Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Wish (141); Forgive . . . Your Self


photo via google images by way of nathab.com

You tried. This year of 2014, you really tried. And yet still, not everything turned out the way you hoped it would. You were more conscious. You were more loving. You were even more careful and caring and creative. But still, you tripped. You fumbled. Sometimes you even fell flat on your face. And you hurt. Yourself and others. You criticized. Yourself and others. You blamed. Yourself. And others.

And why?

For different reasons.
But what if you were to distill each reason down to its essence?

You suffered because you are human. And humans are never any other perfect, than perfectly imperfect.

You are beautiful because of all your imperfections.
And every little bit of suffering you have endured is all part of the journey, all part of the plan, all part of being human.

With one caveat though, one aspect that cannot be overlooked without dire consequences for your entire life.

Lean in, listen closely . . .

You must learn to forgive.
And to forgive first --- your Self.

Forgive yourself for it all. Not some parts, just that, or this. All of it. Every last bit.

Because whatever happened this year or in years past, today is the day to forgive and tomorrow is the day to start afresh. Now is the time to accept that you are human, and that nothing can ever be more beautiful than each our own beautifully human imperfections.

Yes, even those.


*          *          *


Through suffering, we encounter growth.
Through suffering, we learn the big lessons.
Through suffering, the light finally has a way to find our deepest Selves.

From the caterpillar’s suffering to become the butterfly, to the single seed painfully stretching up through the earth to become the flower it was born to be, growth is pain transformed into beauty.

From the suffering of abandonment or abuse, to the pains endured by those we love and care about, the real lessons of life are learned through the struggles of the heart.

From the trials of unemployment or divorce, to the suffering of illness or loss, wounds are merely opportunities to let in more light.

Because
Color is the suffering of light
And wounds will always be your ticket Home

Home to your magnificent, winged Self.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A little Christmas Magic


photo via googleimages

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 all 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. Yes, I am sure my heart did, too.


*          *          *

Ask for your heart’s desires, for the feelings, the connections, the answers you need. Ask because you know, somewhere deep inside, that exactly what you need is out there, waiting for you. For you see, Nick Bantock isn’t the only magic one. I happen to know that you are, too. You just need to believe it, for yourself, and especially this week, today . . . this Christmas.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Wish (140); Get Un-Stuck

photo by oleg oprisco via boredpanda.com


Stuck in your morning routine.
Stuck driving the same way to work.
Stuck wearing the same things.
Stuck buying the same foods
            Cooking the same foods
            Eating the same foods.
Stuck expecting the same responses.
Stuck receiving the same ones, too.
Stuck in a relationship, in a dance you once chose.
Stuck doing the same things
            Seeing the same things
            Feeling the same things

Until you realize one thing.

You aren’t stuck.

You were never stuck.

You just forgot your wings.


*          *          *


The comfort of routine.
The ease of no surprises.
The gift of consistency.
            Of not thinking too much
            Of not feeling too much
            Of not expecting too much
The reassurance of the same.
The warmth of a lie
            That keeps you warm
            And safe
            In your sweet little cave

Until suddenly the light floods in to wake you from your deadly slumber.


*          *          *


Maybe it’s a woman and the way she shines.
Maybe it’s a man and the way he rides—the waves of life.
Maybe that light came by way of a picture
            Or a lyric
            Or a lone line in a very special book.

But that light has found you.
It has illuminated your heart’s path
Your soul’s longing
Your ache to fly fresh and new and free.

And yet you pretend you are stuck.
You show me your shackles.
You plead with me to see why change won’t work
            Why it can’t be
            Why your life is different
            Different as different can ever be.
There isn’t enough money, you say.
There isn’t an easy way.
There isn’t time
            Or space
            Or a right way.
And it will hurt.
I just know it's going to hurt!

Maybe, but . . . 
Stuck hurts most of all

For it deadens

your

Soul.


*          *          *


You wake up to tendrils of sleep dusting your body, and like a freshly baked pie, you emerge from your warm encased slumber to embrace the gifts of your new day. You smile when you think about the choices ahead because you’ve given yourself the time. The time to choose. The time to enjoy. The time to be conscious that you have the power to paint your morning, your day, your Life . . . any color you dream.

You pick the orange socks because they remind you of your favorite sherbet.
You drink the new tea to surprise your tongue. (And it works!)
You wear your hair differently because it’s fun.
And you give yourself a wink and a smile. (And mean it!)

You drive a new way to work and admire the scenery. You remind yourself that it is exhilarating to see with fresh eyes and that in order to breathe in fresh ideas you must expose yourself to new things, new people, new ways of doing . . .  and thinking about . . . the same old everyday routines.

You shock yourself. You break out of your norm. You rip off that boring old button down to reveal the true Superhero beneath. You break your own rules. You leap before the net appears. You rise up and wave your flag to show the other stuckies the way.

The Winged Way.

Because change does a soul right.

And wings . . . were meant for flying.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Wish (139); Dream the Impossible


photo by katerina plotnikova via boredpanda.com

The table is heavily worn, its top littered with spots of peeling varnish, with stains from permanent pens and greasy foods. There are rivets from pencils and dents from toys and when she runs her fingers across its rough surface, a feeling of nostalgia overcomes her. She loves the table. No matter now ugly some might see it, she will always see its beauty.

It’s Christmas time. And every year this same woman invites her family to help her with a new jigsaw puzzle. This year it is the biggest one yet with the smallest pieces yet. And she can hardly wait to begin. She pours the pieces from the clear plastic bag and watches as they tumble onto the table. Some fall right side up. Others fall face down. She lets her fingers spread them out like sand beside the sea, the little pieces sneaking up between her fingers and tickling her just so. She smiles to herself because she might just love this part most of all. It’s when she gets to transform her table into a beauty the rest of the world can see.

“Puzzle’s here! Come play with me!”

When the first family member arrives, he looks at the pieces in astonishment. “Are you kidding me? How many pieces are there? Seriously? A million? There’s no way we can get that done before Christmas. Count me out.” And he turns and walks away.

When the second family member hears the call, she yells from her bedroom, “Nothing could get me to sit at that nasty table and nothing could ever make it un-nasty to me!”

“A million pieces?” says her husband.“I didn’t even know they made such a puzzle. Do you really have the time? I know I don’t. I’ve got other more important things to do.”

Finally the littlest family member arrives, her eyes wide with wonder, her smile lighting up the room. “A million pieces is a lot, isn’t it, Mama?”
“It is.”
“Who does a puzzle with a million pieces?”
“Dreamers do. A million pieces is a dreamer’s puzzle.”
“Are you a dreamer then, Mama?”
“I am.”
“And Mama? Am I a dreamer then, too?
“If you choose to be, darling, then you are.”
“And Mama?”
“Yes, honey?”
“Do dreamers finish puzzles or do they just dream all day long?”
“Dreamers are the only ones who finish any puzzles at all, my dear,” she says with a twinkle in her eye, “because dreamers are the only ones who know that one small act after another changes everything.”

“Even an ugly table?"
“Even an ugly table.”


*          *          *


Not everyone sees the beauty in the midst of the ugly.
Not everyone is willing to spend the time creating beauty, either.
Not everyone believes such tasks can even be accomplished.
But maybe they would if they realized that every picture is made up of a million different tiny pieces.
Pieces that matter.
Each one as much as the other.

No matter how big or small, no matter how wide or far, if our pieces are placed with kindness, with caring, with an effort to contribute to the beauty of the world, we are making a difference.

We are the dreamers.
We are the lovers.
We are those who dare to dream the impossible into reality.
We are the few who will transform the ugly into beauty.

So go ahead, dream the impossible.
I'll place my pieces while you place yours
And together we''ll transform that ugly into a beautiful reality.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday Wish (138); Open Hearts, Connect

photo via pub.uvm.dk

I went in to buy yogurt. That was all. But then I saw the scarf. It was green and blue and embroidered with colorful floral stitching. I didn’t need it. But I did need to touch it, to feel if the colors were as lovely as they looked. So I stood there, admiring it, smiling all to myself when another woman approached the same scarves. Her long hair was white. Her lips were pink. And her smile warmed every inch around her.

            “Did you see they are 25% off?” I said.
            “I didn’t!” she said with a bit of an accent. “Thank you for telling me. I have been admiring this blue one for a while now.”
            “That’s the one I would’ve chosen for you, too. It’s the perfect color for you, especially with your white hair.”

            Our conversation continued … until at last I could hold my question no longer.

            “I hear you have a bit of an accent. May I ask where you are from?”
            “Oh yes, I’m from Germany,” she said with a smile.
            “I thought you might be,” I said, “I used to live in Denmark and visited Germany a lot.”
            “Yes? Well, I grew up in Berlin. Surely you know Berlin?”
            “I do! I was there when the Wall came down.”
            “What? You were?”
            “Yes…” I hesitated as I remembered. “I can tell you what happened…”
            “Tell me. Please tell me,” she said as we stood in the grocery store, our hands reveling in the beautiful colorful fabric of our chosen scarves. “Tell me what happened in Berlin.”


*          *          *


I stood in front of a big hole in the Wall on the Western side contemplating many things as I looked through into no man’s land and to the Eastern wall beyond. The towers with the armed watchmen and their German Shepherds … the thin wires identifying what I guessed to be land mines … the white crosses showing those who tried to escape and failed, and one cross identifying an eighteen year old boy who had tried to escape just days before the Wall came down. I was cold. In every sense of the word. I was touched. I was vulnerable. And for a few moments I was alone with my thoughts.

A West German police officer with a machine gun approached me. I stepped back to let him pass. It was clear that he was patrolling to make sure no one from the Western side would try to enter into no man’s land. And then something happened that I will never forget. Just as he reached the hole in the Wall on the Western side, an East German police officer reached the same hole, on his side, on the edge of no man's land. Both held machine guns. Both were German. Both looked through the Wall that separated them with wide-eyed shock.

And then one man, I can’t remember which, stretched out his arm to shake hands.

And all those years of being strangers, of being sometimes even enemies, fell away. Suddenly they were just two human beings letting their hearts, connect.


*          *          *


Twenty-five years later, Elsa and I found tears in our eyes—two strangers
in a grocery store touched by the beauty of connection … theirs … and ours.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Grace


photo by sweetteaandsunshine.blogspot.com via googleimages

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 anything. 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 needed her, not even her money. But after a while, that old lady realized that for people to care about her she needed to start caring for others, 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 caring 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 keep 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 Readers.

I am grateful for you.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Wish (137); Have Hope


photo by markus gebauer via pulptastic.com

There’s a pulse. Do you hear it? With your hand on your chest and your ears turned inside, a deep breath will take you there. Down to the truth. Your truth. Where your life energy flows. Some days it may be quiet. Other days it may beat out of you like a stormin’ high school band. And most days, if you’re like many of us in this modern fast paced world, it may be tired and even a little bit sad, as if some part of that life energy flew away, never to be heard of again.

But it’s there.
I promise you.
Hope is still there.

Have you ever heard the power of a whisper in silent church?
Have you ever seen the brilliance of a candle in a pitch-dark wood?
And what about a single smile lovingly shared on a terrible, painful day?

Hope doesn’t have to be big.
It doesn’t have to be loud.
It doesn’t have to be everywhere

… to change your day.
… to change your life.
… to change … the world.

It just has to be real.


*          *          *


He is only seven and she is only six. And the two of them are inseparable. They laugh together. They tumble together. They build legos and cardboard libraries and slides for their stuffed animals and dolls. And sometimes, he likes to hold her, to be a little man to his little woman friend. So he picks her up to show her and anyone else watching, how strong he is. And she lets him. She adores his strength. And he adores her love.

One day, as he was carrying her, he accidently stepped on a piece of stray cardboard. His foot slipped out from under him. And down they started to fall. The seven year old boy had no choice but to be himself and that Self said to save his six year old girl, before himself. Her bottom never hit the hard ground.

He didn’t think of himself. Of the pain he might feel with a broken ankle or a broken wrist. He didn’t think of what others would say. Of the ‘why were you’s’ or ‘why didn’t you’s’. He was just his raw, real Self. And that raw, real Self, loved, first.


*          *          *


Hope doesn’t have to be big.
It doesn’t have to be loud.
It doesn’t have to be everywhere

… to change a day.
… to change a life.
… to change … the world.

It just has to be real. 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Wish (136); Lead with Kindness

image by worldkarmaproject.org via googleimages
It wasn’t April 15th or December 26th or any other nationally recognized sad day, at least as far as I could tell. The New England sun shone down with its trademark smile and the crisp cool air played with the new shades of blue. I watched the Fall leaves twirl and spin as the cars ahead of me blew them up and into the air.
            “Look at the leaves,” I said to my daughter, “they’re dancing!”
            And together we laughed. Together we sang. Together we drove home from school with a fresh kind of happy in our hearts.

And then, as if finding an unexpected letter in the mail, we cocked our heads with a curious feeling.
            “What was that? Who’s honking?” she said to me.
            I turned down the music to try to see.
            It was the car in front of me.
            “Someone is unhappy. Someone is impatient. Someone isn’t being as kind, as kind as we wish they would be.”

We turned with the honker (and the honkee) still curious and wondering, wondering what’s and why’s and how we might help. Yes help, my little girl and me.

He was following her very closely, his red van hovering behind her like an angry bee. She didn’t speed up. She didn’t slow down. She just kept a steady pace, a law-abiding pace, and he didn’t leave her alone. He just kept honking, yelling, screaming at her with the power of his angry horn. When finally, he turned away.

            We breathed a sigh of relief.

A few minutes later, we came to a stop light. With more than one lane. So I pulled up beside the honkee and rolled down my window.
            “Excuse me!” I sang out, my hand waving, trying to get her attention. “Excuse me!”
            “Yes?” she said in return, as she rolled down her window, her face gentle, her eyes seemingly afraid.
            “Why was that man so angry and honking at you so meanly?” I said. “I want you to know that I saw how awful he was to you and that you had a stranger not far behind, rooting for you and caring about you!”
            And her face? It softened even more. And her eyes? They looked as if they might burst into tears. “I think he was mad that I didn’t turn fast enough, but really, I’m not sure.”
            “Well, don’t you dare worry!" I said to her with love. "He was just having a bad day. An unkind day. And you just happened to be the one who got in his way. I’m so sorry.”
            “Why thank you,” she said through her smiles, “thank you so much for caring. You made my day.”
            
But it was kindness. Kindness that made both of our days. 


*          *          *

I read a recent article that said that marriages only succeed when one crucial piece is ever-present—kindness. So if a marriage, for many of us, the closest heart connection of all, is only able to succeed on a steady diet of kindness, wouldn’t that also hold true for every other relationship in our lives? What then, would the world look like, how would it change, if we let kindness be our mantra, if we let kindness be our speak, if we let kindness guide our days and direct our every step?

How would your day change if you led with kindness for yourself?
How would your day change if you led with kindness for everyone around you?
How would your heart change?
How would the world change … if kindness was more important than any other bottom line?


Let’s imagine. Let’s imagine and then try it on to see…