I want to hide from people, and at other times I want to spray them with some of my own quills, but mostly I just want to love them.

How do you hug a porcupine? Bravely and wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return, while being prepared to run like hell.

Love bears the scars of trying.

Leah Griffith

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Left a Hot Pot of Coffee for This?

It's early, and eerie, and I’m getting goose flesh as my morning walk leads me into some really dense fog. I have to push myself across the threshold of hesitation, for who knows what lurks in this heavy haze? And to think, I left a hot pot of coffee for this.

Each day is a gamble, but most days, I’m bright blue with optimism—the sky is mine, as is the sun and the moon. But on foggy mornings, when my faithful witnesses have vanished, and the familiar markers of life have morphed into storybook giants, angry she-bears, and spiky plants with mean points waiting to poke out my eyes, how do I motivate myself to keep moving? Do I continue on only because walking backwards is impossible?

I’m amazed at the amount of faith I have in the moment—this flash of now that calls itself life and holds everything with such casual tension, often disarming me by droning on and on like a monotone math teacher, and then shifting my world with sudden brilliance like so many stars kaleidoscoping from heaven.

I move forward, trusting that the odds are indeed allies.