RIDDLE ME THIS, BATMAN

Usually the best answers are the ones you conjur up for yourself.

So, in the spirit of that there factoid, I offer a riddle …

The Japanese call it Chi. The Chinese call it Qi. Religions call it God. Star Wars called it The Force. Businesses call it morale.Nutritionists measure it in calories. Minds exert it through thought. Hearts process it through emotion. Sports drinks bottle it. Emptiness is filled with it.Einstein equated it. Synapses fire it. Nervous systems run on it. Lightning strikes with it. Sounds travel on it. The sun radiates it. The moon reflects it. The tides roll with it. Stress zaps it. Joy multiplies it.It zips. It zings. It zooms. It stirs. It stunts. It strives. It hustles. It bustles. It balances. It skews. It rests. It moves. It heats. It cools. It hones. It heals. It animates. It emanates. It alleviates. It’s wasted. It’s stored. It’s converted. It’s kinetic. It’s static. It’s power. It’s force. It’s the good. It’s the bad. It is the symptom. It is the source. It’s the cause. It’s the cure. It is the core. It is the creative currency of life. What is energy?

And now, for the riddle: How do we harness it to create the life we want rather than simply muster through the one we have?

 

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HAPPY HOLIDAZE!

It’s here again – the most wonderful time of the year. And, for today’s purposes, by wonderful I mean overbooking, overeating, over serving, overspending and a general, all around overdoing.

Anyone else kinda over it?

Don’t get me wrong; this does not come from a festering sense of Meh Humbug. I absolutely love the holidays. Let the record state that any time of year defined by words like “cheer” and “spirit” and “glad tidings” and “jingle jingle” are a-okay in my book.

But if I’m being honest, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps the world is so starved for cheer, holiday or otherwise, that we aren’t gorging ourselves at the social butterfly buffet.

And, if so, could it be possible that, in trying so hard to cram all the happy we can handle into the holidays, we might actually end up depleting ourselves of one of the key ingredients to happiness: Which is the quiet and peaceful state of mind to actually let all that good stuff sink in.

Perhaps its time to stop trying to spread our holiday cheer a mile wide at the expense of only being able to take it an inch deep.

Having said that — In the spirit of jumping off the holiday hamster wheel and putting some mental and emotion chill in the air this season, I’d like to serve up a whole new idea of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. And I’d like to do it via a little something I wrote for a project I worked on a few years back. It’s called Rocking Chair:

Ever wonder why babies love rocking chairs? Is it the simple, gentle motion they find comforting? Or is it the fact that they can feel the rocking chair working it’s magic on you? Perhaps they sense that one of the world’s adults is, at long last, coming to a much-needed stand still. Because when you think about it, a hiatus from forward movement is exactly what a rocking chair is. In this life where everyone is striving to get ahead and get to the top, rocking chairs are about getting you nowhere at all. They are designed to keep you right here. Rocking back and forth…back and forth…back and forth…lulling you into the moment. Where you can enjoy a nice view. Catch up with a good friend. Recall a happy memory, or perhaps make a new one. It’s funny, when you think about it like that, the question isn’t why do babies love rocking chairs. The question is, why on Earth did the rest of us ever outgrow them?

Figgy pudding, anyone?

THE PEACOCK AND THE POPPYCOCK

I live amongst a small building community of really great people. And, for the record, I use community in the greatest sense of the word – there is a real sense of fellowship that exists here. We all know each other’s names and families. We cook together. We eat together. We exercise together. We party together. We watch each other kids. Each other’s dogs. Each other’s backs.

That, of course, is not to say nirvana reigns supreme. As is the case with any small knit community, a lot of personal business ends up being public knowledge. For lack of a better way to put it, grills are gotten up in. (Yo.) And yes, on occasion, personalities clash.

But up until recently, those clashes were always handled with respect. The foundation of neighborliness was not eroded by differences of opinion or preference.

Notice that I said up until recently? That’s because as of late, things have shifted. To be specific (in a general kind of a way), a rift between two neighbors has taken seed in our community and begun to create a division. All kinds of delightful things have been unfolding … Name calling. Side taking.  Clique forming. And, most fun of all, an underlying sense of aggression, of both the passive and active varieties, that has everyone walking on eggshells.

And I do mean everyone. Because aggressive behavior doesn’t just affect the parties directly involved. It’s much more far reaching than that. Aggression blows a lot hot air and does so at high velocities. And, as it is a simple fact that you can’t be in a hurricane without getting your hair mussed up, similarly, you can’t be in the presence of openly exerted aggression without your molecules getting blown into a state of disarray. Aggression is so incredibly destructive.

Unless you happen to be a peacock.

Have you ever stopped to consider what a peacock does when feeling aggressive or threatened? (Let me give you a hint. It does the exact opposite of what pretty much the rest of us do.)

It shows its splendor.

In response to feelings of upset, the peacock spreads its feathers and shares with the world how beautiful it can be. It’s the only creature on the planet I can think of that does that. Confronted with upset, the rest of us tend to show how ugly we can be. We turn ferocious and lash out. Either with thoughts, words, subversive actions, or worst of all, actual physical violence.

The peacock, however, makes its point known and its authority felt without any of that poppycock. It has mastered the ability to take a stance without starting a fight.

When the need to assert itself arises, my beloved peacock simply reminds everyone in the vicinity that it is, in and of its own right, a magnificent creature worthy of the space it occupies on the planet. As, by the way, are we all.

And to that point, I have to believe that somewhere in our magnificence lies the peacockian potential to assert ourselves without being ugly about it. To take the stands we need to take and make the points we need to make, but do so without the need to huff and puff and blow each other’s mental and emotional houses down.

Self assurance is beautiful. Simple human kindness is beautiful. Mutual respect is beautiful. Disagreeing without being disagreeable is beautiful.

These are behaviors we can just as easily fan out and put on display for the world to see when pushed against our own walls.  And just imagine the doors that might open if only we would.

 

REHAB-A-DABA-DOO

Recently, someone I dearly love checked into rehab. The swirl of emotion that blew through this experience was epic — Sadness that a loved one was so lost. Anger at not understanding and feeling helpless. Fear that the program wouldn’t work. Embarrassment over being perceived as a disappointment or a failure…

The list goes on and on, but it’s that last one that really caught my attention.

Popular belief really does consider rehab a state of failure. A place to go when nothing else works and all hope is lost.

But it seems the opposite to me. Rehab is the place where hope is found. This is the point where a person asks for help. And somewhere, hidden deep in the asking, lies the hope that, with help, things can get better. That is not failure. That is a seed of success. A moment to be embraced.

Now I realize “embrace” might be a tall order for this experience, and I don’t mean get all Pollyanna on the subject. I readily admit nobody enters a rehab facility in a shower of rainbows and unicorns. It’s not a happy time. Sometimes, for whatever reason, people have to let themselves get really dark before they can find their light. And when living in the dark, a person is going to fumble about. Fall down. Knock shit over. Possibly break all kinds of things, hearts included.

All of that is really hard for the people involved. So, so, sooo gut wrenchingly hard. I acknowledge that. What I’m talking about embracing is the concept of rehab – the notion of repairing, overhauling or improving something.

If someone were rehabbing a building, that would not be considered a failure or a disappointment. And if you ask me, there is no more important living space any of us will ever occupy than the one found inside our own skin.

So, setting aside for a moment the bad decisions and bad behaviors that land a person in rehab, I see no shame in getting inside oneself, rolling up the proverbial sleeves, and undertaking a gut rehab. Demolishing everything inside that isn’t working or up to code and rebuilding and rewiring the inner space into a comfortable and beautiful environment.

After all, what are we, if not the architects and builders of our own lives?

Maybe watching someone we love undertaking an internal gut rehab is a good reminder that we should all be taking a good, hard look at the lives we have built.

I bet all of us could find something in our lives that is in need of fixing up. Perhaps a relationship has fallen into disrepair. Or your health has deteriorated. Maybe your priorities have become dilapidated over time. Or your compassion is on the blink.

I know I can certainly find a few things that could use some spiffying up.

My guess is everybody’s level of rehab is going to be different. Some projects are small do-it-yourself jobs and others might require a little professional assistance. Either way, calling in our own inner appraiser and doing a thorough walk through of the internal space we occupy can only be a good thing. It’s a chance to make something good out of a difficult time.

We should all be forever changed by a loved one going through rehab. Fresh starts require fresh patterns for everyone involved. My motto is, if a life experience is going to change us, let’s see to it that it changes us for the better.

That’s my plan, anyway. Which is why I, for one, am rehabbing my view on rehab.

Mr. Webster vs. Merry Carole

Responsibility.

Six syllables. One fool-poof, culturally acceptable excuse for putting myself last.

Sound strange? Hear me out …

For nearly a year, I’ve been talking about recommitting to my own writing. I’ve talked about screenplays. Essays. Books. Even this blog. I’ve talked and I’ve talked and I’ve talked. But I haven’t written.

Which is especially strange given the following: I know for a fact the state of peace and happiness I’ll slip into if I sit down at the keyboard and start typing.  Stress will fade. Thoughts will animate. Hours will fly by. Writing is more than just something I do. It truly is, in the deepest and most abiding sense, who I am.

So, having said all that, why don’t I write, write, write all the dang time?

Because, silly wabbits, I have responsibilities.

I have bills to pay, work to do, errands to run, calls to return, mouths to feed. And in the world of responsible adults, all those external pulls outrank the internal ones. So, when it comes to allotting the time and energy I have in a given day, somehow, all of my aforementioned responsibilities always trump my writing.

Which, as I’ve been thinking about it, pretty much translates to this: Commitment trumps contentment. Work trumps play. Obligation trumps joy.

Ugh. Read that last bit again. It stinks.

I look at that and think, “Wait, that’s crap.”    To which society responds in resounding unison: “Tough luck, kid. That’s life.”

But the thing is, it’s not.

Life is so much bigger than the way we all seem to be living it. It’s not just a series of days we have to plow through, things we have to accomplish or places we have to be. Life is the stuff that makes the days, attracts the things and fills the places.

How can we consider ourselves responsible human beings if we aren’t partaking in the gifts life gives us that makes being human enjoyable?

That question has had me examining the notion of responsibility much more closely…

And, in the immortal words of my favorite Princess Bride character, Inigo Montoya (please read the following in his awesomely strange Spanish-ish accent): I do not think that word means what you think it means

In fact, with all due respect to you, Mr. Webster, the word happens to define itself:

Responsibility. Response. (to) Ability.

To live a life of responsibility is to live a life that responds to ability.

Given that as a baseline definition, if my God given ability is to write, it seems to me not doing so is actually irresponsible.  Suddenly, writing is actually a requirement from the taskmaster previously known as responsibility. It’s how I, Merry Carole Powers, respond to my ability. How I say thank you to life for giving me such a gift. And how I am, in turn, able to open that gift and give back.

When you look at it like that, I have no choice but to write. Now do I think I should do so at the expense of everything else, and let the rest of my life fall apart? Of course not. I still need to uphold order in my life and honor the agreements I’ve made to those who are in it. That’s just common sense. But with this new definition, I can now include myself in that mix that tops the priority list of things that must get done.

If we are going to let the notion of responsibilities claim such a large pillar of authority in our lives, then seems to me we should make it a word that works for us, not against us.

Take, for example, the first synonym that comes up for responsibility on thesaurus.com: Albatross. I think it’s a safe assumption that entry refers to the idiom, “There is an albatross around his neck.” Which basically says responsibility is equivalent to a heavy burden that must be carried.

But might I point out, especially in light of today’s redefining of the word, that an albatross is a bird. A symbol of freedom. A creature designed to take flight, and specifically known for its ability to remain aloft for a long time.

From that perspective, instead of burdening us, shouldn’t living responsibly allow us to spread our wings, take flight, and find the kind of freedom that enjoying life brings?

Why let responsibility be a burden we carry through life when, instead, it can be a vehicle by which we can fly. And, with a little luck, remain aloft for long periods of time.

Say it with me, people: “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”