Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver
My friend Matt’s comment has gotten me thinking. “It sounds like you are in transition,” he wrote to me in an e-mail last week. And of course it’s true. We’re all in transition, always, ever-expanding beings that we are. And, when I draw my attention inward to my immediate family, I nod my head, “yes”; agree with Matt, that this certainly has been a summer of transition.
In the past three months, both our sons have finished their graduate studies and now have their PhD’s, both have moved to cities that are new to them and have new jobs. Peter and Shelly are now parents to a ten week old, and that makes Cam and I grandparents. And, in the midst of this summer of change, we, both sons and Cam and I, flew off to Maine for a Memorial Service and celebration weekend/family reunion honoring my mother’s life. So the people who I love, I can certainly see how they are in transition as they learn to navigate new waters. And I, swimmer of my own life, am feeling myself splashed a bit by the changes in their lives. My mother’s passing has challenged me to be with her in a whole new way, one that looks beyond this world of Mom-in-body-form. And, when I fly off to visit my kids, it’s good-bye to the Flatirons of Boulder and the foothills of Salt Lake, and hello to the high plains of Laramie and the banks of the Tennessee in Knoxville. And Viren! Baby Viren’s birth has opened up a whole new playground for me to splash around in. And yet, as I say again and again in yoga, we live our lives from the inside out, swim in our own sea of possibility. So although I’m eager to play with my loved-ones as they move forward with their ever-changing lives, I’m back to thinking about Matt’s comment and wondering what it is that I, from this inside place, want to open up to as summer transitions into autumn.
I was asking myself that question, the “What’s next?!?” question, in the wee hours of the morning two weeks ago, as I boarded the plane that would carry Cam and I westward to visit Pete, Shel and Baby Viren for a Labor Day Weekend in Laramie. In fact, when I squished myself into the window seat, I hauled out my journal and began to write : “What brings you most alive?!?” “What is it you really want NOW, Helen?” Before I could even respond to my inquiries, Cam, who was seated in the middle of the three-seat row, began to chat with our aisle-seat neighbor. At first, I continued my journal-scrawling, asking the Universe for clarity to my questions, and then, within minutes, I gave up, closed my journal and let it go; the conversation beside me was just too interesting to ignore. The tall athletic-looking forty-something man in the aisle-seat was talking about Detroit, telling us that he was going to give us a positive spin on the city. So, as we took off from the Detroit Airport, as we flew over Michigan and Wisconsin on our way west to Denver, our new friend told us about the creative buzz growing in the city that he called home, a city with lofts that the young are renovating and sections of town, as lively and lovely as Paris.
I loved our conversation about Detroit, and the conversations that followed about travel, and our kids, and the creative fire that we, the three of us who were squished into the row, feel for our chosen vocations. We kept the momentum going, story after story, over the rolling hills of Minnesota and the farm fields of Iowa. We kept it going, lit up by the things that bring us most alive, when our friend began a new tale. A buddy of his, an orthodontist, who owns one of those downtown Detroit lofts, has created a thriving dental practice in a part of the building and a soundproof music-area in another. And his orthodontist friend and a middle-aged group of guys, including our airplane neighbor, they have formed a band and jam together in this space, its walls adorned with the jackets from their favorite albums; twice a week they play together, loud and jubilant and unleashed. He was as excited as a young kid with a new bicycle as he told us about this adventure. He was vibrant and giggly and said that he didn’t even care if they ever actually performed. It was the practice, the process, that brought him most alive. It was doing the thing that he never thought he’d be able to do that ignited his inner fire. It was for the sheer fun of it that he rocked and he rolled in a rock and roll band.
As we flew over the flat plains of Nebraska, I found myself excited for my new friend, and jealous, too. The clarity that I was asking the Universe for an hour or so earlier was coming into focus. I was remembering an old dream of mine, one that rises like a buoyant cork to the surface every once in a while, before I push it back under, telling myself that this one, this one is impossible. “I want to be in a band, too!” I blurted out into the stuffy air of our Delta jet. And it’s true, I do. And my friend, he was enthusiastic. It didn’t seem to bother him when I told him that I couldn’t carry a tune and I don’t know how to play an instrument. “You should do it!” he said. “It’s a blast!” And by the time we started our descent into the Mile High City, it was seeming like it might actually happen, that punk might be the way to go, that I do have some talents, that I’m loud and I’m enthusiastic and I can hop around a stage with more gusto than anyone of any age.
So, yes, I’m in transition, opening up to this new season, eager to play with my grandson, eager to discover what new stories want to fly from my pen, eager to embrace the unexpected feel-great surprises, eager for the adventures close to home and in places far away, eager to ask myself again and again what new things light my fire, eager to witness how this dream of mine, this head-banging joy-punk dream of mine, the one that I used to deem impossible, makes its way into clearer and clearer focus.