What is your favorite word?

PROMPT: What is your favorite word?  Is there a word that spontaneously comes to mind?  What are some of the reasons that it is your favorite word?

I love looking up words, so I have a big, fat dictionary stashed under my couch.  It might seem a random place to store it, but it is a very handy location.  I can tug at a corner of its spine and drag it out, dust the cat and dog hair off its cover, and voila: the vast universe of English definitions and etymology is at my fingertips.

dictionary spine

The spine of this dictionary is spent from such abuse.  I would place it in a more revered place — but it is so thick, there is no room on my crowded bookshelves for it.  And there is no rational explanation as to why I store it under the couch.  Maybe I was tidying up before dinner company arrived one time, and I wanted my desk to look more tidy.  I can’t remember.  It has remained hidden there long enough to create a habit of storage.  I rarely dig it out to look up a word . . . now preferring the convenience of the “define: whatever” function in Google.

This dictionary has been bumped around by the vacuum, has survived periodic floods of red wine and other beverages, and has had close encounters of the fuzzy kind from the myriad dust bunnies that reproduce at an astronomical rate.  I sometimes feel guilty when I bop it with the vacuum or shove it further from view when company comes over.  There is a wealth of information in this tome.  Just thinking about my cavalier attitude shames me into considering a new place for it to rest.

My favorite word?

 Experience 

I just love this word.  It is so full and enriching and alive.  It is ambrosia.  It encompasses our perceptions, our beliefs, our assumptions, our loves, our errors, our forgiveness, our learning, our teaching.  It projects into the future, embraces the present, and builds on the past.  There is so much time in this word.  So many dimensions of time.  It is simultaneously eternal and present in any given nano second.  It is both creative and stable.  It can be embroidered with lacy fibs to make a story better.  It can serve as a sage advisor.  It can prove to be an insane springboard into the unknown.  It blows our perceptions of time out of the Milky Way.

I used to date a scientist.  One of his hobbies was to sit in his chair in a dark room and ponder the universe and the various dimensions.  In these quiet hours, he came up with a breakthrough scientific theory that I thought was fairly plausible, at least to my neophyte’s understanding of dark matter and ordinary matter and  black holes and universal space and time.

He painstakingly laid out the particulars of how it all worked, and I was really impressed.  Truly, I didn’t mean to blow a hole in his hours and days and weeks of pondering when I asked him, “But what’s the point? What is the meaning of it all if there isn’t any reference of experiential and emotional and personal connection?”

I have to hand it to him.  He didn’t perceive me as one of those naysaying hole-pokers trying to assassinate his theory.  His response to my question was eloquent and beautiful: “Hmmph.”

I saw him a few nights later and, after many hours in his chair in a dark room, he said that he figured out how Experiential Connection figured into the swirly mix of our Milky Way.  He had some kind of answer for it all, about how our experiences plugged up certain holes in the Universe.  I am sure that his more technical language accounted for a more elegant way of explaining how it all comes together, but this is what I took away from his rather long explanation:

our future experiences of connection represent the dark matter

that balances with what is termed as “ordinary matter” throughout infinity

In retrospect, I am sure that my interpretation does not quite embody what he was saying.  But it all makes sense somehow.  I finally asked him, “How can there be ordinary matter?  Doesn’t all matter have remarkable significance?”  He didn’t have an answer as to why it is called ordinary, but I suspect that these questions made for some extra sitting time in his dark room.

It all counts.  The seen and the unseen.  The real and the invisible real. The ordinary and the dark.  I find it fascinating to think that it is possible that there is 10 times more dark matter than visible matter in space.  That is a lot of matter that I am not seeing.  Just thinking about it motivates me to Pay Attention.

I am not explaining it very well.  I am not an astrophysicist.  I am merely a student of life who has learned that cultivating mindfulness matters.  That my experiences matter.  I want to connect.  I want to experience Experience with a capital E.

It is said that there are roughly one million words in the English language.  I would suspect that the world wide web would have a difficult time corralling so many permutations of any single word.  Merriam-Webster chimes in with the following:

“There is no exact count of the number of words in English, and one reason is certainly because languages are ever expanding; in addition, their boundaries are always flexible.?”  (http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq/total_words.htm)

In other words, language is expanding as rapidly as my ex-boyfriend’s explanation of what happens with dark matter in the Universe.  Language expands and it is infinite.  There are probably 10 times more thoughts and concepts and feelings and experiences than what the English language can account for.  This makes sense to me.

So today, my favorite word is e-x-p-e-r-i-e-n-c-e.  I embrace the Universal dimensions that this word represents.  Dark matter is like a placeholder in the Universe for us as we face the unknown in our world — the unseen frontiers.  So many experiences to build.  So much dark matter to Experience.

van-gogh-starry-night-vincent-van-gogh

Who is conducting your life’s tempo?

Image

PROMPT: Is there someone or something in your life that is dictating your unique tempo?  A conductor who is in charge of the baton?  What is your tempo?

Tempo is the speed at which a passage of music is (or is intended to be) played at.  The notes, the dynamics, the tempo markings on the page direct us to celebrate not only the originality of the composer but his musical imagination of time and place as well.

The conductor provides the musicians with leadership in interpreting such originality and imagination.  I would imagine that it takes a lot of skill to feel the difference between hearing a passage played in a dignified largo or in the slightly slower and overlapping tempo of larghetto — and then convey such subtlety while waving a thin stick in the air.  Pretty tricky stuff.  After all, what would it be like if the horn section was playing a piece of music larghissimo and the strings were playing the same piece vivace at the same time?  What a muddle this would be.  The equivalent of fingernails scraping  the bottom of an aluminum bread pan.  Ouch.

Dissonance would occur.  Chaos would ensue.  The music would go splat.  We would all be wishing we had brought ear plugs.  The music would be distorted and not appreciated.  The composer would be thoroughly and unfairly dissed in a review.  Mahler, Debussy, Berlioz . . . they would all be understandably ticked — their masterpieces trounced.

But life is not a symphony on the page.  It is an organic composition that we are constantly composing and conducting.  What is the tempo of this moment?  Of today? What was the tempo of this past week?  Month?  Year?  How do I want to change things up?  Do I want to change things up?  For some of us, we want to add more presto to our lento.  Others of us, more adagio to our allegro.  There are those few I know who have discovered the secret of andante, just moving along at walking pace and taking in the view.

When it comes to life and its intricate and dynamic composition, who is conducting its tempo in your life?  When do you go with the flow of things for “the sake of”  and when do you fire the conductor and make your own fun?

Some days, I feel as if there are an inordinate amount of choices to make.   Jobs to quit and moves to make.  Adventures to invite and trips to take.  Dates to accept and relationships to end.  Boundaries to set or to release.  A small and puny voice inside whispers that it would be so easy to just hand over the baton and say, “Here.  Please.  Figure it out and then direct as you see best to interpret.”

But then the question begs to be asked: Who is truly in charge here?  Who did I inadvertently or intentionally or voluntarily appoint as my life’s conductor? And who is setting my tempo?  Do I I give the stick to some self-appointed authority or do I merrily swing the baton with the wild abandon that life’s music deserves?

conductor pattern

Whew.  Some days even the harmony and stability of consonance  do not have the seductive power to sway me away from the transitional instability of dissonance.  There is something just so seductive about eradicating the tick-tock of the metronome and marking time up and down and all around.  Swing yer partner!  [True confession: I don’t know if I am embarrassed or proud to report that I was once meanly ostracized at a square dance for having too much frivolous fun while others were trying to dance squares to the beat.  Not my best night of dancing, to be sure, and I certainly did not feel compelled to return for more free lessons.  But I did learn a lot that night: sometimes “free” costs more than I can afford.  Sometimes more than I want to afford.]

So. Continue in your tempo and ignore the conductor.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  To the boyfriend who is trying to solve your life problems.  To the family member who knows what is best for you.  To the boss who thinks your creative ideas are a drain on his brain.  To the grumpy man at the square dance in the taco-shell hat and the snap-down checkered shirt with a lot of points.  To anyone who thinks that their perceptions of truth are the best match for you and your tempo.

Life is hoofing it by in prestissimo.   And there are times when I want to trade in my zen for yeehaw.  I want to break the baton over my knee, kick up my heels, and have a hoot, even when it is deemed inappropriate.  Yell “Huzzah” for no visible reasons.  Invent and claim my tempo.

 

True Story: The Ex Files

The Extraordinary Night of the Ex-es

Image

 

 

Fact truly is stranger than any fiction that I could ever imagine.

 

Last night, I

  • danced with my ex‘s ex‘s ex (weird)
  • met a man with 18 ex-es (and heard the whole story as to why he married and divorced 18 times: interesting, actually)
  • listened to a loony ex-Texan (not interesting)
  • lied to the ex-Texan and told him that my ex was my current boyfriend (bizarrely satisfying)
  • received a text from my real ex (more weirdness)
  • met a man who couldn’t quit talking about his two ex-es (again, not very interesting)
  • met up with someone who felt compelled to report the status of another ex (in detail)
  • ran into my ex-boss (who was with someone who is not his wife)
  • also ran into an ex-coworker who is now an ex-nympho (kind of amazing)
  • met my ex-boyfriend’s ex (I felt interrogated.)
  • at night’s end, used my ex‘s rewards card to buy post-dancing provisions (salt, sugar, and chocolate)

I came home and felt exhausted by so much exexcitement.

Does any of this ever happen to you?  Am I the only one?  Do you have a peculiar “ex” vignette to share?

 

Prompt: What do you like about your Alone Self?

Image

PROMPT: What do you like about your Alone Self?  When was the last time you spent some time with your Alone Self?

These questions lead me to tap on my soul’s door and say: “Is anyone home in there?  Where have you been?”  Wait . . . where have I been?

And then the door opens . . .

Who do I see?  What is she doing?  What does the room look like?  What is the lighting like? Is there candlelight?  Is she listening to music?  If so, who is on her playlist?  What color(s) are the walls?   Are the floors bare or are there rugs?  What pictures are hanging on the wall? Are there muddy running shoes by the door?  Are there musical instruments?  Is it some kind of laboratory with an experiment brewing — test tubes and beakers bubbling over?  Is there a snowboard leaning against the wall?  What does the hearth area look like?  Are there books and papers piled on the table?  Is it bare?  Is it set for one?  Or two?  Or more?

Just writing these questions takes me on an expedition that leads me to better understand that which makes me who I am and that which I continue to create out of my passions and interests and fancies.  My definition of fun lies in this room, and the person who opens the door has been awaiting my knock.

As I answer these questions, I take a journey into what it is I love about being alive.  It is these things that I like about myself.  I like that I light an inordinate number of candles when I am feeling stressed.  I like being able to look at my wall of vintage and unplayable mandolins, knowing that someone once made music in them before the necks became too warped to play any longer.  If you look just so, you can see ethereal notes of music past drifting out of their sound holes.  I like using my stairway leading upstairs as my filing system for my research: a step for every barely-started project.  I like seeing my collection of high heels haphazardly strewn about my closet and bedroom: this means I am wearing them.  I like laughing with my loved ones, sometimes at really inappropriate times.  I like that I keep at least two pairs of dance shoes in my truck at all times, one black pair and one red pair.   Although my kitchen may smell funny, I like making my own kefir and kombucha.

As I think about what lies within and as I enjoy what I see, I now see my soul’s room as being inordinately messy and cluttered and hodge-podgey.  No wonder I feel this way in my real life.  Wait . . . this is my real life.  And this is all good.  It adds to my sense of self and to my sense of connection to others.  It is I who has created all of this . . .  um . . . creativity.  And maybe it is time for some Spring Cleaning, but this looks like a really fun place in which to create and to be today.  To be with my Alone Self.

A few questions for you:

What do you like about your Alone Self?

What do you see when your soul opens the door?  What does it feel like?  What does it look like?

After visiting this room, what do you like even better about your Alone Self?

Blessings to you today as you explore the hidden and unseen passages to your soul’s door.  Perhaps it is along this circuitous journey where I make the biggest connections with my Alone Self.  Boosh and Bwoom!  Momentary flashes of discovery lighting my way.

Liking my Alone Self allows me to extend myself to others and make connections that I might have missed, if I am not mindful of  keeping the soul’s door open.  That is the beauty of spending time with yourself: when you return to your Others Self, you have decided if you are going to keep the door closed or prop it open with a stone.  Today, the door is flung wide open.  Bliss ensues.

open-door

 

 

 

Prompt: “Is there something that you have always wanted to do . . . but haven’t?”

Image

PROMPT: Want to shake things up?  Want a burst of inspiration?  “Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t?  Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days.”

Watch this short TED talk (3:27) on trying something new in your life for 30 days:

http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days

Would you like to Try Something New for 30 days?

What one new thing would you like to add to your life for 30 days?

What one thing would you like to subtract from your life for 30 days?

I asked a group of people these questions, and the responses were inspiring.  Ride a bike on a 4-mile loop everyday.  Take one special photograph everyday. Make meaningful connections with family.  Discover a new recipe each day for dinner.  Learn how to speak German.  Meditate.

“Adding to” one’s life focused on the many positives that we dream about having time to do but haven’t quite figured out how to wedge into the day . . . to really experience them and luxuriate in them and to feel their added benefits and blessings.  “Adding to” involves dreaming about and ultimately realizing those desirable priorities that seem to elude us with incredible grace and ease.

For most of the group, thinking of an “add to” took considerable thought and time.  Everyone in the group wanted to make this question work for him or her.  We all wrote our somethings down on paper.  Scribbling the power of the written word, even onto a scrap of paper, can prove to be a daunting task. How often do we take the time to ask ourselves, “What is that I want to add to my life to enhance it?  What is it that I am willing to prioritize, truly prioritize, in order to feel a sense of fulfillment?”

Thinking of what to subtract from one’s life seemed relatively easy: watching Netflix, eating sugar, smoking cigarettes, drinking red wine, gossiping, cussing, being negative, procrastinating, going to bed earlier, guzzling Red Bull each morning, breaking up with a bad boyfriend, falling asleep on the couch, eating junk after 8:00 at night.

These things involve current habits and behaviors that we know are not adding to our lives . . . still, we persist in the activity and say that we want different.  If I know that it isn’t good for me, why do I keep doing it so blithely?

How revolutionary and satisfying it would be to discover how GREAT it feels to allow ourselves to experience that which we know we want and to eliminate that which we know we do not want.  However, deciding to actually do something about it takes some soul revving.

It sounds so simple: just stop.  Eliminate it.  But such actions require thought and discipline.  And, I believe, a measure of courage, too.  We lean on tradition and habit and deep grooves that guide us throughout the day.  What if we all just said, “Enough!” and got on board with that something new that has the potential to revolutionize our lives?

My add?  Play my fiddle every single day for 30 days.  My dog is a crooner whenever I pick up the fiddle.  He sings, howls, and emotes his way through any song I play.  He sits at my feet, throws back his head, and howls.  My solution to this rather unnerving deterrant: ear plugs.  For me.  Not the dog.  I have tried shutting the door on him, but this only generates more howling.  He really wants to be part of the experience.  So be it.  I’ve got this.

My subtract?  I am resisting!  Subtract sugar for 30 days.  Oh my . . . I wrote that out loud.  And in bold.  Looks like I am committed!  The power of my own words convict me.  This is going to be very, very interesting.  I am not a sugar junkie, but sugar is in so. many. things.  This exercise will create a new mindfulness about what I eat.  An added benefit.

Anyone else want to join me?  We can start today and share our experiences on May 24.  I am excited!  Let’s see what kind of revolution we can create by Trying Something New.

Prompt: Do you want to open your attitude?

Image

PROMPT: Do you believe that practice makes perfect?

This quote generates all sorts of considering and sorting and restructuring, leading me to ponder my perceptions of Practice, Progress, and Perfect.

Practice.  Progress.  Perfect.  What constitutes enough Practice?  How do I effectively measure Progress?  How do I define Perfect? How many words on the page are enough for the day such that I feel that I made progress on my novella?  Should I edit as I write or leave that for another time?  When will I know that the book is perfect and ready for publishing?  Where within the art of writing are my feelings of reward and self-actualization?  When is enough enough?  When is very little a new measure of bliss?

I play music with someone who once gently corrected me when I said that I felt like I didn’t have enough time to practice during the week.  Jerry’s response: “Try not to think of it as practice but think of it as playing.  Play music.  Don’t practice it.”  I will always remember his wise and profound words, as they turned me around into a new way of thinking and feeling and being.  My music changed after he said that to me.  Like a recalcitrant mule that doesn’t want to head north up the trail, you sometimes have to walk it in a circle once, or even twice, to reconfigure its level of cooperation.  I can’t count the times I have seen this work — the mule will move up the mountain with an open attitude.  Jerry spun my perceptions of Practice into a celebration of Play.  He opened my attitude.

We don’t stop to evaluate Play when we are in the midst of celebrating fun.  We don’t measure Play’s progress or outcome levels.  And I cannot ever recall trying to decide if I was Perfect enough at Play.  What would happen if I chose to see my writing as Play?  Would I continue to consider it a discipline or schedule it as a priority?  I think not.  By allowing myself to enter into the Practice of Perfect Play, the moment is mine.

 

Contagious Happiness: What makes you so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too?

Image

PROMPT: What makes you so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too?

Is there something in your life that simply makes you feel sooooo happy?  What is it?

Is it a person?  A place?  A thing?  An activity?

Are you alone?  With someone else?  In a crowd?

Why is it so contagious that it creates happiness in another?

Take some time today and think on that “thing.”  Imagine yourself being that happiness.  What does it look like?  Let your memory of that “thing” inspire some fun writing today.

When I read this question, I immediately think of an activity: dancing.  Dance, dance, dance . . . there is never enough time in the busy weekend to get enough dancing in.  I am not thinking of the kind of dancing that you do for the security cameras at work or the mellow swaying-back-and-forth kind that you do listening to reggae at the bar.  It isn’t the kind of dancing that you do when no one else is watching.  Although it can be a lot of fun to reallyreally shake it at home when no one truly is watching, this is not enough for me.  Moving like an awkward and untrained Footloose Flash Dancer makes my dog actually look quite worried about my sanity and the future filling of his dog dish – if I am permitted to do some anthropomorphizing here.

The kind of dancing I am talking about is The Dance of Connection.  While tango dancers will tell you that they have the edge on Connecting on the dance floor, I can honestly say that shaking my booty to some hardcore funk at a bikers’ bar will allow for tango-quality connecting.  I mean, come on.  When was the last time that you did the Bump with someone who actually remembers how to do it?  This is a rare moment.  I had the good fortune to engage in this style of dancing a few weekends ago at a local roadhouse. I looked the fool but had so much fun while in that very moment.  That spot of time that stood still while connecting with something mysterious that can only be described as ridiculous happiness.

And if I were to analyze and dissect and replay my dancing that night, it might be a stretch to say that it made others happy to see it . . . other than that it might have made them happy that they weren’t dancing with me as their partner.  Such things in life involve great risk.  A sense of failure could ensue.  I could be bumped smack into the brass section.  I could be banished into the Field of Wallflowers for the rest of the night. I might have the best time dancing ever.

Baby steps of Risk.  Sometimes this is enough.  Sometimes Risk doesn’t require me to jump out of a plane or tip over backward onto the floor in a game of Limbo.   PowerFun in the moment calls upon me to be open and receptive and not concerned if no one thinks that I am a good enough candidate for Dancing with the Stars.  Shaking it and laughing while I am doing it, it’s enough.  More than enough.  It is the Moment.  So simple yet so powerful a connection in Life’s Dance.

So . . . a prompt for you: What makes you so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too?  Please, do share your Happy with the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

 

Prompt: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

if you could not fail PROMPT: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I ask myself this question and my answers are myriad.  Wild and untrammeled. So. Many. Things.  I would climb a mountain.  Travel to a country where I do not speak the native language.  Speak in front of hundreds of people about my research.  Give a radio interview.  Become friends with my ex.  Train my dog to walk off-leash.  Simplify my lifestyle.  Give up pasta. I would pursue my writing with the passion that drives me.  That lives within.  I would boldly and fearlessly remove my editing hand from my writing hand and write uncensored.  Move beyond the borders of my awareness.  I would identify my goals.  My passions.  And create within them.  I would embrace my muse as the friend it is. All things are possible.  Writewritewrite.  And write some more.  Celebrate the words.  And have fun.