Piano Dreams

I touch the faded ivory keys, the melody coming alive hesitantly. My fingers are still so slow on the keys, but soon I will be more comfortable.

A baby grand piano!

In my living room!

EEEK!

I have wanted a baby grand piano for as long as I can remember. I find them incredibly beautiful and inspirational on so many levels. And, I am not going to lie, it makes me feel as though ALL of my dreams are coming true.

Yes, I know pianos are antithetical to today’s tech-driven society. Perhaps that is what makes this beautiful piece so awe-inspiring to me. I know that perfecting an instrument (or even being good enough to play a song at full speed) will require time, and most likely lots of it. And when I have spent those countless hours? Perhaps I will find that I have a  fair, at best, ability to play a piece that my phone could produce immediately and play so much better.

But somewhere in the practice, in the process, in the “getting lost to an art”, I also know that I will find some unknown part of me. I will discover some history, some beauty, some idea that I might never have had the privilege of knowing otherwise. It’s been this way with every endeavor.

You begin.

You create.

You learn.

You love.

You grow.

That is why I am so passionate about the arts. There is never a stagnant moment, never a time when you cannot call on creativity. Sure, she can be elusive, but playing hide-and-seek with her is still better than not knowing her at all.

There is an innate desire in each of us to know things that are real and true to our core, things that show us we mean something in the grand scheme. THAT is what our art allows us to discover. As we dive deep into our creativity, we find inspiration… then we polish that inspiration, growing in our craft, becoming bigger than ourselves as we offer those gems to people who desperately need to see that particular brand of beauty.

Art, creativity, music… It helps us evolve, heal, perhaps even transcend.

And I am so excited about this new path I find myself on. A baby grand is a dream come true.

But the piano is just the beginning.

 

 

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Dancing with Death

“The first breath is the beginning of death.” — Anon.

He has danced for me since I can remember, intriguing, enchanting, tantalizing. I have forsaken those I love for him at times. I have completely forgotten who I was, so enthralled in the beauty of his mysterious darkness. I have desired him more than anything or anyone else, begging him to come closer, dreaming of what it would be like to have him engulf me.

I caught my first glimpse of him as a child. I overheard my parents talking about my sitter’s death and couldn’t help but feel like she was the lucky one. My sitter was the happiest person I had ever known, always smiling and enjoying life. And, obviously if she had succumbed to his charms, he must be amazingly persuasive.

I danced with him a bit after that, swallowing pills and begging him to take me. But he didn’t want a child. Not yet. However, his presence lingered in my life from that day forward. He gently hovered over everything, always tempting, always dreamy, always seeming to say “I am better than Life could ever be.”

misty mort 3

Credit:stuart – Fotolia
Copyright:stuart – Fotolia

At times, Life pursued me and I loved her thoroughly, as best I could. Love and laughter danced through my world, just as beautiful as the darkness of Death, but somehow, never as enthralling. Moments and memories played across time, as my desire for him grew. The thought of him tainted everything in my world, and I found peace in his shadows. Fantasizing about him became my safe place, my escape from the bright, penetrating light that revealed the harshness of my reality.

At one point, I threw myself at him again, screaming “Please! Take me away from this world.” I downed another bottle of pills and prayed that my babies would be okay without me.

But it was still not to be. Life chose me, nursing me back to health, drawing me slowly into her warmth and I finally realized I was needed here, my children needed me in their life. I swore off Death, vowing I would stay faithful to Life this time, that I would see my children grow up.

And like any scorned lover, Death decided to pursue me. It seems we all want what we cannot have and he was no different. I had chosen Life, fully and openly. I was finally clear on where I stood.

And then I heard the words, “Systemic Scleroderma… 55% heart function… very rare for someone to make it past ten years”. Everything blurred together in my mind as the doctor confirmed my worst fears.

Why? After all these years of chasing him?

I had finally chosen HER.

I was finally happy with Life.

His intrusion was heartbreaking and unbelievably unwelcome. But there he was, staring me in the face and daring me to deny him.

I began making plans. I wrote my will, created a trust. I ensured that my children would be taken care of when his dance engulfed me. I wrote letters detailing all the things about their lives that I may miss. I poured my heart out about the big moments and how important it was that they appreciate each and every one.

I looked Death square in the eye and accepted that he would always be a part of me. Eventually, he would take me for that never-ending ride. But the longer I stared into his dark eyes, the more I realized that he was not the lover I wanted to embrace.

I chose Life.

I knew that I could not and would not leave her behind. Not this time. I had fought too hard to create love and light and laughter. I had built Life and I swore that no matter how much I had to kick and punch and scream, I would never go with him willingly again.

So I kicked and punched and screamed. For two years, I went from doctor to doctor, looking for answers. I tried pill after pill, getting up to 21 per day at one point, always treating symptoms instead of the cause. I got weaker, sleeping for 12-15 hours a day, but I continued to deny him full access.

And then, I found someone to fight alongside me. I found a doctor who was not interested in helping me enjoy the “end of life” but rather wanted to ensure that I had a long and healthy one. We poured through medical records together, tying together pieces until it formed a pattern that made sense. And then we treated the cause.

I danced with him. And what a dance it was. I danced for a long time and with as much passion as a person can. I loved him and I longed for him in many moments. It would have been easier to allow him to engulf me. But each time he tried to claim me, I looked into his eyes and I realized that my answer was still NO. 

I held on to Life with everything I had and she twirled me right out of his clutches like a whirlwind, shooing Death out the door. She reassured me that I was so thoroughly worth it. Our dance started again, fresh and new. It was a sweet, gentle dance that slowly brought me back to the passion and desire for her that I had all those years before. She brought hope and peace and happiness that I didn’t realize were missing. Life gave me back time with my children, the ability to make more memories with the people I love. Life gave me joy and gratitude. Life said “slow down and enjoy.” Life became my only lover and I am head over heels for her.

And you? My beautiful, amazing friend… If you are reading this, I promise that taking the time to embrace her today and every day will be so worth it. She will treat you with love in a raw, reckless, incredible, unbelievable way. We don’t have to go quietly into the darkness. We don’t have to go without ever truly knowing and loving Life. Life wants us madly, desperately, passionately. And we can live like that, every single day.

Of course, Death will eventually claim us, but if we love Life while we are here, our dance will live on forever.

So we get to decide… How do we want to be remembered? Do we want to be kind? Passionate? Gentle? Loving? 

Life, in all her glory,  allows us the opportunity to choreograph a dance that will continue long after we have succumbed to Death. So dance with her, love her, and never, ever forget to appreciate her. She is the only one you have. 

Stop being afraid of her. Embrace her with a passion and an urgency that you didn’t know you could. Put your phone away. Talk to the ones you love, often and with appreciation. Write your book. Be kind. Dance through mud puddles. Hold the door for someone. Smile every opportunity you get. Travel far and stay as long as possible. Say please and thank you. Wear an evening gown in the creek. Give all the hugs you can. Never be afraid to compliment people. Kiss long and often. Learn about yourself and love yourself. Climb trees and read books. Speak boldly. Don’t accept shit. Love gently and passionately and however you feel it in the moment. Tell people you love them, as much as you possibly can. Laugh as loud and often as you can. Make a call when someone crosses your mind. Be happy for other people, and celebrate with them. Go on adventures. Hell, make everything an adventure. Dance. Dance all the time. Love her passionately. 

No, Life will never be the perfect lover. But honestly, she really doesn’t have to be perfect to be the best thing that ever happened to you.

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Symphony of Spring

“I need to get away from everything. It’s spring break and I just need to get away.” As I heard the words come from his mouth, I decided it was time for an adventure.”Lets do it, lets just go somewhere and wander. I need it too.”

“Where?”

“I dunno. We can just figure it out as we go.”

Soon we were in the truck headed to anywhere. I started googling places to hike and found a few within “day trip” distance. We decided to head to the Ponca, AR area and take the Whitaker Point trail. Neither of us had on hiking shoes or appropriate apparel, but we were just looking for a little adventure, so we had no real concern about it.

The drive seemed short as we talked about life and kids and religion and time, the conversation taking on the natural rhythm that comes from years of knowing someone.  Then as we found the slow, curvy roads, we rolled the windows down to listen to the beautiful symphony of spring. There’s nothing quite like the feeling that winter is coming to an end as you hear the sound of the happy “peepers” around a pond.

We had gotten off to a bit of a late start, so by the time we hit the trail head, we were staring sunset in the face. Undaunted, we decided that we would be okay to make the short trek. We walked quickly, knowing we were limited on time and meeting several people who advised us about the waning light and the potential for danger if we continued. So, of course, we continued.

As we came around the last bend and stepped out onto the ledge, the sun dipped just below the horizon, bathing the valley below in a misty purple haze. Looking to the right, the sky boasted every shade of pink and purple, wrapping around and melting into a fiery orange with a white hot center over the trees to the left. The waxing crescent moon was visible where the colors met the deep blue, a reminder that nightfall was on it’s way. Just under the pastel sky on the right was another rock formation, monstrous boulders perched precariously, a monument to the fact that one never knows what will stand the test of time. The wind rustled through the treetops below, in perfect harmony with the water softly falling nearby and the river running somewhere far below. 

Time stood still. I exhaled every worry, every fear, every thought of anything but the present. I breathed in the peace, the fresh, wild air filling me with life. There was no need for words, not here. For that brief moment, beauty was all that existed, fleeting as it was.

Then reality set in. We took a few photos and enjoyed the lingering moment, knowing it would come to an end far too soon. The sun was sinking lower now, almost completely hidden behind the rocks. The colors were fading to that deep, cerulean blue that turns everything into black silhouettes. There were a few stars beginning to peek out as the curtains of nightfall closed in.

“I suppose we should chase the sun.”

“I suppose so.”

We began the trek back down to the trail head, knowing there was no way to beat the darkness. We walked as quickly as we could, silently, focused on getting back before we could no longer see.

Dark closed in quickly though, and soon we found ourselves stumbling over the rocks to the meager light of his cell phone and the twinkle of the stars above.

Thankful for a clear night, I kept glancing through the trees to catch a glimpse of the dark side of beauty. At one point, the branches framed the moon so perfectly that, had I not already been out of breath from our hurried pace, it would have taken my breath away.

I knew that with my heart rate and circulatory issues, staying out all night would not be an option, although it seemed like it should be when we lost the trail. He grew more concerned, especially as the temperature began to drop and his cell flashed low battery.

We continued to trudge on, using the direction of the moon to guess where we were headed when the trail disappeared. I knew we weren’t too far out now, so I asked to slow down.

When we finally saw the sign for the trail, we both breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it.

We took some time to enjoy the stars, naming constellations and basking in the overwhelming number that could be seen. The wind had picked back up at this point and the dropping temperature drove us back into the truck. We said our farewells to the wild and took off toward the city lights.

Once we got to Harrison, we found some food and decided staying the night would be far better than attempting to drive home exhausted. We found the cutest little cabins that felt like we were still in a remote spot and camped out for the night.

I truly believe those unexpected moments always turn into the most incredible memories and I’m so grateful I had this beautiful, wild weekend. I needed to feel my soul, alive and vibrant and present. And that is exactly what happened.

Thank you for all your years of friendship, my dear, and thank you so much for the memories!

 

 

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She Let Go

Breathe in. Breathe out. Let go.

Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,
without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a
book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

— Reverend Safire Rose

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Woman of Distinction

“I am a woman of distinction.

Recklessly beautiful and untamed–my heart is splayed wide open for I not only trust the process, but I trust the force in which each one of my feet hits the ground and my ability to maneuver through the joys and grief I face each day.

I walk tall, taller than an old cypress tree because I am at home in my skin — my self worth lives in each nook and cranny of my spine.

It is not attached to exterior what have you’s like money, a piece of paper, a house, a car, this world approval, a ring or success.

My success is in presence.

I am present in the humans I stumble upon like heart beats at first light and in the night.

I salsa dance bare bummed with bronze skin and white cheeks — let the music sway and bend and dip my spirit with the grace of a dozen fire flies drunk on the Moon’s wine.

I am dripping in salt, browned from the sunshine, and barefoot in my beauty.

I am not afraid to tell you I am beautiful because I have done the work to be at home in my soul’s skin.

I do not shrink to accommodate the insecurities of those around me, but stand tall to remind them gently, why crouch?

My body may be a meat bag, a vessel for the magnificence I hold inside but I cherish each scar on my chin, each freckle, each voluptuous sun bleached curl, each inch of my breasts.

I walk with my head held high when I walk into a room because I know there is space for me in this world — however I may come.

I show this world my tears and my laughter, unashamed.

I know better than to try and fix or heal the suffering of this world.

I know that by healing my suffering, I heal this world.

I am a woman of distinction and I am not afraid to love you before you are ready.

I am not afraid to move faster or slower than the expectations we lay on vulnerability and opening.

I open at my will.

I open at the first drop of a breeze, at a smile from the man sitting with a green top hat that I pass in a taxi cab.

I open fearlessly and sweetly and ferociously with all the might I can for what good is living if we are not loving?

I am here to love and love I will.

I am a woman of distinction, and I am not a victim of circumstance — I feel when things are out of alignment and I move from them with as much grace as I enter.

I show up for this world.

I set boundaries with ease that honour me.

I understands that no is self love and everything after no is unworthiness.

I am worthy, darling — oh so deliciously worthy.

I am authentic as all hell and can taste bullshit from a mile away.

I spit out societal Koolaide laughing and write my own bible.

I ground — ground through movement, through dance, through the sea.

I drink the ocean for breakfast and kiss the red dirt for dessert.

I do not keep my freedom in a cage that requires six whiskies to be let loose.

I dance and shimmy and shake and love through my life.

I am a woman of distinction — you will feel me when I walk into the room.”

 

Although I wish I could take credit for this, it is actually something I found on Facebook.

 

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Head-Over-Heels

I was always the girl who wanted the mysterious stranger. The more unavailable a person was, the more attractive they became to me. “Hard to get” was a challenge and an opportunity for me to prove my worth in my mind. The hot and cold mind games made me crazy, but they added passion and dimension to a relationship. I only loved them harder when I thought I was losing them. The thrill of the chase was my drug of choice and I couldn’t get enough.

And then, slowly, I began to realize that I had enough. I didn’t need that drug anymore. I deserved to be pursued, to be loved with every fiber of someone’s being, to be spoiled and taken care of. I looked at the way I poured myself into people and I thought “that is what I want for ME”. And if no one else could love me like that, then it was up to me. And I started to treat myself the way I wanted to be treated. I became my own Prince Charming. And I began to realize I am absolutely worth it.

And as I fell head-over-heels in love with this woman, and with this life, I began to realize that the way other people loved me didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t have to settle. I didn’t have to be unhappy. I could fully and freely love them and expect nothing in return.

I didn’t need breadcrumbs from someone else’s half-empty table anymore because I had prepared my own feast and I had enough to share with anyone I encountered. I began to love with a reckless abandon that I had never known. I started telling people what I loved about them, started loving others the way I had always dreamed of being loved. Raw, real, unfiltered. Not watered down to fit into modern society. I found things to love about people I had previously been bitter towards. I looked for things to love in the people that were challenging. I discovered new reasons to love my friends. I allowed romance to come back into my life.

I began to realize that real love never feels like a prison. Love sets people free. Love doesn’t clip someone’s wings and force them to stay. Love allows them to soar. It leaves them absolutely free to be themselves. Free to follow their dreams. Free to choose me or not, with no impact on the way I felt about them. I stopped loving my self-imposed image of who people were supposed to be and learned to love people exactly as they are. I learned to stop, to look, to really see, people. I decided that I would hold their hand through anything and love them the best I could until they didn’t want to hold hands anymore or until loving them compromised my love for myself.

And I started saying “I love you”. I started screaming it, living it, attempting to be this radical version of love to the world around me.

And the world around me started to change. And as people walked in and out, I learned to wish them well with a heart still full of love. And the people that came to fill those gaps? Those people are my people. Open and vulnerable and passionate and magical. The world became a fantasy place again, filled with the wonder of life, awe-inspiring and amazing.

So, my friend, if you are reading this, I love you! I love you with everything I have, no strings, no need to reciprocate. And I won’t stop loving you. I may love you as a close friend, or I may watch you and love you from a distance, but I will not stop loving you.

And I challenge you to try it. Tell someone that you love them. Take a chance. It can be a friend or a romantic partner or a child. Tell them. You never know whose world you will change.

In all honesty, it will probably be yours.

 

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White Whale

It’s been a long time since I last read Moby Dick, but I found myself engaged in a conversation about life’s white whales this weekend, so I bought it on Audible and I am in the process of listening to it again.
(Side note: If you haven’t read it, you probably should. So many life lessons for reflection. It is about everything, an adventure spun in allegory that seems to exist outside its own time, much like Don Quixote and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. It is so broad and deep that is can practically accept any interpretation while it stares back and mocks our desire for interpretation.)
sea

Image found on Google.

Ahab’s obsession with harpooning the whale is about so much more than what it seems; it is evocative of a tendency we all have to pursue certain outcomes with an intensity that may lead to devastating consequences.
Upon discussing my friend’s proverbial white whale, they asked me, “Shannon, do you have a white whale?” I may have blushed a bit as I answered that I did, indeed, have one. Because of how well they know me, I am fairly certain they are aware of what it is already. (So, if you are reading this, your best guess is probably accurate.)
Perhaps we all have a white whale. There is something, somewhere in the fabric of our lives, that changed us forever and left us wondering, seeking, desiring, perhaps full of vengeance like Ahab, or perhaps in wild, reckless pursuit of love like my friend. At times, it can be so difficult to see how our single-minded pursuit of an objective, even if it seems like a good thing, can be destructive to us and others.
We have all had a moment (or a few) in our lives where we felt like we could only achieve a particular objective or outcome if we focus on it single-mindedly. Sometimes we allow a thing (or person as it may be) to become so big in our minds that we can no longer keep everything in balance. Sometimes, it’s difficult, painful, heart-wrenching to even think of letting go.
Thankfully, we have the opportunity to hold ourselves back from following Ahab’s footsteps. We don’t have to become so engrossed that we lose ourselves and hurt those we love.  Sometime we have to painstakingly, consciously, choose to let our whale roam free, knowing it/they forever altered our course, and accepting that the resolution we long for so badly may never come to pass. And sometimes, by freeing our mind of the objective or outcome that we desire, we are able to keep the beautiful parts of what was and find ourselves richer for it.
Melville alludes to this idea that embracing paradox may be the key to happiness or life. There are several areas of the book where we see this – Ishmael’s fragmented thinking from different perspectives as the book progresses, or the way he lives by embracing death as he clings to the empty coffin to survive. It seems almost as though it is the multiplicity of truth that sustains him.
I find this to be eerily similar to my own world. I spent years wrapped up in the idea that I had to be a particular type of person, throwing away the person I actually was in that pursuit. I spent seven years pursuing a person who didn’t know how to love me, leading us both to make extremely toxic choices with consequences that will last a lifetime. And just recently, I had the opportunity to embrace death, and it was only in doing so, that I was able to kiss him goodbye for a while and realize how much I appreciate life.
When we widen our mind to see that all things are part of a continuum, we discover our ability to survive and thrive no matter the external circumstances.
So, embrace the paradox, the multi-faceted wonder that is life.
Let your whale go. 
Realize it was but a brief moment, one that changed you forever.
Take the time you need to realize that it is not, and doesn’t have to be, the only moment you base the rest of your life around.
… and if you do somehow happen across that whale again in this incredible adventure of life, perhaps you can make a better, more conscious choice to avoid it or embrace it, knowing that nothing is ever forever. 

 

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