Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Seasons

Winter: I went to work. It was hard. I left in the dark and came home in the dark. Is it always dark? I looked dazed. Someone joked, "These are not the droids you're looking for." Finally hearing the words, I responded, "Okay." Everything felt heavy - my body, my mind, my emotions, even orange juice felt heavy. Why in the world would orange juice feel heavy? The work day ended, but the night never ended. Grey, grey, and more grey. Cold seeped into my bones...never quite warm - more clothes, more layers, more covers. Laughter diminished, sensitivity to hurt increased. My bones ached. Hope quit. Creation groaned. Blah, blah, blah...sleep.

Spring: A tiny green blade comes up through the crack in the sidewalk, spreads its arms and stretches after its long slumber. Blossoms from a thousand different trees and flora fill my senses - the aromas of oranges, the spectacular light greens, yellows, oranges, and blues of plants who I know intimately but not by name, softness of new born leaves and toddler flowers. People smile; I reason in particular, just smiling to be smiling. As Elf said, "I like smiling. It's my favorite." or something like that. I love it that someone thought up such zaniness as Elf.

God awakens from his slumber.

The light returns - blinding, penetrating, warming, uplifting. Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy - I agree with John Denver. I agree with everyone...everyone is right, and nice, and beautiful, and we will all "live happily ever after in springfield of meadows" (quote from an early Jessy Lauren Smith work). Springtime proves Jessy has a bit of prophet in her and proves something good in every single person on the face of the planet.

Sun dresses, surfer shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts. People run and jump and dance and act goofy...and smile some more. The young couple on the bench flirt – poking, joking, jostling, holding hands. I pass an old guy on my walk downtown and he's grinning from ear-to-ear...he's not stoned...he just likes the day and the day likes him. I do believe it really likes him. It likes all of us. It bends down to kiss our brow with love and pat our forehead with kindness.

Gentle breeze embraces me, swirling around my body, lifting me up higher and higher and higher. My muscles relax and my mind stops spinning. The sunlight washes the scales from my eyes, my mind, my body, my emotions...even the orange juice. I don't care that the whole orange-juice-scale metaphor breaks down on hundreds of levels…because it doesn’t matter…nothing matters but the new moment overflowing with love and freedom and joy and light and music and goodness…and smiles.

I believe again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

You Should Have Seen Us

Late yesterday morning, my wife and I talked ourselves into a visit to our building's fitness center. The small exercise room boasts a bit of everything - a good representation of Nautilus lifting equipment, treadmills, elliptical machines, and the all important mirrored walls to help us take in the majestic view of our bodies building before our very eyes. Oh yeah, and windows to the outside world so they too can watch in shock and awe.

Historically, I've been more of a swimmer than a fitness room junkie, but time waits for no man/woman and the convenience of an exercise workout mere minutes away never fails to draw me to its bright and shiny environs. So we head down there, almost skipping with excitement, ready to attack and engage and sweat and raise our heart rate and other tough things like that...knowing full well that if we lasted 20 minutes including 10 minutes of rest time, we would consider it a newspaper-worthy accomplishment.

Upon entering the miraculous, body-transforming world of fitness we encountered almost no one. Rarely do we see more than a few other future Mr./Ms. Universes...which I’m sure has something to do with our intimidating physical prowess and reputation. The young twenty-something couple working out on the 2 elliptical machines barely acknowledged our arrival. Decked out in their latest attire - grunge meets Apple Computer - their IPods filled their ears with their favorite playlist.

After recovering from the disappointment of a broken routine that usually started with the elliptical, we decide to tackle some of the weight machines. A few technical adjustments and several conversations later, I press forward with my arms on the bench press. I don't remember the exact weight, but suffice it to say double-digit weights and I are no strangers. The placement of the machine points me directly at our competition - the young couple. Even though their music blasted to the point that I could hear it through their earphones, they somehow manage to interact with each other – talking, planning, laughing. Bring it on – we can do that, no problem.

We pull out our mp3 players. I crank up my LG cell phone/mp3 player. Mick Jagger belts out “I’ll never be your beast of burden…all I want is you to make love to me…am I hot enough; am I rough enough…put me out, put me out, put me out of misery…” My head bobs, shoulder dips, foot level rises as if to say, “I could do this all day.” The couple picks up the pace. Their walk becomes a run, their laughs become borderline hysterical, and then the girl turns to face the guy. She continues to work out, listen to music, and talk/laugh with her buddy while running full speed SIDEWAYS on the elliptical! I shake my head in disbelief. I almost stand up and applaud…seriously!

A few minutes later the guy gets a phone call. He says something about being late to meet someone and heads out the door. The girl spends another 10 minutes running like gravity doesn’t exist – no struggling for air, no perspiring, nothing but smiles…and then she gathers up her stuff and dances out of the room.

All alone, already tired and sore, Stacy and I move on to the vacated machines, and begin the end of our workout. We enter our routine into the equipment – a full 10 minutes. At one tenth the pace of our predecessors, our legs start stepping and our arms pull back and push forth. She says something; I say “what”; she ignores me; I realize she’s singing softly. I crank up my player as Tracy Chapman sings out, “If you saw the face of God and love, would you change…” My head bobs, shoulder dips, and I start singing. Stacy smiles; I smile. She sings louder; I sing louder. I laugh; she laughs …you should have seen us.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Walking in Rhythm

I just completed my second week, and my first full week, in a new job writing software and stuff. It's not my first choice in terms of how I like to spend my days (i.e., it's not writing) but it brings good things into my life that I need. Historically, it has taken me a while to establish any sort of rhythm in new life situations. The first week or two I'm usually so overwhelmed that I honestly don't know what I'm doing most of the time, much less how to do it. I manage to go through some motions but I have no real rhythm, if you know what I mean. There’s new people, new working space, new equipment, new routes to the restroom, new lunch breaks, new hours, new expectations, new organizations, new interpretations…and at best, I walk with a serious hitch in my giddyup.

My simple goal during those incubatory periods is to survive – not impress, or even be productive…just survive. Well, I did it! I survived, and in the process I worked my way into a level 1 comfort zone (out of 5 or 10 of 1000). Why do major life transitions such as moving to a new town or starting a new job generate loads of gobblygook in my mental and emotional systems?

In my new situation, I’ve run into several people who have lived their entire lives within an hour of their current home. Their roots grow deep, and I can see the resulting life reflected in their eyes. They know something I don’t know. They have something deep within them that I do not. It’s like a deep subterranean stream running with cool grace. They walk in a rhythm that attracts me to them...I envy them. Strangely enough, many of them envy me. When I tell of my travels to distant lands, various living locales, unusual job experiences, scattered family members (geographically and psychologically), and life risks that I’ve taken, they look at me like I’m from another planet – Planet Brave. Not knowing whether my history reveals bravery or avoidance I usually do not comment on their observation…although at some level, I probably enjoy the awestruck responses from those who learn of my risk-friendly approach to life.

In any case, I have discovered something in the past couple of weeks: I like living within walking distance to my work and to my town. Now, I travel by foot quite a bit, and it settles my soul. Maybe it’s my way of trying to follow those substantial souls down their well worn life paths. Maybe I’m making a fresh start of traveling deep instead of long. Maybe someday, for the first time in a very long time, I’ll find myself walking in rhythm.