Grown-Ups Never Understand

This could be fiction that is actually true or truth that is really fiction. Or this could be a combination of both. Fact, fantasy or imaginary and in what parts does not matter for anyone the words fit, a little or a lot, will know I wrote this especially for them.

Once upon a time there was a little bitty girl who was happy and content. She smiled a lot, laughed easily and loved her life. There were reasons to be sad she had thankfully not discovered yet. She loved her mother and her grandmother was very special to her. The little girl had many happy days.

Soon the small girl was old enough to go to school. Before she began she had learned that having only a Mommy was not the life most kids lived. At school this difference became more obvious to her. She smiled on the outside as a general sadness took root and slowly grew stronger on the inside. The child felt different than other kids and did not value how special and unique she was.

She generally liked school and had plenty of friends. The girl moved through all circles of people from the in-crowd to the outcasts, while feeling she fit into none of them well. She smiled easily and often for a part of her was happy. She wanted people to see her happiness or at least as much of it as she could let herself feel. The girl kept the sadness that had taken root inside hidden away but each day it grew slowly within her.

As the girl became a young woman, she hoped the “one” would come along to sweep her off her feet and into the happiness she longed for. She yearned for the “happily ever after” that her Mother had not known and felt it was possible for her. Why the boys almost always ended up hurting her or mistreating her she could never figure out.

The girl grew into a woman who was a bright spot in any gathering. Outwardly cheerful with a sharp sense of humor she was viewed as a person who was very smart and in control of their destiny. They did not know that was the mask for the little girl inside who was sad, scared and felt unloved.

Now years and years into adulthood she no longer always hides her unhappiness. Those who know her see a good person but a cynical and emotionally withdrawn woman who is a bit angry with life. That is only the face she gives the world to scare possible hurts away. All she wants is to love and be loved.

The Little Girl Inside by Phoenixx

Little Girl,
I see you there,
Crying in a corner to yourself.
Little Girl,
I see how they treat you,
Like a piece of trash on the streets.
Little Girl,
I see how they’ve wronged you,
Kicking you to the curb.
Little Girl,
I see you there,
Crying in a corner to yourself.

Little Girl,
I hear you there,
Weeping and sobbing and moaning.
Little Girl,
I hear you there,
Praying for it all to end.
Little Girl,
I hear you there,
Telling yourself you’re not beautiful.
Little Girl,
I hear you there,
Weeping and sobbing and moaning.

Little Girl,
I feel you there,
In pain and in doubt inside.
Little Girl,
I feel you there,
Trying to hide from their cruel words.
Little Girl,
I feel you there,
Trying to stand up by yourself.
Little Girl,
I feel you there,
In pain and in doubt inside.

Little Girl,
I am here now,
Here to cry with you.
Little Girl,
I am here now,
To comfort your sorrows and pain.
Little Girl,
I am here now,
To tell you you’re beautiful.
Little Girl,
I am here now,
Here to cry with you.

All one has to do is change “she” to “he” and you have a story that fits some of my life. Today I am grateful for the childhood pain that softened me and made me sympathetic to other’s feelings. And even more so, my gratitude is large for the ability to finally be grown up enough to willingly let what I feel show.

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves,
and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever
explaining things to them.
From “The Little Prince” by Saint-Exupéry

Love is the Immortal Flow

Do you like movies?  Do you like love stories?  My answer to both is “very much” and today I want to express my gratitude for them.  While I understand fully from an intellectual point of view that movies are only simulations of life, while growing up I learned a lot from them (for better or worse).  Some of what was on the big screen was spun together with my thoughts as I fabricated my own dreams, hopes and aspirations.  In no area is that more true than with love and romance.

Movies taught me that love does not always work out to a life together (Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Roman Holiday, etc).  Film showed me that romance can be discovered anywhere, at most any moment (Pretty Woman, Before Sunrise, Time Travelers Wife, etc).  I learned that love can come to people who are very different from each other (African Queen, Titanic, City of Angels, etc).  And most importantly I came to know that love can happen and endure (The Notebook, An Officer and a Gentleman, Made in Heaven, etc).

In honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, today’s entry here is homage to movies focused on love stories.  With light-hearted intent I have put together a short quiz to “test” levels of romance within others.  It is in no way scientific and is offered just for fun.  Look through this list of movies and keep track of how many you have seen, enjoyed and remember something specific from.

1.  “Casablanca” (1942)  Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman during WWII

2.  “Gone with the Wind” (1939)  Eight Oscars starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh

3.  “The Notebook” (2004)  Cassavetes’s classic with Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdams

4.  “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) Gere and Winger ride off into the sunset

5.  “An Affair To Remember” (1957)  Cary Grant & Deborah Kerr meet on ship & find love

6.  “Titanic” (1997)  James Cameron’s masterpiece with DiCaprio and Winslet

7.  “Pretty Woman” (1990) Cinderella fairytale with Richard Geer and Julia Roberts

8.  “City of Angels” (1998)  An angel falls to Earth for love. Nicholas Cage & Meg Ryan

9.  “African Queen” (1951)  Opposites attract. Bogart and Hepburn fall in love

10. “Before Sunrise” (1995) Chance meeting brings romance. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawk

11. “The Lake House” (2006) Love through time with Keanu Reeves & Sandra Bullock

12. “Made in Heaven” (1987) Kelly McGillis & Timothy Hutton meet and fall in love in heaven

13. “Wild Orchid” (1989)  Carre Otis and Mickey Rourke fall in love during Carnival in Rio

14. “Roman Holiday” (1953)  Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck find love one day in Rome

15. “Ghost” (1990) Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore prove love lasts beyond death

16. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan can’t help falling in love

17. “Dirty Dancing” (1987) “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Patrick Swayze & Jennifer Grey

18. “Time Travelers Wife” (2009) Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams love between time travels

19. “Somewhere In Time” (1980) Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour find a timeless love

20. “First Knight” (1995) Lancelot, Guinevere & King Authur with Connery, Gere & Ormond

21. “Notting Hill” (1999) store owner (Hugh Grant) & a movie star (Julia Roberts) find love

22. “Hope Floats” (1998)  Old friends find love. Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr.

23. “Love Story” (1970) Love between rich and middle class (Ryan O’Neal & Ali McGraw)

24. “Still Breathing” (1997) Love, a puppeteer & con artist (Brendan Frazer & Joanna Going)

25. “Nights in Rodanthe”  Redepemption through love with Richard Gere and Diane Lane

How many of these movies have you seen?

Just sitting through the film does not count.

How many do you actually remember something specific from?

Count up the number and then go to the “scoring below”.


21 to 25   You are a hapless romantic.  Your heart is soft and you feel deeply.  Love can blind you.  Down deep you wish that fairy tales came true.

16 to 25   You have a romantic soul and appreciate love’s beauty, yet probably have your feet firmly planted in reality at least most of the time.

11 to 15    You have a relatively balanced sense of romance, but may run a little hot and cold.  You are comfortable loving and being loved for the most part.

6 to 10     You are able to express love only when you let yourself feel it.  Sometimes open and at other times shutdown, distant and unavailable.

0 to 5      Check your pulse rate to see if your heart is still beating.  You’re not comfortable with movies that make you face your emotions.

So how did you do???

This morning I am filled with gratitude for movies, especially love stories, for they are a match for the sentiments that live in my heart.

Love is the immortal flow of energy that nourishes, extends and preserves.  Its eternal goal is life.
Smiley Blanton

PS:  I have not only seen all of these, I own a copy and have watched them all several times (OK, many times).  Yes, the hapless romantic within is alive and well.  I may live in partial delusion, but it is where I choose to be.

Rather Be a Has-Been

My life is blessed with a handful of close friends who feel deeply and express their feelings openly.  It is an honor to share my life with them.  I never know when one of them will pass along a thought that will touch me.  The morning I found the following Charlie Chaplin quote emailed from a new friend of about a year now (thank you P.!).

I have forgiven mistakes that were indeed almost unforgivable. I’ve tried to replace people who were irreplaceable and tried to forget those who were unforgettable.

I’ve acted on impulse, have been disappointed by people when I thought that this could never be possible. But I have also disappointed those who I love.

I have laughed at inappropriate occasions. I’ve made friends that are now friends for life. I’ve screamed and jumped for joy.

I’ve loved and I’ve been loved. But I have also been rejected and I have been loved without loving the person back.

I’ve lived for love alone and made vows of eternal love. I’ve had my heart-broken many, many times!

I’ve cried while listening to music and looking at old pictures. I’ve called someone just to hear their voice on the other side.

I have fallen in love with a smile. At times, I thought I would die because I missed someone so much. At other times, I felt very afraid that I might lose someone very special (which ended up happening anyway).

But I have lived! And I still continue living everyday. I’m not just passing through life and you shouldn’t either… Live!

The best thing in life is to go ahead with all your plans and your dreams, to embrace life and to live everyday with passion, to lose and still keep the faith and to win while being grateful.

All of this because the world belongs to those who dare to go after what they want. And because life is really too short to be insignificant.

There are times I play the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda”  game.  It’s unavoidable.  Psychologists refer to this process of evaluating how I might have done things differently, as “counterfactual thinking”.  More often than not it is a mechanism that conjures up feelings of disappointment and regret, at least temporarily.

There is one good result that now usually follows a bout of ‘wishing backward’ thinking.  Frequently I start the circle of thought lamenting missteps with ‘should have, would have, and could have’ been.  But usually now I complete the loop being grateful for ‘what is’ instead of pondering what might have been.  What has changed from how I used to react to “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda” to my response to that type thinking today?  One simple thing:  I have learned to be grateful for all of my life.  “All” includes not just what was positively wonderful and rewarding but also what was terribly difficult and challenging.

Learning to be grateful for my mistakes was not easy.   It took a long, long time before I grasped that my blunders and errors were frequently my greatest teachers.  Gratitude tempers and beautifies everything it shines upon, even mistakes.

I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are;
because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star.
I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far;
for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are.
Milton Berle

Given Enough Time, Everything is OK.

“When was the last time you dared to do something far outside your comfort zone?”

It pleases me to think of myself as one who pushes forward and often outside the realm of ease and security.  Yet, stepping back and giving a close look at the amounts of risk and chance being taken I see growth spurts that are sporadic, unpredictable and often not willingly chosen.

Marching willingly into the unknown is more difficult in practice than it first seems in thought.  Being in the “zone” of “comfort” is in many ways exactly what I long sought.  In that old thinking there would be some sort of eventual “arrival” at the threshold of the exact life I waited for.  Of course, that never happened and is actually impossible!

My steady past viewpoint was moving outside one’s comfort zone was only about what one does.  Bungee jumping, sky diving, new romantic relationships, racing cars, flying, exotic travel and things of the sort long filled my thinking of what was beyond the “c-zone”.  Thrills of this sort I have enjoyed, but found the crest of experience did not last long.  Like a drug, to maintain the buzz I needed another fix soon after.  Over time it took more and more of a particular experience to shock my adrenaline flow enough give me the high I yearned for.

The most meaningful times outside my comfort zone had much more to do with what is inside and my habitual ways than any activity outside of me.  Anyone who has quit smoking knows in that process a person steps far outside what is usual and accustomed to.  For me there was a sort of manic anxiety that crested in crescendo each time I fought back a craving.  There was no way to beat that habit while in my comfort zone.

Stepping outside my comfort zone feels:
Uncertain.  Tentative.  Different.  Difficult.  Risky.

And can sometimes even feel:
Threatening.  Hazardous.  Dangerous.  Perilous.  Scary.

But the result of being out of my comfort zone leaves a feeling that is:
Refreshing.  Stimulating.  Uplifting.  Revitalizing.  Energizing.  Restorative. Reviving. Inspirational.  Invigorating.  Rekindling. Stirring.  Rousing. Encouraging.  Motivating.  Moving.  Heartening.  Cheering.  Rejuvenating.  Regenerating.  Enlivening.

And above it always feels NEW.

Some portions of my life where I ended up most satisfied came when I did not stride willingly outside the usual.  One does not choose a car accident and injury but such a thing did propel me beyond my “c-zone”.  The fear of my left arm never working again was scary as hell, but also enlightening.  Or, the traumatic end of a marriage I did not want to be over was not a conscious choice.  Yet, that happening pushed me out of my “comfort zone” and into dealing with old issues that still haunted me.

There is something to be said for routine, at least in some regards.  It enables consistency and fosters discipline.  In some ways routine gives life a semblance of order in an “If it isn’t broken, then don’t try to fix it” manner.  As muscles atrophy with lack of use, so do emotions, feelings, and thoughts unless they are ‘exercised’ beyond their current capability.

Staying in a rut only insures it will get deeper and deeper. Enter Adventure, Risk, Experience and Chance.  These keep me from growing stagnant, broaden my horizons and most of all teach me about myself.  Not infrequently the lessons come not by choice.  Sometimes the path is self chosen.  In either case stepping outside my comfort zone educates me in a way I can not learn in any other manner.

In the last ten years life has moved into my most evolving period so far.  So much has changed, but most of all it is “me” that is now different.  The process has been scary.  Exhilarating.  And OK.  Or least it always ends up that way.  And right there is a treasured nugget of wisdom I am exceedingly grateful for:  Given enough time, everything is OK.

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.
Max DePree

What is Most Precious

Right Now –
-somebody is very proud of you.
-somebody is thinking of you.
-somebody is caring about you.
-somebody misses you.
-somebody wants to talk to you.
-somebody wants to be with you.
-somebody hopes you aren’t in trouble.
-somebody is thankful for the support you have provided.
-somebody wants to hold your hand.
-somebody hopes everything turns out all right.
-somebody wants you to be happy.
-somebody wants you to find him/her.
-somebody is celebrating your successes.
-somebody wants to give you a gift.
-somebody thinks that you ARE a gift.
-somebody hopes you’re not too cold, or too hot
-somebody wants to hug you.
-somebody loves you.
-somebody admires your strength.
-somebody is thinking of you and smiling.
-somebody wants to be your shoulder to cry on.
-somebody wants to go out with you and have a lot of fun.
-somebody thinks the world of you.
-somebody wants to protect you.
-somebody would do anything for you.
-somebody wants to be forgiven.
-somebody is grateful for your forgiveness.
-somebody wants to laugh with you.
-somebody remembers you and wishes that you were there.
-somebody is praising God for you.
-somebody needs to know that your love is unconditional.
-somebody values your advice.
-somebody wants to tell you how much they care.
-somebody wants to share their dreams with you.
-somebody wants to hold you in their arms.
-somebody wants YOU to hold them in your arms.
-somebody treasures your spirit.
-somebody wishes they could STOP time because of you.
-somebody praises God for your friendship and love.
-somebody can’t wait to see you.
-somebody loves you for who you are.
-somebody loves the way you make them feel.
-somebody wants to be with you.
-somebody wants you to know they are there for you.
-somebody’s glad that you’re his/her friend.
-somebody wants to be your friend.
-somebody stayed up all night thinking about you.
-somebody is alive because of you.
-somebody is wishing that you noticed him/her.
-somebody wants to get to know you better.
-somebody wants to be near you.
-somebody misses your advice/guidance.
-somebody has faith in you.
-somebody trusts you.
-somebody needs you to send them this letter
-somebody needs your support.
-somebody needs you to have faith in them.
-somebody will cry when they read this.
-somebody needs you to let them be your friend.
-somebody hears a song that reminds them of you.

-when I feel like I don’t matter.
-when being alone is hard to bear.
-when sadness over takes me. 
-when I am wondering if anyone cares.
-when depression comes to visit.
-when my inner light is flickering.
-when I feel “less than” or incomplete.
-when the day is hard to bear.
and when the night is even harder….

……..I read the first list above.  Almost always there is a positive shift in my spirit, of nourishment being added to my heart and of my thoughts refocusing toward what I am grateful for.  Then I am filled with gratitude for what is most precious to me:  those I care about and those who care about me!

The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter,
to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference
that you have lived at all.
Leo Rosten

Just As It Comes

If I don’t hurry, I am going to be late!  Scurrying around when feeling like I might be causes a disheveled feeling as I project myself into the minutes ahead without thought to the moment.  Such was a time yesterday.

I loaned my primary vehicle for the day to my visiting son and was thrown off a bit by driving an old car of mine that is rarely used. Heading backwards down my driveway, I put my seatbelt on and changed stations on the radio.  Three blocks away a thought came to text the business visitor I was heading to pick up at his hotel to say my arrival would be in ten minutes.

Reaching to my pocket for my iPhone I realized it is not there.  “Crap!  Gotta go back and get it”.  After making a u-turn while still in my subdivision within a minute I was setting the emergency brake in front of my house.

In in my bedroom my phone is still on the charger.  I grab it and think “now I’m late”.  Instead of starting to fret about a little lost time there is gratefulness I was not a lot further away from home  turning around to get my phone. 

The car hauling me yesterday is a sixteen year old Volvo that saved my life during a car accident seven years ago.  More than anything I still have it out of respect for the “old girl” for saving my life.  Yesterday morning ‘she’ was dusty with accumulated dirt from sitting unused for a month or so.  Even losing a few minutes going back to get my phone, there was still ample time for a quick drive through car wash so my visitor would not have to ride in a dirty car.

Sitting at the traffic light where the two lanes from my housing development pour onto a six lane major street, a hundred yards away I see the fire station with a ladder truck with its light running out front.  “What’s that about?” I thought.  “Are they pulling out?  Do I need to pull over?”

The light changes and as I complete a turn into the right lane of three going east, I drive right by the fire truck.  It’s easy to see some sort of maintenance is being done.  Glancing sideways at the fire truck I completely miss the flashing light marking a school zone.  Since it is very rare for me to be on this street at this time of day, no memory pops up of the school even being there.

A little editorial before continuing my story.  This school zone is marked on a six lane major highway about three hundred years from what statistics say is the busiest intersection in the city.  People drive on this street like it is a freeway.  There are no pedestrian crossings within a hundred yards and the school is a special “academy” for a small number of over-achieving high schoolers who drive.  Rarely have I seen a student in front of the school, much less walking on the sidewalk by the road. 

If the photo at the top did not tell you what happened by now you have likely guessed. A motorcycle cop was hidden away and gave me a ticket for going 34 in a 25 mph zone, a citation that requires me to go to court because it was a school zone. 

Leaving home the first time I had my seatbelt on before turning around to get my iPhone.  However, driving the quarter of a mile to be in front of the school I had not put it on again.  Citation number 2!

Having moved last year the postcard sent by the state was not forwarded and my license plates were not current on a car I drive maybe one every two months.  It just had not come to mind.  You got it… ticket #3!

If you think I am headed into a tirade about how yesterday morning started off, you are going to be disappointed.  Rather, what happened did very little to affect my day.  Of course, I have something to deal with I’d rather not have on my to-do list and it will cost me some money.  That’s just life unfolding normally though.  We get good.  We get not so good.  The bad and sad are a normal part of human existence.  Today I accept living just as it comes in all forms.  To damn getting the tickets would be to damn my life.  Whether my thinking is the tickets are petty or not, the well dressed and polished policeman was just doing his work.  I accept that also. 

My gratitude this morning is to realize how little being stopped by the motorcycle cop affected me.  Some years back my day would have been filled with wafts of anger floating to the top of thoughts numerous times.  Back then even a day later I would still have been negatively effected some by getting the tickets.  My gratitude is very large to see how much I have grown and how much better my ability today is to live my life just as it comes!

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Charles R. Swindoll

When Did I Become an Adult?

 I certainly have the responsibilities of an adult BUT “when did I become one”?

There was no one hanging around graduation who came up and handed me a small box saying “here’s all the secret knowledge about living that will need now that you have become an adult”.  There were no classes offered to teach me how to be a grown-up.  No invitations to join the institution of adulthood ever came.  No opportunity to have the covert rules and rituals revealed was offered.  There was never a form to fill out so I could enlist to be an adult.

I recall being little and wanting to be bigger.  My memory is clear of being in elementary school wanting to be in high school.  Becoming sixteen wishing I was twenty-one has not been forgotten.  All I know is somewhere between then and now apparently I became an adult… well, sort of… mostly.  What I do know is there’s no test, sudden blinding light of wisdom or tangible event that signified my transition.

Here’s some perspective on “when a person becomes an adult” from teenagers on  link

  • I will know that I am an adult when I can live on my own, when I am fully capable of surviving independently. I will no longer depend on shelter, food, transportation, and money from my parents.
  • I’ll really know that I’m an adult when I find my passion in life. As you get older you start to see what you are really interested on. Once you hit high school and you have a career that really calls your attention, that’s when I think you are mature because you have a future plan ahead of you, you are thinking college, and you know that you are doing the right decision.
  • I have no idea how I’ll know I’m really an adult. I asked my friends around me when they all thought they would feel like a grown up and they all said “I don’t think you can ever stop growing,” “You may get old but you never stop growing spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.”
  • For the most part I believe there are no adults…that everyone is not always responsible or mature.
  • I think someone is truly an adult when they can make a mistake, take credit for it and work to fix the mistake you made.

There’s some truth in what the teens said, but they are expressing a viewpoint about what they have no knowledge of, so I moved on to facts and figures.  Stats from Larry Nelson of Brigham Young University published in USA Today show  parents and students 18 to 25 years old don’t always agree on what it takes to be considered a grown-up.

Driving a car safely and close to the speed limit
• Students: 49%
• Dads: 75%
• Moms: 81%

Avoid becoming drunk
• Students: 43%
• Dads: 60%
• Moms: 70%

Settled into long-term career
• Students: 53%
• Dads: 31%
• Moms: 39%

Becoming financially independent from parents
• Students: 93%
• Dads: 76%
• Moms: 82%

So the mystery remains.  An answer is an enigma.  I really don’t know when I became “mostly” an adult.  Please note the term “mostly”, because moving completely past youth has proved to be impossible.  I know, I tried.  And now I am grateful for not succeeding.

For the spark of a child that resides within and for the fragment of a teenager that remains, I am grateful.  Those remnants help me to see I did not become something else when I moved (mostly) out of childhood and became  an adult.  Rather I just became more of what I already was.

Everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
Margaret Atwood

A Music Bath Once or Twice a Week

Sold out show.
Ear plugs very necessary.
Lots of twenty-something’s.
Piercing and tats on parade.
Loud, very loud and even louder.
Some probably not more than 15.
More girls and women than boys and men.
Well over a thousand people grooving together.
Bass so deep it made coins in my pocket vibrate.
Twirling lightsticks and bodies moving rhythmically.
The floor bobbing up and down with the steady beat.
Some stripped to bare minimum due to sweat from dancing.
Melodic patterns of cool electronic music and dazzling lights.
DJ Excision in concert at Cain’s Ballroom, 2/21/2012 Tulsa,Oklahoma

Music of any sort can tie people of any age together.  When its good enough to make the listeners’ bodies move without thought how old one is does not exist.  Fifteen and fifty year olds have at such a moment more in common than probably at most any other time.  And there I was last night with my almost thirty year old son listening to a “famous for the moment” electronic Disc Jockey who calls himself “Excision”.  The two of us and a mass of a thousand or so were moving to the beat systematically in mass almost like one giant heart beating;  a cool experience!

I am grateful to work in a profession directly related to music and to have been involved up close with concerts and the artists for over three decades.  Music has kept me young in spirit.  There is no issue with me having a conversation with an eighteen year old about music and finding we likely have a good bit in common about what we like musically.  Likewise, talking to a peer who lived during the classic rock from the 70’s there is no problem finding commonalities in what we liked.  Any anywhere in between is the same and it’s also true across genres of music as well.

I truly am lucky to be living a life that can put me comfortably with those my age and at the same time with those young enough to be my grandchildren.  Being by far the oldest person at some shows on a regular basis I am amused by the looks I get.  Some make eye contact and gesture in a way that says “It’s awesome that someone your age is here”.   Of course, once in a while at a concert I find myself looking back at a young’un whose expression expresses clearly their surprise seeming to say “what are you doing here?  Are you lost?”  I just smile and think to myself, I hope you stay contemporary enough to do what I doing and enjoy yourself one day like I am tonight.

Without counting, all I can do is guess at the number but I believe there are tickets for seven or eight concerts and shows clipped on my fridge.   Some people watch lots of TV.  Some spend time playing video games.  Others give ample spare time to playing or watching sports.  Hobbies soak up time available for some folks.  Other than being with those I care about for me its music, music, music and books, books, books that the majority of my spare time is given to (movies too).  My parents always had records or the radio going from the time I can remember and there are pickers, players and singers scattered around my family.  My music interest may well come from genetics even more than my formative environment.  Where ever it comes from, I am blessed to be able to “feel” and enjoy music as much as I do.  Some time back while living for close to a year outside the country with few personal belongings other than clothes I found I really missed only two things:  my books and my music.

This morning I am grateful to have a grown son who still likes to visit his Dad frequently.  We have much the same tastes in music and there is no one’s company I enjoy more.  Much thankfulness is within for my love of music and for it to be a common ground with my boy!

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.
You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Being Aware that Fire Can Burn

Driving down the freeway the other day I noticed a big store I planned to visit on the weekend, but then was conscious of nothing else for another five miles.  A short while later slowing down to make my exit I wondered who was driving the car the last five minutes!

Never has such an experience come up in conversation that another does not relate similar experiences.  In something of a self-hypnotized state we humans apparently are able to function normally while mentally being somewhere else.  I have come to realize this practice can easily become a wide-spread habit that obscures a lot more than a few minutes.  When living today becomes routine and life is imagined to only be in the future, the danger of losing one’s self has begun.  Very well this is known to me from experience!

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.  From “Joe Versus the Volcano”.

During my 20’s and early 30’s I was in career building mode and the struggles to get ahead kept me keenly aware of what was going on around me.  Drifting off and living unconsciously happened to a much less degree then.  As success came and the comfort of plenty found me I slipped more and more into unconscious living.  Life to me then was all about what I was going to do when I retired early and indulged in what I was dreaming of doing.  But, as John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens while you are making other plans”.  I became a “Sleepwalker”.

On her blog “Personal Excellence” link Celestine Chua describes Sleepwalkers:  These are people who live through their lives in an unconscious state.  Being conscious isn’t about being physically awake – Many people around us are physically awake, yet living unconsciously. They are not fully aware of who they are, the larger context of life they are a part of and their real purpose in life.   

Sleepwalking as Ms Chua describes it helps to at least partially explain why my 40’s and about half of my 50’s are a blur.  The only direction was being headed toward something, but what I did not know. I dreamed instead of planning and could not envision what was ahead was to crash emotionally under the weight of all I tried so hard to out run.  I fantasized instead doing the work in the present and in time that caught up with me.  All I knew was the life I wanted was not in my possession and felt it was to be found in the future.  Of course, that is delusion.  Life is always happening NOW.  In whatever guise and shape, what is “now” is the ONLY place “life” happens.

One of the symptoms of being a “Sleepwalker” Celestine Chua notes in her article is something I was very guilty of once upon a time:  Find no time to do things you want to do.  She explains Sleepwalkers are often busy all the time – they frequently complain about having a lack of time, not being able to do things they want, etc. But they do not realize they are the ones who put themselves in that position in the first place. When questioned by other people, they cannot exactly put a finger to where all the time and energy went into. Sleepwalkers are always waiting for a proverbial ‘next time’ for their goals, dreams and desires in life, but they do not realize that the ‘next time’ never comes. By the time they do, a long time has already passed, and now they switch to thinking that it’s now ‘too late’ to work on their goals. 

Realizing I was just beginning to slip into some old patterns of thinking, I found the article on the “Personal Excellence” website to be a welcome wake up call.  My dysfunctions of depression and compulsion are thankfully not in control these days.  However, I was starting to  “sleepwalk” again thinking the life I wanted was somewhere in the future.  There was also a bit of playing the “too late” game with myself.  By simple acknowledgement the renewed delusions are dissolving.

Reminding myself of the discoveries of five years ago is all that is needed.  I am very grateful for the teaching the past gave me and for that awareness now preventing me from slipping into those old ways of being.

Knowledge is being aware that fire can burn;
wisdom is remembering the blister.

Once Upon a Time This Never Happened

A story told to myself….

I did not see her coming. There was no way to anticipate how my life was about to change. It’s challenging for a depressed man feeling sorry for himself to see much of anything outside of his self focused indulgence. So there I was on Monday morning, engrossed in trying to read my Amsterdam map and did not even see her get on the tram. Looking up she grabbed my attention and I stared at her just three rows away until she glanced up at me.  I looked away embarrassed. Each time I sneaked another peek, she would glance up at me a moment later. After the fourth time she smiled and red-faced, I smiled back.

Within a few minutes the tram started to slow to its next stop. She got up, took three steps closer to the door and ended up right by me. In American English (which surprised me), she said “What are you looking for on your map?” My response was “Van Gogh Museum”. She smiled and said, “Oh that’s easy. Get off at the third stop after this one, go across the bridge and keep walking to your right. You can’t miss it.” Before even a “thank you” could be formed in my mouth the doors of the tram opened and she stepped off the tram.

As the doors closed I watched as she walked away. Tall and slender but not skinny and she was about five foot seven or eight. Hair below her shoulders pulled back with a knit hat on top of her head. Dark pants were tucked into high boots that came up to a few inches below her knee (young or old, the women in Amsterdam all seem to wear boots in the winter. I had noticed on previous visits that no two pairs to be alike in the whole city!). As she walked away I studied her. With a well-fitting below the waist length leather jacket, a scarf wrapped around and around her neck with an umbrella in hand my mystery woman looked typical for a casually well dressed city woman in Holland during February.

The blue and white tram slowly began to continue south as she finished crossing the street. I was staring straight at her when she looked over her shoulder in my direction and smiled. Was she smiling at me? There was no way to know for sure, but I smiled back just in case. She then turned away and three steps later disappeared into one of the city’s numerous alley ways that tie the town together. I was lost in my thoughts as the little train gained speed headed down toward the museum section of the city.

She was gone leaving me to feel like a junior high schooler who develops a crush at first look. This woman had made a distinct impression on me, but now she was lost in the vast sea of humanity. I chided myself for not saying something to her and especially for not thanking her for her advice about finding the museum. My chance was gone. For now, there was only an image of her in my mind.  Her face most of all seemed burned into my psyche. Hers were not the features of a beauty queen and instead more attractive in an honest and non-assuming way.

For the moment this encounter only made me think even more of Diane (the woman who had broken my heart days before). I missed her or at least missed having someone. The wound left from my surprise visit to her in Paris a week ago was still open and festering. How was I to know that my unannounced arrival to see my fiancée was to be a much bigger surprise to both of us? It had been very early morning when I landed and took a cab to the apartment her company provided for her. I had to knock several times before she came to the door of her apartment in a bathrobe. Her face had pillow wrinkles on it, her hair was rumpled and it was easy to see she had just gotten up. Looking through the living room and past the doorway of her bedroom, it was easy to see a man in his boxer shorts sitting on the end of the bed. In an instant I knew what had gone on.

…to be continued

For over two years I have struggled on and off to complete a fictional love story that has been kicking in my head for years.  Now about half way through completion of the book I felt compelled to throw a few paragraphs out into the world and re-commit myself to finishing the story.  I am grateful for your indulgence and for the hapless romantic soul within that pushes me forward to complete what I have begun.

Better never to have met you in my dream
than to wake and reach for hands that are not there.
Otomo No Yakamochi