Once upon a time...

… there was a company called Karen, Inc. It was run by a horrible, evil, nasty man. The employees called him Disease. He made them work long hours in a dark, cold building. No vacations. No chitchat. No frolicking with cohorts.

After years of misery, the employees gathered together and decided to revolt. They spoke to the Powers That Be and got the old curmudgeon fired. No severance package. No golden parachute. Just a good stern kick in the pants.

They brought in a new She E O. Her name was Ms. Ease. She had kind eyes and a gentle heart.

“I want you to love working here,” she told her new clan. She didn’t call them employees; she called them cells. “If even one of you is unhappy, all of us will suffer.” She painted the walls sunshine yellow. She gave out thermoses of hot chocolate – with marshmallows on top.

“Take a break whenever you need to,” she said. “If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.”

 The cells were so happy they laughed and sang. Some were even seen skipping.

 “You have only one job to do,” Ms. Ease said. “Build strong muscles.” And so they did.

 And they all lived happily ever after. 

This week, a friend told me her daughter joined a cult and cut off all ties with her. Another friend is going through a challenging legal battle. Nearly every time I speak with my dad, he tells me about someone else in his retirement community who has been diagnosed with cancer or died. Every time I thought of them, I felt so sad and helpless. Life can be such a bitch!  

But this morning, as I woke up to a new day, I remembered another part of the picture. The word that floated in my head was RESILIENCE.  

Does anyone think they can survive a divorce, a bankruptcy, the death of a loved one, an illness, a (fill in the blank)? No.

But the amazing thing about humans is we do. We are unbelievably resilient. Of course we whine, we cry, we rage, we crumble. And then we take a shower, eat some breakfast, and put one foot in front of the other. And even if we fail miserably and the worst-case scenario comes to be, we still somehow make it through.

I am in awe of us!  

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Sick Day

I called a friend the other day and she told me she’s been sick for two weeks.

“What a shame,” I said, but she admitted part of her was enjoying it:

"I’ve been playing lots of Scrabble and bingeing on Netflix.”

This reminded me of the days of being sick as a kid. Sure, the barfing and chills sucked, but mostly I remember curling up under the covers, being allowed to watch t.v. all day, falling in and out of sleep, and waking up to my mom touching my forehead and then placing a tray of steaming Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and Saltines on my lap.

It seems as adults we’ve forgotten how to surrender to rest and recuperation when we need it. Why do we need to catch a bug, break a bone, get a scary diagnosis, or go through a surgery to finally allow ourselves to slow down – or to stop?

I know, I know, you have to earn a living, you have to get the kids to soccer practice, you have to call the plumber and go food shopping. But what if you let yourself sleep as late as you wanted one Sunday morning or said “no” to that dinner party you really don’t want to go to? What if you stayed in your p.j.s all day just because you can?

I wonder what would happen.

When the time is right, the world woos you out from your cocoon. You wake up remembering a dream where you swam backstroke, your arms reaching out like butterfly wings. You drive down the freeway to the pool you abandoned for three long months while you rested and waited for energy to bloom from a seed.

Your friends are moving in the water, exercising while discussing The Bachelor and their own love lives. You stretch and laugh and feel glad to be back. You go to the park afterwards and put your bare feet on the green grass. It’s called Earthing. You read a book about it and watched a documentary, and now you believe that being barefoot in nature really does neutralize free radicals and promote health.  

You get up to leave the park and start doing some Qigong. Three teenagers – a guy and two girls - come over and ask what you’re doing. They ask you to show them a few moves. You twist and sway with them and pretend you’re the instructor on the Qigong DVD you watch. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let the energy flow through your body. A small group of passersby stop and watch. The kids say goodbye and wish you a good day.

When the time is right, the world reaches out to embrace you. And you embrace it right back.  

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When My Heart Goes Dark...

Jane died of cancer with a pile of her poems on the bedside table. Her husband and friends lovingly gathered her words and published her first and only chapbook: When My Heart Goes Dark, I Turn The Porch Light On

I met Jane soon after she opened her creative writing school, The Writing Salon. I nervously entered the doors of her cottage and let her teach me the ways of personal memoir writing. Week after week she invited me to peel off my layers, sink into the world of literary creativity, and share my musings with my classmates. Sometimes trembling, sometimes laughing, I divulged my unspoken stories. I crafted my first published essay in that classroom, while Jane sat cross-legged in the window seat encouraging me to tenderly open yet another vein.

People ask me if I've written anything lately. No. I offer a flimsy list of excuses. 

But you, Jane. I felt your breath on my neck as your friends read from your newborn book. You remind me that words can pierce infinity.

"You only have to write 10 minutes a day," I hear you whisper as I wake from my slumber.