Saturday, January 23, 2010

Never Say Never

Never say never, for if you live long enough, chances are you will not be able to abide by its restrictions. Never is a long, undependable time, and life is too full of rich possibilities to have restrictions placed upon it. ~ Gloria Swanson

When I was younger, I had highly defined pronouncements of what I would and wouldn't do. I had exceptionally high standards for myself and for those around me. There was no wiggle room for error. I believed that this gave me a feeling of striving for excellence. I believed that, the more clear cut my determining factors are, the greater chance I had at achieving my 'goals in the clouds'. While I can attest to the fact that this way of looking at my life kept me out of trouble and intensely focused, I can also see how this view of the world led to lack of flexibility and compassion. When my plans did go awry, I had no way of readjusting. Because my impressions of success were black and white, I missed all the magnificent shades of gray that there are. I also believe I gave up on projects too soon...truly believing that, if I was unable to do a task to my own standards of perfection, I was a failure in this area. These situations cropped up time and time again. I began to view my own pursuits of excellence with a filter of failure. My only failure was failing to see each attempt as a color off of my black and white grid of ideal vs. worthlessness.

My mother, always far wiser than I, told me "Never say never...and never say forever", when I'd pronounce a situation impossible or irrevocable on one these counts. Between Mom's insight and the quote from Gloria Swanson, I have slowly tempered my judgments. I realize that using words like "never" I'm limiting my own possibilities, and I'm placing harsh, subjective convictions on other people's lives. I have come to understand how many chances for grace I've missed out on by using the word "never". I've withheld understanding when someone else has made choices that are far different from my own. I've fallen short in my own chances for sublime discovery. I've allowed conviction to overtake openness. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a long and forgiving life. I've been able to see my rash verdicts clearly, and I've been able to overturn, to walk back and right wrongs I have done. When I saw the world in black and white, I believed it was for the best. Not only did I miss out on all the shades of gray, but I missed out on enjoying my life, rather than perfecting it.

One silly example of this is the "Twilight" series of books. I had made disparaging comments about them to all who would listen. Being a literary perfectionist, I've long held myself to the highest standards where books are concerned. I've made fun of "Chick Lit" for years. I have remained true to my great literary works standards since I could first read my own chapter books. Never one to read pulp or popular fiction, I began my pursuit of excellence in literature in grade school. While other girls were caught up in reading Judy Blume books, I perused quickly and then passed them over for "Anne of Green Gables" novels. Even in high school and college, I was far more likely to read Tennyson or the Bronte sisters for pure enjoyment, rather than Stephen King. Everyone else I knew was reading "Cujo" and I was ankle deep in the north country Moors of England. My friends had fun passing around books by Mario Puzo and Lawrence Saunders...bookmarking the best chapters for each other. I was too deep into Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to even notice. The fact is, I missed out on a lot of great reads because I was too much of a snob to take notice that not all books have to classics to be entertaining.

A week ago, I had never read any of Stephanie Meyer's famous and popular "Vampire" series books. I had looked down on them, not only for being rubbish, but also for being too young. I stand here with big plate of crow set on my table. With the stress of the past week, I decided to watch the first "Twilight" movie. I was hooked within the first ten minutes. I sheepishly told my friends how much I'd enjoyed watching the movie (I am sorry to say that I'm also a movie snob), and was told that I simply NEEDED to read the books. I've been unable to put them down since. I'm already onto the 3rd in a series of four. I have discovered these books are highly entertaining, quick reading and simply engrossing.

Because of this experience, I'm looking back at many other areas of my life and am wondering if I was too quick to judge in the past. Perhaps I've been too rigid in my views on other subjects? Maybe I've pronounced something else to be rubbish, when it really bears another look? I've discovered than I can do no harm in being more open minded, especially where entertainment is concerned. I can look at some novels, and some movies as well, as pure entertainment, without worrying about my own level of intellectualism at that very moment. It's tough for me. I still have incredibly high standards. Perhaps I can learn to be a little less black and white...and allow a little more color into my experiences. My rigid voice says I will still never eat junk food. But, one never knows? I may just discover that I've had a long dormant desire for Cheeto's....and that's okay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

With the angels...

Have you ever blown out a candle? Have you noticed that the flame flickers, goes out and then smoke rises in sweeping, arching, twirling wisps upwards? When my children were very small, and we'd blow out candles, they would say "Bye bye Angels!" and wave goodbye as the smoke would dissipate towards the ceiling. It was an endearing habit and one that I just let them outgrow on their own. Unlike biting and swiping each other's toys, this innocent acknowledgement of the divine was so precious, I never had the heart to rob them of this imagery. As a matter of fact, I smile each time I blow out a candle, thinking the very same thing, turning my face up to the sky, and bidding the angels a silent "Au Revoir". Although my children have long since forgotten this ritual, it's stayed with me more than a decade later.

Here in my small town in Maine, a flame has gone out, as well. My beautiful friend, Molly, glowed like the most stunning candle possible. Molly was the type of woman whose company made you smile. When we'd meet for coffee, her beautiful face and her warm laugh would naturally draw all eyes to her in our little coffee house. Yet, it was her inner beauty that made Molly sparkle. She had a way of encouraging everyone around her. Molly inspired me. In her presence I felt dynamic, fun loving and enthusiastic. When she took my yoga classes, the room sparkled with her presence. I felt as if I was a better teacher with her as my student. Outside of class, Molly and I had more laughs over remembering Newport, Rhode Island in the "old days", realizing that we shared some favorite haunts in common. We were goofy during our conversations that made no sense whatsoever....that would require translation. Molly made me feel as if I could be the woman I was meant to be when I was with her. She was one part mischievous imp, and another part Mother Earth. She was both wise woman and harlequin. She never shied away from her ability to laugh at herself but also strove to continually improve her life and skills. Molly was a believer in lifelong learning, and she consistently amazed me at her ability to keep going on her quest for inspiration.

I did a great deal of research on angels the past evening. I know that angels, like human beings, have different gifts. I know that some encourage, while others protect....that some are messengers, while others offer quiet comfort. As I tried to find artwork depicting an angel that could represent Molly, I had an impossible feat; none were as beautiful. But, I know that Molly is radiant among them. I have full confidence that Molly is shining, that she is laughing and that she is dancing. I know that she will be a radiant presence in the already glowing ambiance in Heaven. And, I know that when I see her again someday, that she'll meet me with one of her characteristic big hugs and say, "Hey, girl! Where you been?". Molly was warm hearted, generous and talented. I'm positive that, even in Heaven, those gifts are always needed.

As I light my candle for Molly tonight, I miss mourn her, I will miss her, but I will know that the angels are surrounding her. I also have a feeling she'll teach them to heli-ski, to sail across the ocean and to climb a mountain. Her adventurous soul may even chart some new hills in Heaven. I hope she'll show them to me someday.