Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Holiday Hug

He was headed off to spend time with his family. So was I. We wished each other "Merry Christmas" and as we were about to shake hands I asked, "How about how about a Christmas hug for the holidays?"

"Sure," he said.

Looking back it reminds me of the process I go through each Christmas with our outdoor lights. I unpack the strings I used the previous year and plug in each set to verify that they're still working. Most of them light up. But there's always at least one string that fails to light. It's nothing personal. It doesn't mean the string doesn't like me.

That's how it was with this hug. No electricity. No magic. Nothing there. Not cold but not warm.

"Enjoy the holidays," I said.

"You, too," he replied.

And that's when I realized I'd looked beyond the mark. I already had what he had freely given: his friendship. And he had mine.

So what's better than a holiday hug between two good friends? In this case it's knowing that some things can't be forced. That sometimes, maybe almost always, I'm better off to be happy with what is, instead of disappointed with what is not. The next year we shook hands. It was warm, spontaneous, reciprocal. And good enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wrestling in the Dark

I was too lonely to know I was cold. I was too cold to know I was lonely. The world seemed dark and gray that Friday afternoon in October, but I would soon know something so deep and warm and good that it could never be taken away.

As I walked home from high school, one of the tough kids in the neighborhood said come to my house. I was a bit afraid but also glad for the invitation. I thought he was a poor kid--he lived in a small house--but apparently not. He showed me his electric train, his darkroom for photos, his ham radio gear, and that was not all. His single-car garage that looked small from the outside had skis, snowshoes, camping gear, waterskis and a blue and white boat motor boat. 

He smiled and said "This stuff is just toys, it’s not really important, what matters is friendship." It sounded like something he'd heard his mom say, but still these were such gentle words from a tough kid. 

He was an only child and we were alone in his house. His mom was at work and his dad was out of town on business. He told me there’d be no one around until later that night. I said I’ve got to go, my mom will wonder where I am. But he said there’s something else I want to show you downstairs in the dark.

As we walked down the stairway, I felt a sense of gloom. We entered a hallway and he lit a long match. "Don’t you have lights down here?" I asked. 

"Of course we do but it’s more fun this way." He walked to fireplace and lit a gas log. "Isn’t that fine? I’m not supposed to light it but no one’s around." He was proud of himself. 

Then he did something strange. He grabbed me by the neck and pulled me down on the carpet. "You’re not a afraid to fight are you?" 

I answered with a punch to his gut. I was afraid. I'd wrestled with my dad and my cousin, but that was years ago. I tried to defend myself and eventually realized he wasn't going to hurt me.

We wrestled for what seemed a very long time. It was probably only a few minutes, but I was breaking a sweat. So was he. His sweat smelled both rancid and familiar. I finally pinned him which he seemed happy about. Maybe he'd let me win. I didn't care. The fight was over. We went upstairs and ate vanilla ice cream from the big chest-type freezer in his garage. And that's when I realized I was warm for the first time that day. 

We never wrestled like that again, but we became and remained friends though high school and into college. We've sent a few Christmas cards back and forth over the years. I don't think he'd remember our wrestling match. I don't think he'd guess that it's one things I'll remember when I've forgotten almost everything else.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Shadows Flee

I'm feeling better this morning. Hope you are, too. "The morning breaks, the shadows flee." Wonderful song. I was so tired yesterday. Last night I slept well enough to awaken with some fresh courage. My wish for you, RIDK, (reader I don't know), is that you too may find this kind of renewal.

Fall is so beautiful but it is a warning of colder weather to come. Still I'm learning that I can remember the optimism of spring. It's there all within a few inches, a few billion cells in my brain, just waiting to be recalled. And since we share the traits of having brains and minds and memories, you have also have had your encouraging, refreshing experiences. Here's to hoping that you will also recall what gave and gives you hope. I hope you'll remember that you are greatly loved by family and friends, and consider that maybe, just perhaps, you are loved even now by friends you haven't met yet.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Longing and Loving

Both words start with lo. Synonyms for longing are yearning, pining, craving, ache, burning, hunger, thirst, hankering; while synonyms for loving include affectionate, fond, devoted, adoring, doting, solicitous, demonstrative. We're wired to do both. 

But could it be that one of the ways to increase a sense of well-being is to emphasize loving? Not that any of us can ignore longing, not that it will disappear. After all hunger and pain are life-sustaining feedback mechanisms. Just that longing won’t always get first billing like it did on this post.

If it’s true that one of the keys to happiness is loving the here and now rather than pining for the past or thirsting for the future, maybe I’ll try putting a little more emphasis on loving. Or at least seek to fully sense and appreciate the nuances of today’s Fall weather rather than craving the heat of summer or the brisk adventure of winter slopes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

If Thanksgiving were like Halloween

Would it enchant children and adults to stretch beyond their day-to-day identities to imagine how they could be impressively thankful one night a year? Would we find a huge variety and color of thank you notes and thank you treats that go on sale 30-to-45 days before the holiday? Would there be a competitive atmosphere about what I learned last year and how I'm going to change my approach to being thankful this year? Would there be striking visual elements to our giving thanks? Would the focus on elaborate fantasies that show gratitude help us actually become more grateful or would all the theatricality of the holiday make us long for the simple thanksgivings of days gone by. Would fear and discouragement come from perceptions that some people just don't know the proper way to celebrate the true spirit of thanksgiving? I'm thankful that I don't see any of these ideas headed for a test drive in reality.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Perfect Love? Period

Our parents in heaven love each one of us, their 7-billion children now living on this planet, perfectly? Unconditionally? And each of us can connect with them through prayer anytime, anywhere, any language, or no language at all? No matter what we can find peace, not just any old peace, but their peace which is different? And speaking of different, each of us is different and unique (just like snowflakes but billions of cells more complicated) yet we are all a part of the human family? Gratitude is incredibly powerful? And so is prayer? And writing? And question marks? Who needs question marks anyway? Sometimes I do. And yet sometimes I'm in for a better day if I just do a search and replace, and replace the question marks with periods. And maybe an exclamation point or two.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Summer of Firsts

So much happened when I turned sixteen. Driver's license, contact lenses, a summer job, making new friends, first kiss. And then starting high school that fall. And in another state a newly wed couple gave birth to a health baby boy. I did not meet him until he was almost 30. But it was worth the wait. 

Love and Warmth

As the Fall weather turns increasingly colder my warm bed becomes more difficult to leave. Yet I wanted to get out of bed this morning. To get my fingers moving on the keyboard and to thank you for being there. 

It is true that I don’t know who is reading this, but I do know you are one of my 7-billion brothers and sisters on this planet. And I suspect that you, like me, and all humans feel varying levels of love. Sometimes there is no doubt. And sometimes our doubts grow.

Of course there are tricks. There are ways to get a better glimpse of how fickle perception can sometimes be. It’s easy to make a swimming pool feel warmer, you just take a cold shower before you swim. 

Is it just as easy to feel love? Can I feel greater love by just imagining how much colder I’d feel without the love I now enjoy? In a way that's what I do when I think about the love I have enjoyed throughout my life. But it doesn't seem like a trick. It seems more like cleaning off the my glasses rather than putting on a rose-colored pair.

There’s always been that warmth of the love of my parents. Even though they are both dead now, I think of all the love they gave me even before I was born, the love that resulted in my conception, then how I was loved in utero, then as baby, as their son, as I learned and grew up. Can I still feel that love? What of other loves? The love of family. The love of friends.

Perhaps there is much, much more love throughout my life and in my life this very moment than I have been able to feel. Gratitude and perception are always at play, aren't they? I don’t feel the warmth of my bed until the weather turns cooler in the Fall. And I don’t fully perceive all the love in my life until on a quiet morning I realize it has always been there. Even when I’ve doubted.