Do It For Yourself [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I have been writing long enough to know that there are sedimentary layers to my themes. The top layer, the most superficial, is the political layer, current events. I am not above shouting into the storm. When I run to the keyboard and ring the alarm or presume that my point of view is relevant enough to roundly criticize others, I know that, above all, I’m breaking the first rule of happiness: I can never determine what another person thinks or does or feels. On my superficial days, in my ranting, I write for myself.

When I was at my saddest, I set about looking for goodness. I walked the streets of Seattle with the single intention of counting acts of kindness. As you might suspect there were more than I could count. In this world where we story ourselves as aggressive, unthinking and unkind, we are remarkably compassionate. Good will is simply more difficult to see. It is not the focus. The deeper layers of my writing-archaeology emerge when I direct my attention, when I exercise the artist in me and attempt to see beyond what I think. Since these are the layers where I desire to live and work, I suppose it is also true that on those days I also write for myself.

It is a looping life-lesson for me: I have the capacity to choose where I place my focus. I will see in the dark ocean where I decide to shine my light. I will author myself according to what/where I decide to give my focus. It is, among other things, why the film ABOUT TIME is among my favorite movies.

Lately, as one of our get-through-the-pandemic-winter-strategies, we’ve taken to assembling jigsaw puzzles. Entire evenings disappear into our intense pursuit of pieces. Our puzzle sessions require absolute focus – all of the other nonsense and monsters that vie to plague our brains are banished. Our focus is so thorough that we rarely speak. We do, however, listen to the soundtrack of ABOUT TIME. Again and again. When it finishes, one of us walks to the CD player (yes…we play CDs) and play it again. Sometimes we don’t make it past the first track, Ben Fold’s THE LUCKIEST. “Do you mind?” one of us asks. It’s a rhetorical question. It warms us so a repeat is always welcome.

Sitting at the dining room table, hunting for bits of colored cardboard, with the soundtrack playing, all things come into focus. While the surface-layer is on fire with a circus of instability, a pandemic, a climate that is changing, all jobs gone, a broken wrist that is not mending,…the deeper layer beckons: DogDog sits under the table, BabyCat is asleep on the chair, 20 just called and made us laugh, a postcard from Jen made us cry, my phone dinged with a text from a dear friend. I look across the table at my wife, pursing her lips as she plucks a piece of the puzzle from the table and attempts to make it fit, and I know to my bones that I am the luckiest.

To see it or not to see it; it’s my choice.

read Kerri’s blog post about REPEAT

What Would You Give? [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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At the end of his life, Tom told me that, when reviewing his time on this earth, what he most valued, what made his life rich, was not the triumphant play openings or any achievement, title, or status symbol that he’d accumulated. It was the ordinary moments, the infinitely unimportant moments that gave color and shape to his story. Sitting on the porch with his aunt Bunty. Teaching his second grade class. Burning trash with his grandfather. As a boy, racing across the unplowed fields.

It sounds like a cliché’, doesn’t it? We hear it over and over again but rarely heed the wisdom. It is in the ordinary that the extraordinary is found. Pay special attention to the utterly normal and life will burst open and flow.

The film ABOUT TIME has ascended to the top of my favorites list. We watched it more than a few times this week. The quote says it all. Live everyday as if it was the final day in this extraordinary, ordinary life. It reads like a cliché’.

And yet, a few weeks ago I stared into my father’s eyes, and for a few moments he did not know who I was. Dementia is leading him away. I know that soon there will come a day when he will not come back. On that day, what might I give to simply sit and have a chat with my dad? Something so ordinary. Something beyond price.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING EVERYDAY

 

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