Monday, May 25, 2009

Dream Lesson

Have you ever had a dream that upon waking made reality seem absurd?

I asked him how long he’d loved her and he looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve loved her for the thirty-six years she’s been on this earth. It’s just that I hadn’t met her until a year ago.”

I asked him why and this is what he told me:

“You comfort me. She distracts me.”

“You satisfy me. She leaves me wanting more.”

“You wear your intelligence on your sleeve. She’s so beautiful that she doesn’t have to be intelligent, yet she’s always seeking to learn something new.”

“You’d lay out a four-course dinner – perfect in every aspect. She makes just enough to prove that she can put together a competent meal.”

I asked him if he was willing to throw away all we had together. He looked at me and said, “I have but one life to live. Why should I not be happy living it?”

I awoke from the dream, not believing reality. I sat with the words and how honestly he expressed them. I sat with the feeling of frailty and rejection. I sat with my sadness without shedding tears.

I rolled the words around my tongue like meltless ice cubes. Juggling them between my teeth and gums. Repeating, regurgitating, tasting their bitterness and their permanence.

I replayed the scene of me trying to call her with the last two digits of her phone number missing and I cloaked myself in the fabric of despair; tightening the belt of agony around my abdomen. Squeezing, squeezing.

But I did not cry.

I sat with my sorrow.
Then I sat with the lesson for myself.

I am a reformed giver. I am learning to give enough but to leave enough for me, too. I am learning to give to my heart’s content, but not to my heart’s end. I am learning that just like alcohol or drugs – self-sacrifice is also a form of addiction. I am learning to deal with mine. To not revel in the sick joy that leaves me drawn and quartered in the name of motherhood, marriage or community. I am becoming comfortable with the healthy selfishness of a fulfilled woman.

And I like it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On Love:

I read something that made me ponder today. The crux of it all was a woman declaring her “loss” without her significant other. It was a poetic statement – sentimental, loving – the kind of thing found written in a Hallmark card or depicted in a movie. It was genuine, heartfelt – the expression of the feeling isn’t what gave me pause.

What struck me was how she’d fare through the inevitable. At SOME point, we’re going to be without our significant other. At some point, we will lose physical contact with a being we’ve come to love and cherish. We will be without a person upon whom we may have depended for years – by choice or by chance. It’s one of life’s few dependables.

Yet, when I read the statement about this woman’s declaration of joy at her man’s intent to make everything right, it made me feel sad.

One thing I’ve come to learn over many years of marriage and familyhood is that one person can’t make anything right for another. One person cannot be depended upon to remove the sadness and misery of another. That doesn’t mean that we throw away our gestures of kindness and gentleness toward one another. Tenderness is definitely not out the door – but righting one’s own emotional state is a personal journey.

It’s a journey that requires strength and benefits from reinforcement from others along the way, but it’s a journey one must take alone in order for it to be effective.

When we remove that opportunity to journey from another’s life, we disempower them. We take responsibility for what is not our own. We make their happiness into something we think will fit us.

Let us live in the now – creating joy out of our own realities and out of the visions of our minds. The ability to do that without condition is an expression of true love.

Friday, May 15, 2009

RIP Wayman Tisdale: The "What If?" vs the "Why Not?"

Sometimes, news can hit you like a ton of bricks. Today was one of those days for me.

I'm a basketball fan - let me rephrase that - I'm a fan of teams and team players. The types of squads where the beauty of the game is exemplified in how the individuals come together to make magic on a court. I love unselfish ballers - the kind who'd rather assist in a series than have a slam dunk highlight replayed on Sports Center.

Today's blog post is dedicated to Wayman Tisdale - nachoaverage.

Some of you may remember Wayman's basketball days - he played for the Pacers, the Kings and the Suns and was a formidable big man on the court. He was my kind of player: competent, kind, unassuming. He retired to pursue his first love - music - he's clearly a man after my own heart.

Wayman was a phenomenal musical talent. Word has it that he was one of those people who didn't read music, but just had an ear for it. Throughout college, he played the bass guitar and decided that he'd make a full-time go of it.

Wayman was one of those smooth jazz artists - the type of performer you'd see at a summertime concert series populated by clean-cut men in linen pants carrying wicker picnic baskets and curvy women in sundresses. The music was cool, but there was something more about Wayman.

Wayman's smile was infectious. HUGE!! BEAMING!! And so sincere. I never had a chance to meet him, but even listening to his voice - you could hear the kindness there. In 2007 he lost part of his leg to cancer, but even still, on a youtube video I saw of him, he was ebullient, vibrant, and so full with the possibilities that life had to offer him that one couldn't help but think "wow, what a GREAT GUY!" Here he was, an ex-basketball player - missing a LEG and talking about how blessed and grateful he was and how he wasn't going to stop. Watching him left me at "what if?" What if it was me? Would I be as joyfully expressive?

I decided to take it beyond the "what if?" and ask "why not?" And I didn't have an immediate answer. The "what if?" is the easy part. I can stay in the "what if?" for days - winning the lottery, losing my job, being homeless, being famous, living off the land in Papua New Guinea....all very intriguing "what ifs?"....but no real exploration into the why not.

The "why not?" forces us to question our own values - the things that drive us to be happy where we are, malcontent, or overly ambitious (is there really such a thing). The why defines how we deal with other people, on our fortunate days, and days when we're diagnosed with cancer after a fulfilling career in a profession that requires the competent use of one's legs.

What if we sulked and snapped and became generally snarky? What if we shut out all who love us, shunned all that makes us happy and decided to live a life of complete misery based on "woe is me"?

Why not?

On the flip side, what if we decided that every single day we live and breathe is a divine blessing and an opportunity to get up, get out, and get SOMETHING? What if we decided to honor our talents in OUR ways - writing, singing, making people laugh, cooking, organizing, cleaning - in order to make our lives more fulfilling?

Why not?

I've made my choice. Yours is yours.

Rest in peace Wayman - may many people be inspired by your "why not?"