Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

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Mr. Bojangles

We all have that ‘one’  – the one that got away.

My one was my dad.

Of course, I don’t mean that in the romantic sense or in any weird way. And maybe I need to qualify that statement and add that my ‘one’ is both my dad AND music. For a little girl who grew up bonding with her dad over song, who learned the organ alongside her dad who was playing the piano by ear, as well as the guitar, bass, drums, harmonica – really anything that played music – the man and the music were intertwined so tightly that you could never sever the one from the other.

While my dad passed from this earth young, my love for him and for the music he exposed me to live on forever. I am so passionate about music and the memories and emotion evoked by song that anytime I hear tunes like ‘Mr. Bojangles’ (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), or ‘Hotel California’ (the Eagles), I can almost hear him beside me singing still…almost 28 long years (and many lifetimes) later.

And, just like that great old 80’s song says, ‘There’s always something there to remind me’.

Yesterday, I was cursed with a stomach bug and was forced to stay home from work to let it run it’s course. Around lunchtime, when I would have otherwise been chowing down if it had been a normal day, I started watching a 4 hour documentary about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. It must be explained that my dad had a thicker version of Tom Petty hair, and his name of course, was Tom. While I don’t remember my dad being a huge fan, it is fascinating to me that Tom got his big break the very year that I was born – 1976.  I took little cat naps during the documentary, but at the end and by some kind of osmosis, I had quickly become a life-long fan.

Just a few weeks ago, I purchased my first Tom Petty CD – Full Moon Fever. I’m pretty sure that purchase is what finally sparked my interest enough to spend the whole half of a sick day delving into his life story. This man is a legend, and truly, haven’t we lost enough of those lately?

In a sense, I felt as if I were watching my dad’s story, had he not been so sick and had he not died so early. My initial reaction was to feel cheated. My dad could’ve been that very Tom we still listen to today. He was born to play, to perform, and maybe even to write. But that wasn’t God’s plan for him. God’s plan was that my dad grace his small town and his family with the gifts God gave him. I was just fortunate enough to have been his pride and joy.

While I will never give up on music or on the memory of my dad, I have learned to appreciate both by compartmentalizing. When life becomes too much, or I’m plagued with the blues of grief or depression, music reaches in and pulls me from the trenches.

I believe that music is God’s way of reaching us humans in the present like a small miracle that reaches far into our spirits and shines its light into the crevices in a way that the light itself takes over completely. Music is the language of the spirit, the voice of Heaven, and the hand of God all at once,  because it becomes the bridge between our free Will and that deeper more peaceful place found through meditation, prayer, and song.

That’s the place where we don’t have to question who we are, what we’re doing, or the paths we’ve chosen. That’s the place we can simply be who we were created to be. My one that got away has gotten me away from all that is toxic and destructive, and I think that’s what they mean by ‘not forgetting’  where we came from.

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.