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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finding True North

With the simple ring of my cell phone my predictable weekend turned into a mini-vacation. The fluid voice was that of Jude’s, AKA Lady Judith, (but never Judy) stating that she and her husband, Richard, (just Richard, although Sir Richard would suit him nicely) had flown in from St. Croix for a few days and would love to see us. Before I knew it these treasured friends were in my guest room (which I made ready in a happy haste) unpacking. It had been a couple of years since our last visit and we were excited to be together again.

When you haven’t seen someone for a while you notice the subtle changes in people’s appearances and they notice them in you…crinkly smile lines, thicker lenses, shocks of white brushed in by longevity, transforming familiar faces into time-lapsed versions of their originals, triggering feelings of tenderness…and shameful relief that we weren’t the only ones maturing.

We passed seasoned memories around like expensive hors d'oeuvres, savoring the flavors in delectable silence, periodically exploding with peals of open mouthed laughter, and then settling back into a satiated silence. I wanted to capture the moment...put it in my pocket, so I could take it out and enjoy it again when joy turns slippery and life seems flat.

Under the soft lighting of nightfall we shared our dreams. Dreams shaken like talc from a near empty tin, revealing powdery expeditions to uncharted places, true north lying somewhere between I have to and I want to, and navigating more towards I want to, because have-to’s are all too common…and time is an impatient traveler.

It was a spur-of-the-moment tribal gathering of ad-libbing elders speaking all at once, producing a symphony of voluminous chatter, adjusting our wisdom to answer our fears, and boldly inflating our faith in preparation for the adventures ahead.

Sharing our home with these intimate friends resulted in a medicinal mingling of souls which was restorative on all levels; it was like having a cosmic prescription generously filled by life… and conveniently delivered to our front door. We will miss them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mother Nature's Wild Child

Nature is a glamorous lady. She knows who she is and inspires confidence from those around her. Her kingdom follows a pre-set pulse, birds migrate, seasons change, stars sparkle, and the sun rises. Harmonious and elegant, dangerous, and powerful, she is a focused force who does not suffer fools lightly. Each of nature’s children dances to her rhythm, effortlessly following a pre-destined path, and accepting where it leads. Then there is man… a bumbling bundle of nail-biting neediness and knuckle cracking ambition, wondering at his purpose, and fearfully grasping for more. Oblivious to nature’s tempo he dances to his own beat, trampling on toes in his quest for dominance.

Homo sapiens are unique mammals, gifted with free-will, and possessing the mental aptitude to question everything. They are clever and capricious, creating miracles and monsters. They have been honored as the most benevolent of beings and condemned as the most cursed and loathsome creatures in all of creation. In their minds they are the crème de la crème of species; the smartest, upright walkingest, thumb bearingest, beings ever conceived. So, if mankind is so stunningly superior, why then are they sometimes so ignorant?

I was walking through my neighborhood the other day and instead of returning home I settled on a swing hanging from a large oak tree in my neighbor’s yard. The shade was so refreshing that I decided to recline for a while. Looking up from beneath the tree’s canopy I was struck by the amount of activities taking place within its branches.

Here was a massive plant contently offering its gifts back to the earth. I felt small and selfish compared to this vast and generous hardwood. I wanted to know this tree better, so I listened carefully and this is what I heard: “I am a tree with luminous leaves, waving like the swells on a malachite sea. My branches search the air, reaching toward Venus, spreading like the expansive darkness which confines the stars to heaven, and shading moonstruck lovers as they kiss beneath my leafy veil. Birds flock to me for refuge, settling into their twiggy nests while chirping lullabies to their nodding chicks. Children climb high upon my shoulders, seeking enchanted castles amidst the clouds, and pirate ships cruising along the opaque horizon. My roots run deep, and my exalted purpose is to mirror my mother’s nurturing beauty and my father’s unfathomable love. This satisfies me completely. Who are you?”

I was unprepared for the question...and blushing with humility. Quietly I searched my heart for a reply. After much consideration I realized that the answer was simple, so I spoke, “My name is Leah. I’m one of the billions of souls inhabiting this planet. I’m following my heart, making mistakes, and learning how to love, which satisfies me completely. Nice to meet you.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Romantic Rumor

I grew up with a diaphanous father who floated above me like a caption bubble saying, “?”.

He was a romantic rumor, a previous chapter in my mother’s book of life, leaving behind no photos for his three little girls to frame and fawn over. There would be no frame hugging in this family. No searching his dark eyes for our own, or comparing the curve of our noses to his; no joy of discovering a trace of ourselves in his image, thus… answering our desperate curiosity. The only evidence of his existence was our existence.

My dad was an old movie reel flickering in my mind, with imaginary memories, conjured by a credulous child, intoxicated with prime time fathers, and aching for paternal adoration.

I was always comparing my invisible father to the other girls’ dads, which never worked out well for me. I suffered like an amputee with an inflamed phantom limb… finding no possible way to soothe it.

I felt that I had been gypped by life; everybody that I knew had two parents, but I only had one. I assumed that I was somehow to blame for my father’s absence, after all I was little girl number three, and in my little girl mind I thought that he was tired of daughters. I envisioned him throwing his arms up in defeat when I was born, and tromping off to find another family where he could have his very own little boy. Of course all of this was nonsense, but the actual reasons for him leaving were incredibly complicated; certainly nothing a mere child could possibly comprehend.

Father’s Day continues to be a holiday that I view from afar, like witnessing the customs of a foreign country. There is still an empty seat at the head of my childhood table, and a little girl waiting wistfully by the darkened window. She knows that he isn’t returning, but she’s found nothing else that could take his place.

Appreciate every moment that you have with your dad. Hug him, tell him you love him, and do nice things for him, for there are many children, both old and young, who have never experienced a fathers’ love and the joy and security that it offers.

For those of you who have known the void of a fatherless childhood, my message to you is this: Accept the vacancy in your heart as part of yourself; offer it honor and appreciation. You are the incredible person that you are, because of that vacuum. You have had to find your identity independent of a father’s influence. You have had to be brave and resilient during hard times, when a strong hand wasn’t there to guide you…or hold you.

Be proud of whom you are, and of the family that you have—that coalition of love that worked doubly hard in order to fill in the gap left by your absent father. And remember, the greatest love you can experience is the love that you offer yourself. The always present unconditional love that has carried you through your life, when you've allowed it, and will never ever leave you. Ever. Celebrate that today. Celebrate you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All We Are Saying...

I remember sitting cross legged on the Worcester Common, with my hair frizzed out like Janice Joplin’s, and my training bra tucked inside my back pocket, while joining a massive choir of Flower Children, singing; “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” This was the 60’s mantra, and although I was too young to really grasp the importance of the message, I remember feeling incredibly peaceful at the time.

Perhaps we were naïve in thinking that we could change the world with a song, but being a part of something much larger than myself taught me that I wasn’t alone. It emboldened me in a way I had never experienced before, raising my cowering expectations to a heady high…at least for that moment.

After a lifetime of living in fast-paced society I can see what a rare commodity peace really is. Life sometimes seems like an omnipresent octopus with eight suction cupped arms reaching in eight different directions at once, bringing multi-tasking to a jaw clenching new level, and causing me to be at odds with…well, myself. My life has given birth to a life of its own, creating a second generation of things to do, and sometimes a third. So, I’m taking the simple advice from an old mantra, and giving peace a chance.

This means I will have to make room for peace by intentionally inviting it in…and doing peaceful things.

Things like: Going the long way home on purpose because it gives me time to finish listening to my favorite song.

Adding extra hot water to my bath because I’m in the middle of a chapter…and the world won’t stop if I take a little longer.

Leisurely browsing through the library, and randomly reading the first and last pages of a novel, because somebody poured their soul into writing it, and I know that I will never get to read all the amazing books that have been written.

Writing poetry, even though I’m not sure how, because I love the surprise of using words in new ways …and poetry reminds me of my mother.

Going clothes shopping and gathering armloads of eclectic items that I would normally be afraid to wear, and then trying them on, and discovering something fabulous in the pile.

Writing in my journal using cursive handwriting, with large flamboyant letters that flair and twirl like dancers, so that no matter how conflicted my words seem, they all look beautiful.

The other day I took a stroll out to my mailbox and I noticed the same two familiar doves that I’ve seen dozens of times before. They were sitting peacefully, side by side on a telephone wire, quietly watching the clatter of life below…and I wondered if they realized what a good example they were setting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

To blog or not to blog…that is the question. I’ve been sitting on this blog for three days now…pondering if I should post it or not. My ego/pride was arguing that I sometimes reveal too much to you, yet my artist/spiritual side was arguing that the truth is the only thing worth writing. So, after contemplating the universe from my Corolla, while zipping through traffic, harmonizing with Bette, and using my steering wheel as a percussion instrument, I’ve committed to posting my insanity. Sometimes I take life too damn seriously ;) Here goes…

I really need to take better care of myself; so, I’ve decided to sift through the clutter and confusion of a thousand unsolicited messages…and dump the garbage, while keeping all the gold. Sounds reasonable, practical, and relatively simple, but fools rush in when the glitter blinds them, and just because it glitters doesn’t mean that it’s relevant.

Have you ever looked in the mirror, and then five minutes later, forgotten what you look like? I have. So, it’s easy to understand how, sometimes, when I’m feeling insecure, I hand my keys over to somebody else whom I deem more competent than myself, and before I know it I’m being driven off in the opposite direction… with a contented grin on my face.

Wandering from my path, I cross over into strange territories, where gangs of amped-up emotions hang out, spitting out insults and bullying me. Sometimes I startle myself with my neediness, allowing my un-guarded mind to dance on the blood-stained blade of insecurity while reaching for things that I think I need. I reach because it distracts me from having to face the truth of my own path, because the truth is often messy, and it can make me bleed…and I’m oh so tired of bleeding.

So, I’m taking inventory of my life…and where to put my energy, and I’m avoiding all the detours that may throw me off my course. Snipping off the useless threads of yesterday’s miseries and stitching up my heart in the places it’s been torn. Observing my desires and seeing what I really need, to keep myself present, and living in my skin. I’m following my path; surrendering to where it leads, and listening carefully to the voice I hear within.

Okay, I didn’t mean for that last paragraph to rhyme…perhaps Dr. Seuss is my distant relative. Anyway, yeah… it’s time to trust myself and my path, hit the accelerator… and stop looking for the exit ramps!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reinventing Yourself

Between unemployment, and outsourcing, the number of jobs available to the American worker has decreased over recent years, leaving the masses to duke it out for the remaining available positions. College graduates, high school dropouts, and senior citizens are often found competing for the same entry level jobs. The average Joe needs to be pretty clever in order to make his resume stand out above the rest, including, but not limited to, reinventing himself.

In the old days you could approach supervisors and managers for an impromptu face-to-face interview, dazzling them with your clever conversation and brand new business suit. These days you face cold kiosks and tedious online applications. Taking your best shot, you tremble as you key in your answers to a series of absurd questions which were generated by a roomful of bored human resource idiots. Oh, and by the way, there are NO right answers to those questions!

Over the years I’ve had to reinvent myself a number of times. It’s not an easy task. Actually, it’s quite unnerving, demanding mountains of chutzpah (which I believe to be a recessive gene inherited from our ancient ancestor Noah, made famous for building an ark in the desert…with no prior experience in that field!) and yards of patience.

My resume is more eclectic than impressive. I’ve sold cars, waited tables, been a bartender, office worker, cook, and started my own businesses. Like a gypsy in a circus I’ve hopped on and off of various pyramid scheme bandwagons, hoping to strike it rich by selling lipstick, algae, vitamins, plastic containers, and environmentally safe household cleaning agents, filling my spare room with product while depleting my bank account…and sometimes my self-esteem.

I’ve taken endless college courses, sat through sappy seminars, and endured countless job orientations, yawning through their monotonous PowerPoint presentations while thinking; I don’t belong here…I’m a writer. Hell, now that I think of it, I’m the fricken queen of reinvention!

I’ve said all that, in order to say this: if you’re in a position where your former work experience adds up zero because of the changing job market… you are not alone. Neither are you too old to make a change or reinvent yourself. It may require you to be open to some things that might seem foreign to you, like new technology; and, you may have to spend a little money on education, or tools, but the investment is really in yourself and your own future.

If fear and worry are threatening to strangle you because your bills have piled up and your faith seems too small, remember… there are still some constants in life. Here’s a little list of some familiar truths:
Accepting your situation short circuits stress and allows your creative energy to flow.
If you believe in yourself, so will others.
Be good to people; they have it rough too.
Do the work and then step out in faith.
Trust God for the outcome and then leave it alone!

If the life you built has become unrecognizable… then it’s probably time to build a new life. Dream big and don’t you dare back down!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Searching for Magic

As I rode the night train up the east coast to North Carolina I was definitely a stranger in a strange land. I felt a little like an actor in a foreign film, (Europeans are always riding trains) and I was tempted to re-invent myself, become Lily Ormond, a sulky poet with an obsession for gum drops, or Julia Van Helsing, the wife of a mad doctor escaping a nightmarish marriage. I decided to remain a struggling American author breaking away from her monotonous life; open to everything, and hoping for magic.

Vacations seem a lot like holidays to me, only I get to pick the date, and the object of celebration. I was celebrating life. Ordinarily I’d be snapping photos of everything and everyone, but I didn’t do that on this trip. Actually I was so engrossed in observing my surroundings that, most of the time; I forgot to take pictures, letting myself take in the whole experience without the interruption of having to get my camera out. I found that with most observations came a smell and a sound and then an emotion. I was awake and sentient, alive in a very present way.

So, I don’t have many actual photos to show you, but here are some snippets of moments that I’d like to share.

Being surrounded by big trees…Florida is very scruffy.

Watching Oprah’s final 3 episodes while crying, and sneaking sips of Beth’s martini. Sorry Beth ;)

Meeting cyber friends and finding out that they smell good, and give good hugs, and that they are even more amazing in person.

Hearing my soul sister’s oldest son say “I do” and then crying, because just yesterday he was only twelve.

Singing Christmas carols in May, while tucked in for the night with my four year old grand daughter and her mom…and wishing that that moment would never end.

Dancing in a crush of strangers and laughing so hard that my face hurt.

Eating vanilla ice cream cones with Lano, in the sweltering heat, and us frantically licking at the drips before they crept down to our hands.

Getting a phone call from Mr. Somers, telling me that my novel took first place in the Laine Cunningham/Blotter Literary Magazine Novel Contest, and crying because I knew that my novel was good…I just wanted somebody in the industry to notice it.

Recognizing my husband Mike amongst an army of waiting faces at the train station, and watching him squint into the Florida sun…as he searched the crowd for me.

Visiting our favorite Cuban restaurant on the way home and discovering that it hadn’t changed in twenty years.

I found my magic;)