One of my favorite poets died two years ago today. I’ve never failed to find beauty and so much that I wasn’t even aware that I was looking for in her words, whether it be solace, joy, a sense of marvel or just the reminder I need. Today, I’m sharing the two poems that I woke up to. They served as a kind of PSA ( Public Service Announcement) to me and perhaps they will to you, on this 45th morning of the month of Panjanuary 202021.
Now, in the words of Mary Oliver and the sea, “Excuse me, I have work to do.”
When my daughter and son were little, their bedtime routines included a nightly request of “tell me a story, momma”. This would be after reading two, three, or eight books and just prior to the final tuck in (when Mom was likely falling asleep herself). I’d conjure up an off-the-cuff story in which they each starred, and would inevitably begin it with the words “once upon a time”. The story lines might include an event that occurred in their lives that day or an exciting imaginary adventure in which incredible feats were achieved or magical powers were revealed. Sometimes the tales had an underlying purpose or message, (you are strong, smart, brave, kind) and other times they were utterly nonsensical, inciting one of the purest and sweetest sounds on Earth, a child’s laughter.
One of life’s universal truths is that whether as a child or an adult, when living moments like those, we have no idea of the nostalgia we will one day feel, looking back at our own “once upon a times”. The phrase itself is most often associated with fairy tales but when I made up those simple stories for my children, aside from entertainment and parent/child bonding, my inherent purpose was to instill the concept of tangible and endless possibilities in their impressionable little minds. Years later I found myself doing the same thing in a different way. When my young granddaughter wanted to give up and quit because she was losing a board game we were playing, I’d encourage her to stick with it and not end the game by assuring her that “anything can happen”. She grew to realize that the game could indeed turn in her favor, if only she’d keep going. Now “anything can happen” is the answer to the question “What does Mimi always say?” At 13 years old, she realizes that the phrase is applicable to many of the life situations she encounters.
As an adult reviewing my own life, I’ve found it useful to do so in terms of past events occurring “once upon a time”. All of the things that happened were chapters in my ongoing autobiography. Some of the stories I’ve lived are worthy of sharing with folks. Others I’ve made peace with and assigned them their rightful home in the trash. Some of my once upon a times had rainbow colored happy ever after endings and some were dark and difficult lessons learned. The latter have served their purpose and don’t need to be dealt with anymore. Just as we don’t need to keep the owner’s manual on broken appliances, we don’t need to retain the stories about ourselves that no longer work to our benefit, especially if they were written by others.
On this 6th day of a new year, the air is filled with change, hope and the possibility of regaining some of what’s been lost in a myriad of areas. The opportunity to create new “once upon a times” in our own lives, in the lives of others, in our communities and our country is presenting itself, just as it does every single day. Cheers to learning from those stories that contained tough, painful lessons and good riddance to the ones written by others that never served us. My wish for the new year is that regardless of the rain that will necessarily and assuredly fall upon all of us, that our hours be awash with creating more rainbow colored, joyous laughter filled “once upon a times”, both in our personal lives and globally.
Today is our oldest granddaughter’s 13th birthday. We’ve never missed a single one of her celebrations, until this __________ year. (insert your personal choice of expletive or adjective). We’re planning to FaceTime with her this afternoon and are extremely thankful for that ability. But this year!! All the things and people we’ve missed! Geeze Louise!
One of my writer’s groups asked its members to post their one word for 2020 and their one word for 2021. Well, they asked! For 2020 mine is FUCK! and for 2021, HOPE. Not totally Zen or spiritual, I know. FUCK! is the exclamation I’ve uttered, screamed and cried on a fairly consistent and frequent basis during the last 10 months. In my mind it has been THE most appropriate (albeit not child friendly) response to at least 1000 different scenarios we all have either personally experienced or been party to as both citizens of this country (USA) and as human beings on this planet.
Thank whoever/whatever it is you normally thank, that there was also life sustaining light amidst the exponential surplus of darkness. John Krasinski brought us SGN (Some Good News) and warmed our hearts and made us smile on the weekly. And then there was adorable Leslie Jordan who gave us a daily “well shit y’all, what are ya doing?” visit that made us momentarily forget our quarantine/ confinement/social distancing sadness for a while. And of course they weren’t the only ones. A hell of a lot of kindness has come out of this year. A lot of understanding/reassessing the true value of people in professions that many of us have taken for granted for far too long.
And that’s where the hope comes in for 2021 and moving forward. I hope we don’t forget. I hope we’ve all been awakened to how much we desperately need each other and how we must rally as one or die alone. ( As far too many have during this pandemic.) I hope we can all see that real and palpable hope is just beginning to dawn on multiple fronts. Taking form in the vaccines, politics, civil and equal rights reforms, strangers helping strangers and neighbors helping neighbors, we’re seeing little glimmers that have the potential to become massive illuminations, benefitting not just some of us, but all of us. There’s no need to hoard it like some did toilet paper. There really is enough light and hope and goodness to share.
Whatever the amount of melanin in our skin, whatever our gender, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation or political leaning, 2020 has taught us that we’re in this together. I hope we don’t ever forget.
This is one of the first photos I posted on IG 9 years ago. My beautiful big hearted grand girl, who like most children, have the ability to see the beauty in everything. Able to pick up a broken shell, declare its remaining virtues and find purpose along its jagged lines, making art with it. To be in the present always, making it and her precious gifts to others. She’ll turn 13 in two months, in a year that’s been a rough one for all of us, and she’s done a lot of hard things. She’s quarantined, learned virtually, adapted to the new normal, missed friends and family and still managed to make honor roll, progress in soccer and flute playing skills, participate in community outreach efforts and smile behind her mask. But none of those things matter today.
Today, in a half hour or so, after a night of crying herself to sleep, she’ll awake with an actual ache of sorrow in her young heart. She’ll wonder whether there’s any way she can rise out of bed and go to school.
You see, yesterday she witnessed her June, her beloved Great Pyrenees have what appeared to be a stroke. She witnessed the next door neighbor valiantly administering CPR to no avail. She witnessed the hand of death take someone she has loved for most of her life, for the first time.
Today and in those to come, she’ll need tender care. Today she’ll surely reflect on how wrong she was believing that 2020 could not suck any more. She’ll declare that growing up and understanding mortality is highly overrated. Today she’ll be right.
As we move through our own day, let’s send love and care to her and the multitude of souls who are aching. Love is a verb. It’s the most powerful energy we carry inside of us and it’s what she and our world need a flood of today.
Once upon a time in a land that was touted as “the greatest country in the world” there were people stricken with an endemic disorder known as “somnambulism” or sleepwalking. So focused on the smaller picture of their everyday personal circle and turned off or completely disenchanted with the business of politics and other contentious subjects that seemed to have no actual bearing on their local lives, they gradually and unconsciously succumbed to it.
In previous eras this disorder usually occurred at nighttime, but with the increased stresses of their overworked, technology stoked, superstar worshipping, keeping up with The Jones’s, or just simply exhausted trying to survive and stay alive lifestyles, something had to give. That something was paying attention to what was happening past the length of their noses. Once that decision was made, the human bodies as human bodies do over time, began to adapt by altering the amount of GABA being released during the daytime hours in a large portion of the population. GABA is a neurotransmitter and one of the primary chemicals involved in preventing sleepwalking.
While awake, they no longer got overly excited about anything happening in that faraway city called the District of Something or in those boring national and state congresses where auctions were held. If it didn’t affect them or their paycheck personally, or it didn’t involve the utterly ridiculous idea of a woman’s right to control her own body, they didn’t care to think about it. A large portion of the land’s people simply started sleepwalking through their lives.
Sure there were still harmless manifestations like ice cream containers left out overnight to melt all over the the kitchen and people waking with dirt filled fingernails and blackened feet from midnight gardening escapades outside, but the greater displays of nationwide daylight somnambulism were far more lethal.
There had always been “shysters” among them, but they most often worked very hard to remain under the radar and reach their goals in the most inconspicuous ways. However, there came a day in this land when all this changed. The self proclaimed greatest amongst them blatantly declared with vigor and vim that he could do anything he wanted, even shoot someone in the middle of a famous street, without recrimination. People laughed at the utter ridiculousness of it and went on with their microscopic lives. There was a status quo to keep, and all of those things that really didn’t affect them could only be ignored by sleepwalking 24/7.
The ground had been prepared and the assault on liberty, logic, and civility began without much notice. The shysters and the somnambulists formed a very successful partnership to which only one group of them was actually privy or in the position to reap any tangible benefits from.
The land began to cry. People began to die. The shysters started mini wars all across the nation. But not enough people died for most of its citizens to concern themselves. Until. Until it became time for the contest. This land was known for loving a good contest.
Those stricken with somnambulism remained as they were, but the others, those who’d been struggling to sleep for years, became even more awake, or “more woke”. They began using every waking moment to alert others to the literal and figurative fires that were being set and raging throughout the land. Millions registered to participate in the contest in hopes of saving the people, even the ones sleepwalking, from the perils they’d become numb to in recent years.
And it worked. The shysters were imprisoned and or exiled for their contemptible crimes against humanity. A majority of the people slowly recovered from the trauma and painful assaults on decency and dignity they’d become accustomed to. It wasn’t perfect, and there was still much work to do, but it was much, much better. Although some still chose the comfort of somnambulism and some still railed on about that ridiculous notion that a woman’s body and her decisions about it are her own, the country rose from the darkness of those days and the ashes left behind left behind by he whom future historians will describe as the greatest circus ringmaster, the preeminent, most despicable, misogynistic, pig of a con man that ever lived.
The End ( but not the end of me causing “good trouble”)
As luck would have it I’m up at 3:15 AM pondering the concept of luck because it’s today’s writing prompt. Do I believe it exists? Have I experienced it? When have I had it? What kind have I had? Can we humans actually create our own luck? Why does it seem that some people have nothing but bad luck? Or do they actually? Is there a hidden message or meaning in bad luck? Can something good come from bad luck? Why do some individuals seem to have all the luck? Or do they? Do we misuse the term? Is “luck” just a filler word we plug in to a sentence when there’s no perceived reason or logical explanation for an event occurring? Some say there’s no such thing as luck and that everything happens for a reason. I’d argue with some of the “reasons”. “Of course you would” says my husband, who claims I should have been a lawyer instead of a teacher given my irrepressible urge to argue about everything.
This semi- neurotic stream of consciousness and the fact that I forgot to take my nighttime allergy pill are two of the reasons I’m up in the middle of this particular night. Secondary are voter suppression, injustice, inequality, COVID-19, stress, hormones and the fact that I tend to overthink everything. Because I’m me, I had to look up the definition of luck :
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
a force that brings good fortune or adversity
the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
I found a gold chain on the beach once. Was that good fortune or was I simply more observant than the other folks who I saw walk right by it? I won a wedding dress once and went on to marry an exploitative monster. (1st husband, not the 2nd, there are other nouns and adjectives for him). Was that an omen or luck? And for those keeping count and while we’re on the subject, my 3rd husband is the absolute love of my life and one of the 7 best things that ever happened to me, (the other 6 are my kids and grandkids).
Is luck simply the result of hard work or diligence? Is it just being in the right or wrong place at a certain moment in time? Do the stars control it? Do the direct or indirect actions of ourselves, our ancestors, or others determine or contribute to it? In the U.K. they use the term “hard luck”. I like the connotation involved with that. Tough times and unfavorable circumstances are certainly hard/difficult.
If you’re still reading and wondering where I’m going with this, welcome to my world. At a minimum, I’ve given you something to ponder today when you run out of things to worry and wonder about. Just make sure you’re not daydreaming so much that you forget about staying safe and paying attention to your surroundings. Wouldn’t want you to incur any bad luck. On the other hand you just might get lucky and have some kind of epiphanic eureka moment or win the lottery. Let me know if you do and I might ponder that tomorrow when I’m up in the middle of the night!
I was tidying up my home office this afternoon (envision piles of books, journals, clippings, etc.”) and revisited this children’s book. “The Three Questions”, written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and based on a story with the same name, written by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a beautiful adaptation that answers three extremely important questions relevant to both children and adults.
1. When is the best time to do things? We struggle with this every day. The uncertainty of whether we should do this thing now or whether we should wait and see if this other thing happens first.
2. Who is the most important one? I know I’m here now with this person but maybe I should be somewhere else. How can I be sure that this is where I should be and time well spent?
3. What is the right thing to do? Oh my, this is a big…
In my Montessori educator training, I learned the philosophy of “Cosmic Education” and how it is the work of the educator to guide and enable each child to seek and find their cosmic purpose, their verse. Each of us has one, belonging only to us and it’s our task to discover the contribution that is ours to make. It’s why we’re here, to contribute positively to the big interconnected, interdependent mosaic that is our world.
What is your verse? You may not realize you have one, but you do. You may not think it’s unique, but it is! You may not have discovered it yet and that’s okay! The powerful play continues and the opportunities for you to do that arrive anew with each morning’s sunrise. Every day we get another chance to discover our passion, our purpose, our reason for being and to contribute our unique verse to the…