Friday, December 13, 2013

Wednesday Wish (102); Replenish

photo by katerina plotnikova

I sat cross-legged on the grass. It was itchy in the way tropical grass always is. Was it uncomfortable with itself, too? Grass never seemed as happy in the heat as palm trees or orchids or gardenias did. Maybe their itch was their way of expressing themselves. But before I could wonder anymore, a few people sat down beside me …

One had a bone through his nose. He said it was for picking food out of his teeth or getting dirt from under his fingernails. I thought him resourceful. And his eyes, they talked kindly to me. Another sat down with tattoos all over her face. They highlighted the beauty that she was. A darker brown on her brown was beautiful. She nursed a baby on one breast and a pig on the other. She was smiling. I was, too. So was the man with the bone in his nose. Still more joined us. I can’t remember all of them, but each was unique, each was beautiful, each touched me with their genuine selves worn so effortlessly.

They asked me questions. Why my skin was so light. Why my hair was so straight and long. Could I help them grow their hair long, too? Could they have some of it to remember me by? And then ... they asked me what I would do when I went back to my home country, when I went back to where I was from. I swallowed hard and decided to tell them the truth.

“When I go home,” I said with tender eyes, “I will have to get a job. I will have to work. And probably not on the land, but in a building.”

“Work? Inside? But why would you want to do that?” they said to me.

“To make money. Because, you see, if I don’t have money, I won’t have a place to live or food to eat. If I don’t have money, I will go hungry.”

Their faces looked at me, blankly. And then the man with the bone in his nose said, “Don’t you have land to use? Don’t you have family? Can’t you plant sweet potatoes?”

“I can plant sweet potatoes and I will, but still, I will have to work to pay for my house, just as the rest of my family does. It is what we all do in the United States. We must. To survive. We have to work for not just what we want, but what we need. And sometimes we even have to work at jobs that we don’t like just to have enough money to live.”

And do you know how that beautiful group of natives reacted that day in the heart of Papua New Guinea?

They wailed.
They wailed with tears streaming down their faces.
For me.
For you.
For all who struggle in a system that doesn’t naturally feed their souls.

*          *          *

My Wish? That you replenish your soul. That you see the system you were born into and work through it. Not against it, but through it. There are always ways to replenish your soul. There are always ways to feed your spirit. Listen to your soul’s desires. Honor those desires, those wishes, those secret, but not forgotten, dreams. Let them guide you to a life of your own choosing, a life that you love, a life that makes you feel as if you have wings. Then fly, my dear …. FLY!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesday Wish (101); Ask

Angel Machines by Nick Bantock
angel machines by nick bantock via flickr

He had always been a favorite author of mine so when I opened the finely wrapped gift on Christmas morning, my hand rushed up to cover my mouth. How did I not know he had written a new book? How did the gift giver beat me to it? I could hardly wait to be alone, to dive into this new world, to watch his words come alive, to soar with his imagination. You see, it was a particularly difficult Christmas for me. I was newly divorced, back home with my parents, and honestly, I was sad. Sad that my life wasn’t at all like I hoped it would be. But … as I would soon find out, my imagination was exactly what my spirit needed. And a new read from a favorite author? Well, that part at least, was even better than I hoped.

I tucked my legs up under myself for so long, they ached. I laughed out loud. I filled my eyes with tears. And my body, well, I’m pretty sure it lost some of its heavy emotion. And all because of one man’s gift of imagination. Thank you, dear author, I said to his picture on the back cover when I was finished reading, thank you for bringing a smile to my sad heart. And universe, if you are listening, I’d like to thank him one day in person, to tell him what a gift he has been to me this Christmas.

And just like that, I got on with the rest of Christmas.

Until the phone rang.

It was a friend of mine. She wanted to meet me for lunch the next day. At a bookstore in an out-of-the-way-town. I agreed. And hung up with yet another smile.

The next day, in a town about forty minutes away, I was browsing through books, waiting for our name to be called for an open table. I was wandering, probably daydreaming, when I looked up and saw who I thought was the author I had just read the day before, the author who had transformed my Christmas. I blink-stared. And blinked some more. He doesn’t live here. It’s the day after Christmas. He’d never be here … would he? I went to the shelf where his books lived to double check what I was seeing, the face on the back cover with this face I was seeing in person. I crept around the corner, peering as discretely as I could. It was him. It was definitely him. My heart picked up its pace. I knew exactly what I had to do.

“Excuse me, but are you Nick Bantock?”
He turned to face me with a sly smile, “I am.”
I’m sure I swallowed a big gulp of air, “I thought so. Well, there’s something you need to know.” And I proceeded to tell him how he saved my Christmas, how his words brought wings to an otherwise heavy heart. I thanked him again and again and again.

And do you know what he told me?

That earlier that day he felt a strange urge to pull off the freeway, that amidst protests from everyone else in the car, he just knew he had to stop in at the out-of-the-way bookstore in the out-of-the-way town but he didn’t know why.

And then he said, that lately, the past few months anyway, he had been doubting his worth as an author, that he wondered if anyone ever read him anymore and if he should just stop writing all together. He looked at me, talked to me, his eyes begging for answers he just couldn’t find himself.

“No, no, no!” I said. “Please keep writing. I know I am not the only one who needs your imagination. If you buoyed me, a heavy-hearted new divorcee on Christmas, I can’t possibly be the only one.” I searched his eyes. Was I reaching him? So then I said,  “You know something Mr. Nick Bantock in the out-of-the-way-bookstore on the day after Christmas? I’m a reminder from the universe to keep writing because what you do is magic. And we need magic in this world now maybe more than ever.”

And I swear to you, right then, his eyes caught fire.

As did mine. And maybe not just my eyes. No, I am sure my heart did, too.

*          *          *

Ask. Ask for your heart’s desires, for the feelings, the connections, the answers you need. But please don’t forget to expect those desires to be met. For you see, Nick Bantock isn’t the only magic one here. I happen to know that you are, too. You just need to believe it, for yourself, and especially this week, today …  right now. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Thanksgiving Wish

ΚράΤα με
photo by nimbustheodora via flickr

She was young but her spirit had already walked many, many miles. Her voice was rough, her eyes were tired, her body dragged. I saw her in the hallway after she brought her little girl to school and before she headed back to the projects where she and her three children lived. It was November in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997.

“G’morning, Tina,” I said to her with a gentle smile.
She looked up at me with a softness I hadn’t seen from her before, as if she needed kindness so badly, as if without it, she didn’t know how she would make it through her day.
            I reached out to touch her arm, to give it a little squeeze. “I don’t have anyone in my office right now,” I said. “If you have time, I’d love to talk to you.”
            She nodded and swallowed hard, trying her best to hold back tears.

            I moved my hand to hers and held it tightly as we walked back to my office. “It’s gonna be alright," I whispered. "It’s all gonna be alright.”

She told me her story that day, a story of hope and disappointment, abuse and tragedy, love and loss.
            “I apply for jobs when the kids are in school but preschool is only a few hours and I need a job to pay for childcare, but I need childcare to have a job. I am so tired, Miss Brynne, so tired. And it feels like no one cares a thing. I go to the store and no one looks me in the eye, no one pays me any mind. It’s like I’m invisible, something no one wants to see. I might not’a gone to college, but I ain’t bad. I love my children just like the other lady does, I just didn’t never get any help. I been doing it all on my own since I was fourteen.”
We talked for a long while that day and lit a few candles in that heart of hers to lighten up the darkest places. Tina cried and she cried and she cried. And I listened and held her, hard, the best way I knew how.

A few weeks later, it was nearing Thanksgiving. I knew Tina and her family wouldn’t have much but I didn’t say a thing. Until one day, the last day of school before the holiday break, I had to.
“Tina?” I said to her, after she watched her little girl run into the classroom to play with friends. “I have something for you,” and I motioned for her to come with me.

As we walked to my car, I told Tina a story about an old lady who had a lot of money. I told her how the old lady was angry and hurt because no one cared, and no one needed her, not even her money. But after a while, that old lady realized that for people to care about her maybe she needed to start caring herself, first. Maybe if she gave, maybe if she smiled, maybe if she looked someone straight in the eye with kindness from her heart, maybe then, what she needed herself would be returned.

            Tina listened and smiled to herself, thinking as we walked.

“So this old lady,” I said, “she knew I worked in the projects and decided that she’d try giving right away. So she gave me some money and told me what to buy.” I opened the trunk of my car.
Tina looked in at a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. She covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she said. “Really? For me and my babies? Well, I never—”
            My own eyes started welling up, too. “She asked me to give all this to someone who was in danger of thinking no one cared. And for me to tell you she did. She didn’t want any thanks, she just wanted you to not stop believing that the world is a good and kind place. For it is, Tina. It is.”
We hugged that day in the cold, dirty parking lot of Raleigh’s toughest neighborhood. Around us there was anger and ugly, but the two of us, together we were our own little island. And that was all that mattered. That, and that Tina never felt indebted to me for buying her Thanksgiving dinner that year.

*          *          *

Happy Thanksgiving, dear Reader, your heart is mine, too.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Wish (100); Weave With Me?

Flat Weave Carpet, Amin's Shop, Damascus, Syria
photo by david&bonnie via flickr

An eerie silence wrapped itself around the camp like a heavy fog. I scanned across the cement and the patches of gravel but there was no one. Not even a correction officer. Maybe it was the cold, the cold that seeped in unannounced turning everything a darker grey. Or maybe there was a scuffle and the officers were called to assist. When Count was called, all inmates not in class or an appointment were required to be on their beds. But the officers, they were exempt. Yet still, no one roamed outside. I was all alone.

Gravel crunched under my feet as I walked from Medical back to Programs. And then, without warning, an officer came on the loud speaker, his voice echoing throughout camp.

“Count’s clear. Count … is clear.”

And just like that, the double doors to the biggest wing of the prison, flew open, a flood of men, heading straight for me.

I walked calmly, hoping that I wouldn’t have to speed up my pace to make it to the door of Programs before they did. And yet still, I had to control my urge to watch them gaining on me. I knew they preyed on fear and I refused to give it to them. I kept calm. I focused on where I was headed. But when I reached the door and turned the knob, it didn’t move. I turned it again, shook it to be sure. Nope, it was locked. Hiding my urgency as best I could, I knocked. No answer. Where were the officers? Where was the rest of the staff? I knocked again, a few times, harder, louder. And still, no one answered. I was on my own.

The mass of men—murderers, rapists, criminals of every kind—reached my side. Within seconds they had created a circle around me, no one uttering a word. I looked around, each one wearing the same clothes, the same blank eyes, the same thin lined mouths. I laughed an uncomfortable ‘don’t do this, oh my god’ kind-of laugh. Still, no one said a word, they just closed in, inching forward, making the circle tighter and tighter around me. I could smell the unfiltered cigarette smoke on their breath, the metallic scent of their sweat. They must’ve been at least five to ten men deep. And I was one woman, on my own, with a few inches of buffer around me. I had no idea what to expect or if I would even survive.

And then, like a dream, one inmate pushed his way through the crowd.

“Don’t worry Miss Betz. I got you.” He turned to catch the eyes of all the men around me, his body completely shielding mine, “I got you,” he said again to the crowd, slowly, threateningly. “Ain’t no one gonna touch Miss Betz.”

And just after he did, someone opened the door.

*          *          *

When things happen that we don’t have the capacity to fully understand, when our hearts are moved by unnamed emotions, when we are left speechless by something we have never before met, time stands still. And if we are lucky, once it begins again, we realize that in that moment, we were a thread, a thread that is a part of the weave, a weave that brings into being the vast and magnificent carpet whose presence resembles the Divine. And when we do, we cannot help but surrender. Surrender to the knowing that once a thread in the Divine carpet of life, always a thread in the Divine carpet of life.

My Wish for you? That this week, you think of yourself as a thread, a thread connecting you to every other human being on the planet. Without you, the weave is missing a color, it cannot create its pattern correctly, it’s all wrong. Without him, I would have been hurt, devoured, and who knows what else. Without that single inmate honoring his part in the whole, that profound moment of beauty would have been lost forever. Without you, honoring your part in the whole, moments of beauty are lost every single day. But with you, you can make the divine carpet of life that we are all living, richer, more vibrant, more beautiful than your head or your heart could ever possibly imagine. 

Weave with me? Weave with me, the best is yet to be.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday Wish (99); Placeholders

photo by rebecca gift via flickr

Fine leather shoes. Tailored pants. Even a scarf. It’s a New York cold so he walks fast. With coffee on his mind. And not just any coffee, coffee from his favorite café. He listens to his shoes tap the cement, nuzzles his chin into his scarf, and anticipates that first sip like a seven-year-old aching for Christmas.

A few minutes later he is sitting inside near the window, people watching. He’s amazed at how many people walk by. On a cold afternoon when coffee is a necessity. He finds himself irritated. Irritated at the fools who refuse to indulge themselves. They are clouding his vision.

Until he sees her … the red convertible.

“I’ve always wanted a red convertible,” he says out loud, “and someday, someday damn it, I’m going to get one.”

“You are, aren’t you?” says a soft-spoken woman sipping on her own cup a few feet behind him.

He turns toward her. “Yep, I am.”

“Did you ever think of why you want it so badly?” she whispers, his eyes nowhere near hers.

“Me? The car? Oh hell, I don’t know. Just seems like me, I guess.”
“Seems like you? To shine?”
“Uh huh.”
“To be seen?”
“Ya. I don’t know. Maybe.”
“To be admired, even envied?”
“Guess so.”
“To be … loved?”
“You getting deep on me, miss stranger with a cup a' joe?”
“Maybe. Maybe I’m a messenger inviting you to realize that you ache for that red convertible so much because you have never been seen or admired or loved for who you really are. Maybe you unconsciously think that that particular car will help you feel those things.”

“You think so?” he says, not really sure if he is willing to show her he is listening.

She continues… “But you know something? You can feel those things, you can heal, without it. Once you finally reveal the feelings you need in life, whatever they may be, you can usually get those needs met without spending a dime. You can be loved. You can be admired. You can be seen for who you are and not just because you drive a red convertible, either.”

“Thanks, but I just realized I’m late. Good talking with you … Shrink.” He turns to say goodbye … but … no one is there. He looks around, expecting to see her, somewhere, but she is nowhere. Nowhere at all.

He re-wraps his scarf, reaches for his coffee, and in seconds he is walking outside, his leather shoes tapping the sidewalk again. But this time his pace is slower. In fact, it slows still more with each step. Everything about him seems to slow down. Way, way down. By the time he rounds the corner he is almost stopped and there, against an old brick wall, he crumbles into a heap, sobs riddling his entire body.

*          *          *

We are human. We need things. Things to keep us clothed and fed and warm. Things to make life easier and more fun and interesting. But sometimes the things we think we need aren’t really things at all. They are merely representations of feelings that are missing from our lives. Placeholders for emotional gaps.

*          *          *

This week my Wish is that you pull the cover off your achings for particular things, that you reveal to yourself, the feelings hiding beneath. Ask the why’s even when you are sure the answers don’t exist. Dare to peek beneath your carefully constructed lids, the lids keeping your emotional truths safely tucked away. Have the courage to own what you feel and to finally give yourself what you know, deep down, you have always needed … and, I dare say, always deserved.

And you know something? Maybe you will still buy the red convertible, but this way, you’ll understand why, you’ll have the emotional intelligence to buy it consciously and the wisdom to make sure it fulfills you on an emotional level. For the way I see it, our deepest emotions are threads leading us to the wisdom of our souls, souls that know exactly how to give us a life of happy, a life of beauty, a life that feels like ... magic.