LENT 2.0

Well, it was a big week – Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday back to back – the annual, ultimate splurge and purge!

Having been raised Catholic, Ash Wednesday, and the subsequent season of Lent, was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. We were always encouraged to give up the hardest thing possible to really put our devotion to the test and show just how willing we were to suffer right along with Mr. Jesus. Looking back, it was the ultimate misery loves company kind of thing.

Which, I guess is a nice sentiment, but as I grew up and really started exploring spirituality in a very personal, dedicated way, I outgrew the notion that any kind of God would want me to suffer in any kind of way.

That sent me exploring the whole idea of Lent a little deeper. And here’s what I’m thinking: Maybe lent isn’t about giving up the things that lift us up. Maybe it’s about giving up the things that keep us down.

If you think about it, nothing keeps you down quite like death. And nothing raises you up quite like joy. So giving up the things that make you feel less alive, like worrying, jealousy, smack talk and insecurity, in favor of things lift up your confidence, your hope and your joy is, in its own way, a resurrection of sorts. Raising you up new levels of happiness that are currently buried inside you.

That being the case, it seems to me giving up something for Lent is not about sacrifice. I kind of feel like the concept of divinity increasing though suffering and sacrifice is a misguided human creation that has, unfortunately, taken a hold of a good many. Perhaps all that is required or asked during this time is that you give up any pattern of thought, word or action you currently live by that is not rooted in the highest quality of love and kindness and respect for who you truly are. (Which, in case you are wondering, is a magnificent, joyful, resilient, infinitely potential-filled rock star.)

Every time you are able to give up the habits and patterns of behavior that keep you down, you raise your spirit a little higher from the dark, unknown within, until eventually that awesome little sucker is fully walking around in the light of day. Maybe even prancing a bit. Who knows, souls very well might love to prance. (Double dog dare you to find out!)

In honor of that fancy, prancy spirit, I say we all update our operating systems to Lent 2.0. Let’s define Lent as time that has been “lent” to us so that we can fully focus our energies on the resurrection of our true spiritual greatness from underneath all the doubts and fears we’ve managed to bury it under. Think of it as a reminder that our time in body on this planet, as well as our bodies themselves, has been lent to us for the purposes of growing into a complete understanding of our true, undefeatable nature.

This Lent, I say let’s not sacrifice our happiness in any true way. Rather, let’s realize who we are. Give up who we are not. And raise, raise, raise the roof off this popsicle stand we call life. Whoooop Diddy!

©2002 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit

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Achoo. Sniff. Hack, Hack …

This week I have fallen victim to the common cold.

Here is how it went down, and I’m guessing this is kind of common (no pun intended). First, I felt unusually tired. Which, with the exception of dosing myself with some extra Vitamin C, I pretty much ignored, because hey, I’ve got things to do!

Then tired upped the ante: It tossed sneezy and achy into the lineup. In response, I upped my denial game: I went to Walgreens and got myself some stuff to mask the symptoms so I could trick myself into believing I was just fine.

Viola! The symptoms ceased. I zipped all around town – visited the car dealership, picked up the dry cleaning, walked the dog, met with a client, went to a party, had a blast.

Then the meds wore off. And the bone crushing exhaustion, sniffling, sneezing, aching, scratchy throat feeling returned with a vengence. At this point, I have no choice other than to cry Uncle and lay on the couch and rest.

Sound familiar? Have you ever ignored all the signals your body was sending only to end up feeling worse than you would have if you had just allowed for a little rest in the first place?

Why in the world do we do this? Our bodies are brilliant. They know exactly what we need, and they are always more than willing to share that information with us.

Starting last Wednesday, my body made it very clear: “I’m fighting a little bug here.  Pleeeaaassseeee slow down a bit so I can get on top of the imbalance that is happening. I know exactly what to do, I just need extra energy, which you can provide by resting.”

Was it so much to ask? Hardly.

Being tired is not a weakness. It’s a message from your body. A clear, concise signal from your brilliant, amazing, resilient, kick ass body. Today, I’m changing my game. Today I’m choosing to listen. I’m choosing to partner with my body — to work with it instead of against it.

Which is why this week’s blog will be short and sweet. Today, I will be chilling instead of writing.  Also, I might be spending a little time wondering why we humans must we make ourselves sick before we are willing to take a break. Rest is, after all, the balance that creates health. If all the ocean tide ever did was crash onto the shore – if the sea never drew back into itself, even it, with its vast and seemingly endless supply, would eventually get depleted.

So today, I wish you all health and the willingness to take the breaks you need to keep from getting depleted. And until next week, goodnight!

© 2002 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers, Sarah Lorraine Feit

 

Love to the MAX!

Today is my puppy’s birthday. Sir Maximilian NewMaster The First. Or, as we like to call him: Max. He is the four-legged, fur baby, love of my life. And he has taught me so much about how to live. But pets do that, don’t they?

Truly, there is so much we have to learn from our animals.

I am not simply talking about the obvious things we all sort of already know about. Like unending love and unshakable loyalty. Pets, without a doubt, embody that. As their people, we are in the rare and amazing position of being another’s number one and only priority day in and day out, come what may, no matter what. Pretty amazing, right? That kind of giving is contagious.  Knowing how incredible it feels to have that in my life, I can’t help but want to be that for those beautiful people I call family and friends.

But the wisdom and inspiration of Mr. Max has extended far beyond the notion of love and loyalty. Here are just a few of the things he teaches me every day. (Often with great patience, for I openly admit, I am not always the most willing learner.)

Everyday, without fail, Max reminds me to play. To just set all the crap aside for a few minutes and have a little fun.  And every time I do, I’m that much less stressed for having done it. It is amazing what a little game of tug-a-war can do in terms of putting a smile on your face. It is the ultimate antidepressant.

Another thing Max reminds me of every day, usually dozens of times a day: It’s okay to ask for what you want. Even beg for  it if need be. He has absolutely no qualms about receiving T.R.E.A.T.S. And what a great lesson there is in that. Seems to me we are all entirely too reticent to allow others to treat us. There is this unspoken human agreement that treating ourselves ought to happen only on rare occasion and only after we truly have gone far, far out of our way to prove we deserve it. To that, Max Powers says, “Bah!” Treat me now. Treat me again! And again! And again! Good for you, Max. We all deserve the things that delight us. And we deserve them every day whether we have conquered our to-do lists or not.

Now those of you who know Max know that his idea of treating himself pretty much comes down to one thing- food. And thus comes the next brilliant bylaw in the world of Max: Food is meant to be enjoyed. Even relished. If you really think about it, what the heck is wrong with snarfing down something delicious with abandon? We all have so much stuff around eating. We are constantly counting calories. Cursing carbs. Carving portions. You know what Max thinks when I put a plate of food in front of him? “YUM!” That’s it. A single syllable that says it all. It says happiness, it says gratitude, it says, bring it on I am willing to enjoy the experience! I know when it comes to eating, we are an unhealthy nation, but maybe a healthier attitude is part of what we need to turn things around.

Max, as well as any other pet I’ve ever known, is a master in the art of receiving. This is something we humans could stand to learn in bulk. Allowing others to take care of us seems to be considered a weakness in our culture. Either that, or we are so cautious about being a possible “burden” on another, that we would rather go uncared for than let someone else give us what we need. Not pets. They are more than happy to allow us to take care of them. They somehow innately know that’s the way it works. You have to be willing to give and receive. Otherwise the whole energetic flow in a relationship gets all damned up.

Something else worth pondering: Max doesn’t get bored wiht life. He is always excited to play with a ball. Every single time. And, I’m just guessing here, but I think that has a lot more to do with Max then the ball. He brings fresh, excited energy to every game of fetch because he’s just plain happy to be spending time having some fun with the people he loves. What else is there in the end? If he can find bottomless joy in a tennis ball or a frisbee, surely I can manage to not get bored with my rich and beautiful life.

I could go on and on with the lessons my little boy has taught me… That cuddling actually is a cure for much of what ails you. That there is always a reset button for your bad mood just waiting in a good, long walk. That it is very possible to communicate without words. And most importantly – most especially – that there is an unfathomable real richness and honor in being entrusted by life with the care of another living creature.  But at some point, I have to stop writing about Max and start celebrating with him…After all, there’s birthday apple pie to be had!

So with no further wordy ado, here’s to my child. My mentor. My greatest blessing.

Here’s to you, Sir Max — Happy Birthday, bubby!

© 2002 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit

 

ORDINARY = EXTRAORDINARY

 I went to a funeral this week. Never a lot of fun, but always a thought provoker. However, unlike the usual thoughts such moments conjure up, this time it isn’t death that’s on my mind. It’s life.

As per the usual, there was a eulogy spoken, reflecting the life this lovely woman had lived. And, over and over, the priest presiding over the services kept using one phrase in particular. “Hers was a great life.” And he was right. I had the honor or sharing in that life. It really was great. And looking around at all the tearful people who loved her, there is no doubt she left behind an amazing legacy.

But here’s the thing about that great life and that amazing legacy – throughout the entire eulogy, I never once heard anyone talk about how much money Jane made or how many promotions she got. Nobody mentioned her investment portfolio, what kind of GPA she pulled down or how many exotic vacations she took. It never dawned on that priest to recall who she voted for or what her view of the socio-economic political climate was.

Could it be that after all our fussing over these supposed benchmarks of success, such things are really not what make a person or a life or a legacy great?

Because the things that were remembered – that brought tears of joy and sadness to the eyes of the people in that church – were of a different caliber completely. Things like how freaking awesome her homemade brownies were. How in her view, a good book always trumped a pile of laundry.  How much she loved her husband, her daughters, a cold Budweiser and the annual Fourth of July picnic. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the priest recounted how she would always, always greet her family with the phrase, “Look how beautiful you are.”

These small, seemingly insignificant things, in the end, were the ones that mattered.

And that notion, I must admit, has got me thinking that there is a very good chance we good people of the Earth have taken our eyes off the ball.

Does it really matter if a fifth grader gets a D on a homework assignment? Is the world going to implode if we all don’t actualize ripped abs or own our own homes? Will it be written on my tombstone that I never ran a marathon? Does it matter with whom we find love or just that we find it? Will the people I love feel any less loved when I die if my portfolio isn’t diversified? (Those of you who know and love me may be asking, “What portfolio?” Just hush, I’m making a point.)

And that point is this: Promotions. Portfolios. Bank balances.  Designer dresses. Corner offices. Red states. Blue states. Test scores. Football scores. Settling scores. These are not the things that eulogies are made of.

In the end, as far as I can tell, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that we look back on with such fondness. In keeping with the odd sense of humor life seems to have, it appears that it is our little quirks, not our big accomplishments, that wiggle their way into the tender, eternal memory of the heart.

And if that’s the case, then at the risk of oversimplifying, may I just say: Phew. Pressure is off. I’m going to take a little break from chasing the cultural carrot of success that is always beckoning me to move faster, do more, have more, be more.

You know what I’m going to strive to be instead of more? I’m going to strive to be myself. Quirks and all. I’m going to live and love as I am innately equipped to do.

And in the end, I hope with all my heart that whoever speaks my eulogy mentions things like my ability to listen. My willingness to support.  My gift of resiliency and how many times I have been able to put a smile on the face of another. I hope the little cards and personal notes I write get as much play as the best selling books. (Stay tuned; those are coming.) I pray that when it’s all said and done, I am remembered for what I have given, not what I have saved.

Sure, those little things might be ordinary. But guess what? They are also extraordinary. They define a life, how could they not be?

© 2002, The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit