“What if . . .”

what-if

One day, many years ago, my then teenage son, who is a talented and competitive golfer, was in a funk.  I don’t recall the source of it at the time.  Maybe his game wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.  Maybe it was “terrible”.  Maybe it had nothing to do with golf and everything to do with something going on at school. Maybe it centered around friends or family or a combination of both. Maybe it was just one of those days – or maybe it was a little bit of all of the above.  As often is the case when we find ourselves stuck, however, the source of the “glue” is really secondary.  What matters is how we respond to those circumstances and, on that particular day, my son’s response was to stay in bed rather than face what, I’m sure in his mind, was likely to be little more than much of the same of what had come before.

I took a different approach.  I entered his room, sat at the end of the bed, and asked whether he planned to go to the course to practice and play, as was his custom, especially on days as beautiful as that summer afternoon.  Not surprisingly, he responded with a barely audible, but firm “no” from under the covers. “Well, what if I told you that today’s the day you’re going to break the course record,” I said, knowing that the prospect of setting a course record is high on every competitor’s bucket list and certainly was on his. “If you knew that,” I asked, “how fast would you get to the first tee?” “Pretty darn fast,” he said, unable, even in his blue state of mind, to control the grin that the mere thought of it brought to his face. “But you can’t tell me that,” he hastened to add – “because there’s no way for you to know that today’s the day.”

Then it was my turn to smile, which I did, broadly, as I started towards the door, pausing to look over my shoulder. “You don’t know that it’s not,” I replied.  And with that I was off and, shortly thereafter, he was up and out the door.

It’s in that uncertainty, of course, that both the magic and the terror of Life reside, leaving us to choose which we will embrace.  The older I get the clearer (notice I didn’t say easier!) the choice becomes.  For me, the uncertainty that is an inescapable part of all of our lives isn’t supposed to be a paralyzing force, though, God knows, it has been for me more times than I care to consider.  Instead, my sense is that it exists to inspire and motivate us to leap out of bed with an adventurous spirit eager to see what each new day holds in store.  Perhaps it will be a moment in which we catch a glimpse of the gifts that make us unique – of our truth – and we will rejoice in it.  Other times, it may be moments of disappointment, discouragement, loss or heartache, which, in themselves, may serve as opportunities for growth or simply have to be endured.

But, make no mistake: The choice must be intentional and it must be made daily.  Because it is by no means intuitive, particularly on days, like that summer day, when fear is standing guard at the front door and our Inner Critic is loud and hell-bent on doing his/her dirty work.  It’s a choice borne of our willingness to believe in what is possible and our commitment to live with an attentive and playfully expectant heart, not unlike that of a curious child.  The good news is: We get to define that intention, to write it down if necessary and to return to it as often as needed until its pursuit becomes habitual.

What does this “look like” in practice?  Well, at various times, my “intentions” have included the following:

What if today you decided to just show up, that you are enough – just as you are?

What if today you entertained the possibility that those who know you best and love you most have been right all along – that you are courageous, compassionate, creative, resilient, loving, and worthy of love?

What if today you decided, at long last, to come out of the shadows, stand in the light, and be seen as you are – uniquely beautiful?

What if today you believed that “you” actually are worth living for, worth fighting for – worth going the extra mile for?

What if today you resolved that enough is enough – that you’ve beat yourself up enough, lived small long enough and are enough?

What if today you let love in?

What if today you loved “you” differently than yesterday – a little more tenderly, a little less critically, and a lot more generously?

What if today, instead of throwing in the towel, you picked up the “pen” of believing it’s possible and began writing the first (or the next) chapter in your comeback story?

What if today you focused on a singular goal: To reclaim and honor your authentic self?

What if today, instead of judgment, you finally offered your thirsting heart the forgiveness and grace it has been longing for?

What if today you began letting the world in on one of its best kept secrets: You?

What if today you turned the page on the story with the unhappy ending you’ve been telling yourself all these years and wrote a different one?

What if today is that day – the day you begin rewriting the ending, living a little more intentionally, replacing what you perceive as the certainty of a given outcome with the possibility of a different one?  What will your intentions look like, feel like . . . live like?

 

Favorite Things

woolen-mittens

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”

Sound of Music (1965)

 

I don’t know about you, but the last thing or things I tend to think about when I’m in a rut or feeling blue are raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles or warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings or wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings.  No, when I’m stuck and feel the darkness setting in, my mind immediately goes to more adult things. I question my worthiness.  I start to wonder what’s wrong with me, what’s missing, what I need to be doing more or less of to fit in, how it is that I can feel so alone in a crowded bar or restaurant, why I always seem to be the one who has to initiate where relationships are concerned, why so many others appear to be without a care in the world, where I misplaced my voice, my ability to laugh – my joy – what it will take to feel fully alive again.  But, as I passed by a local park filled with the unmistakable sounds and smiles of children at play on today’s walk, it occurred to me that, all those years ago, Julie Andrews may have been onto something, an elixir of sorts, a well-spring of nourishment to replenish weary or frightened hearts: Favorite Things!

For some, it will be “things” that remind them of childhood – when they felt free to express themselves, be themselves, emote, engage, enjoy, explore and experience the world and each other – unabashedly, unapologetically and honestly – to find joy in moments. Perhaps it’s something as simple as a front porch or playground swing, a water slide, a stuffed animal, a treasured book, jumping rope or a board game. Maybe it’s a keepsake from a special relative – a photograph, a letter, a favorite recipe, a piece of jewelry, or a knitted scarf or blanket.  For others, it may be a game of catch, a piece of music, a play, a smell, or a secret fishing hole. Still others will recall favorite restaurants or meals, a ride at an amusement park, activities like writing, singing, sewing, drawing or walks in familiar surroundings.  Some will have a favorite place – the beach, a lake, a stream, the shade of a special tree, a farm or meadow.  But, while everyone’s Favorite Things are different, each shares an important trait: In their presence, it is impossible to restrain our heart from smiling and therein lies their magic – the ability, if only for a moment, to introduce light, joy, safe harbor, or peace in the midst of a storm.

“What a remarkable gift that is,” I thought to myself as I continued on and the children’s laughter grew more and more faint.  And then I realized it was one that, with a little thought, I could (and probably should) give to myself.  So, when I got home, I began scribbling with heart smiles as my guide:

Any seat in Fenway Park.

Leaving the first set of footprints on a dew-covered fairway.

Blueberries.

A real hug.

Being the reason for someone else’s smile.

The breadsticks at the Red Diamond Inn.

A wagging tail.

Any song by David Gates and Bread.

The Giving Tree.

“The Wright House” at Ocean Isle Beach.

Firsts.

Apple pie (no mode).

Og Mandino’s writings.

A heart talk.

Hitting the sweet spot.

A comeback story.

Marvin Gaye’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The smell of freshly mown grass.

An intimate kiss.

Mini-golf.

Climbing a dirt pile.

Watching children at play.

The North Grounds Softball Field at UVA.

The Grotto at ND.

Dusk on the SHC golf course.

Long walks.

Simon and Garfunkel.

An original 7-11 Icee (Cola).

Flipping baseball cards.

Red licorice.

Drying tears.

The Little Engine That Could.

Watching someone realize a lifelong dream.

A perfect strike.

Writing words that matter.

I’m not suggesting, nor am I naïve enough to believe that any of these “things” offer a permanent respite from the often very real and complex challenges associated with being an adult, a parent and with Life generally.  They do, however, serve as readily available reminders that: there is good and joy in the world; that, at various times, both have been part of my world; and that, chances are, when the storm passes, they will be again.  Why not take a moment then to create your own list and the next time you find yourself looking for something to do or about to board the train to Bitterville, pull out your list, close your eyes, point to a place on it at random – and do that!  I dare you to keep from smiling.

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*Image credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-kcHN9yctdrQ/TeytMGIuFdI/AAAAAAAACv0/_YtjoJURxlc/s1600/woolen+mittens.jpg