Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Wish (151); Listen for Gold

photo by sophia nahli allison via google images

He stubbed out his cigarette and watched me approach with clear intent.

‘It’s right here,’ he said, his prison scrubs hanging like curtains on his slender frame. ‘See this . . .?’ he stretched open the side of his mouth with a finger then abruptly shut it again.

I just saw a shadow of tongue and teeth. ‘I’m not sure I know what I’m looking for Ed.’

He half-smiled and did one of those quick shy nods. ‘You don’t believe me, do you, Miss Brynne?’ He cocked his head, eyeing me now suspiciously. ‘You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you?’

‘I don’t think you see many other staff standing outside on a chilly day, do you? I stopped to talk to you because I care and I think you can tell if you try really hard, that that’s nothing but the truth.’ I rubbed my arms up and down a bit because truthfully, it was even colder while standing still. I was deep in the North Carolina countryside, this particular prison surrounded on all sides by acres of woods and farm fields.

He studied me for a moment then must’ve decided I meant what I said because he opened his mouth again. ‘See this black spot? Right here . . . on my tooth, on my molar?’

I peered in and sure enough, following his finger, I did. I saw the black spot. ‘I do. I see it, Ed.’

He closed his mouth and nodded. Victory.

‘So what’s it doing there? What’s it about?’

‘It’s not a cavity, if that’s what you mean.’

‘I didn’t say that. I don’t know what it is, Ed.’

‘Ok. I’ll tell you. When I was a kid, about 6 or 7, I was riding my bike and I got hit by a car. In the hospital, men in black suits came to talk to my mama. They told her that I was brain dead but that a simple agreement with them could bring me back to life.’

‘Bring you back from being dead?’ I asked, careful not to shut him down.

‘Yes, ma’am. Back from the dead. But there was a catch. I had to have a chip put into my head. And they would have control over me for the rest of my life.’

‘Wow,’ I said, taking a deep breath. ‘So your mama agreed to it?’

‘Wouldn’t you if your baby was going to die?’

‘I guess so,’ I mumbled, ‘I guess so. And the black spot?’

‘That’s how they communicate with me. That’s the way they remind me of our agreement. That’s the way they remind me of who’s in control.’


*          *          *

Every day we meet people – people with histories, with stories, with experiences that live within their walls.

And every day we have a choice.
To tell the people around us what we believe they need to see or think or do.
Or to meet the people around us where they are.
To stand with them in their world, in their shoes, in their unique Self.

When we meet people where we are, where we want them to be, we stagnate. Like a dog in a kennel, we circle and circle and circle with nothing new to see or feel. Life is predictable and uninspired, many times even boring.

When we meet people where they are instead of where we are, we embark on new adventures, we expand ourselves, we become something we could not be on our own. The people around us become treasure chests filled with riches and we grow in our own richness because of them.

*          *          *

I put my hands over my chest and lowered my head. I took a deep breath. ‘And you couldn’t tell anyone because they would think you were crazy.’

He nodded. Slowly. Silently. His feet now starting to shift.

‘And they talk to you all the time, these men, trying to make you do things even when you don’t want to?’

‘Well, not as much now that I am in prison, but before, yes. It was a lot. Almost every day.’

‘Wow. You have been through a lot, haven’t you, Ed?' I paused. 'I can’t even imagine how much you have held inside and to yourself all these years. That’s gotta be exhausting. You must have felt so alone. For so very long. Maybe even still now.’

And when I said the last words, his eyes filled up with tears.

‘I get it.’ I said nodding. ‘I get it. And I am so very sorry, Ed.’

It was then that the tears finally began to fall and before long, he was sobbing. A great big man who had committed all sorts of crimes, a man who was in prison for most of his adult life, sobbing his heart out like a little boy with a deeply broken heart. All I could do was keep clutching my own heart.

‘You know, you’re the first person other than my mama that’s ever believed me.’

‘I am?’ I shook my head. ‘I am so sorry, Ed.’ And I was.

‘But I’m not,’ he said, now collecting himself, ‘because you’re also the first person I’ve ever shared my tears with. Except my mama. And that there, that means a lot to me.’

I smiled. ‘I’m glad. I’m really glad. That means a lot to me, too.’

‘Have a nice day, Miss Brynne. Thanks for listening. Thanks for talking.’

‘You too, Ed,’ I said. ‘And thank you. Thanks for sharing.’ And as I walked inside I realized I wasn't cold anymore. I was warm. I had struck gold.

*          *          *

Real or imagined doesn’t make a difference. All of the stories of those around us and within us, matter. They matter because they define us. They teach us what we feel and how we perceive, and give us some of the most authentic clues to understanding our deeper Selves.

When we listen, truly listen, and honor what it is that we hear, we free not only ourselves, but we free the storyteller, too.

For the heart is delicate and rarely speaks unless it is first, invited.

*          *          *
  
Do you want to make the world a better place?
Do you want to be a part of healing the hurt?

Then listen.
Listen with your heart.
And treat whatever it is that you hear,
as if it were gold.
Because it is.
It
Is.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday Wish (150); Sustainable Success


photo by minoru nitta/drexel.edu

We don’t see the air around us. It envelops us, it touches every part of us, it rubs us and caresses us, and we don’t see it. It finds its way into our bodies, journeys through our veins and into our every organ, and we don’t notice it. It is always with us. Seeping into us. Soaking through us. Saturating us with all that it is. And still, we don’t see it.

Every place I have ever been has its own feel, its own personality, a personality not unlike a mosaic with many different pieces making up the whole. This personality infuses into the air of their home, riding along like little dust puffs, the kind you only see if the sun shines through the window just right. I have not seen such personality riding the air, though. I cannot touch it, sometimes I can't even call out its name. But I know it is there.

We don’t see the air.
We don’t see the unique personality-infused mosaic of place riding that air wherever we go.

But if we slow down and connect with our inner selves, we know it is there. Because we feel it.


*          *          *

What floats in the air around you? What envelops you every day? What infuses you every morning? What affects you every night?

I know you feel it.
I know you sense it.
For we all do even if we don’t want to admit it.
It is always there.
Even though we can’t see it.


*          *          *

Are you not sure why you are sad?
Can you not name what makes you unhappy?
Why not look at what you cannot see? Why not pluck the pieces of the mosaic from the air around you and glue them down as colors on your heart’s map?

Are you eating more?
Are you laughing less?
Are you frightened or avoiding or lost when you weren’t before?
Why not feel-- that which you cannot see? Why not invite your heart from its quiet place, to sense, to recognize, to honor what you already know to be true.


*          *          *

Whenever I am off-kilter I know it’s time to go within, to visit with deeper intent, my heart, my feelings, my knowings that have not yet been given a name. Like the air around me, these feelings are with me every day with no voice. Until I let them speak. Until I let them be heard. Until I give them a name.

Some times it is home that most affects me.
Other times it is community.
Still others it is culture, country and even world.

But eventually, I feel what's imbedded in the air around me. I give voice to how it feels. I listen with my heart. And honor, as best I can, the wisdom of what I have always known to be true.


*          *          *

Success isn’t money based for me.
Nor does it have anything to do with power
Or title
Or prestige.

Yes, contrary to what the air around me breathes.

Sustainable Success
Comes from within
From my heart to yours
And yours back to mine.

Sustainable Success is a life of heart
Of caring
Of loving
Of connecting
when no one else dares.
It is raw
And real
And feels good.

And  . . . it flies in the face of what the majority of this modern world breathes.


*          *          * 

Listen. 
Listen to the silence 
that's never been so silent after all. 
For there 
-- there -- 
lives your own 
Sustainable Success.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Wish (149); Flying Free

photo by dulichtetcampuchia.com via googleimages

The heat of the sun softened everything—colors, sounds, even feelings. I was an easy almost sloppy happy in an undefined, muted-edge kind of way, my long hair free to tangle in the sea breeze, my bare feet covered with bits of sand, my spirit feeling more like an unattached, wind-blown cloud than the responsible Peace Corps Volunteer that I was. I looked out across the shallow tropical waters toward my partner who was fishing intensely with a friend, their rods flying back and forth like whips, determined to catch what they had never caught before. I was about to sit down in the sand when a bit of wood caught my eye. It was small and dark and mostly square with a wad of fishing line wrapped up around it and a fishhook on the end. I smiled to myself as my feet led me to the end of the dock.

The water was clear and warm. I didn’t see any schools of fish but I did see an occasional loner, a maverick who wasn’t afraid to swim his path alone. My easy happy kept giving me new smiles—me, the maverick not afraid to swim her own path alone. I was just like the little loner fish. That yellow one. The blue one, too. And even the stripped one. They were all so pretty, so rare, so exquisite in their colors and shapes and how they frolicked in their carefree happy, an expression that might have even reminded me of my own. Maybe I wanted to visit their world. Maybe I wanted to see the hook catch the sparkle of the sun. Maybe I just wanted to extend my fingers with the help of an invisible line and a tiny little, unthreatening hook. So I let it down, that little hook, gently down into the depths of that magical, tropical sea with the fishes, the fishes that seemed like pure joy to me.

I might have been singing a little love song. I don’t know. I might have been daydreaming of new stories to tell. I’m not sure. But I do know my heart was open to almost sloppy, and happy, happy to be exactly where she was meant to be with not a need or a worry anywhere around me.

Until he bit.

I screamed.

He was the most beautiful I had ever seen.

‘Reel him in,’ my partner yelled, ‘reel him in!’

And when I couldn’t get him free any other way, that’s exactly what we had to do.

‘Please don’t hurt him,’ I begged.
‘What did you use for bait?’ they asked.
‘Please don’t let him die,’ I pleaded.
‘Did you rattle the line or let it sit still?’ they poked.

And finally, we got him up, and after protesting that his fate was my choice, not theirs, they agreed to set him free.

  
*          *          *


When we focus on the good things in life, on the things that beg us like a bubble bath or a squishy chair, or maybe even a tropical beach, to stay awhile, to be embraced by their comforting arms, we smile from a deep place. And when we smile from a deep place, when our minds are set free because we’ve given the reins to our hearts, we get as close as I think we’ll ever be to flying, flying free. And when we feel as if we are flying free, as if we are soaring through even a small blip of our day, we know, deep down, that we are where we were born to be. 

That is when the true riches find us.

For many of us the door with ancient, priceless riches on the other side appears locked. But this one, the door to the feelings we all wish to have, is only off limits until we remember that we have always, always, always held the key.

We just have to be where our hearts long to be and suddenly, we are flying free . . . exactly where we were born to be.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Wish (148); Foolish Ecstasy


photo by graphicheartproductions.homestead.com via googleimages

My world is one of scents. I breathe in to better understand—the scented flavors of my surroundings sharing secrets the rest of me could never know.

*          *          *


The scent of the Southern Highlands in Papua New Guinea begins with the reeds along the dirt road moving like an ocean, their gentle rhythm whispering slow down, listen, be with the sacred silence. I gladly melt into the equatorial heat, my head rising up for still more, the sun’s kiss a welcome warmth upon my thirsty face. I close my eyes and when I do, the scent emerges like faint ribbon of smoke twisting its way to my open, unsuspecting heart. I breathe in to better see. I breathe in and smile. I breathe in and an old woman finds me, just a solitary soul in front of an ocean of reed, soaking up the gifts of an ancient sea.

Years later, I lift a string bilum from its storage place and the scent emerges again, sending me back, back to that day on the road with the old woman.

She herself carries a bilum, the knotted ends meeting at the top of her head, its heavy contents weighting her rounded back until she is almost horizontal. She rubs her leathered fingers up and down my legs as if to be sure I am real, my skin so different from her own. She squeezes my flesh and pets my head of long hair as if I am a treasure. But she, she is the treasure. Her eyes look up at me, wet with age, red- rimmed with life experience and she begins to speak to me . . .

I remember. I remember when your people first came. I was a small one but my eyes were open, my ears listened and my fingers, they knew what they touched. Some thought your people were angels reincarnated from our dead. And maybe you are. But I know as well as you that your pek pek smells just as bad as ours. It’s just that your eyes, they still confuse me. Why do so many of your people close them? Close them, you say? Yes. From the inside. So they cannot connect. How do your people live so closed off? I see how they do not feel the earth with their feet never touching the ground, but their eyes . . ? Why do they hide those, too? Are they so afraid? Do they not know that they have given themselves dead eyes, broken tools, a fire that can no longer provide warmth? Neither for themselves or for anyone around them. Why have they forgotten to stay foolish, foolish enough to feel it all? Is there anything more to fear than living a life without fire, yes a life without deep connection?

She screamed a little fright when she looked into my eyes that day. I wasn’t like the others, she said, for I still had my fire. I could hear her! Not her words, but her scented mystery. I was not afraid to connect, to deeply connect, with someone so different from myself, to slow down, to listen, to be present in our shared sacred silence. 

And so the souls of our eyes danced in those few moments along a dusty dirt road in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, a dance scented like a sea of roasted grass on a hot equatorial day, my every bit ablaze in foolish ecstasy.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday Wish (147); Beauty . . . Anywhere


photo by earthporm.com via google images

If you go up the hill and around the bend, then slow down to make a turn to the left at the baseball field, you will have found the road. It’s a kind road. It starts out gently with a church on the right and a big parking lot around that church to hold all of the faithful’s cars. And when you drive a little further, you begin to notice that the houses seem kind, too. They don’t brag. They don’t scream out to be heard. And they don’t want for attention. They just feel kind.

Except one.

The outside is nothing very memorable. Not the siding nor the windows, nor even the shape of the house speaks of anything much to be heard. But there is one thing that does. One thing that yells out at me every time I drive by.

But that’s not really the story. The story is far more important than a piece of fabric hanging from a pole. Yes, you must know me far better than that by now. This story is about a person. A person just like you and me.

His name is Benjamin and he lives next door to the not-so-memorable-house with the memorable flag that yells out at me every time I drive by, next door in the kind-feeling house on the kind-feeling road not far from my own.

So one day as I was driving home, I saw that Confederate flag flying, and next door I saw a man who I would later learn was named Benjamin, standing in his front yard. I stopped the car.

            “Hello there,” I said, with nothing but connection and open-heartedness lurking in my eaves. “How do you do it?” my eyes gazing over to the flag proudly flying in his neighbor’s yard.
            “Oh, you mean the flag?”
            I nodded. “I know it’s supposed to be about pride and that it probably isn’t directed at you, but I also know that for many, if not most of us, it’s a symbol of oppression and hate, and you, being African American, how do you handle that? Is it hard for you? How do you look outside every day, probably multiple times a day, and then get on with having a happy day?”
            Benjamin nodded and shared one of those knowing smiles. (I forgot to say, we had already exchanged names and earlier smiles) Then he said with sparkling eyes, “You know, it actually reminds me of Evel Knievel. He had a similar pattern on his clothes and on his bike so every time I look outside and see that flag,” he turned to look at it as he spoke, “I just smile.” And I think I even heard him share a little chuckle.

What else could I do right then myself other than smile, too? 
How could I be anything less than who Benjamin was? 
He got it right, said my own spontaneous chuckle.
Benjamin got it ALL, right.

*          *          *

What if the world was made up of only Benjamins—of people who looked insensitive actions and things in the face and saw only beauty? How different would things be? Might we live in a different world altogether? What if we tried it out ---you and me?

What if the next time someone honks at you, you agree to assume they are trying to tell you something beautiful . . . maybe to look up at a pretty bird or a lucky rainbow, or maybe they think you are beautiful and need you to know.

What if you agreed to find some bit of beauty in every insensitive or mean or ugly thing you came across? Would your world change? Would you let it if it tried to? Could you allow yourself to let go of the hardened parts in favor of the gentle and soft and kind? What if I told you that the simple act of seeing beauty, of finding it when it seems to most eyes simply nonexistent, takes courage? Would you dare to find that courage within yourself?

What if I promised you such daring could change your world?

It can.
It changes mine every single day.

Besides, if Benjamin can find beauty in the Confederate flag flying in his neighbor’s yard, then I know you and I can dare to find it . . . anywhere. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy is a Way of Seeing


Next time you feel sad
You only need to look around
to see all the reasons
to let Happy outshine sad . . .

If John Denver can let sunshine on his shoulders make him happy
You can let that same sunshine at least bring you a smile.
So why not start there?
Smile.
Because of sunshine.



Then …
Let that Light in just a little bit more.
Watch it warm you as it goes down
Into that deeper part of you
Where your truth lives, where your You lives.
Then ignite the Brave
Shine,
BE who you are.




Remember how beautiful you are
Not because you fit in
But because you are different.
Remember that no matter where you are or who you are with
You can always choose to dance,
To laugh,
To be Happy.




Then remind yourself that Happy is a way of seeing
And every way of seeing can be made a Habit.
So clap along with yourself
Back to Happy.
Because it is always there
Always inviting you
To see the brighter side
To touch the world with your beautiful, brighter Self.




Happy December to you, my Friends!
Thank you for making my life Happy!
Today I dance with you wherever you are in the world!
Today I focus on and share my way of seeing . . . Happy!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday Wish (146); Gifts On Our Path

photo via googleimages by lagringasblog.com

The first few times I saw him, his eyes were red and watery, overflowing with introspection and hurt. He oozed fumes of alcohol and stumbled when he walked. My daughter watched him, too. Both of us touched. By his eyes? By his heart? By his energy? We didn't know. We just knew he was a gift on our path.

One day, she decided to share something with him. She chose her new book.

“My daughter has a book to share with you. Would that be ok?”

He lifted his heavy head, his mouth making a half smile, not sure he heard me right. “She wants to share . . . her book? With . . . me?” He was dumbfounded.

I nodded my head, “With you.”

He transformed, a marionette lifted from its deadened slumber.

When she was finished sharing, an unexpected question sneaked from my mouth, “Did you sing yet today?”

“Did I sing?”

“Uh huh. Sing. Today,” I said, smiling gently.

“Not yet,” he answered, his face unsure if it wanted to laugh or cry.


*          *          *


Every time I saw him after that, I asked him, “Did you sing yet today?” And almost always he would lift his eyes up to me with wonder, my smile reflected in his, and his in mine.

Then one day, he caught me.

I was getting my mail.
“Did you sing today?” he asked me with a bright clearness that I had yet to know.
“Sorry?” I said, my head not computing.
“Have you sung a song yet today?” he said again, smiling from ear to ear.

And together we laughed . . .
And laughed.
And laughed.

Our hearts a mess of happy.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday Wish (145); The Red Balloon


photo by clipartsheep.com via googleimages

I’m not sure if I was the only one who saw it. But I am sure I am the only one who did anything about  it—the red, heart-shaped helium balloon trapped with a string beneath the branches of a very tolerant looking tree. And when I did, I shared it with the only human option, the man walking right beside it as I passed him on my morning jog.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” I said to him, this friend I had never met, my eyes looking first at him then into the branches of the aforementioned tree. “We have to set our hearts free, to unleash the love...” And after I giggled a bit, I kept right on going. After all, it was my morning jog.

But as I ran away, I realized that he might not have seen the balloon. He might not have even known what I was talking about. And then I started to wonder, dreamy-eyed me, if I had made it all up. Maybe there wasn’t a balloon. Maybe my imagination had fooled me. Maybe I had finally taken this running business too far.

So as I rounded another lap and found this friend I had never met ahead of me for a second time, I decided I would ask him.

“Did you see what I was talking about or just think I was crazy?” I stopped running to hear his response, my breath only slightly slowing down.

“I didn’t at first but after you left, I took a closer look. You meant the balloon, right?

“I did! So you saw it! Is it still there?”

“It is and I’ve decided you are right. I’m going to try to free it the very next chance I get.”

“Yay!” I said, outstretching my arms in victory. “I can’t wait to see her fly free! Just think of all the people who will see her, of all the messages she will share, of the love you will grow! Hooray!” I sang as I ran on, his smiles warming my back.

And so he did. He set that red, helium heart-shaped balloon free. And she flew up into the highest sky I had ever seen!

“Look! Do you see her? Do you see her? You know her message is for you, don’t you?” I said to everyone I passed. “Share the love, set your own heart free, love . . . more. That’s her message—to you, to me!”

To You.

To me.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday Nugget


photo by alex bamford via googleimages


Imagine you are running a race. A long race. And you’re exhausted. Almost spent. You aren’t sure you can even make it to the finish line. Can you feel your lungs burning, your legs turning to jello, your heart about to die?

And then you come around the last bend to see everyone you have ever known, everyone who has ever known you . . . jumping up and down, clapping, cheering for you. Some have tears streaming down their faces, others have their hands close to their hearts, but everyone is supporting you. Everyone is cheering for you. Everyone is sending you their love.

What happens to you?

You are transformed. You forget your pains. Your lungs find new air. Your body suddenly comes alive. And you race with pure joy and enthusiasm to the finish line.

*          *          *

That’s what love does. It propels us forward, breathes new life into us, gives us enthusiasm for living and a smile on our face. With love, we thrive.

You have the power to transform lives.

By simply loving.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wednesday Wish (144); A Good & Kind World

photo via izismile.com via googleimages

He was angry. He was driving so closely behind me that I could see the tightness in his face, the way he kept his eyes hard, the lids more closed than open, his mouth a thin emotionless line. He gripped his steering wheel with the same tightness, his hands at the top of the circle so I could see those, too. I wondered if he was off in his imagination, fighting an unfinished fight, so I tapped my breaks. He braked, too, but without waking from his angered slumber. Instead, he moved closer still. His eyes even more determined.

The man I met on the road today was stuck in a state of being. A state of anger. And as hard as I tried to avoid it, it was starting to suck me in, too. Stop tailgating me! What is your problem? Get off my ass! I was falling. And fast. I took a deep breath.

I don’t want to be in this state.
I don’t want to feel anger.
I know the world is a good and kind place
And I know the only way to live in a good and kind world
Is to make it so, myself.

I stopped the car at the next stoplight
And I walked back to his car, to his angry eyes.
He rolled the window down.
Half way . . .

“I know you are a good man.” I said, in my most authentic and tender voice. “And I know . . . know . . . you have a good heart. But when you follow me so closely I don’t get that feeling. I feel bad. And I know you don’t mean to make me feel bad. Because you are a good man. A kind man." I reached out and squeezed his shoulder with all the love I could find in my heart. "If you want the world to be kind to you," I said, before I left, "you have to be kind to the world.” 

And do you know what he said in return?

“Bless you. Bless you. Bless you,” over and over again, his eyes looking at me with pure gratefulness, no longer tight and angry, but soft and filled with tears.


*          *          *


When the world is angry, we can join up forces and fight it off with still more anger.

Or we can take a breath and draw from our hearts, to give love to those who need it the most.

I choose to live in a good and kind world
And I know the only way to live in such a world
Is to make it so, myself.