What is Zen? According to the Zen Studies Society, Zen is “vast and boundless, far more than the rational mind can grasp. Just breathe in with full awareness. Taste the breath. Appreciate it fully. Now breathe out, slowly, with equal appreciation. Give it all away; hold onto nothing. Breathe in with gratitude; breathe out with love. Receiving and offering—this is what we are doing each time we inhale and exhale. To do so with conscious awareness, on a regular basis, is the transformative practice we call Zen.”
Recently I stumbled upon an Oprah Winfrey “Super Soul Sunday” episode with Thich Nhat Hanh, a legendary author, peace activist, and Zen Buddhist Monk. Between current Netflix binges, I urge you to take twenty minutes for his powerful message on listening with compassion and transforming relationships.
Insightful and deep, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of four little conversational mantras that make a big difference:
Mantra #1: Darling, I’m here for you.
Mantra #2: Darling, I know you are there.
Mantra #3: Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I’m here for you.
Mantra #4: Darling, I suffer. I’m trying my best to practice. Please help me.
First off, I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma saying, “Y’all.” I grew up saying, “You guys!” Y’all is very Texan. Correct me if you are from another state that says, “Y’all.” However, as I’ve lived in Texas for twenty-six years, I now find myself saying “Ya’ll,” (occasionally) especially when I need more than one person’s attention or when frustrations follow.
I wanted to write about YouTube today because YouTube starts with Y. I listen to music through my headphones everyday for an hour or so while I walk in the mornings and then often in the evenings accompanied by wine and Kody. Life goes on with music and YouTube.
Then a couple of days ago as I wrote W is for Walk on the Wild Side, my laptop crashed, as in, my hard drive crashed. I felt like a complete idiot for not backing up my work—my writing for school this semester is possibly gone. Life almost did not go on. Thank God for my iPhone! But do you know who is a computer genius? Kody. Thank God for Kody! He has ordered my new hard drive and will install, Y’all!
I hate to even whine with the world-wide economic downturn, and I hate to add gloom to the current doom. I’m straddling the line of guilt and gratitude for housing and income, for food and cars, and for our needs being met. We have the means for a solution to the laptop problem. It’s possible that I have lost some of my work, but I’ve lost things before, and life moves on.
Anyway, I’m not sure what I would’ve said about YouTube except for that I find balance in the music just as I find balance in writing and walking.
Speaking of walks, I like to start at a brisk pace to get the ol’ heart rate up. Over the course of an hour, my music slows down along with my feet, and the tunes become progressively girlier. If you happen to be following, you might even hear me singing or notice the occasional melodramatic hand gesture as my feet hit the pavement. Anyone care for my playlist?
“New Breed” by James BKS featuring Q-Tip, Idris Elba, and Little Simz
“Lose Control” by Meduza, Becky Hill, and Goodboys
“Hideaway” by Kiesza
“All About that Bass” by Postmodern Julebox
“Crazy” by Angela Ricci
“Hit the Road Jack” by Becca Krueger
And the cool thing about YouTube is how it takes your requests and follows them with other songs you might like. Sometimes our evenings are hip-hoppier or more alternative or more Americana folk. Sometimes Kody chooses and then I choose, and we go back and forth like that. It’s called balance, Y’all.
This is my second to last A-Z blogging challenge post. Let’s Z what I can conjure up for tomorrow. The rest can be found here in case Y’all want more:
I was ten years old when my Dad left his firm and launched his solo law practice, where he practices forty years later. The whole family was there checking out his new office, the new space, and the new Xerox machine. My big sister Liz said, “Let’s Xerox our faces.” No matter what she would’ve suggested, I would have followed. But she protected me always!
Liz pressed her face, nose on glass against the scanner and the blinding tubular light traveled left to right. The machine discharged the copy. Hilarity ensued. When my turn came, Liz coached. “Close your eyes, really tight,” she said, and look at how well I followed my sister’s advice. I love a good lesson with specificity and demonstrated examples and words of encouragement.
And this Xerox copy reminds me of my ten-year-old self, fun-loving and sister-adoring, adventurous and creative and happy. More than anything, I want to do right by that little girl. I want her to be proud of and true to herself, confident and unapologetic, strong in body, mind, and spirit. I want her to love wholly and forgive fully. Zero grudges. Not an ounce of poison in her soul. I want her to be honest and courageous. I want her to maintain her boundaries for bullshit and remember she can do hard things. And most of all, I want her to live out her God-given purpose.
What do you want for your ten-year-old self?
As I round out this A-Z blogging challenge, I have some fairly fuzzy ideas for Y and Z and leftover ideas for P and K and C and other ideas on less grateful topics. My laptop hard drive crashed right in the middle of my W post, so that was wack. Thank God for my iPhone! And thank you for reading and pressing that little star and leaving kind comments and checking out other posts and praying for my family! Hand on heart, I’m beyond grateful for this WordPress family and for those of you who follow by e-mail and social media, and I’m completely humbled that you choose to spend your time with me. ❤️❤️❤️ More gratitude posts linked below:
My son Drew is a cellist. These days he doesn’t play often. His cello stands in its case next to the media console in our living room. The voices Drew hears stand in the way of his gift.
But—I have a vision. I believe in better days and a brighter future. I decided long ago that I can choose hope or not, and I choose hope. I wouldn’t know how to do that without God, and I lean on the words of the good book:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).
“Then [Elijah] stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD, my God, let this boy’s life return to him! The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).
I believe in a God who will return Drew’s life, a better life with a cello to play and the light in his eyes. And today, I have a gift for you, actually Drew does. Four years ago, Drew managed the symptoms of his schizophrenia better than he does today. He found an app on his phone that allowed him to record a four-part cello piece, and he makes it sing. It’s the gift—I hope you have a minute to listen:
It looks as though I will make it to the end of my April A-Z blogging challenge. I had some doubts along the way, but I kept doing what I do—being grateful each day. All of this goes to show the importance of our beliefs. Life is not perfect. And now for those times when my world shakes so hard that the sky falls off my life, I have a little collection of reminders to help me carry on:
When people ask my opinion on must-reads, Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Love Warrior makes my list. It’s the inspiring story of a woman who has overcome bulimia and alcoholism and then faces her husband’s infidelity. It’s about the healing process and finding trust in self. Love Warrior is one of those books that I marked up, and as promised, it changed my life.
Since 2016, I waited patiently for Glennon’s next memoir Untamed. I follow her on Instagram, so I knew the premise to come. My friend of forty-years Pamela follows her, too, and mailed me a copy. When the book arrived, I pulled a yellow highlighter from the kitchen-miscellaneous drawer and started reading and highlighting.
Between memoirs, Glennon fell in love with a woman—Abby Wambach, soccer icon, speaker, New York Times bestselling author, and activist for equality and inclusion. Untamed tells their story and launches into more activism—racial justice, refugee rights, and women’s ability to live and work without the threat of sexual harassment and violence. At times, it feels preachy. I like Glennon most when she sticks to her story. Regardless, she is insightful and funny, her relationship with Abby loving and faithful, and her truths universal:
“In the past eighteen years, I have learned two things about pain.
First: I can feel everything and survive. What I thought would kill me, didn’t. Every time I said to myself: I can’t take this anymore—I was wrong…
Second: I can use pain to become. I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever” (51).
“There is a life meant for you that is truer than the one you’re living. But in order to have it, you will have to forge it yourself. You will have to create on the outside what you are imagining on the inside. Only you can bring it forth” (64).
“A few years ago, Alicia Keys announced to the world that she was done wearing makeup. She said, ‘I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles…Nothing.’
A while later I read an interview with Adam Levine. He said that while they were filming a show together, he poked his head into Alicia Keys’s dressing room. She had her back to him, and she was leaning into the mirror, putting on lipstick.
He smiled and said, ‘Oh, I thought Alicia doesn’t wear makeup.’
She turned around, looked at him, lipstick in her hand. She said, ‘I do what the fuck I want’” (101).
“I have spent the last decade of my life listening to women talk about what they most desire. This is what women tell me they want:
I want a minute to take a deep breath.
I want rest, peace, passion.
I want good food and true, wild, intimate sex.
I want relationships with no lies.
I want to be comfortable in my own skin.
I want to be seen, to be loved.
I want joy and safety for my children and for everyone else’s children.
I want justice for all.
I want help, community, connection.
I want to be forgiven, and I want to finally forgive.
I want enough money and power to stop feeling afraid.
I want to find my purpose down here and live it out fully.
I want to look at the news and see less pain, more love.
I want to look at the people in my life and really see them and love them.
I want to look in the mirror and really see myself and love myself.
I want to feel alive (121).
“I will never promise to be this way or that way, I will only promise to show up, as I am, wherever I am. That’s it, and that’s all. People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is. So I must live and tell my truth. Folks will come around or quit coming around. Either way: lovely. Anything or anyone I could lose by telling the truth was never mine anyway” (200).
“I think of the words of Dr. Maya Angelou: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’” (219).
“After a decade of listening to women, I’m convinced that our deepest fears are:
Living without ever finding our purpose
Dying without ever finding our true belonging” (267).
“I’m a clinically depressed inspirational speaker. I am a diagnosed anxious person whose main job is to convince people that everything’s okay. Please note that if I can be these things, anyone can be anything” (275).
“I’ll tell you this: The braver I am, the luckier I get” (296).
“Glennon shows us the clearest meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.’ It’s as if she reached into her heart, captured the raw emotions there and translated them into words that anyone who’s ever known pain or shame—in other words, every human on the planet—can relate to” (Oprah Winfrey, Untamed book cover).
Today I’m thankful for the Untamed perspective, the ability to make up my own mind, and a platform to pass along my thoughts. Next book—Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
Thank U for visiting my A-Z blogging challenge. If U stumbled onto my post by chance today, I’ve been sticking to a theme of gratitude this month and working my way through the alphabet. Past posts are linked below 😊:
Kody and I have been together since 1986. I was sixteen. He was seventeen. His little brother Thomas and little sister Gianna were three and four. Kody was so good with them. It was one of the things I liked about him. Thanks to Kody, Thomas and Gianna both can still sing the Beastie Boys to this day:
“Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell
About three bad brothers you know so well…”
Kody’s mom Dana treated me like family before I ever was. I remember going to their beautiful home my junior year before Kody and I ever went on a date. As a cheerleader, I went into a few of the senior football players’ homes and decorated their rooms with signs before the game with Coweta. I coordinated with Dana to surprise Kody. No one was home that evening, but Dana just left the front door open for me. I made Kody a poster in Guymon Tiger black-and-orange that said, “Eat a pita, Coweta!” I think he liked me for that. (By the way, the game with Coweta was tied, and Kody kicked the winning field goal. The Tigers went to state that year).
When I was a senior in high school, I taught a beginning tumbling class for kids. Gianna was four and took my class. One day, she face planted while attempting a dive roll. Tears streamed down her precious face, and I promised to take her for a Mr. Burger Coke. And I did. She’s been my little buddy ever since, and we still laugh about that time when she smashed her face. Gianna has the best laugh.
And then there’s Kody’s dad Tommy Tomlinson, Grandpa to our kids. Kind and funny, an amazing golfer and a gifted joke-teller. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Tommy tell the same joke twice, and Kody, Thomas, and Gianna all learned the skill. My jokes are all pretty bad, but here’s one just for Tommy:
Times New Roman and Helvetica walk into a bar.
“Get out of here!” shouts the bartender. “We don’t serve your type.”
Bah-dum-dum. I’ll be here six more days.
How many times have I found myself singing the alphabet during my A-Z blogging challenge? Q R S T U. Looks like tomorrow I will be expressing gratitude for U, or is it gratitude for you? Either way, I’m so happy you dropped by, I hope you’re well, and I would love to see you here tomorrow. Past posts are linked below 😊: