The Zing Effect

I never play the odds. My mind won’t lead where my heart cannot follow. The only time I’m all in is when I feel that special zing of excitement flow through me like a pulse of vibrating electric current. When I feel a good zing it doesn’t matter if I’m backing a sure thing or a three legged pony; I’ll anti up just to see where the game takes me. He wasn’t a three legged pony and he was no sure thing but the cut of his suite, the way it fit his shoulders…yum. I didn’t even need him to turn around to know he was for me. The zing was flooding all through me. I felt it in my chest, flooding to the tips of my fingers. My soul whistled a cat call out through my heart yelling, Honey! I’m right here. No sooner did the feeling fill me but that man turned right around and saw me.

It’s funny the way souls attract. I’m very aware of the moment my soul gets all excited about another person’s soul. It’s the zing that gives it away. It’s the zing that shouts out, Hey you! And that’s why I never play the odds. The odds would tell me he’s sophisticate and I’m self-educated and no way-no how is such a pretty bit of man ever going to notice the woman behind the counter in the polyester uniform. Yet he does because souls don’t care about the superficial. Some say fate holds all the cards, yet I know there isn’t an obstacle in the universe that can counterpoint a good zing. My man lifts up his bag and walks to the counter. I stand my ground, my smile offering unlimited serenity in a sea of manmade madness.

“Ma’am?” he starts off real slow, his eyes down cast, his hand resting on the counter over his ticket. “I’m supposed to catch a flight out to Chicago but the schedule over there says the flights been canceled.”

“Let me check that for you.” Taking up the ticket I type a little and look a little and the zing just keeps on keeping on. On my second glance up I catch his eye and smile. He has pretty eyes; the kind that sparkle all kinds of color all at once. A boring person would call them hazel but I know they’re flecked with gold and bits of emerald green and sea foam grey all jumbled up together. He has nice, nice eyes. “Well…” I drawl out the world a little, my eyes fixed on the computer screen. “It would seem that O’Hare’s shut down due to a blizzard. There are no flights scheduled to Chicago for the foreseeable future.”

“So I’m stuck!”

“You could look at it that way. Or you could think of it as a fortuitous extension to your sunny trip to L.A. We have palm trees and movie stars instead of wind-chill and snow drifts.”

“I could look at the upside.” He nods his head with sober resignation.

“Do you have somewhere you can stay?”

“Not as of yet!”

“Well I know a great little place that always has room for a friend. If you like I could give them a call.”

“That sounds nice.” He studies me a bit. “Your voice is familiar.” His smile is slow and hesitant, the kind of smile that seeks truth and spreads gratefully when it finds it. “You’re from Louisiana aren’t you?”

“New Orleans.”

“I’m from Baton Rouge.” Our eyes catch again and hold for a lingering moment.

“Louisiana’s home.” I shrug and smile enjoying the lingering connection like powdered sugar kisses. “I’m off work in 15 minutes.” The words tumble out from my lips as soft and slow as a shared secret. “Why don’t you meet me in the restaurant around the corner and I’ll buy you a lemonade. It’ll be nice to catch-up with someone from back home.”

“I’d like that.”

When he walks away the zing just gets stronger. I feel it in my knees, in my fingers. Even my toes feel ticklish. The zing is why I never back the odds. Logic and the laws of probability won’t allow what just happened. But a good zing? Now that’s physical proof that God’s got you by that hand and he’s leading you to the sweetest part of the cake. I like living a life of possibility, I like dancing in the unpredictable. I like the joy I feel when life offers me a new adventure all wrapped up in sizzling surprise. Best of all, I like the magic that happens when two old souls attract and say hello all over again.

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The Very Human Need for Experience

Good and Evil

Good and Evil


I wanted to shelter my son from the world. I prayed away my foul mouth, hid my tears and played happy family with gusto. I wanted his world to be flowery, fun and fantastically clean. I didn’t tell him about my childhood unless I was telling a funny anecdote about a pet or a friend. I socialized him, took art classes with him and enrolled him in a co-op preschool where I could play perfect with other perfect mothers. Right out of preschool we enrolled in a perfect private school where I was sure he would bloom into the perfect prep school boy. In my search for perfection I lost something integrally important to the development of a well-rounded human. That important missing element was a well-developed sense of reality.

As time passed I began to see the holes in the world I’d worked so hard to create. I wasn’t being myself, my friends were drearily superficial and my son was unhappy in his school. Desperate for answers I turned to a book I stole from my high school, an ancient, dog eared copy of Herman Hesse’s, Siddhartha. I love this book for so many reasons. Like many other great inspirational books I can just open it to any page and find a piece of wisdom that will help me with whatever it is I’m facing. That day I opened the book at the beginning. I read of Siddhartha’s mother, her love for her child and her tragic early death. I read about the prophesy, proclaiming Siddhartha to be the greatest teacher of the age. Then I read his father’s reaction to this prophesy. Having just lost his wife and then faced with the loss of his son to a religious life, Siddhartha’s father created a perfect world in which pain, suffering and old age had no place. He imprisoned Siddhartha in a false utopia and robbed him of reality in order to keep him safe. How did Siddhartha react? He ran away in search of answers to the questions his father could neither pose nor answer.

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Setting down the book I began to see the holes I’d identified in my parenting open into rather worrying chasms. I remembered the perfect children I’d known growing up, the ones who’d summered at the country club, vacationed in the tropics with their perfect families only to go slumming as drug using collage kids. I started remembering other sheltered kids who’d gone wild with sex and drugs the moment they’d found freedom from the suffocating control of their perfect worlds. Slowly I began to think that maybe by keeping our children in ignorance of pain and suffering we create a vacuum in their experience which will only propel them into a deeper need to experience the very things we try to protect them from. We cannot limit our children’s experience on this earth by sheltering them from a world they will someday have to live in.

So what is a frightened conscientious parent to do? I still only have a vague idea. In my heart I think a parent’s job is to guide a child through the world but not to shelter them from it. I feel that we must discuss even the small details of their day and how their different interactions made them feel. Most importantly we must validate their emotions with empathy, compassion and a willingness to hear while we admit our own feelings, failings and frustrations within the discourse. In other words it is very important that our children see us as loving, fallible humans whom they can trust with their secrets. We live in a tumultuous world of opposites. As much as we hate to admit it good lives in balance with evil and both must be experienced in order to be understood. We cannot end suffering any more then Siddhartha the Buddha did because suffering is a necessary part of experience and experience is the only true teacher. No matter how hard we try, we cannot recreate heaven on earth because that isn’t why we’re here.

Making Peace with Experience

Making Peace with Experience

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The Death of the Guru

prayer

We’re all searching for something. We’re all looking for the divine answer that leads to the divine escape from chaos, fear, heartache and loneliness. Whether we look for it in relationship, a bottle or a church we are seeking to be more, to be better, to but understood and accepted. When I was twelve I turned to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as my examples of peace. I desperately needed peace in my life, the kind of peace they seemed to embody. At twelve I realized how fully capable I was of violence. At fourteen I became a pacifist in theory if not in reality and I began my slow arduous journey towards a sustainable, compassion based existence. I began identifying and rooting out the evils in my life. First I moved away from home, taking my horse and staying with friends for months on end. At 22 I escaped completely and hardly looked back. By 23 I was married and safe but the hell in my head made a hell of my life. I continued my search for escape until the day I realized that wherever I went…there I was…with all my chaos in tow. I could not escape my problems because I never let them go.

Throughout my many years of searching for truth and forgivness I’ve come to one solid understanding: There is no single person who can fix me. There are thousands of people who insisted that if I just read their books, take their supplements, follow their philosophy or join their ashram I will find the inner peace I am searching for. I’ve had Christians tell me to placed my faith in Jesus and be free of darkness. I’ve had yoga masters promise me that through daily practice with their “Masters” I’ll be liberated, transformed and healed. Doctors have prescribed drugs, supplements and diets to clear my energy body, detox my cells and raise my energy vibrations. Acupuncturists have pocked me with needles, read my auras and told me that with a few more treatments my Chakras would come into balance.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on healing, thousands of hours drinking bitter health teas, popping pills, stretching, praying, meditating only to rise the next morning the same angry person I’d been the night before. So what was the answer? On the eve of my 38th birthday the only thing I am certain of is that I am the only one who can fix me. My belief in the abilities of sage healers is dead. I will never again look to a “healer” for guidance. I have killed the idea of the guru because the wise man is just another person getting through the day. I recently watched the documentary Kumare’ by Vikram Gandhi which verified everything I have come to believe. Only through daily practice of that which feels good, feels right, and serves my highest good will I ever find peace. The ability to heal is within all of us; it’s just a matter of taking time away from social chaos, duty and convention in order to find the small simplicities that lead us into peace. So I meditate, I walk my dog, I stretch, I self-medicate when hell rains down and I pray to God to remove my anger, to help me forgive and to make me a better person. I practice everyday gratitude and I live and love as if each day were my last. If I tell you I love you I mean it. If I love you it’s because I see the light in you, the sparkle God put there and I’m grateful you’re in my life. We are our own wise men, our own holy men, and we hold the keys to our own salvation through love of God and love of each other, tranquility of sprit and the solemn acceptance that we are human: flawed, beautiful, unique and fragile.

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Animal Magic

I grew up with a lot of animals. Animals were our way of life. We woke to the sounds of chickens. We spent our days training horses and mucking out stalls and our nights cuddled up around our old wood fire place with cats, dogs, ferrets, a rabbit and a chinchilla. When it was time for bed it was just a matter of standing up to signal your entourage to follow. My entourage consisted of Muffy, a calico kitty our neighbors found in their garage and Zena the whippet who came to us after being shuffled through three other homes.

Mooney my house cat when he was a young stray on my farm.

Mooney my house cat when he was a young stray on my farm.

We were the collectors of the unwanted, the unadoptable and the hopeless. Our horses were slaughterhouse saves, our dogs were pound puppies and our cats came to us from every corner of the city. The most dramatic cat story we converged with was that of Mimsy. She was a beautiful silver stripped kitty who was rescued by an elderly homeless man from boys who were beating her to death in the streets of Spokane. My sister was a teenager in her car when the man knocked on her window and gave Mimsy to her. I can’t remember what he said but I do remember the look of grief she described in his eyes, a look that stemmed from an inability to understand why anyone would try to beat a kitty to death. I’m happy to say that in our large menagerie, Mimsy lived a long and happy life as mother’s favorite lap cat.

Tally, the $600 rescue, beat out valuable warmbloods at her first show.

Tally, the $600 rescue, beat out valuable warmbloods at her first show.

Since we adopted our new puppy last Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the hundreds of animals which have graced my life. I still miss my first cat Lilly and I still tear up when I think of Zena the Whippet, Serge the Greyhound and Nitro the incomparable Doberman/Shepherd cross who was in all likelihood an angel cloaked in fur. So many things have changed over the years. So many lives have come and gone and yet we plod on, loving those who will only grace a small portion of lives. Though their years are short, the love they leave behind lasts a lifetime. Animals heal us, they bring us close and they open our souls to a deeper experience of what really matters. With a pet, every snowfall is magical, every sunrise filled with expectation and every well warn path becomes riddled with joyful possibility.

Aria, our new puppy who was found wandering the streets of Everett with her mother.

Aria, our new puppy who was found wandering the streets of Everett with her mother.

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Christmas Lights

christmas-tree2
When I think of Christmas I see lights reflected off snow, sparkling red, blue and green. Somewhere in the distance voices raise in song and I am again a child, my hand in my mother’s as together we view the light display in temple square. In my child’s mind this temple embodied every kind of magic, its beauty shining like a beacon of beauty and peace into a wary world. I used to pray that this part of Christmas would last all year. I loved the silence of Christmas. I loved the sense of wonder, the love and warmth of light reflecting out into the darkness bringing hope. In no other time of the year did I feel as loved, as united, or as precious as I did in those long dark winters in Salt Lake City. I was still a child then, still innocent and open to the magic in the world.

In the days after we’d decorated our fragrant tree, I would gather my books, blankets and my teddy bear Rose-Amora and slide carefully into the corner behind the branches to read by Christmas light. I remember hearing my father walk through our old Victorian house while he called my name. I’d listen in silence, my book sitting still in my lap while my father pretended he couldn’t find me. I giggled when he return to the living room with my cat Cumulus Nimbus under his arm. “Find Eleanor,” he’d say, setting the cat down before the tree and sure enough Nim would run right to me meowing.

It’s so easy to forget what Christmas is in the hustle of holiday sales, family get together, and church events. It’s easy to fill silence with noise, and stillness with action, to remain so busy in preparation that we forget to rest in the fullness of experience. Each year when we take out the Christmas lights I am reminded of what happy feels like. Each year I take time to rest with a good book and a cat in the light of peace as I did so long ago in the light from a Christmas tree. Each year I listen to the world call my name while I pretend not to hear because it feels so good to rest in stillness. Whether your light comes from the star of Bethlehem, the Menorah or the Holy Fire, be still in its presence, practice gratitude for all that you are and all that you have and be childlike; for only in innocence can we know peace.

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Nothing to Prove

two girls holding hands
I no longer have anything to prove. Not to myself, not to my friends and not to the world. Stress, anxiety and worry, guilt and fear grow stronger when I reach for perfection; wanting in every way to prove that I am worth knowing, worth hearing, worth the time it takes to say hello. Freedom lives in acceptance, as does love, compassion and the greatest gift, contentment. I have set aside my need for riches, my wish for worldly wealth and I am at home with myself and to myself in a way I never was before, simply because I make no excuses for who I am. I am…and that’s enough.

The road to poverty is paved with unnecessary consumption; that driving need to own the latest, the greatest, the biggest and the best in order to be cutting-edge, cool and accepted. I have bought my fair share of acceptance based merchandise. I have run up my credit cards and wept when I couldn’t pay the bill. I wore the right shoes with the right dress to the right occasion where I said all the right things to all the right people? Instead of feeling exhilarated, accepted and admired I felt tired and jaded as if I’d shelved the best and brightest parts of me for one radiantly superficial occasion.

Once shelved, our best and brightest features begin to fade. Our true natures waste away into the shadowed recess of our souls, coming out in confessions to a friend who isn’t really a friend because in truth, she’s never really met you. Oh sure you’ve shopped together and gossiped together but the moment you let your true self slip into the open, you’re confronted with the reality that you’ve crossed that line into inexplicable depth. Your pretty friend’s eyes glaze over, there’s a lull in conversation accompanied by the reality that you’ve gone too far. “Beyond this point there be dragons,” the old maps used to read and you struggle through uncomfortable chatter, the bird song of small talk, until you reestablish the comfortable anonymity that kept you both intimate strangers. Then your friend grows busy, too busy, to shop and gossip and her world spins on without you.

I have nothing to prove, nothing to preach, I’ll love you in your best dress or in your most ragged pair of sweats. You know the pair you reserve for those days when you’re too old for teddy bears but too broken to understand how much you need one. I don’t care if you’re not wearing eye makeup or where you got your hair done. If you can’t stop crying I’ll probably join you. If you’ve got the giggles I’m right there to.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
-William Shakespeare

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Good House Keeping

The Coffee stains on the table are my grandfathers. Each intersecting circle creates an Olympic design. The curtains were sown by my grandmother, yellow with little red flowers faded by a thousand sunrises to varying shades of light pink. The chip in the oak countertop is my mothers, the place where she sliced a thousand cuts of meat and missed the cutting board only twice. The scrapes on both side of the back door belong to the dozens of dogs who have graced our lives with wet noses, wet kisses and the click of claws on the hardwood door. The scrape on the floor belongs to my father, the place where he drug his chair along the old oak planks, bellying up to the table, newspaper in hand.

If I were to find my place in this old farm house, it would be in the attic where the pink and green wallpaper now hangs like fly paper from the narrowly peaked ceiling. The floor where my brass bed once stood is scored by my running leaps which always moved the bed an inch. Other children slept here, my mother in her time, her mother before that. The attic is a child’s place, a lofted wonderland whose view never alters with the years. Stepping across the old planks to the warped single pain window, I see a hundred acres of oak trees. These are the same trees that my great-great grandparents planted one hundred and fifty years ago.

Reaching out I take a swath of wall paper, tearing a neat strip to make a sample. Now that the house is mine, the workmen repair the shingled roof and paint the gingerbread siding to its original peach and cream. Someday soon, on summer holidays my own grandchildren will sleep in brass beds in this attic room, their eyes tracing the green and pink wallpaper of my mother’s childhood. In turn they will mark the house, damage the molding, and scratch their ever increasing height into the door jambs. Someday this will be their house, filled with their stories, memories, dents and dust, creating the best kind of housekeeping for a well lived, well loved home.

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