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Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm Glad You're With Me.

My hearts capacity for love is endless. I have all sorts of people and things stored away in there. I love people differently than I love, say…a hot fudge sundae, but nevertheless I love them both, and my love for each doesn’t diminish my love for either of them.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the things that I love. I was never a lover of Chihuahuas because of a nasty bite I received from one when I was about six. But now I have a Chihuahua that I ferociously love. She proudly rides shotgun in my heart with her doggy ears blowing in the breeze and her eyes squinting with satisfaction.

There are seasons when certain people will have a major role in my world, and then the leaves fall, the seasons change, and those people will have moved on and are no longer players in my life. This doesn’t mean that I no longer love them; it simply means that our paths have called us in different directions.

Sometimes people will return to my life after years of separation, bringing with them the gift of a familiar love and a similar path. Walking side by side with them inspires me as we assist each other in completing our earthly tasks without fully realizing the enormity of the miracle taking place.

It’s wonderful, and necessary, to have good people in my life but there are only two people who will remain constants. One of them is me and the other is God. God’s face changes, as does his hands, voice, and stature. He is my friends and family, the people on my path, helping me to make my journey. I love them all and am extremely grateful that they are here…with me. They have taught me how to love myself.

To love yourself, is to love God, and in loving yourself, as is, and then offering that same magnificent gift to others we become in sync with the heartbeat of our lives and the reasons that we are all here…finally coming to a place where you feel complete when alone… instead of feeling completely alone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cut! Take Two!

When I have a daily plan mapped out in my mind I tend to be a bit anal about it. I’ve made my list and I envision myself doing all the things included on my self-imposed itinerary. I hate it when right in the middle of my plan… a disruption occurs; life throws me a matzo ball, and I find myself having to revamp my entire day in order to accommodate life’s whims. Hmpf!!

A part of me wants to rage against the interruption, fist punching the air, while cursing at the imps of darkness for ganging up on me. The other part of me wants to glide through the transition process like Gandhi on a surfboard, riding the waves of change, glowing with serenity, and embracing the moment. Right! The only way that’s going to occur is if I happen to be leaving the Tike Bar… post happy hour…..but then I’ll probably look more like Gandhi ice-skating on a pond of Jell-O.

I don’t like my plans getting messed with, it brings out the angry Queen in me, and I want to shout “Off with their heads!” to anybody who would dare to stand in my way….okay I don’t actually want their heads chopped and tossed, but a good scare would cheer me up.

I know I have to learn to go with the flow better because life is all about surprises and unexpected turns. Just look at the weather. That teaches us, on a daily basis, about the unpredictability of life and how change is simply a part of the rhythm of things.

God’s critters seem to have no problem going with the flow…just look at the birds. Bird’s lives’ aren’t easy. Bird world can be hell sometimes! Their trees get chopped down, their nests get raided by all sorts of birdy pirates, they could get hit by a car… or catch the bird flu. But they do fine. They sing all day long, and hang out on wires, above humanity, laughing as we honk our horns, and scream into the sky because life isn’t flowing at our pace.

Sometimes, when things go really screwy, I’ll wonder if I’m on a hidden camera show, and I’ll behave myself so as to look good to my potential audience. (It’s amazing how well we can behave when we think somebody important is watching.) So maybe we have more control then we think we have….and all this raging is more of an indulgence than a necessity. Maybe I can fake it till I make it, and playacting for the “camera” will work in other areas of my life as well? The possibilities are endless…. “Cut! Take two!”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daring to Dance

Sometimes I’m amazed at how life participates in my life, placing all sorts of cosmic arrows on my path…. right on time, and helping to point me in the right direction. There is nothing more delightful than noticing these moments, and breaking into a knowing smile because you and the universe are sharing a private moment. You’re in sync with life and grateful for the attention.

The guardians of life are generous….and usually subtle. Ordinarily they won’t push through a closed door, but will listen through the door, and slip love notes under it, hoping to woo you in the right direction. I’m not saying that life isn’t capable of kicking down doors, I’m always running to the hardware store for door parts, but in the natural flow of things life likes to speak softly, and listening for that voice is part of learning how to live. Recognizing the tone, the inflections, and being able to distinguish the difference between the voice of your life and the voices of strangers.

Life sometimes speaks to me in themes, it’s so uncanny how life knows what is going on inside of little ole me, and the theme usually coincides with whatever lesson I happen to be learning at the time. If I’m learning to overcome fear then life will lovingly send me quotes, songs, and movies, which speak to me about courage, helping me to grasp the meaning of faith through the scattered clues. Like a child discovering something new, I gather the precious clues… looking, feeling, and tasting everything, until they become a part of me and work their magic, changing my mind and heart, and strengthening my drooping spirit like a well watered garden.

I guess my point this morning is that we are better equipped to live this life than we may think. And if we listen carefully we will see that we’re not alone, but are a part of the whole beautiful picture. Dancing with life takes practice. You must learn to follow, and then there’s all that spinning and dipping. But life is an expert dancer with perfect timing, and will whisk you off of your feet…..and steal your heart. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of the dance simply because you’re afraid of the stage. Slip that rose between your teeth and tango!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Olly Olly in Come Free!

Playing hide and seek as a kid I remember the shot of excitement…. and the needling fear that I felt, being “out there” cowering in the suspicious shadows of dusk ….and hearing the slappy footsteps of my opponent hitting the pavement hard, like applause, as I tried to remain invisible and silent.

Close calls inspired boldness, as I inched closer to the light pole that was “home base,” mocking the blindness of my opponent with my muted giggles, and grinning like a coyote into the darkness. I would wait out my seeker…for as long as it took; even if it meant standing knee deep in muck for hours.

Sick of hunting, the other kids would eventually give up on me and holler “Olly olly in come free!” At which point I’d swagger out, my face smug with supremacy, satisfied that I’d outsmarted them all, and mosey over to home base. Je suis le victor!

Childhood games are often a training ground for life’s lessons. There are times in life when you have to be patient to attain your goals. You have to wait life out, and not give up, even if you’re knee deep in the mire, and it seems like everyone is looking to defeat you. Don’t be afraid of the shadows because sometimes they provide a shelter for you, hiding you from things that you don’t see… or understand.

So if you’re hiding behind a tree, waiting for your chance to sprint to home base, but you can’t just yet because you’re surrounded by opponents….don’t be afraid… and don’t you dare give up, because sooner than you think, you’re going to hear “Olly olly in come free!” After which you will do the “I Kicked Ass” dance, and shine like a bauble in a bellybutton!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Choices. Red or Blue?

How does one know what one really needs? I felt like I needed a lobotomy yesterday, but what I really needed was a good nap. What is the determining factor for knowing what is good for you? Is it head knowledge or heart tugs? How did Neo know what pill to take? Did he choose the red pill because he was wildly curious about the Matrix, or because he had a “feeling” that his destiny was tied to the Matrix?

We make choices every day. What to say, where to live, who to love. Each choice comes with consequences, which like a stone dropping into a lake will ripple through to the furthest shores of our lives, transforming our worlds, and the topography of our hearts.

Having confidence in ourselves is vital to making the right choices. You can’t stand in the middle of a busy intersection, confused, and scratching your chin, because you have four choices. You have to have fast reflexes, make your decision, and then move on. Life doesn’t always allow us a lot of time to make our choices, so it’s important to know yourself, have confidence in who you are, and make your choice from there. This doesn’t mean you’ll make the easiest choice, but chances are it will be the right choice for you…and your life.

Some people (like me) want life presented to them in a pretty way, wrapped up in tissue paper with silk ribbons, by a handsome currier in tight jeans and a muscle shirt. But life is often delivered by a guy in a guerilla suite, dumping a brown paper sack, spotted with suspicious stains and an odd odor to it, onto your lap. You sit stunned, your jaw unhinged, as you pinch finger the bag open so you can get a peek at what’s in there. God is a lot like Monty Hall.

Sometimes I wish I were equipped with a GPS system. “You are about to drive your life into a ditch, please turn around and head east.” I would love to have a pleasant voice telling me, how far to go, what exit to take, and to notify me when I get there. I’ve overshot some important exits in life, and I’ve peed in the woods more times than I’d like to admit because I wasn’t watching for the Rest Area signs. A GPS sure would come in handy when I’m lost too. (I seem to be getting lost a lot lately.)

But life is messy, raw, and full of surprises. There is no GPS system …… or handsome currier. There will be no pampering or choices for alternate endings. Body doubles will not perform your stunts and you’re not always going to like the script. So, I guess your best bet when making a choice is to do your homework, trust your gut, and wear your lucky green tee shirt.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bruised Bamboo, a little help.

The suffering and despair of Japan’s people is incomprehensible to me. I watch as their desperate images appear on my TV screen, slotted between ads for Pop-Tarts and toothpaste, like a tragic prime time series. The imagines are too much too take in. I want to look away. Thousands of people’s lives have been broken to bits, their pieces cast to the wind. I shift on my sofa, seeking a more comfortable position. But there is no comfort, because my brothers and sisters are suffering. I continue to watch…. and sink into a hole of despair, where hope seems impossible. and loss the victor.

I begin to fear for myself and my family. Living at sea level in Florida, where an earthquake in another remote part of the world could trigger a tsunami and it could be us on TV, or the West Coast, or any other part of the world. I want to run and hide....go somewhere safe from calamity. But there is no safe place.....and Japan is devastated.

I force myself to feel the snake of despair that has curled up inside of me: depression, fear, grief, helplessness. I see an old Japanese woman shivering under a dirty blanket. Her face is twisted with sorrow as she stands alone….and I want to comfort her. I want to hold her and weep with her for her losses……take her home with me. But I’m here, and she is oh so far away.

I learned a long time ago that hopelessness is contagious. Letting despair and fear overtake me, disarms me, making me part of the problem rather than a key to the solution. So, as I sat on my sofa, choking back tears, I whispered a prayer for the people of Japan. It wasn’t an eloquent prayer, and I’m not even sure that my words made any sense. But it was a cry from the heart; a plea for help, and restitution, and I believe it helped.

The only other thing I know to do (other than sending them money; which is the first thing to do,) is to be willing to carry their terrified faces with me as I go through my refreshingly ordinary day, and let myself feel the bite of their sufferings. That is the only help I have left to offer. Sorrow inspires empathy and empathy inspires action. We are God’s hands reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Japan. They are a part of us..... no…..they are us.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sundays, Bandwagons, and Beaches

As a kid I used to hate Sundays. It meant wearing stuffy clothes, sitting in a boring pew and listening to guy dressed in…well, a dress, ramble on (in Latin) while peering down at me like he knew every bit of mischief I’d been up to.

Being a kid and learning about God is akin to being a teenager and learning about love. You’ve got your preconceived notions, the stuff your parents and the church tell you, and then you have reality. I collected information on God mostly from my mother and catechism. Catechism is the catholic version of Sunday school, but it’s also a prerequisite for communion and confirmation, and you get tons of credit from God for going.

By the time I was fourteen I was completely confused about the God rules: what with menial and mortal sins, hell and purgatory, eating meat or not, all my protestant friends going to hell, so I kind of chucked it all and set out to find out the truth for myself, al la Leah.

Being the passionate soul that I am I found myself jumping on and off bandwagons more than a circus performer. I still have some bruises from the jumping off part. But after a lifetime of searching, and trying on different spiritual robes, I find that I have kind of come full circle and back to a bunch of basics….minus all the church accessories.

I believe that I am my church which conveniently lets me off the hook from having to actually leave my house and attend one. I am a temple, built in the image of God, living and breathing, being his available hands, and voice, on this troubled planet. I may speak with the tongues of a fallen species, but I also, through many a trial, have learned the language of love and compassion which guides my motives and usually keeps me spiritually healthy. I say usually because I don’t always do the right thing. That would make me perfect and perfect doesn’t exist for anyone.

So, now I love my Sundays. They are completely free and open, allowing me to flow with the moment. Today I am taking my church to the beach where I intend to soak up the sun, relax with my family, and take in the splendor of God’s creation. Did I mention that there are some fine Adams at the beach …hehe. Hey! Remember…I am perfectly imperfect!

Art provided by Fran Murphy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living With Clumps!

Sometimes life can rub you the wrong way. Like petting a cat from tail to head…it just doesn’t feel good. The cat will let you know if you’re annoying it by answering with a growl and a slash, but what’s a person to do when life gets tough. How many frustrating things can happen in a day? Rhetorical question, but it seems when one thing turns blotchy and sour, it can spread to other things. In short, I believe that sometimes crap comes in clumps. All you have to do is listen to any country western song to see proof of my theory….crops failed, wife left, dog died...clumps!

The other morning a friend of mine stopped in to pick something up. I greeted her with a brief “how are ya?” as I continued with my frenzy to get ready for work. After a while I noticed she hadn’t really answered me. Looking up I saw that she was standing in the middle of my kitchen with her eyes pooled with tears and her bottom lip quivering. I stopped my tornadic activities and gently approached her, asking .....“what’s wrong?”

Through sniffles and waterfalls I learned that after a week from hell (clumping usually hits when you’re emotionally shot) she learned that her septic system was malfunctioning, her refrigerator had died, and all three of her kids had pink eye. I watched a woman who is normally indomitable, and gutsy, melt into a puddle right before my watery eyes. Clumps!

I knew she needed a shoulder to cry on so I poured us some coffee, pulled up a chair, and listened attentively as she purged her soul. Sometimes all we need is someone to be a witness to the unfairness of what’s happening, and the absurdity of it all. Sure enough, within ten minutes of purging she was hoisting her super-sized pocketbook back onto her able shoulder and heading out the door, dry eyed, and confident. She had dumped her clump. I, on the other hand was hoping that her clump wasn’t catchy.

To be fair, I’ll mention that I also have a theory on good clumping. That’s when a bunch of nice things happen in a row. It’s not as popular to talk about as bad clumping, and not many country songs have been written about it, but I know it happens because I’ve had a few “good” clumping sprees already this year.

Perhaps we don’t talk about good clumping as much because we don’t want to jinx ourselves or sound as though we’re bragging. Calamity has a way of bringing people together, side by side, in the same leaking boat, but good luck momentarily sets one apart, causing them to sparkle and celebrate. Some of the people in the boat become inspired at your victory, and gain the strength they need until their “good” clump comes along, but others twitch and curse, because they believe it should have been them…. and NOT YOU! They complain and poison everyone within listening distance. It eventually backfires on them though because I also believe that the more you complain the more crappy clumps you get…. and the longest boat ride.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Completely Naked

You are standing naked at the edge of a cool river, on a moonlit summer’s night, and dipping a hesitant toe into the chilly bath. Little by little you immerse yourself into the waiting flow until you are weightless, moving rhythmically with the current, your legs kicking through the silky atmosphere, arms pushing and slicing, saturating every part of you, until you are one with the river, baptized and immersed into something much bigger than yourself, and you are free.

Sounds so romantic, but giving ourselves over to something bigger than we are isn’t always so private, or refreshing. Unfortunately life is bigger than us. It’s bigger than us on nearly every level; except for maybe when everything is going along in a predictable manner, and then we somehow fool ourselves into thinking that we are bigger than life. Those moments never last long enough.

Every now and then I have this same dream. I dream that I forgot to put my clothes on and I’m at a public event, spy walking from tree to tree, trying to hide because I am naked….and oh so vulnerable. I wake up relieved that it was just a silly dream, and wonder at the meaning of it.

Well, that’s how life is sometimes. It leaves us naked and exposed… and running for cover. You see there’s a tender spot at the center of our being that is vulnerable and naked all the time. It’s a beautiful spot, but usually going through some sort of transformation, or adjustment. It’s our “me” spot, the core of who we are, and who we are becoming. We show it to people on our terms, in our time, and when we feel it’s appropriate…and safe. But, sometimes we become overly protective of ourselves and unwilling to share who we really are with others. This is usually when life intervenes and points its big neon finger at our “me” spots, causing everyone to stop and see our somewhat awkward, but beautiful nakedness.

There are probably a gazillion ways to feel naked to the world and life knows them all.
But that moment of nakedness changes things as we scramble to process our emotions and adjust to the change. We may get angry, or laugh, or cry, but there’s always a reaction and an adjustment period, which results in us learning something about ourselves or those around us. Of course there are usually a few witnesses around to watch the entire process, and it’s at that point that I wonder if I should simply hug them, or shoot them.

Eating life raw can be extremely messy, but oh so delicious, once you embrace your nakedness.