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Post Scripts

Dear Gentle Penguin,

I love writing letters and sometimes even enjoy writing e-mail messages.  One of my favorite things about both are the post scripts.

Postscripts (alt. post scriptum, which means “written after” in Latin) are described as a sentence, a paragraph, or occasionally many paragraphs added to, often hastily and incidentally, after the signature of a letter.

My favorite are the kind not really relating to anything in the letter or e-mail, but rather intended to inspire a smile, instigate thought, make a reply easier or more pressing, or forge a stronger connection.

For instance, in writing an e-mail response to a dermatologist with whom I’ve been helping ghostwrite an article and maneuver it through a long and convoluted journal publishing project I couldn’t help ending thus:

PS, you’ll be happy to know that my dog Theo (who is often admired for his skin and coat health) has approved your manuscript. He read it quite intently and diligently while propping up on the corner of my desk this afternoon, presumably to enjoy the heat being put out by my laptop battery. But I know he’s very interested in your work.

Perhaps it was a bit excessive to tell on my dog, but it made the next few conversations a bit less tense as he teasingly wondered “well, what would Theo think?”

On the Monday after Valentine’s Day, someone in an agency I’m subcontracting with to create a huge event at an international conference randomly sent this postscript to a rather wearisome and lengthy string of logistics e-mails:

PS, if anyone asks, I did it for the money…it was most definitely the money.

Was he admitting a crime? Had he proposed to the girl he met last week on Match.com? Or was he giving commentary on the project?

I don’t know, but I was in giggles as several responses quickly followed specifically addressing his postscript. And I must admit, Gentle Penguin, I’ve found him much more fun to work with since.

But I write tonight because I hadn’t really appreciated the power of the postscript until yesterday when, in a different, but trudgery-ish e-mail exchange about branding controls within a large metropolitan physicians group, I tagged on the following:

PS, you’ll be happy to know the pocketknife was unnecessary for the people I met back in those hills were the kindest, nicest I’ve ever met! And the moonshine wasn’t bad either ;)

You see, I had committed a modern-age postscript faux pas. One of the two readers had no context for my comment. And he was/is a rather formal chap at a fairly high level in the organization.

Oops!

Except, not oops. He immediately replied back about how random, but interesting (and possibly odd) the postscript was. When I explained (formally and briefly) that I had spent the weekend researching legal moonshine distillers in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains for an article I’m writing, he confessed his love of bourbon, which led to a conversation about drinking glasses, which led to a funny story about glass blowing, which led to a chat about photographs of 80-foot-high volcanic lava bubbles bursting, which led to …

Hopefully, you catch my drift.

What is it about the postscript that makes it so powerful of a connector? I don’t know if there’s any research on it, but my guess is it makes you more human to the reader.

In a medium where 93 percent of the message is missing, it provides, perhaps, a glimpse into your personality, state of being, etc., while also conveying—no, daring the reader to engage and respond.

That isn’t to say that we should all go around post-scripting everything. But I truly think that, sometimes, a well-place postscript might just be the thing to make us less alien.

PS, if a postscript doesn’t help, there’s always moonshine–now legal in most states…provided the government gets its cut of the profit.

PPS, (post postscript, or postquam post scriptum) a secondary postscript is correctly labeled PPS, not PSS as is commonly seen today. PSS is the noise my teenage daughter made at me today in jest, but which my dog Theo (the one with great skin and coat) interpreted as an unacceptable form of disrespect and made sure she knew not to do it again.

PPPS, talking about moonshine and aliens reminded me of a cool fact that, of course, I must tell you! One of the cities I visited was named New Straitsville, and though it’s only about two hours from my home, I’d never heard of it despite its apparently worldwide fame as both a moonshine town and as the location of the longest burning fire in the world. Seems the miners set fire to their mine in a labor dispute back in the late 1800s and it’s not gone out yet. (Side note to my postscript:: So I learned about this mine fire on Friday then tonight, while watching the Genealogy Roadshow, one of the families from Boston, living in Philadelphia was descended from one of the five miners involved in setting the fire. Random!!! I know! I love it when things like that happen…)

Valentine

My dearest Gentle Penguin,
Someone—I shan’t mention any names (but it’s Canada’s other famous crooner; the one who isn’t named Bieber)—just told me that I am, and we all are, nobody until somebody loves me/us.

So I’m writing on this Valentine’s Day weekend to assure you that I love you. In fact, I wrote you a love poem yesterday while I sat waiting for my first attempt at egg soufflés to cool:

Skies of gray and skies of blue
Lest we forget roses can be yellow too
And violets can be white you see
Don’t let them fool you with their trickery.

The prince that wins the maiden fair
Is one type of love, but rare
Cause, really, how many princes are there?
Around about fifty, give or take a few.

Then there’s the feisty passionate kind
In which both parties finally intertwine
But will it last the test of time?
Darcy and Bennett seem to have a shot
But they’re characters in a story who’s romantic beginning is all we’ve got.

Juliet and Romeo?
Well, that’s a dangerous way to go.
Then again, in doing a little research, make no mistake
I find most of “the greatest love stories” end in death or heartbreak.

Perhaps we have it all wrong.
Perhaps we have all along.

Love is patient, love is kind
It does not envy, it does not boast
It is not proud, nor does it dishonor others.
It is not selfish, it’s not easily angered
It keeps no record of rights or wrongs
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects.
Trusts.
Hopes.
Perseveres.

Love is a mother trying to understand her teenage daughter.
A father working hard to provide for his family.
A brother standing up in a fight that isn’t his with the bully.
A friend listening without cellphone or judging over coffee.
A dog greeting you when you return from the grocery.

Love is a child’s first attempt to make breakfast for you.
A neighbor shoveling your snowy sidewalk one time
A stranger’s understanding when you hold up a line.
A colleague’s remembering your birthday with wine.
Forgiveness for when you had been unkind.

Love is what allows us to live together
To survive the sun and stormy weather
To make this world forever better.
For if you don’t have it–which is the warning of this tome
You will find your life is really lived quite alone.

For you aren’t nobody because somebody loves you.
You aren’t nobody, cause somebody cares
You may be a prince, you may possess the world and it’s gold
But gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old
The world’s still the same, but you can change it
As sure as the stars shine above
Cause you’re not nobody since somebody loves you
Now go find yourself some more people to love.

My soufflés are cool and ready to share with my Valentine’s. But I have a few extra if you want to stop by!

With our love,
-Monica, Theo and Ollie

Once upon a while ago

My Gentle Penguin,

It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you. Have you thought about me? It’s okay if you haven’t. But I want you to know I think about you every day. I’m thinking about you every day while I write my first book.

Yes, my first book. That implies that there may be more books in me too. Will there be? I don’t know. I guess.

Would you guess that the book is a collection of fairy tales? Maybe you would, but I’m surprised by it. It’s not what I thought I would write if I wrote something more long-winded and more-than-spiral-bound.

As I come up for air this weekend from my paying jobs, my parent job and my collection of fairy tales, I can’t help but wonder where this collection is coming from and where it’s leading.

The characters are such a sweet grouping of individuals. Each their own and collectively strong. But each of their inspirations, I must admit, is from the oddest assortment of people I’ve met and known from all ages and stages of my life to this point. And throughout it all, I can’t help wondering if my high school English teacher would approve.

What would he think? Would he tell me, like my piano teacher did when I wrote my first composition, that it was too predictable? Or would he tell me it lacked depth? Or would he like it?

What ever happened to Mr. Hemmert-who-reminded-me-always-of-Robert-Frost? I mean, I know he died, but did he ever write something that spoke to him. Something that came from an indistinct but clear narrator in his head? And did he ever wonder whether some mentor would approve of it?

I wondered all those things while driving my daughter to the grade school from which she (and I) had graduated so she could teach basketball to other people’s daughters and sons.

“There’s one of my kids crossing the parking lot,” she said. I looked at how tiny the boy was–so small and fragile I calculated three stacked basketballs would be taller than he was. Then I noticed his dad and stepped a bit harder on the brakes than I intended.

He had been in my high school English class, how long ago? More than 20 years I calculated. What would he think if he knew my daughter was coaching his son? What would he think if he knew I was writing a fairy tale? What would he say if I said hello? Would he even remember me?

Maybe I’ll just keep going on my way and let the chance pass to find out. And maybe he too will appear as the inspiration for a character in my collection. And maybe only Mr. Hemmert will know.

Adventuration

Dear Gentle Penguin,

Another day is almost finished here at d’Anconia Square. Just another normal day. I overslept skipping my writing time, showered and dressed, made breakfast and worked. At some point in the afternoon, I left the house to meet with clients to work. Then I ate dinner and worked some more.

Do you ever feel as if your life forgot to begin?

Sometimes I do. In fact, at night after I’ve said my prayers, I almost always lay in bed staring up at my faux starry sky thinking about adventures I could have had. Last night, I imagined myself on a fossil exhibition in the Dakotas digging gently through the stone and soil looking for items and trying really hard not to hum “one of these things is not like the other” from Sesame Street.

I would, of course, find something. I’d carefully extract it from the earth, measure and weigh it, then meticulously document where I found it in both latitude and longitude and minutes. After that I’d spend my afternoons researching ancient species and landscapes and rocks and plants trying to determine the part of the past it belonged to.

It was much more exciting than spending my day doing laundry and catching up on work-related email messages.

The night before last, I imagined I was sailing the Baltic Sea on my way to negotiate the release of long-lost, stolen jewels and paintings and Fabrege eggs for a noble, but struggling immigrant family. The rain outside my window made the sea sound as if it were truly just there while I gently rocked myself back and forth trying to lull myself into my imagination … rather than remaining in my room where I spent most of the day cleaning out accumulations of stuff from my writing desk, dresser and closet.

The night before that, my dogs and I went on a wilderness expedition in central Canada. We saw moose and bear and wolves and foxes. I saw the Milky Way, Polaris and Taurus. I learned how to live luxuriously without magic, without money and without my cell phone delivering messages every two minutes.

It’s getting worse, though. Now I find myself in adventurations during the day.

Sometimes while I’m walking the dogs at the dog park I imagine I’m in the Black Forest watching carefully for a witch, a gingerbread house or a wolf. Sometimes while I’m driving all over my spot of Earth to deliver, pick up or tend to my daughters, I imagine I’m in a caravan crossing the Sahara desert to deliver spices and silks to oases along the way.

In the past month, I’ve also flown a glider across the North Pole, tangoed with a dashing man in Chile, rode horseback across the northwestern states, attended and danced at an embassy ball, shot archery in Sherwood Forest, and hiked the East Coast Trail with my dogs.

The funny thing is, sometimes these adventures completely fulfill my need to have done something other than sit all day in front of magic screens. Sometimes, however, they make me almost ravenous for something real to do besides sit all day in front of magic screens.

Like today.

Can you hear my spirit rumbling with hunger pains? Or is that a bear inviting me into my adventuration? Perhaps she’s warning me to not come near her hibernation home as I track the Northern Lights in Norway and Finland.

Theiving

I know I just wrote, but something has happened and I can’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps telling someone will help. Will you listen Gentle Penguin? And what will you make of my story? That I’m a mean person who doesn’t understand people. Or a sentimental snob who’s too big for my britches. Or an ignorant idealist who’s read too many fairy tales.

Regardless, this is what happened. Make of it what you will.

It was already dark when I pulled into the hospice parking lot to help them with their remembrance event. I’d arrived earlier than I intended hoping to take care of the orientation for the evening quickly. Then I set about helping people find their loved ones, fetching hot cocoa or coffee, comforting those whose loved one had just died, listening to those whose loved ones would soon die.

Death, I’ve learned, teaches you a lot about life. Especially in the darkest hours before dawn or as night sets in.

The quiet whisper of bells signaled that the event was about to begin, so I grabbed my flashlight, handed out a few more to steady, sturdy people who would be walking with us and helped the group of rememberers out the heavy door into the courtyard where the most silent, peaceful lights of a hundred luminaries lit the way. Then I watched over them.

A tissue here, a bit of extra light there, an ear to hear their story, a hand to hold. Tears began to cloud my vision as I watched a woman—perhaps my age—lose her composure as she sank to the ground in front of a luminary with a man’s name on it. Was it her husband? Her brother? Her father? Her child? It didn’t really matter, her breaking heart shattered the silence with a thousand piercing sobs regardless.

I looked to the heavens wondering why death must happen, but knowing it was a stupid question.

“Look,” I suddenly gasped, tapping the arm of the elderly lady I was helping down the path. Earlier she lamented that the weather had been so dreary of late, that it just made it harder to go on without any natural light.

“The clouds have cleared! I can see the stars!” I know she must have thought me a silly child, but it’s true. I hadn’t seen the stars in almost two weeks…not for not looking. And suddenly, there they were.

She looked up, wobbled a little, then smiled. “Ah, a little light at last,” she whispered.

We clipped her deceased husband’s name to a luminary where it also lit the darkness, and I let my tears fall at the simple, but powerful beauty of it.

This is what I wanted the night to be, Gentle Penguin. But the Fates have an uncanny way of reminding me that what I want isn’t the point.

Back inside, I helped people find their way through the brightly lit corridors to the entrances, then returned to tidy up from our event. Two of the luminaries were gone. So was a flashlight. And one of the reindeer decorations that had been near our post.

I lifted the tablecloths and peeked around the corners.

“Let them go; they’re gone. People have taken them.”

“What do you mean, ‘people have taken them?'” I asked confused.

“It happens all the time,” I was told. “People come to events like these and leave with more than just the memories of the evening. Perhaps they find some solace in the tangible. Perhaps it’s something that reminded them of their loved one. Or perhaps they’re seeking to fill a hole. Or perhaps this is another way for them in their grief.”

“What, to be a thief?” It was only the unintended rhyme that caught the harness of my anger. Feeling it start to slip, I said out loud, “is thieving part of grieving?”

Believe it or not, it seems it is. The stories I heard for the next twenty minutes from people who have worked and volunteered around death shocked, dismayed and amused me. Bibles, water pitchers, bedpans, pillows, clocks and even a telephone were all subject to disappear if a dismayed family member assigned it sentimental value because of the death of their loved one.

My mouth hung open as I listened, and I tried to understand. How could a telephone be sentimental? It was the symbol of the last time a loved one spoke to them. Okay, how about a clock? It was a symbol of the time he last spent alive. Okay, a bedpan?! It held the last bit of their life before they became an empty body.

I walked back toward my car in a fog so that I almost didn’t notice the dark shadow on the other side of the side door. It swung open blocking my path and breaking me out of my daze.

It was the covered casket of the undertaker. I’d seen him many times before, and normally I wished him “hello” with a smile, then said a silent prayer for the freshly freed soul and the family. Tonight, I did neither of those things. Instead I broke down right there and then and cried.

“What’s this?” He asked me looking concerned then put a hand on my shoulder. “Has death gotten to you tonight, Monica?”

“No,” I sobbed wetly. “Life has gotten to me. I think it’s stolen my hope for humanity.”

He looked relieved, straightened up, put his hand back on the casket, began to push, turned, looked me in the eye, winked and said “then take it back.”

Reflections of 2014

Gentle Penguin,

I know 2014 isn’t complete yet, but with some rare quiet, uncommitted time I find myself leafing through my planner to see where all my time has gone this year.

Quite frankly, it started out rather rocky.  I didn’t feel like I accomplished 2013’s goals and felt a little lost for what to do.  Then my biggest client completed their project, and I found myself without a professional and financial rudder.  I realized as much as I glorified spontaneity and rued discipline, I had it wrong.  Completely wrong.

Freedom doesn’t come from spontaneity anymore than discipline is a cage.  In order to be the me I want to be I needed discipline, and I needed it fast.  Thus began the first months of the Year of Habits and Rituals.

Now we’re nearing the end, and I’m not quite sure what I think about how the year went.  Whereas in years past I’ve hung my hat on a few amazing accomplishments mixed with smaller changes and notes, this year I couldn’t think of anything amazing for me.  What came to mind, rather, were my daughters’ accomplishments:

  • Kate graduated high school with honors and headed off to my alma mater with a pocketful of scholarships and accolades.
  • Meg graduated elementary school with academic, artistic and athletic awards then sprinted straight into high school as starting goalie for the JV soccer team.

I’m so proud of them both!

And so as they stretched their wings in new ways, I went about faltering through the adjustments to schedule and daily life that these and other changes created.  In fact, that’s how I would describe 2014—faltering through a year of adjustments.

Compared to years past, it was a paltry year for writing—only 51 blog posts (well, this makes 52) and only 13 published articles.  However, there were a few highlights:

  • One short story won the Erma Bombeck humor writer award
  • And professionally, I managed to expand my girth to write about everything from unmanned vehicles to agile software development; new drug delivery options in anesthesia, rheumatoid arthritis and gout to automotive components; round barns to the history of hot cocktails; Ohio wineries to the World Cup; nutrition for weight loss to nutrition for cancer prevention; death and grieving to patient satisfaction; hospital quality metrics to neuroscience; disaster response to intelligence analysis.

Speaking of business:

  • I grew my client base from six to 22 clients
  • Hosted two international conferences
  • Launched three new brands—one of which was a relaunch of my newly renamed business
  • Developed components for patient satisfaction programs
  • Developed physician recruitment and physician retention programs
  • Populated four health blogs
  • Created content for four websites
  • Acted as a simulated patient
  • Helped several international executives relocate to my city and neighboring cities
  • Participated in two coworking ventures
  • Created messaging for a political campaign, and
  • Earned a Green certification for eco-friendliness

Even more surprising, I was delighted to find that I had contributed to my community in fine form with almost 300 volunteer hours total across organizations that included the League of Women Voters, Hospice, my family parish and the Welcome Dayton project.  I also volunteered three weekends in the autumn picking the local vineyard harvest.

I completed four courses through Coursera (three of which changed my entire life’s perspective):

  • The History of Humankind from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Archaeology’s Dirty Secrets from Brown University
  • Understanding Russians from the Higher School of Economics
  • Changing Global Order from the Universiteit Leiden

I also attended and completed training at the:

  • Protocol School of Washington Global Education Summit
  • Interact 2014 Content Marketing
  • local chapter of IABC
  • CCWorld Affairs

Finally, I:

  • Discovered that I really DO believe six impossible things before breakfast
  • Started a business book club with a friend
  • Read 24 books (mostly in the nonfiction genre)
  • Participated in five naturalization programs
  • Taught nine etiquette classes throughout my community
  • Hosted three cocktail parties, two wine tastings and three dinner parties
  • Found that pressing your palms together makes a comforting feeling, (doing it quickly creates a smooth plastic feeling), and opening them face up feels powerful
  • Perfected my breakfast ritual
  • Read at Banned Books week, and
  • Graduated to a 50-pound recurve bow and the 35-yard target

Did I create habits and rituals?  Yes, but nothing like I thought.  Instead of turning my daily life into a well-oiled machine, some minor health issues shifted my focus to habits for mind and body.  Or course, that happened late in the year, so all I can say is I’m on my way.  Instead of cultivating joie de vivre, my attention shifted to savoir vivre, and I found that perhaps what I thought was joy was really unrealistic imaginings.  True joy comes from attitude and perhaps gratitude—one of which I need to work on, the other I need to remind myself of on a daily basis.

But most importantly, instead of constantly staring down the barrel of who I want to be, I found “me” in the moment-by-moment choices I make—the good, the bad and the ugly.

If you’re still reading, then thank you.  While this blog is mostly for you, sometimes it’s also for me—a permanent and public record of who I am in an encapsulated timeframe.  For instance, this post will help me see how far I’ve come (or God-forbid, slipped) when I look back on it at some other point in the future.  That said, I want to remind myself, and confess to you Gentle Penguin, that this year was also full of failures, disappointments and mistakes.  I did some really dumb stuff (like that time I tried to pull poison sumac from my fence-line without gloves, or the time I poured smoking-hot bacon grease into a plastic container on top of my stove, or the time I tried to readjust my gate by karate kicking it into place—against a four-by-four posted and cemented into the ground).

I said more than my fair share of stupid, stupid things in public (most likely because I was trying to show off, or flirt, or wasn’t really thinking before my mouth opened).  And I built up some pretty unrealistic expectations which led to some spectacular disappointments (like overestimating my daughters’ need for and want of my help in stretching their wings, my first attempt at romance in six years, and people’s ability to treat other with respect and consideration, among other things).

Gentle Penguin, you see, I think this was by far and away probably one of the most humbling years for me.

So where does that leave me for 2015?

For the first time, I feel like I’m headed into the new year bruised and vulnerable.  And perhaps that’s how it should have always been because I find that for the first time, I feel less like a rock dangling above a precipice and more like a child at a busy street corner waiting and watching for opportunities to cross over.  Cross over to what?  Into my forties, to start.  That’s right, I’ll be forty in 2015, and it seems like an important milestone in my journey—perhaps the midpoint of my life.  And the start of a much-anticipated transformation.

How odd, then, that for the first time I wonder less about what I want in the new year and more about what I need.  And the more I think about it, the more I believe my answer might be connections—with people—friends, family, mentors, confidants, heroes and perhaps even a few villains.  So for 2015, I think instead of focusing on me, I’ll make it the Year of Connections.

What about you, Gentle Penguin?  What have you accomplished this year?  Where do you want to focus in 2015?  I’d always like to know.

Evolving from Rats

Gentle Penguin,

The past two days have been both amazing and insane.  I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and been beaten with a stick. Either way, I only wanted time to write to you, my dear friends about a discovery I’ve made.  And now I have the time.

As I lay still waiting for the nausea and pain of a tension headache to pass, I reflect on the fact that many of the ‘crises’ put before me on a daily basis are merely exercises in futility.  Why?  I wonder…and I believe it’s the only way we have left to prove we’re so very, very important.  I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, to be sure!  I want to feel important, special, unique, sometimes even better-than…instead of like the hunted rat that I fear I behave like.  So how ironic that this moment is usually the moment I’m slapped upside the head with a reminder that I’m part of something bigger—like humanity, a family, a community, a neighborhood, a revolution.

As much as I fear Russia’s President Putin is on the wrong path with his actions, I do believe he had it right when he said “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Of course, that’s assuming we remember that “equal” does not mean “same.”

Equal means that we are each valuable as a being.  Same means I am exactly like you.  No offense, but part of my quest to be important means I don’t want to be the same as you, or anyone else.  I don’t want to be copied either.  I want to be me, and I want you to be you.  I want to learn from you, and you to be amused by me…or perhaps make you reflect too.

Gentle Penguin, I know you know about me, but I want you to understand what I think makes me different—three secrets that are also key to my value.  You already know the first, and possibly second secrets.

First, I’m a hopeless romantic.  I really do believe there is wonder, beauty and hope in everything around us, even in the darkest moments.  Sure, I complain about them, get angry, whine and cry like a child sometimes.  But invariably I start looking for something…anything…to give me a clue that it’s passing.  Sometimes it’s a random song on the radio.  Sometimes it’s a monarch butterfly flitting by on a cold autumn morning.  Sometimes it’s just a beam of sunlight cutting through the dark suffocating clouds.  Of course, many people think I’m like a Pollyanna; but let me assure you this propensity toward romance often pisses me off because it seems so silly.  Why can’t I just wallow in the depths of despair like some poet or philosopher?  Instead, I’m afraid my fairy godmother cursed me at my christening with an undying measure of hope.  That seems much less silly…and more romantic.

     Romance — A transcendence from the mundane to a perspective of delight, beauty and hope

Second, I really do believe in at least six impossible things before breakfast.  Maybe it’s because I have wildly vivid dreams.  Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many adventure stories, fairy tales and quests.  Maybe it’s because through my hunted rat years I’ve accomplished more, gone farther, done bigger things than I ever thought I could.  I’ve had my fair share of rough periods—just like you have, Gentle Penguin.  Each of us have suffered great pains and losses, disappointments and frustrations.  And I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s important to know that we probably have more to come.  But just as Alice slayed the Jabberwocky, and I have overcome my challenges, and you have overcome yours…it is in these very moments that the most amazing pieces of who we are are born.  They never come from the easy moments.  Your moments are not mine, and mine are not yours, and none of ours are Alice’s.  And so we are not the same.  But you still matter to me, to your community, to humanity.

Third, I’ve started a new quest, I’ve found my revolution.  How can we choose evolution from being the hunted rat?  While I run around busily, stressed and tense, I find I do get things done (some of them impossible things).  I check off “To Do’s” like nobody’s business–that is my business, quite frankly.  But at the end of the day, the week, the month, the year, I often find little to none of it is really important.  Or maybe that’s not quite true either.  While I might be helping someone else move mountains, I’m earning the money I need to give my daughter the best education I can–which is what’s most important to me.  While I help someone else create an event that changes someone’s perspective, I’m also putting money aside for a trip that helps me change my perspective.  While I’m driving my daughter to soccer practices and soccer conditioning and soccer dinners and soccer games, I’m helping someone important to me build their confidence to fight a Jabberwocky in the future.

So how do I remember that when I’m coiling and tightening and building another headache?

Well, my headache helped provide the answer.  In the midst of my pain, I stretched out my arm and felt the warmth and life creeping back into it.  I saw the beauty of the line as it broke the path of the sunshine streaming in my window.  And I remembered the feeling of pure energy that lived that part of my body when I was in the arms of a Viennese Waltz.  While I tried to find a way to divert my attention so I could relax and let the medicine work, I heard my daughter in the other room singing while she did her homework.  I didn’t know the song, but her notes were clear and strong and blended with the wind chimes ringing outside the kitchen window.  She wasn’t always on key, but it was beautiful nonetheless and brought both tears of joy and a thrill akin to listening to a full, professional philharmonic playing a beautiful symphony.

Rats miss both the philharmonic and the child’s song, the ballroom waltz and the stretch of an arm.  I know we’ve been told before, but hearing and believing are as different as equal and same:

     We must believe that humanity is in the moment.

Not the future, nor the past, but right here, right now.  I know this may seem impossible as e-mails ding, phones buzz, bosses holler, children cry, dreams beckon, doors close, and the world keeps on spinning.  But I believe it is the answer.

Does this mean we stop being responsible? No. There is no humanity in running away from our family, our jobs, our community, our commitments, our life.  I admit, I don’t know how to execute this newfound answer, but I believe there is a way to do both.  Perhaps we need to uncover the lies society tells us and we have told ourselves about what being important really means. Perhaps we should seek courage to act out of our own wisdom instead of the collective rules of our culture.  Perhaps we must continue sharing ideas with others, testing theories and championing change.  I don’t know…but that is exactly why I know I am now on a quest.

What about you, Gentle Penguin?  What answers, theories and ideas do you have?  Will you share them with me?

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