Plot Twist, Part II

A continuation of my series on my recent health scare. You can read Part I here

There is no night in the ICU. They dim some of the lights, but not enough for a light sleeper like me. There is always noise. Those of us lucky to be guests in this unit are under constant supervision – so unless you’re in a coma, there’s not a lot of rest. Visiting hours are also 24/7, which is completely understandable. If something goes wrong in the middle of the night, you don’t want to wait until 8am to see your loved ones. 

There is also very little privacy in the ICU. No one has their own room, despite what they show you on TV. Each bed is separated by a curtain, and most of the time, mine was wide open so they could keep an eye on me. (It was also slightly less claustrophobic that way.) Ergo, I could see and hear everything that was going on around me. For instance, I witnessed the immediate aftermath of one death. The patient was surrounded by several family members who formed a slow procession behind the gurney as they wheeled their loved one out for the last time. A few of them tried to smile at me as they walked by, but most of them were lost in shock and grief. It was a difficult and beautiful thing to watch at the same time. Whoever passed, they passed with the love and support of their family.

The realization that I was in the same unit as the person who just passed didn’t come right away… but when I was lying awake at 2 in the morning as the automatic blood pressure cuff started inflating as it did every hour, and the monitors I was hooked up to chirped a little at my high pulse rate — it hit me, and hit me hard.

Shit. I could have died. I still could.

I don’t think I have ever felt more scared and alone as I did at that moment. It was incredibly humbling. I am in my late 30s. Mortality has always been sort of an abstract concept rather than an integrated reality. And the truth is, I still could die from this. Even right now as I am writing about it. But the fact that I haven’t had any symptoms remotely like what happened during “The Event,” my vitals are normal, and my energy is returning … chances are pretty darn good that I am going to be just fine. I just need to let the blood thinners do their work, and be very regimented about my recovery. (And you better believe that I am following the doctors’ orders to the letter. I am NOT going through this again.)

One thing I have to say about the ICU is how incredible the nursing staff was there. They should all be sainted. I didn’t see any one of them lose their professionalism, even when they were joking around. They knew how hard it was to be there, and they did their abject best to see to my needs and my comfort, despite the fact they were dealing with some challenging patients – such as the Polish guy whose lucid moments were in English and his delusional moments were in Polish. Loud, screaming Polish. And sadly, his delusional moments were more common. Then there were the brother and sister sitting vigil with their mother. I will not deny anyone the opportunity to do just that – but please keep it down for the rest of us. They were loud talkers… all night long, and quite demanding of the nursing staff.

My only complaint about the medical staff was during morning rounds with the attending physician. I mentioned that each bed is cordoned off by curtains. You can hear everything. Therefore, if you’re discussing a patient with a serious medical condition, it might be best to either a) open the curtains and acknowledge that she is there or b) go outside where she can’t hear you. The attending stood outside my closed curtains and said something to the effect of, “If she throws another clot, she’s gone. She can’t take another one,” along with a bunch of other equally scary statements. I was literally 3 feet from her. No one was with me. And I was terrified. 

Then the parade of doctors came through – pulmonologists, cardiologists – each with their own idea about how best to treat me. I had an echocardiogram of my heart and ultrasound on my legs. Everyone then started offering me increasingly scary options that included everything from giving me a blood thinner regimen that could cause me to bleed in my brain or stomach to two different kinds of surgery. The aggressive blood thinner approach scared me because if I have learned anything from this (and past experiences with medication) – if there is a side effect, I am going to get it. It’s what makes me special. And surgery… gods. I didn’t want to contemplate it.

I apparently fall in a very gray area when it comes to these aggressive treatments. For some people it is very clear that they absolutely need it, others absolutely not … but I was a risk that could go either way. So the pulmonologists eventually won out and we went with the more conservative approach – which is a blend of less-aggressive blood thinners that would get me to a therapeutic level that will ideally dissolve the clots. 

The conservative approach appeared (and still appears) to be the right decision. When it looked like I was stabilizing and my vitals remained normal for 24 hours – I got moved to a private room in the Telemetry unit. Still under constant supervision, but my monitors were wireless. I could do things I take for granted like go to the bathroom by myself. I had a door I could shut and lights I could turn out. But most of all… I had the doctors’ increasing confidence that I would pull through. And that was what I chose to focus on at that moment.

Next up… adventures in the land of HMOs.

 

PLOT TWIST!

Yesterday, one of my gaming buddies posted this little gem on my Facebook page:

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Then he said he would grab more popcorn.

The last few days have been pretty harrowing. Last Sunday, I woke up feeling a little off-kilter, but I pretty much ignored it, thinking it would go away after I had some breakfast and coffee. I had a guest coming over later that afternoon, so I figured I had time to run out and get something. I got home late-ish the night before, and thanks to the parking situation in my neighborhood, I had to park pretty far away. So I decided to pull on an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and head out to get my car and a decent cup of coffee.

Lesson #1: You know that old adage about not wearing ugly underwear out of the house, because you never know who might end up seeing it? Yeah… my first mistake was the granny panties.

Before I left the house, I made my bed, and actually got winded doing it. I felt my heart racing a bit, and was pretty short of breath when I was done. I had been feeling some similar things earlier in the week, but figured I would call my doctor this week and see what was up. Besides, I really wanted that coffee.

Lesson #2: If something feels wrong, don’t wait to call the doctor.

Now, I kind of feel like the stupid girl in an old-time horror movie where the audience knows exactly what is behind the creepy attic door, and they start fruitlessly yelling, “No! Don’t open that door!” And she always opens the door. And tragedy happens. I wish I had an audience screaming “No! Don’t go for coffee!”

I left the apartment, despite feeling winded, and walked about half a block away before my heart started racing, sweat started pouring down my face, and I could barely breathe. Continuing along the movie theme, the world faded to black (literally.) The next thing I knew, I was coming to on the sidewalk surrounded by two guys I had smiled and waved to on my way up the block as they were working on their car, and a woman who was out walking her small terrier. The guys were staring at me, wide-eyed, and the woman was on her phone with 911.

I must have come to fairly quickly, because the ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, and I was able to state my name and age when I talked to the emergency operator. But I was far from normal. I felt extremely weak and foggy-headed, and I really had no concept of what was happening. I do remember thinking, “An ambulance? Really? I just fainted. Give me some water, and I’ll be fine.”

The ambulance arrived, and by then I was dripping sweat, despite it being a very cool morning. They took some vitals and determined that I should probably go to the emergency room. That’s when I started to get a little scared. Not so much about my condition — but about whether or not my health insurance would cover this. I lived for a good 10 years without insurance a little while back, and while I am covered now – I still get palpitations thinking about being able to afford anything. I live in an ingrained scarcity mindset when it comes to my health.

Lesson #3: I need to work on getting over that scarcity thing.

Up until this point, I have only ever ridden in an ambulance once – back in high school when I volunteered for a disaster drill for the local volunteer fire department. I got to die a dramatic death and wear makeup for that scenario. This time, I was unshowered and wearing my grungy jeans and granny panties. (And of course, one of the paramedics was really cute. Sigh.) They determined that my condition was serious enough to take me to the closest hospital, so it was off to St. Francis in Evanston.

The emergency room experience was humbling and terrifying, although the medical staff was wonderful. They put me in the “chest pain” unit, even though I wasn’t having any – but my symptoms were obviously cardiopulmonary. They stuck IVs in my arm, kept checking my vitals, asked me all sorts of questions. As soon as I told them I was on birth control – they immediately ordered a CT scan of my lungs. Lo and behold… the scan revealed a few blood clots, including one huge one that apparently was the reason I collapsed, and they immediately admitted me to the ICU.

I am single. I live alone. I am 500 miles away from my immediate family. All of these are, to varying degrees, deliberate choices that I am pretty much fine with. But the downside of each of those choices came crashing into me all at once and I felt very, very alone – particularly when I was going through the ICU admission process.

But soon, my family of spirit started to arrive. And arrive. And call. And arrive some more. And email and text me constantly. Some even offered to drive a few hundred miles to be with me. It took me 24 hours to post what was going on to Facebook, because I really didn’t feel comfortable letting everyone know right away – but once I did, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. I am crying right now just thinking about it.

Lesson #4: I am loved. (And this might be the hardest lesson to truly integrate.)

I have a lot more to write about this experience, so I will break it up into a series of posts. This doesn’t even begin to describe all the plot twists. But I will reveal the end of this particular episode: I am alive. As one of my friends posted, “Your story isn’t done being written yet.” I am absolutely taking that to heart.

Coming soon: Plot Twist, Part 2 — The Attack of the Potential Side Effects, plus Delusional Ramblings in Polish

Rooted and Still Growing

Oh, this adjustment thing is still up. (Like it will ever end?)

Recently, (and I’d like to believe that this is a result of this conscious alignment work), some rather significant aspects of my life that have been out of whack are finally coming back into balance. And I’m here to tell you, the impact on my well-being is palpable. My life feels more expansive. I am finding that there is more room to breathe. For this, I am beyond grateful.

What was out of balance related to my integrity. I found myself negotiating things I have always considered non-negotiable. It has been such a gift and a blessing to finally find my feet again, and stand more firmly in my values. It feels like, for lack of a better word … home.

But, like anything, there is a shadow side to all of this. I have wanted resolution in these realms for so long, thinking that there would be so much more ease in my life once I had achieved them. Yeah… wrong. Although I have significant sense of relief and expanded opportunity, finding balance in these aspects of my life is serving to highlight the other aspects of my life that need to be brought into alignment.

I still have a job that doesn’t reflect my values, interests, or needs beyond the financial. I still struggle with feeling comfortable in my home, despite my efforts to invoke beauty. There are other more intimate and personal places that need examination and adjustment as well. True balance is fleeting and damn it, it’s hard work. But that just makes it that more valuable a process.

I just need to keep reminding myself that it is such a gift to be able to face the challenges before me having found balance in some truly integral areas of my life. If I can maintain healthy roots, then I can continue to grow. “Maintain” is the key word there. I don’t believe for one second that I have done all the work I need to do in those realms and now I can rest on my laurels. But it’s certainly nice to have a much healthier place to start than I did even a few months ago.

The work begins again. (And again. And again. And…)

Rooted in my values, I align.
Rooted in my boundaries, I align.
Rooted in my integrity, I align.

Adjusting, Calibrating, Balancing

I was honored to be able to write a guest post for my friend and colleague Amoret of Siren Afire and Bone and Briar a short while ago. (We traded posts – the excellent one she wrote for my blog on finding passion is here.) The topic she gave me was “what to do when the Work no longer works.” It turned in to an exploration of balance and finding the point where I am in alignment, rare though it may be.

Ever since I sent it off to her, I have been seeing all sorts of examples and approaches to the same concept, just from different perspectives. A dear friend of mine who has sat through a number of my classes reminded me of my “Yellow Jeep Theory” — which states that if you own a yellow Jeep, you tend to notice tons of yellow Jeeps on the road. There aren’t necessarily more yellow Jeeps than there were before, you just have more of a tendency to notice them, because yellow Jeeps are part of your daily experience. So stories about balance and adjustment aren’t necessarily more prevalent, I’m just noticing them more. No complaints here.

One lovely example that came across my reader this morning: sexuality educator Charlie Glickman offers an excellent example of this idea of “calibration” in intimate relationships in his latest post. I thought it was excellent (his posts usually are), and applies many of the same principles.

Since it’s up, I am trying to weave more conscious balance-finding activities into my day. I have started an “apartment beautification” practice, where the first thing I do when I get home from work is find some way to beautify my living space. That might mean vacuuming or washing dishes, and some days – dusting one shelf is all I have in me. But other days, it could mean adding a new houseplant or building a stand for new kitchen appliances. My ability to feel comfortable and safe in my home is currently out of whack, so this is helping bring things into balance.

I am also trying to write more, to reach out to friends more, to connect with my family more, to send out more resumes… anything to adjust my life so I can bring it back into alignment. I am consciously trying to identify where I am sending my energy these days — what’s getting my power and attention? Where am I adding weight to the scales? Where can I lighten my load a bit?

What about you? What does balance look like to you? What does it feel like? How do you bring yourself back to center? What are your strategies for alignment? I am always curious to hear what others are doing for themselves, and how practice brings us back to wholeness.

Guest post by Amoret from Siren Afire and Bone and Briar

Recently, my friend Amoret asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Siren Afire – a space that offers regular exploration into personal and spiritual growth. I have a great deal of respect for Amoret and her work, and I couldn’t resist asking her to do the same for my blog. Lucky me, she agreed.

I had so much fun with this process that I would love to do it again. Drop me a note if you would like to exchange blog posts. I am particularly interested in different takes on finding your passion, risk-taking, and the practice of cultivating delight — but if you’ve got a good pitch for something you feel would fit, let’s talk!

But for now and without further ado, let me introduce you to the lovely Amoret and her take on listening to and answering the call to passion.

* * * * * *

I Heard, I Heard, I Heard It Clear: Soul, Passion and Purpose
By Amoret

It’s not the dazzling voice that makes a singer. Or clever stories that make a writer. And it’s not piles of money that make a tycoon. 

It’s having a dream and wanting to live it so greatly that one would rather move with it and “fail” than succeed in another realm.

~Mike Dooley, Notes from the Universe

I cannot say I did not hear
That sound so hauntin’ hollow
I heard, I heard, I heard it clear
I was afraid to follow.

~Shel Silverstein, The One Who Stayed

I have a friend who is a talented actress. She is burning out, auditioning for role after role, not getting cast, watching parts slip past her fingers. Over the few years I have known her, she has stopped talking about her passion for acting. Instead, she talks of being tired of the constant auditions and the low pay of her day job, and of finding a more mainstream career. She wonders if focusing on an acting career was a mistake.  More and more, she vacillates between commitment to her current path and giving up the work that has been her dream for many years.

Is acting, her passion? She is no longer sure.

This is a pretty common state of affairs for human beings, at least in my experience. I think we are often wandering around, asking our souls to speak, not knowing how to translate what we hear, or playing telephone with the messages we get.

For me, hearing the voice of my soul and recognizing my passion has been a long process. In 2003, doing work at Diana’s Grove, I recognized that my soul lit up when I was priestessing, creating rituals and working with others in intentional community. The desire to devote my life to spiritual pursuits was intense and joyous, and I knew that I was being called to my purpose.

But soon after, the Voice of Reason spoke up. It reminded me that I had bills to pay and that I liked having a comfortable lifestyle– would I be financially stable if I followed this longing? I also had a spouse that wouldn’t take kindly to a full life overhaul – what would happen to that relationship if I followed my bliss? And goodness, what would people think of me if I dropped everything and lived a life they didn’t understand? (Personal observation: isn’t there always a seed of “What will they think of me?” in the Voice of Reason?)

Long story short: I heard the call, but I was afraid to follow…and I continued to work in “safe” jobs, and I ended my marriage, and I did spiritual work here and there…and I was haunted by the road not taken while living my safe and stagnant life.

Over the last year, the voice of my soul has become more and more insistent, and it is speaking with a clarity and wisdom that I cannot deny. This time, I am listening. This time, I am following. Stepping out into the unknown, I do know this: the soul does not interface with reason. Passion doesn’t need to be understood; it needs to be trusted.

I ask you this: What makes your growth inevitable? What do you do without thought of reward? What do you want more than success? What excites you when you envision it manifesting? What scares you when you envision it slipping through your fingers? What are you willing to humble yourself to? What do you need to awaken in the world?

I believe that most of us have heard the voice of our soul, and doubt it, reason with it, fear it or flat out ignore it. Hearing the call isn’t necessarily the hard part – it’s the following of that call that takes some “soul stamina,” in the words of Caroline Myss…and for good reason.

Your purpose will be bigger than you or your personal desires. It will demand that you grow to birth it, to hold it, to release it into the world. Passion moves through you, and is not yours, for you exist to bring it into being. It is joyful. It is ceaseless. The work your soul requires will be invigorating, for it will align with all you already bring to the world. It will feel exhilarating and frightening at the same time, but know this secret: the delight will outweigh the fear.

Here’s to hearing the call. Here’s to knowing our purpose.

Here’s to doing it afraid.

Amoret has been working in the Reclaiming and Feri witchcraft traditions since 2000. Her passions include the search for Truth and Desire, co-creation and manifestation, ecstatic ritual, and the power of good reading material. Amoret believes in full-on surrendering to transformation.

Risk Perspective

I’m in to week 3 of my online class on entrepreneurship over at Coursera.org. We will shift into macroeconomics soon (eek!) but right now we’re primarily focusing on the behavior, mindset and motivation of successful entrepreneurs.

Nearly every video lecture mentions something about risk behavior, which makes sense … this is a course on entrepreneurship, and starting a business in the current economic climate is certainly a gamble. The instructor argues that while a certain level of comfort with risk is necessary, there are other traits that a successful business owner has that mitigate a tendency toward recklessness. I won’t bore you with all the details – but one of the most interesting things that I learned is that an entrepreneur is not more prone to taking risks than a non-entrepreneur. I had assumed the opposite, and was actually a little nervous about whether or not I have the right kind of mindset to start my own business. But my professor cited studies on the subject, and those findings showed that one group was not any more likely to take risks than the other group.

The difference between risk-taking between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is not frequency … it’s perspective. A whole new world has opened up to me, even if it seems kind of obvious in hindsight.

Non-entrepreneurs, or at least folks less likely to start a business, view leaving a comfortable job with a steady paycheck and benefits as huge risk. Note I say “comfortable” and not “good.” The job may not match their personality or even their ethics – but it is providing a level of comfort that would be too difficult to leave without something else stable lined up. I am currently in a “comfortable” job, for instance. I make decent money, I know the ropes, I have benefits, and there is a certain measure of job security in my current position. But it is far from a “good job” in that the atmosphere is out of alignment with my values, and I really dislike what I do. But hey… paycheck, right?

The fact that my skin crawls when I think about staying in this job for any longer than I have to makes me think that I might actually have an entrepreneurial world-view after all. Folks that leave secure jobs and start businesses tend to see what’s at risk entirely differently. It’s a bigger risk to stay. I can’t picture myself in this job or even this field 10 years from now. I don’t see any advancement opportunities, nor do I have any desire to advance even if I could. The risk is losing my soul, my passion, and my drive all because I am giving my energy to something I don’t care very much about.

What’s more – I don’t think this would end if I found a new gig. I find it very difficult to picture myself in any position where I am beholden to anyone but my clients and customers. I struggle to imagine a fabulous job that involves a desk in an office. I don’t get excited at the prospect of selling myself to a new manager. I can’t think of anyone who enjoys job-hunting, but I’m not even excited about the end result of a job hunt.

What does excite me — generating passion and desire for a creative project. Seeing new and unique ways to approach a problem and then having the free rein to implement them. Having fun, even when the work is tedious, because the end result means something. I know there are any number of companies where that kind of environment exists – and if I find one, I will be very tempted to join them if they’ll have me. But honestly? I want to do it myself.

So do I have the skills to pull this off? Maybe. There are definitely some traits I need to hone before I start a solo venture. But do I have the mindset? Definitely… because I truly believe it’s more dangerous to stay where I am. I need to risk in order to thrive.

And good gods, that’s scary. But what’s scarier still… complacency. That remains my greatest challenge and fear. And what’s risk if not facing fear and acting anyway?

 

Summertime: Ramping It Up

I strive (and often fail) to live my life in the same ebb and flow of the energy of the seasons. Spring and summer feel like natural times of year to be busy, enjoy being outdoors, connect with friends, try out new opportunities, etc. I try to skid to a halt in the autumn, and by winter, I want to sink into a pseudo-hibernation so I can recharge. Would that I could sleep through the winter… especially in Chicago… but really, what that means for me is attempting to stay home more, be still and quiet more often, and try and cultivate a feeling of regenerative peace. Never works. But I still make a worthy effort each year. I wrote a little bit more about the hows and whys of this practice last year over at Nature Nurtured.

But this is summer! Well, almost … it’s just around the corner. Suddenly, I look at my calendar and I am overwhelmed by the places I have agreed to be and the people I have chosen to connect with. This is all a good thing — it makes my little extroverted heart sing with delight.

Recently, I got to volunteer as a member of Game Control for the D.A.S.H, an annual nation-wide puzzle hunt. (Actually, I should say international – since this year they expanded across the pond to London.) My job was not incredibly difficult: pass out puzzles and, occasionally, bagels. But I still had a great time. It was enlightening for me to peek behind the curtain of a puzzle event and get a chance to connect with folks that not only really love puzzles, but really love creating this kind of experience. Since ‘creating experiences for people’ is my new mission in life, I soaked in as much as I could and laid some groundwork for continuing conversations about how to provide these sorts of opportunities on a regular basis. Oh, and the fact that I got to hang out with incredibly cool people didn’t hurt. Nor did the end-of-the-hunt margarita. All in all, a great day.

My online class on entrepreneurship with Coursera.org has started up. I’m now in week 2, and while there hasn’t been a whole lot of hands-on instruction yet, I am learning quite a bit about the entrepreneurial mindset. I am identifying areas where I have a lot of strengths and some traits that I might need to bolster in order to be successful. For a free course, it’s not bad at all. There are thousands of participants all over the world. I haven’t taken much advantage of networking over the online forums yet, but the opportunity is certainly there for me if I choose to use it.

In other news, I mentioned before that my dear friend and former roommate, Kevin Newhall, has his first CD coming out in a couple of weeks. (You can check out samples of his stuff on Reverbnation.) He is a piano player and songwriter with such a unique and beautiful sound. He asked me to perform with him at the release party, and we test-drove the duet we’re doing at an open mic a couple nights ago. I have never done an open mic before, so I was more than a little nervous. (Tried not to show it.) But we had a blast, the crowd really loved the song… and I think the actual show in a couple of weeks is going to be great. It’s a great, truly uplifting kind of song… really hard not to get engaged with it. It’s called “Today’s the Day,” and it’s all about taking life by the horns and getting stuff done — which sums up the energetic feel of my summer quite nicely.

Delight Report: 5/12/13

The last couple of weeks have been pretty rough work-wise. Frustrating circumstances and staffing conditions led to me working lots of additional hours on projects that were fairly stressful. But things have finally leveled out, and I can relax and get back to a few of the more important things on my agenda, like planning a wedding (not mine — I’m officiating) and continuing to work on my master plan for self-employment. Part of that master plan includes a class on entrepreneurship I am taking through Coursera.org, which if you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you check it out. It allows you to take college level courses from a number of reputable institutions — all online, all free. I think it is a remarkable service, and I am looking forward to seeing how this class pans out. It covers both the psychology of entrepreneurship as well as practical skills like drafting a business plan. Online learning hasn’t always worked out well for me, since I thrive on face-to-face interaction — but I am determined to give this one my full attention. Feel free to ask me how it’s going and help keep me honest.

I did get to take a mini-break during the work madness and drive out to Minneapolis. One of my nearest and dearest friends moved out there about 5 months ago, so it was the perfect excuse to visit her, see a bunch of people I love, and get to see the spectacle that is the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Company‘s annual May Day Parade and Festival. “Spectacle” is truly the right word for it. Puppets on a grand scale, a ceremony that celebrates the return of the sun (Minnesota really needed that magic this year), and all sorts of wonderful moments and surprises. I was honored to help build the 7-circuit labyrinth that is a mainstay of the festival each year. I got to see so any wonderful folks I haven’t seen in a few years… it was just great to be there. Truly regenerating and truly magical.

I managed to survive the stressful work week and turn in the projects that were plaguing me – so I got to enjoy my weekend. Yesterday was spent with more gaming (referenced in the last Delight Report) and then an evening of relaxation, something that was a long time coming.

Today I got to go over to my friend Kevin’s place to rehearse a duet for his upcoming CD release party. If you’re near Chicago, the pertinent information can be found here. (A website with even more info and sample tracks is coming very soon.) Kevin is an incredible pianist, songwriter and lyricist. I have a hard time describing what his music is like… it really needs to be experienced. He lists his influences as David Byrne, Jill Sobule, Stephen Merritt, and Rufus Wainwright – but I think he truly has his own unique sound. And his lyrics are brilliant. Truly, truly brilliant. The man has a gift for wordplay and musicality that is quite impressive. I might be slightly biased… Kevin is a dear, dear friend – and a former roommate. But I can tell you, he would practice piano for hours when we lived together – and even though he played the same songs over and over, I never once got sick of hearing him … and believe me, that’s saying something. My attention span is not long. Getting to go over to his place today and hear him play made me both very happy and a little wistful. I miss having music in my life like that. But I digress. If you are in Chicago and free on June 15 — come see the show. I can guarantee a great audience, fabulous music and a wonderful time.

Kevin and I also have a long standing tradition of seeing comic book movies whenever they come out, so after rehearsing we topped off the day with lunch and a matinee of Iron Man 3. Lots of stuff blew up. In other words… it rocked.

I hope your week was full of all kinds of delights as well. Feel free to share them in the comments if you’re called.

Spurring Forward

NPR ran a really great interview with Robert Redford on All Things Considered yesterday. He’s promoting his new film about the Weather Underground, which I definitely am putting on my to-see list. He’s a great interview subject in general. I’ve heard him several times before and have always enjoyed him. But yesterday he told a story I hadn’t heard about a moment he had in third grade where his teacher caught him drawing rather than paying attention to the lesson. She made him come up to the front of the class and explain what was so important. Here’s the interview excerpt:

“So I was about to be really trashed, humiliated, and I went up and I held up this thing. And she said, ‘You wanna tell us what that’s about?’ And so I described [it]; I said, ‘Well yeah, these are cowboys and they’re chasing the Indians, and they’re shooting at the Indians and the Indians are shooting back at the cowboys, and they’re about to be driven off a cliff, and above them are some B-51 bombers bombing the cowboys.’

“So what happened was, the class was interested in it. And she saw that. Instead of putting me down, she made a deal. She said, ‘We’ll put an easel up here, and every Wednesday we’ll give you 15 minutes, and you can come draw a story for us — but then you gotta pay attention.’

“Now had that not happened, I would have been humiliated. It probably would have knocked me down to not trust that impulse that I had. Sometimes — I don’t know about you — but maybe one or two [encouragements] in your life is all you need to spur you forward, rather than have you collapse.”

love this story so much. And it got me thinking about who the people were that were there to “spur me forward” in one of those critical moments in my own life.

I remember my own 2nd grade teacher who rallied the class and community for donations after my family’s house burned down. We lost everything save for the pajamas we were wearing, and it was early February in Nebraska. Mrs. Leverette covered a huge box in paper, and my entire class decorated it, wrote messages of encouragement, and filled it with clothing, toys, and other essentials for my younger sister and me. Mrs. Leverette gave me a little pink Bible and a bathrobe. I still keep that Bible in a cherished place because to me it represents the epitome of compassion, kindness, and community. In a time of so much despair within my family, I learned what it meant to be supported and to accept help as well as a deep commitment to supporting others in their time of need — no strings attached.

Mrs. Leverette was the first example that popped into my mind when I heard the story, likely because of the elementary school connection. But there were others. I’m grateful to say that I’ve had many more than the “one or two” encouragements in my life Robert Redford talks about. My mentors who saw something in me I didn’t. A dear friend who was there to catch me in a time of deep heartbreak. My father who helped me find a way to follow my crazy dream of studying abroad when I had no money. My first roommate in Chicago who held the door open so I could move into an entirely new phase of life. I can think of critical moments in  each one of these examples that could have shifted the balance of my life in one direction or the other. Abundance vs. scarcity. Joy vs. despair. Momentum vs. stasis.

I am grateful beyond measure. I doubt half of the people who have touched my life have any clue about the impact they had on me. Perhaps that’s my next personal project … to let them know.

How about you? Who was one person that “spurred you forward, rather than have you collapse?” Feel free to share in the comments, if you’re called.

Delight Report: 4/22/13

Last week was one of those weeks that seemed to keep piling on the hurt, trauma and struggle. I don’t think I need to mention the national and global tragedies that captured our attention over the last several days. But it seemed like there were just as many local hardships that happened to people I love. Personal loss, struggles with money, fears amplified and worries realized… it just felt like no one could catch a break.

I will not rehash the heartache. There were some really bright moments over the last couple weeks despite the difficulties, and I want to highlight them here. If anything, just to remind myself of that age-old saying, “This, too, shall pass.” Emotions and events are just as beholden to cycles as anything else.

So… here is the Delight Report for the week:

  • Hello, my name is River, and I am a geek. I recently started playing a role-playing game for the first time since, oh — my early 20s? It has been at least *cough, mumble* years. I joined a group of folks playing 7th Sea, which is basically a swashbuckling, pirate-themed RPG set in an alternate 17th century Europe. We had a session on Saturday, and while some of our in-game decisions took a wee bit longer to make than they probably should have, I still had a blast. My good friend, Jo, came down for the day and got to join in as well as an NPC (non-player character for those of you who need translation). She made a great old Usurran (fake Russian) woman who wielded wooden spoons with great vigor and recited recipes for borscht in an ominous tone while standing on a cliff while the rest of us attempted to take out a 100,000-strong Montaigne (fake French) army …. Yeah, in reading that over, I guess you had to be there. But suffice it to say I had so much fun, and laughed harder than I have in weeks. That would be the point.
  • The real reason that Jo came to visit was for Kev-i-o-key, aka our friend Kevin’s annual birthday karaoke bash. We go to a fabulously kitschy Korean place called Sing Sing Karaoke. Each group gets their own room with a big screen TV. The rooms each have a personality all their own… with names like “Orchid,” “Lily,” and “Rose,” not to mention the gaudy wallpaper and mirrored walls… you can take your best guess what happened there before the karaoke business moved in. I just find it part of the charm. You pick your song out of the book, punch your number into the remote, and the song comes up on the television screen. Our room came complete with a tambourine and disco lights that threatened to cause seizures. I loved every minute. My go-to songs appear to all be by Bon Jovi. Don’t judge.
  • On Sunday morning, Jo and I headed over to our good friends’ place for breakfast. Katje & Bill are always so incredibly welcoming, and in spite of a difficult week, this visit was no exception. Great breakfast, wonderful conversation — and then a group solving of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. I love doing puzzles with people, but this group of folks is particularly special. It certainly set the tone for the rest of a lovely, sunny day.

These are the highlights that stand out for now, although as I am thinking back through the last few days, there were more great things that happened that I had previously forgotten about. Good. It’s working.

I am considering adding the Delight Report as a regular feature of this blog – particularly if you want to join in. I invite you to add to the Delight Report in the comments, if you’re so called. What brought you joy over the past few days? What inspired you? What did you learn? Where did you find a little sliver of light in the darkness? Share it. I think we could all use a boost.