Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wednesday Wish (160); Illuminated Empathy

photo via googleimages

She wasn’t like the rest of her family. They were rushed and tight and talked loudly even when they stood right next to each other. They never noticed flowering weeds or the little critters that liked to sit on the side of the road watching the cars go by. They didn’t quiver when the rain hit the roof making it’s beautiful music, or realize how wonderful the wood floor felt when it baked in the winter sun. And the magical shapes of clouds? To them, just different ways for the annoying buggers to block the sun. 

Her family might’ve appreciated such things if they could first see them. But they didn’t. They didn’t see any of it. None of it at all. 

Now before you wonder why she didn’t show them what they were missing, I’ll tell you, she tried. Many times. Each time though, they’d just chuckle, telling her that she needed to join the real world, recommending such membership sooner than later with a patronizing pat to her messy, long-haired head.

Maybe that’s why she got so good at reading people. Knowing their intent before their action softened their unconscious blows, a honing that grew early on like instinct. Subtle signs, guidance from her gut, a deeper level of empathy, protected her, helped her avoid the hurt that came from being outside the circle of average. 

When a car drove up she knew the driver’s mood and hurried from her basking on the toasty wood floor to the kitchen where she’d make herself busy, armored with to-do’s. When someone walked in, she knew their mood before they spoke. She knew what to do before she could be hurt. And, in time, she was able to help them soften whatever weights they carried, for feeling them herself, she carried them, too.

Her knowing grew so well-honed that some called her psychic. And maybe she was. Or maybe she just walked the same path so many times that its well-worn way became second nature.

Until one day, many years later . . .

. . . when, like too much icing, it all grew too heavy, caving in the beautiful cake underneath it all. Her co-workers called it burn-out. They knew it well, had seen it all too many times before. ‘Harden up’, they said. ‘Yep, block it out. It’s the only way’.

But she just couldn’t join that circle either. It felt as wrong as wool in the summertime.

She thought back to when she was a little girl wishing her family could see and began to wonder if that was what she needed, too. Fresh eyes. So she invited herself to see with new sight, to be present to that which she had not yet seen before.

And soon, with eyes looking outward (not inward), she began to see colors.

He was yellow when he needed more control. She was green when she was centered in her heart. He was blue when his truth was stuck, when he swallowed words that needed to be spoken, and when he was red that told her he'd forgotten his roots, that he felt so very lost. 

She didn’t need her gut, her insides, to understand or to keep her safe anymore for she’d expanded her seeing past her default, past her learned interwoven-ness with others and into seeing those same others with an outward looking heart. She didn’t need to embody to empathize when she could see others where they were, their colors worn like glowing cloaks. 

Such empathy didn’t deplete her. Instead, her fresh sight enhanced both her and those around her in ways that weren’t possible before. With her gut free she had more of herself to solve problems, more of her energy available to love people where they were. Seeing colors, she grew more empowered, empowering then, those around her.

*         *         *

Those who empathize know what it means to feel things in their gut. But fewer know how to see with fresh eyes, eyes of love that reveal the colors people wear. Just as we learn to empathize with our gut, we can also expand that empathy to include new sight. An embodiment of the little things that make life magic, a faith in the ever-present presence of magic, acts as a catalyst, softening us to an even deeper beauty waiting to be revealed, waiting to be seen in all of its magnificent splendor. 

Invite yourself to soften your sight into fresh loving eyes, 
to step beyond the circle of average
into a sea of colorful extraordinary.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Wednesday Wish (159); The Wisdom of Weeds

The path is warm under her feet. Sprinkled with pine needles, rich brown dirt, and a few jagged stones, she walks on it slowly, sensing beyond the obvious—the scent of twilight, the sound of hushed air, the depth of no people. She thinks she’s being drawn deeper into the forest, to a space that’s breathed wisdom into her wandering self so many times before. But as she nears the turn that would take her there, she notices a tug. So she stops. The invitation is gentle, as soundless as a leaf floating down to touch the ground. And even though it’s unfamiliar, still, it resonates with Truth. So she listens. With every fiber of her quietest Self, she listens, hoping to connect to the silent wisdom reaching out to her.

After some time, she finds herself along the edge of the forest, her feet no longer on a path of another’s making, but on one of her own. Weeds lay bent behind her from the weight of her feet, from the push of her toes; weeds stretch out before her, beckoning her ahead. Soon she stands in the middle of a field, her body encircled with weeds. There are shades of green, too many to count, their shapes and flow as playfully varied as rides at a carnival. Wind reveals a hidden few. A butterfly lights up a chosen two. And as the colors soften into golden, so does she, at peace in her place.

She sits down. The weeds tower around her as if she’s shrunken to the size of a field mouse. She breathes in their sweet green scents. She trembles with the tender caress of the wind as if she's already one of them, with the warm encouragement of the sun, as if her feet have suddenly grown tendrils, sinking into the earth. She softens still more, and slowly, with little effort, begins to receive—the wisdom of the weeds. 

*          *          *

You may stomp on us, cut us down as low as you think we can go, you may even try to kill us, but we are resilient and will always find a way to return to our once vibrant, life-loving selves, even if it means planting our seeds elsewhere, in soil that’s more fertile, more welcoming, more open to our gifts.

Others may call you ugly or slimy or creepy, but to us, you are warmth, you are soul, you are beautiful, and you are always welcome here.

Shallow roots in infertile ground keep us thriving longer; this way our thirst is quenched by even the smallest of drops.

Depth comes when we’re planted in rich, fertile soil.

We know the difference between fertile and infertile soil and act accordingly.

We may look happier in rich soil but we're able to find joy in living wherever we’re planted.

We innately know how to infect our surroundings with seeds of hope.

We cannot thrive on sun alone. We also need bouts of rain.

We know we aren’t alone, that we exist not just for our selves, but for one another. We help the birds, the bugs, the critters of all shapes and sizes, and they each and often, in their own time, help us. We are here for one another.

*          *          *

Wisdom finds her through the soundless voice of weeds. She is reminded of her resilience, of her strength even in shallow times, of her capacity to overcome any adversity, and of her natural abilities to grow and even thrive wherever she is, no matter the happenings around her.

She then reminds each one of us that we are never, by nature's design, ever alone. And especially not in a field of all-welcoming weeds.

Listen with me.
Listen to the soundless voice of nature. 
Listen to the wisdom under your feet, 
brewing in your once free, 
untamed soul.
And tell me,
tell me
you don't taste hope.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Story for You to Finish . . .

photo found via googleimages

She washed the body as she did all the others, starting at the neck and shoulders and moving down the arms to the fingers. Other than the face, which was always left for last, she spent the most time washing the fingers. If no one else was waiting, she might even massage them a little, taking care to bring any lingering bits of life back into them, and especially for an open casket. It was the last time for the people left behind, the last time for them to see their beloved, and with their beloved’s eyes closed, surely they’d look to the fingers. Didn’t everyone know that the eyes weren’t the only windows to the soul?

The woman’s fingers were well kept, obviously manicured until the very last day of her life and yet there was something unusual about them, something slightly unnerving. It was as if they weren’t quite void of life even before she massaged them. Something still seemed to pulse through them. And even though it was entirely impossible, somehow the fact that they didn’t look dead was irrefutable. As if that wasn’t enough, the first finger on each hand stuck out.

She sat down to collect herself. She was a professional and this was a dead body not a canvas for her imagination. With a deep breath and a few stern words to herself, she was back at the table, continuing her work. And yet there it was again. The nagging sense that this body, these fingers, still had something left to say and she was the only one left to listen.

She shook her head. She opened and closed her eyes. She took another deep breath and begged strength to find her. And then, against all training and in contradiction to all logic, she succumbed. To the returning inevitable truth—the fingers of her deceased client spoke.

She moved the woman forward, as if to help her sit up, resting the deceased’s head upon her shoulder. And when her hands found the woman’s back, she wondered if this was what she was called to witness. For beneath her own fingers, she felt ridges, ridges where smooth skin should be. Gently, and with utmost care, she dared to lift the woman’s shirt and found her entire back covered with small, equally spaced scars. From waist to neck and from side to side, this was a back that had endured unspeakable pain.

She moved the woman back down, laying her head with great care and as she did, noticed that one of the hand’s fingers rested together but the fingers of the other hand still did not. Was there more?

Did she dare?

Could she dare?

How could she not?

Another deep breath and the pearl buttons at the old woman’s belly opened up to reveal a second shocking discovery. Around her naval, as realistic and intricate as the living creature itself, was one of the most beautiful butterflies she had ever seen. It looked as if it were flying and yet there it was, a part of her skin. Was it a tattoo? But she had never seen a tattoo that fine before, the attention to detail something that belonged in a museum or at least somewhere it could be admired and shared.

She swallowed hard as she buttoned the old woman’s shirt, her heart beating out of her chest. Who was this old woman and what had she been through? Did anyone know her story? Or was she, the no-name hired to prepare the body for its final viewing, the last living soul to witness this old woman’s lifetime of secrets?

She looked down at the woman’s fingers and noticed, all at once, that each one rested as a unified whole, the last bits of life present only minutes before, now entirely gone. . .

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wednesday Wish (158); Dreams Come True

photo by katerina plotnikova via google images

I live in a world where stories float like formless spirits waiting for me to pluck them from the sky. Unlike many, I’m at peace with undefined edges and ethereal urgings. I don’t need to nail them down or to make them fit. I don’t even need them to clarify themselves. At least not at first. At first the thrill of merely sensing them is enough, of tasting something I barely recognize, of breathing in the scent of an unfamiliar emotion. For me it’s ecstasy born of boundless possibility. 

There’ve been so many of those stories tempting me over the years, but one in particular grew legs only to walk all over my heart until I agreed to listen. Intently. It begged me to define its ethereal edges, to give it weight, to transform a once dream into raw reality.

It took me years. Of writing. Of polishing. Of throwing out and birthing. Of fighting through doubt as if it were a pile of mucky quicksand threatening to devour me alive. Somehow though, I didn’t give up. Nay, I couldn’t give up. It meant too much to me. Even when no one else listened. Even when no one else cared. And worst of all, even when the path of my dream was blasted and criticized.

Then one day, like a sunrise after a heavy rain, I found her. I found the kindred spirit who would champion my dream. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked to hold my umbrella. She picked up a sword and told all the nay say-ers they were wrong. And she smiled and laughed and clutched her heart when I told her about all the formless spirits who begged to be plucked from the sky.

            “Write about it,” she said.

            So I stopped planting flowers to pick up a pen.

*          *          *

You may think I speak in code. But really it’s just those sensory treats, those formless spirits masquerading themselves into words so that you can feel them, too. I try to get them down on paper as kindly as I can, without squelching their ethereal gifts, without hardening their edges more than I need to. But I have to a bit, just enough so that you can see them, too. Is it working? I hope so.

*          *          *

Just last week I signed with an agent. Her name is Annie and she is lovely. Anyone who knows me, knows I dream. A lot. And truthfully, Annie is beyond what I ever dreamt I could find in an agent. She understands my words and my heart. She values connection and growth. And most of all, she’s an advocate of the formless spirits, inviting me to pluck still more from the vast ocean sky, reminding me, and now maybe you, that dreams really can come true.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wednesday Wish (157); People Watch

photo by video blocks via google images

It was mid morning in February on the outskirts of a suburban town. Fast food lines tapered out, gas stations only had a few cars, and traffic hummed along at a smooth and steady pace. Even though the rush had passed, there was still a palpable air of purpose, of intent. It was a town, after all, a well-oiled machine.

He gripped his shopping cart with chapped red fingers, his head low and tired. He dragged his feet in heavy, untied boots, one slow step at a time. He took no notice of the icicles forming on his dirty grey beard or the hitch in his wheel that bumped with a loud click every time it came around. He didn’t have the energy for it. Not a lick of anything happened for him these days beyond what was necessary. And not much was necessary.

As he passed McDonalds he didn’t even raise his head to catch the scent of hash browns mixed with hamburgers. Didn’t matter how much he loved that scent or that hardly anyone would notice if he gulped up that rare and delicious gift, he just didn’t care quite enough. The cost in energy was just too high. So he kept on trudging along as if it was the most natural thing in the world, to push a broken shopping cart on the side of the road on a freezing cold day in February.

When suddenly he saw an orange construction sign.

Would he stop in for hamburger now? Would he avoid the snarl of traffic, take it as an invitation to turn the other way? Or would he push forward, his purposeful intent as important to him as the man in the Mercedes who raced up to his own stop ahead?

I watched and wondered as he kept walking, one slow heavy step at a time.

And then, like a rocket kept hidden in the barn out back, he rose his foot and in one of the swiftest moves I’ve ever seen from even the most practiced of martial artists, he side-kicked that orange construction sign with a loud Bang! 

And in a millisecond, the barn door slammed shut again. He was back to himself—his cumbersome, raggedy, heavy, old Self.

I, on the other hand, was forever changed. 

Maybe because he fooled me with his unpredictable spirit. Maybe because I wrongly assumed he was as thoroughly sad as he looked. Or maybe because this man in torn, tattered clothing that hung off his body like rags had reminded me of the sheer childlike fun aching to be set free in each one of us no matter how heavy our lives seem to be. 

The finer things in life aren’t just free, his actions said to me, they’re actually inviting us outside to play, to be the wise playful children we were born to be.