Essays · LiFe · Opinion · Philosophy

Words to Live By (Part 2)

In this second installment of the life lessons learned/what’s important to me at 50 I give you joy.  And many other things.

“There are random moments – tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms – when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.” 
― Elizabeth BergThe Art of Mending

1935760_142466440801_985538_nJoy is such a hard thing to define.  Elation, delight, pleasure.  All those things, and something more, something intangible.  I live for moments of joy, mine and those of the people I love.  It’s where pure experience meets an overwhelming feeling of YES!  It’s the ultimate ah ha moment.  I’m always wishing the people I know, and actually even people I don’t know, could experience more joy.  There’s never enough.  Simple moments of overwhelming joy bring light and life.  Joy is the nexus of a meaningful human experience, of meaningful relationships with our fellow humans.  Joy radiates hope.  It’s electric.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” 
― W.B. Yeats

Magic is everywhere.  In smiles and light and the taste of a fresh strawberry.  It lives in music and the wings of a butterfly.  It flies on the wind and crashes with the waves.  Everything around us is a miracle, full of magic.  Most especially our family and friends, but also in the breath of our pups, and the swaying of a daisy, and the glint of the sun in a rain drop.  There are amazing things all around.  We just have to see them.

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.” 
― Philip K. Dick

Perception is key.  We have opinions and ideas and see things with eyes that were formed from our own experiences.  When circumstances happen to us or around us we look at those circumstances with those same eyes.  We tend not to look outside of our own box of opinions and ideas.  This means we only look at things from one angle.  Our own.  But looking and seeing are two different things.  Perhaps it’s just a matter of perception.  If we can somehow change how we view a situation that situation changes entirely.  I’ve done this myself and been surprised by it.  There’s always another way to look at something.  We move around a beautiful sculpture to get a view from all sides if we truly want to see it.  We need to learn to do that in our own minds.  It would open us up to others, it would create connections where they might not have existed before.  We have to look with our best eyes.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 
― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

Truth can sometimes be so hard, but it’s as necessary as breathing. The more honest and open we try to be with ourselves, with others, about who we are, about what we think and feel, the freer we are. Lies constrict our lives. When we tell the truth, we can leave that moment behind without another thought. When we lie, we live with it, carry it with us, forever. Telling the truth is much less burdensome. Telling the truth opens us up, makes us vulnerable, it puts us out into the world fully, as we are. It says, here I am, take me, or don’t. Risky, but with so much reward. We honor ourselves when we tell our truth. We bring integrity into our lives. We also bring trust, from ourselves, and from those we love. Telling the truth, truly, sets us free.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” 

― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

Silence is golden.  I used to hear that a lot from my Mom.  One of those Mom sayings that stuck with me, and so true.  Quieting oneself, learning to enjoy and live in silence once in a while is wonderful.  It allows you to hear the world in a more profound way.  A few moments of silence can breathe life into a day filled with too much noise.  Listening to the quiet of the world around us helps us to find the quiet within ourselves.  Finding the quiet within ourselves helps us to center our minds, our souls, and our hearts.  Silence opens worlds to us we might otherwise miss.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 
― Shel Silverstein

Hope, remaining hopeful, is as necessary as breathing.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what is or has been or the worry about what could be.  We’re human, we struggle with this all the time.  But it’s so important to remember that anything can happen, and that anything can be good as much as it might be instead be frightening.  We focus too much on what’s not right, not enough on what is.  Hope is a big part of what’s right.    There’s always room for it, and it can be cultivated.  Trying to think positively, starting with one small thing that is right in your life, is good, can begin to grow a larger garden of positive ifs inside of you.   That’s where hope lives.  Hope leads to joy and laughter and an energy to get up and live life to the it’s fullest.

“Yes. We both have a bad feeling. Tonight we shall take our bad feelings and share them, and face them. We shall mourn. We shall drain the bitter dregs of mortality. Pain shared, my brother, is pain not doubled, but halved. No man is an island.” 
― Neil GaimanAnansi Boys

Sharing ourselves with others speaks to the essence of what life is about.  Expressing our feelings, our ideas, our hopes, our fears to another person, to other people, makes those hopes grander and those fears smaller.  Opening up our true self to someone else makes our world larger, grander, and fuller than we could imagine.  Letting someone know you, the real you, the whole you, is frightening and vulnerable, but also brave.  It’s an act of reaching out and of letting go.  It’s beautiful and fulfilling and it brings us closer, creates connections that last.

“It’s okay to be absurd, ridiculous, and downright irrational at times; silliness is sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter pills of life.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich

Being silly, risking the ridiculous, is fun.  It’s enlivening, life affirming, corny, dorky, wonderful, and beautiful.  Not being afraid of being ridiculous and possibly absurd, while being out in the world, is a gift.  I say this because I’m a total dork, and can be totally ridiculous.  Singing in public places, dancing in the grocery store, putting on funny hats, doing a funny little walk because you’re trying to make yourself or someone else smile.  Those moments of totally letting go bring so much joy, so much fun to life.  And acting in a way that says we don’t care what other people think of us, only of what we feel like doing in the present, brings a strength and certainty in us down to our bones.  Silly can generate confidence, and confidence generates silliness.  It’s a beautiful relationship.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” 
― Lao Tzu

Love is everything, having and giving it.  Not just the love for your partner in life, but love for friends and family.  I can’t stress enough how very important it is to let the people in your life know you love them.  The most important thing in life is who we love and who loves us.  It brings meaning to everything.  Nothing else really matters.  Love is everything.  Breathing joy and hope and compassion into everything it touches.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Listening, and not talking, is central to having great relationships with people.  When you listen, actually listen without just trying to get your word in edgewise, you let people know what they have to say is important to you.  That they are important to you.  When you don’t really listen, when all you do is wait for the moment you can speak, you let them know that what you have to say is more important to you than actually hearing them.  Listening engenders trust, true companionship, and warmth.

LiFe · Out and About · Photos

Where’s Sandy…

Where’s Sandy…, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

After dinner at McMenamins last Friday night the four of us walked along the river. There’s a great path that runs for several miles along the river an then in to Fort Vancouver. Along this path there are some nice sculptures. This is one of them. Can you find Sandy?


Kid In Disguise

Sometimes, believe it or not, I revert back to being a kid. Or at least, I have kid moments. I’m no longer embarrassed by them because, you know, they just happen. Probably, I think, for everyone. My latest, which occurred last night, was by far one of the most hilarious I’ve had.

Here’s the story…

I picked Karen up from the airport last night, she flew in from her latest business trip, and then we met my brother, Kevin, for dinner at Pastini. Dinner was lovely, and tasty. Thanks Kev for the lovely company and for picking up the tab, you are a scholar and a gentleman. The meal passed without incident and afterward we walked our separate ways to our respective vehicles. Ours was parked right in front of the restaurant, but Kev had to walk a couple of blocks down to his. We took off…

Karen and I got to a red light a ways down the road and a car pulled up next to us, but a bit behind us. We thought it was Kev, even though we couldn’t really see the driver, because the car looked very much like his. The light turned green and we moseyed on, moving along the highway out to our house. It was nighttime and so was dark outside. It was then that I got the idea…

I tell Karen that we should pull up next to “Kevin” and make a face and flip him off or something. Karen says, yeah, but we should use the English bird instead of the American one (Martin was kind enough to fill us in on the particulars of the English version last time he and Mary visited). I agree and say, OK, I’ll pull up next to him, turn on the light in the car, and then we’ll do it. So… we do. We pull up next to him, I turn on the overhead light, and we each make silly faces and hold up the sign. Only, it wasn’t Kev. Karen says, in the middle of us doing this… “OH MY GOD, it’s not Kevin. It’s some other guy, with a big mustache. It could be Kev, if he was wearing a fake mustache, but I don’t think he just put on a mustache while he was driving because he knew we’d be idiots and pull a stunt like this.” So, I turn off the light and then proceed to swerve a bit as I laugh so hard I cry, and cry, and laugh. Karen is slumped down in the passenger seat as far as she can be, and trust me, it’s far… she’s small. She tells me she’s embarrassed and that I shouldn’t pull up next to the guy. She keeps saying, let him get ahead of us, or stay ahead of him. The whole time laughing and laughing, it was so damn funny.

Finally, we got to another light that was red, and “Kevin”, who isn’t Kevin, was sitting at the light in the other lane. Karen says to me, OH NO, it’s HIM… and she shrinks back down in her seat again. Luckily we didn’t have to come face to face with him again as the light changed just as we were pulling up and he sped on ahead.

The thing that made this so very funny was that I’d asked her, after she said it wasn’t Kevin, what his reaction was to the whole thing… about the look on his face. She said he had leaned over toward his driver’s side window with a very quizzical expression, as if he was trying to figure out what the heck was going on and who we were. I kept thinking… wow… to be him must have been strange and funny. Can you imagine? Looking over to see the light go on in the car passing you and two perfectly grown up women acting like goofy kids. I can only imagine the stories he’s telling today.

Ah well… it was funny. So funny that I’m sore today from laughing so hard. So funny that when mom called right after it happened and Karen and I were still laughing, she wondered what the heck was going on and Don, who was with her and in the background, wondered what we’d been smoking. He could hear us laughing. My thought about that? We are, sadly or probably not so sadly, just like this naturally. It was so funny that now, writing about it, I’m laughing again. Picturing what I imagine to be “Kevin’s” expression.

Life is a series of large and small adventures. In the grand scheme of things, this was a small one. But for us, and for the imagined “Kevin”, it’s one that will last a long long time, providing, I’m sure, many chuckles and moments of head shaking. Especially from “Kevin” who is, I’m sure, saying to himself, “who were those two ladies who were acting like total kids.” To which I would sheepishly raise my hand and say… it was I. I’m the kid, the kid in a grown person’s body… a kid in disguise.