When I was a kid I wasn’t a kid. While other girls my age were gliding on skates under the disco ball to Le Freak, their plastic yellow Goody combs in their back pockets, their Sour Grape Lip Smacker slathered on their pre-teen lips, I pressed myself against the wall of the hallway to spy on my mother, whose status as my childhood hero surpassed Wonder Woman by seven skyscrapers high. She’d settle in her gold velvet chair in our living room, take a single long sip of her Tab soda, and lean forward to hear the anguished young couple’s tale of infertility and subsequent plea for help, as if she’d never heard it before.
From my vantage point in the hallway, I could see my mother’s right profile, her short platinum blonde hair swept back like Blue Bonnet margarine waves against her confident head, her hazel eye laser focused on her guests, her mouth fastened shut, and her perfect seashell ear, adorned with a clipped hoop earring, listening for everything.
Awake and behind me in their bedroom cribs were four babies from Mexico with more on the way, my mom’s and mine as I considered them, and my sole intent was to keep them quiet and happy until the end of the live living room show. To the end when this childless couple now fastened to our chartreuse loveseat, would stand at last and embrace my mother as if she were a genie in a bottle granting their deepest wish.
The story and events that followed this scene would put our lives under an intense microscope of national and international scrutiny, get us publicly disowned by our extended family, run us out of our small conservative farming town into the mountains, and drain our financial, physical, and emotional bank accounts for years to come.
Because of this, when I was a kid I wasn’t a kid, and I didn’t become a kid for a few more decades. And while I must now be a grown-up, I sometimes just want to be a child and play. I want vintage Avon lipgloss, and a pink fur beanbag for read-a-thons, and my own pair of gaucho boots. The ones about which I rolled my eyes, telling my mom that I refused to wear anything in style, just because it was in style. Ha. The ones girls wore with their their Jordache denim culottes, bouncing around the cakewalk circle with smiles of childhood during recess, as I stood aside with what felt like the weight of a station wagon at my back.
The funny thing was, I kinda liked all that weight back then. I thought it impressed my superstar mother, and because of it, I would spend many years keeping up that charade until finally giving it up.
Our local roller skating rink finally shut down for good, but not after happy birthday parties there with my girls, and me, skating in my peasant skirt around and around the rink, the air whipping my hair, my legs aching with bliss until the lights went low.
Be blessed, be happy, and love the gift of your life.
Despite my best efforts from the time of my youth to be otherwise, I remain a person of average intelligence and feel inadequate to write anything of great insight or value that hasn’t already been written with brilliance by so many others, including my very own friends.
I do not mean to say that the ponderings of my soul are shallow, because they are quite rich, flourishing, and as deep as a shining, bottomless lake, but there is so much I do not know of the world. So much I want to understand about history, nations, science, literature, the arts, people, places, and all that which lies in, above, and below the earth.
Because I am keenly aware of the sweeping gaps in my understanding of so many things, as well as my lack of skill in adeptly expressing the resplendent and glorious glimpses of that which I do understand, I am reticent to put anything on paper, electronic or otherwise.
So I hope you will forgive me for my simpleness of expression here, and if possible, do what you can to look beyond my words, to listen and feel beyond the surface of my obscure little lake, and allow that flowing divine intelligence that is greater than the all the collective wisdom in the world guide you to your own answers.
Be blessed and rejoice to be alive today. Our earth truly celebrated the day you arrived, and your presence matters here, no matter how small you may feel.
People ask me in social conversation what I “do” with some regularity. Sometimes I tell them that I hula hoop for an hour at a time while memorizing poetry. Or practice my signature late at night with my husband’s fountain pen. Or spend twenty minutes talking to the homeless lady who plays cards in the civic circle every time I drop off books at the library. Or wear peasant skirts and furry boots to the bus stop while I read Latin roots to my daughter as we wait.
I mean really, people. I appreciate the need for chit chat, but if we have to play these social games, let’s play fun ones. Like maybe instead of asking someone what they do, ask them instead if they are engaged in a work that they are passionate about. And then talk about that. Or just observe and see if you can perceive if someone digs their life and then ask them about it.
Like today, for example. I step into the gray world of the indoor ice-skating rink at the mall, and pass the ticket booth to join my husband kids on the ice. I don’t get far when a fairly young, dark-haired dude with an otherworld charisma and an electric presence of sincerity asks me how I’m doing today. He’s passing out wristbands to the would-be-skaters, and he’s beaming with happy, bouncing light all over the place.
“I’m exceptionally well,”I tell him, and he smiles and says, “wonderful!”
The second time I pass him, he smiles asks me how I’m doing “this time,” and I tell him I’m doing at least as well as I was the time before, and I smile back at him. By this time, my girls are at my side, and so he asks them how they enjoyed skating, and what other talents they have, as he makes them laugh and me too.
I decide that besides skating with Hugh and the girls, meeting him was the highlight of my day, and so I ask if I can snap a picture.
“Yes, but you have to be in it too,” he says. And so we did, and it was fabufun, and though the only personal question I asked him was his name, I felt more human connection with him than during 27 “professional” conversations over sushi and special crackers. I felt like I counted and I mattered, not because of a list of titles or a a resume, but just because I was there.
His name is Wizwald, by the way. And he rocks the ice skating rink in Portland, Oregon. So if you want to feel like a million bucks, go there and see what it looks like to “do” something with panache and passion and without pretense. Then rip around the ice a few times too.
The other day, I pulled on my polka dot tights and black dance shoes before heading to the market. Now if you had a look at these shoes, you wouldn’t think much of them, because except for a gradual heel and a feminine curve to the toe, they are pretty plain.
On the other hand, if you were to don a pair yourself in your own size, you’d more likely get why I’m so smitten with them, and why I want to wear them around the market and do a little spin around the apples and the pears. It’s the way they make me feel so light as I glide through this world. It’s the way they make me feel like no matter what happens, I am going to be okay.
But what really happened when I pulled on my black dance shoes that day is that I spontaneously wept. I looked at my little feet in those shoes, and felt an enormous compassion for myself and the miles I’d traveled in this human experience of challenge and bliss, and I loved myself.
I don’t know about you, but the pure emotion of deep self-compassion is a rare experience for me. The feeling of gentleness and gratitude, acceptance and allowance for my own humanity, is precious and holy and requires no artifice or contrived affirmation. It it a gift that arises naturally, most often when I’m not thinking of myself at all.
Now the market dancing was fun, but there isn’t a pair of shoes in the world that can make us feel grounded and at ease in our soul. Nothing on the outside ever will. The good news is that it doesn’t cost a penny to be whole, have peace, and feel love, because such gifts are our birthright. Our natural state of being and how we are made.
What I’ve found to be true is that when we look away from our story about ourselves long enough, and keep our eye single to the glory of our source, divine intelligence, or God, we will rest and rise in that space where miracles happen. Where glancing at our worn little feet reminds us of the molecules of love from which we are made, and encourages us to glide forward with grace.
We all have dancing shoes in the closet of our soul. And we are all meant to float much more often than we do.
Sashay away, my dancing friends. Glissade and adieu.
Question: Is it true that every thought that whirs through our mind in a day manifests itself somehow in “real” life?
This is a valid question, and entire cultures and sub-cultures are built around such superstitious ideas, otherwise known as “magical ideation.” But our thoughts actually have no power unless we give them energy and attention. It’s like that Pop Rock candy we loved as kids that sat dormant in the package until it tangoed with our tongue and sizzled with our saliva. Only when we consciously engage with our random thoughts do they begin to appear real and start popping around our emotional center.
Hey-it’s a two-for-one! Choose to believe a thought to be real, and get an attached emotion for free! What a deal.
Question: Does this mean that if we really focus on a particular thought, it will become real in the world of form?
Well, I’m thinking of a pink flamingo dancing around my bedroom right now, and so far the only party going on is inside my head. And that feeling that is attached to the thought of anything, is the point. While a pink flamingo won’t suddenly pop out of a magic hat upon its mere thought, the emotions of humor or fear might arise if I actually imagine it to be a real possibility.
In other words, thoughts aren’t real, they’re just thoughts. Unless we give them the spotlight, they just dissolve into the wings without fanfare. It’s in the moment we choose to give them diva status that we become spellbound, emotions and all. We then become wholly drawn into the dramatic performance as if it’s real, until we remember we are sitting in a theatre seat, and we are the director of the show.
Question: I’d rather enjoy a bag of Pop Rocks and a concert than talk about something as esoteric as thought. Why should I care about this?
There’s been an explosion of discussion on the power of thought in the self-help world, particularly in the past decade or so. And while the popular conversation seems to have increased awareness of our innate gift of thought, it has also more deeply ingrained the illusory idea that our happiness and well-being are something to be obtained outside of ourselves through hard work.
The truth is, as our wisdom has told us all along, that no acquisition of material things, prestige, or perfectly arranged circumstances will bring us the peace, freedom, and joy that we are seeking. This is because our wellbeing and happiness really do lie within. Most of us has glimpsed this truth from time to time, but we aren’t quite sure how to keep seeing and feeling it from the inside-out long enough to ground it in our everyday lives.
What I know for sure is that true lasting peace and pure genuine love for ourselves and all others is our birthright. And because we were born with this gift, the only thing we must do to access it again is to keep looking in its bright direction, and allow the clouds of personal thought and well-meaning emotion to pass which obscure its view. From real experience, the more I look to see that a thought is just a thought, and allow it to lie dormant in the package, stream down the river, or swish across the stage and into the wings without much ado, the more clarity, ease, patience, trust, love, play, and joy are mine. And that my friends, pretty much rocks.
She hefts the Holy Bible with the picture on front to the breakfast table alongside the tomatoes and eggs, and flaps open the book.
I take a bite of Juliet tomatoes, and watch my 9-year-old thumb through the pages until she lands on an image of a painting of Jesus, standing with a well-adorned young man.
May I read it? She asks.
Of course you may, I say.
She reads aloud in her best speaking voice a parable about a rich young ruler. It is the same young man in the painting who inquires of the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Christ’s answer, to give all his riches to the poor, stuns everyone who hears it, but it is something else that catches my ear. It is a holy pause this Master takes before he even begins to speak.
I ask my daughter to hand me the book so I could see it and read it again.
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and (then) said unto him one thing thou lackest.”
Could this be true? I ask. Does this Prince of Life, this Great Law Giver as he was known, first see, truly witness, and then love the totality of this man’s heart before he gives his answer to the law? Does he know with clarity the seeker’s greatest flaw and his noble sacrifices too, and choose compassion first, instead of condemnation?
From what I can see it appears to be so.
My husband takes my plate and my daughter finally eats her boiled egg and I begin thinking.
“How often do I take a holy pause to first “behold with love” each seeker in life who stands before me before I speak or judge? How anxious am I to “lay down the law” of my personal opinion, silently or aloud, particularly towards those I find lacking one needful thing? How might social media and comment boards, family reunions and city hall, and all those who profess to be Christians but dismiss, exclude and excoriate entire peoples who see not as they see, change as a result of this fresh pair of eyes? This simple, holy inhale of honor before the grand exhale of expression?
I don’t know, but I shall pluck some lavender from my garden for the table, and take a beholding breathe for each of you. Farewell.
I do and I think this is why I like to wear a skirt to Clover’s cello lessons. I get to sit on the tall bench outside the classroom, and swish my legs back and forth as I take notes, imagining myself in the student’s seat with my whole musical life ahead of me.
I swish my legs back and forth because at just over 5 feet tall, my feet don’t touch the ground, and though I feel a bit silly at times for doing so, it’s quite fun. As my petite friends understand, my only other options are to sit cross-legged, or cross my legs at the ankles, which is uncomfortable for my back, so I swish. And dream up the plans and lessons I am taking myself this fall, so when my girls are mothers, they can see how it’s done.
Cello Lessons for Mom?
No cello lessons for now, but maybe swing dance and voice. Guitar lessons and ballroom. Scuba and rock climbing. I’ve dabbled and played in most of these, but why not more?
Why do we spend so much time nurturing music, dance, art, academics, and sports in our children, and then indirectly teach them that once they are adults, they must set it all aside for their kids? After all, girls aren’t the only ones who “just wanna have fun.” Grown-up men and women do too. Because even though our responsibilities deepen and our free time narrows as adults, we still need to be nourished with cultural enrichment until our last breath on earth.
I still remember my joy and applause the first time 3-year-old Lily dunked her head all the way under the water at swimming lessons. And the time Clover finally rode her bike with no training wheels. And when Xani took her final bow as Clara in the Nutcracker, after months of practice.
It makes me wonder what would happen if this fall, we sign our kids up for one less class or event, and dare something new ourselves? I have a distinct feeling that not only would their joy enlarge at our success, but their own confidence to dare a dream would too.
So what dream or hobby would you like to dust off this fall? What classes are your children taking that you’d like to take too? How can you include your family in your plans? What is the next small action you can take in order to make it happen?
I know that at a certain age, it’s not agreeable to push a grocery cart down the aisle with one foot on the floor and one on the cart until it goes fast enough to ride. I also know that rolling my eyes at Hugh when he invites me to an elbow-rubbing event at the Country Club reveals my immaturity (and loathe of pretense), and so does propping my feet on the dashboard while my teenage daughter drives me through the neighborhood.
I know all the rules of growing up and professional writing too, like making words march like ants across a page with authoritative purpose and rational clarity, but lately I just want the freedom to be messy, mediocre, seeking, and spontaneous. To scribble words in circles and phrases that make little sense and come to no real point, and blow bubble gum while I’m doing it, and I’m not just saying that.
The other thing is that I don’t communicate in my native tongue on this blog, which language is that of beauty, of candor, and of spiritual things. To the untrained ear, it may sound as if I do, but to those who know the pure language of the spirit, it may be discerned that my wild thoughts and emotions about the same rarely have an audience besides the specks of dust in the rise of my morning walk. And I’m okay with that, but I think if I could swirl words and stipple painted phrases of nonsense on this page, this expressive river of my soul might flow a small stream instead of a trickle.
We are all children after all my friends, gathering wool of wonder in this dreamlike galaxy, so why not play?
© 2016 Hello Quiet.