OK Charlie Brown – What is Your Football?

Really.

We are ALL Charlie Brown at one point or another, so I ask you:
When are you at your most Charlie Brown moment?

I don’t just speak of the quintessential AAARGH! that we all remember from the PEANUTS comics, I’m referring to the solidity of the football NOT BEING THERE, and Lucy, and the perception of humiliation.

And perception is key.

Personally, because I am an overachiever, I have several footballs. And likely, several Lucys — depending on the day. So here are the highlights.

1. YOGA. Yup. It’s a football. Sometimes I am able to distract my Yoga-Lucy enough to persevere. Othertimes, she wins. She lives in my bed, and pillows and Duna….she is evil. She also, apparently, resides in my couch, which I refer to as the Evil Couch, and which sucks all motivation out of me in a nanosecond as soon as I stretch out. I think the YOGA-COUCH-Lucy might have a super-power.

2. PAMPERING. Yup. It’s a necessity, we should all do it. For me it’s acupuncture and actually doing something to the hedge that masquerades as my hair. For acupuncture, however, I seem to have found an anti-Lucy…only because I am travelling with someone who I unequivocally count as the best acupuncturist ever, and she forces me to make appointments and then comes to my apartment. Bliss. For the Hedge, however, positive results are not so common. I CONSTANTLY want to fix it but the Hedge-Lucy masquerades as WORK and defeats me easily. Now, it should be remembered, I just referenced myself as an over-achiever. I typically work 60 to 70 hours in a week, and that is reason for therapy. I have improved, it used to be closer to 80 hours, but I digress. As a protest against WORK-LUCY I am going to have my hair trimmed (with hedge trimmers, I expect) and colored tomorrow. This will be the first time in 9 months that I have actually attempted to go to war with Hedge-Lucy (whom I believe is the same as Work-Lucy) and have vowed to actually make this important. This is mostly because my split-ends have entered the realm of “weapons of mass destruction” (mostly because my hair reaches to my belt) and I just cannot stand it anymore. Plus, I am now not allowed in several pubs in London due to the dangerous quality of my hair. Pimps and Pinups in London have earned this special task….they better do well.

3. NUTRITION. Yup. I still seem to follow my collegiate habits of the quickest food wins the prize. Meanwhile, I’m almost 40 and feel pretty sure that I should have overcome this habit by now. And the ridiculous part of it is, I LOVE TO COOK. I drool over new recipes in the highest element of cooking magazines. These are all things my Aunt taught me so that I could cook well without thinking about it…yet, I will still buy a pre-packaged Tesco’s dinner without blinking. And Cooking-Lucy laughs maniacally as I walk out of Tesco with pre-packaged dinners but not a single piece of fresh produce. Really. I can hear her.

So, here’s what I say….DOWN TO LUCY!!! Whatever form she may take for you…she is not to be listened to. So let’s take a vow together that whatever form she takes (and yes, leave it to an Irish girl to lump Lucy from the Peanuts comics into the same realm as the Ban Shidhe)….SHE WILL NOT WIN.

If you do not take this vow, she will always hold the football. Just ask Charlie Brown.

Thank You John Candy….

I wish I could claim originality, but check out the Dalai Lama, Winnie the Pooh, or, my favorite, the Desiderata, and you will see that I am not the first one to think that it’s the simple ideas in life that matter.

Love.

That’s it, that’s all. Don’t justify it. There’s no need for a pros and cons list…just love. Love like your life depends on it. Because it does.

You can’t take it with you.

Really, you can’t. Our ancestors buried their ancestors with their swords and gems and clothes and even food. You know what happened? Centuries later, their descendants came along and dug it up and made assumptions. I should know, my mother was an anthropologist and archeaologist.

Dance.

Really. Don’t be the one that stands against the wall and shakes their head no. DANCE when someone asks you and dance when they don’t. Pure abandon is necessary.

Sing.

Yes, even if you’re tone deaf. SING OUT LOUD. SING YOUR HEART’S SONG. After all, if you don’t, who will? So sing, dammit.

Play.

PLAY.

Can I say it enough?
NO.
Play, and play and play. Watch the children. They know the secret – they know how to invent, how to create, they KNOW and they don’t know. You can never be too old, or too cool….but you can be too………stuck. And play changes all of that.

Laugh.

Laugh out loud, give in to the belly laugh, no matter how undignified you think it may sound. Laugh until your ears itch…..and don’t be ashamed of what brings that mirth unrestrained….enjoy it. Life is too short to be dignified.

And finally,

BREATHE.

It’s a verb for a reason. It’s an action…an action that requires premeditation. A bodily movement that we believe is involuntary but I ask you, how many times do you realize you’ve been holding your breath? Gotcha. Think about it.

Life is not what we make it, it’s what we discover it to be. Plan all you want, but if you can’t roll with what actually happens, well, that’s when you’re in trouble.

The best things happen when you least expect it.

I know, because that’s how I found the love of my life. Honestly, probably the love of several lifetimes all rolled into one, and I know it now but….I spent a good two years talking myself out of what could be. Thankfully, somehow, I didn’t get so much in my own way that it never happened. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but that love still came to be….maybe because I stopped thinking about it so much and just let things go the way they should.

Here’s the deal – and you have to be willing to go with me on this….just picture your life path as a river. You have two options….either you “go with the flow” (thank you John Candy), or, you can make yourself a raft and a paddle and paddle furiously upstream, in the direction you think you are supposed to be going. It will be hard, and you will wonder why you are working so hard, and eventually, you will be so exhausted you will give up and….

Guess what, you’ll go with the flow, if only because you have no more strength to do otherwise.

And finally you will end up, after you have been towed along by the current and bashed against the rocks, exactly where you would have been before….if you’d only just taken a breath, taken the plunge and had a little faith/a little abandon.

I try to remember this – and when I wonder why I feel like I am working so hard, I really try to remember to drop the paddle and see where I’m supposed to be already.

Usually it results in a facepalm and a moment of “AHA”….

And also a feeling that someone somewhere is thinking “gotcha.” NOW, you see where you should be.

Guaranteeed that when I do finally get there, it’s very clear to me that what I had planned was far below what was possible….

Location, Location, Location

Lately it seems I’m all about thinking about being somewhere else. Which of course means that I’m not really present wherever I’m actually at. Sometimes I’m just thinking of being someplace only 20 minutes away, sometimes that place is a world away. Kinda feels like I stepped in a wormhole somewhere.

There’s the basic every-day aspect – sometimes I have to work too late, and then have to get up too early, so while I’m in bed I’m dreading going to work, in fact, I’m actually wistfully thinking about when I’ll get home from work so I can go back to bed. When I’m at work I’m desperately thinking about being back home in bed.

Then there’s the longer term of it all….in a few weeks I’ll be travelling again to Madrid, Spain. I’m already there logistically, looking at site plans, wondering what the new apartment will be like, heck what Madrid will be like.

And even longer term…I’m in the process of applying for a partner visa for Australia, since that’s where the other half of my heart is from, and where we will live when we stop touring for a living….and believe me, when I contemplate packing my suitcases again in a few weeks, I’m not just thinking about settling down in Australia, I’m closing my eyes and imagining it vividly. Yet simultaneously, I’m thinking about the city we’ll go to after Madrid, and where we are in the planning stages. It’s a mess up there, in my head, like some sort of temporal shift on a ridiculous scale.

And I wonder….what part of me is actually here? I mean, heck – I do yoga, practice meditation, attempt to breathe deep on a regular basis (although I do find myself holding my breath a lot), really, what else is a person to do?

To be present….I guess maybe I just don’t know what that means – or perhaps I have set an unreasonable expectation for what that should feel like. I work with great people who are both friends and family, I enjoy the time we all spend together, whether at work or at play. I have an amazing family, both inherited and adopted over my lifetime that are always in my thoughts even when they are far away….I honestly care about what is going on around me and these people I move about the world with, and I pay attention…so what else defines being present? Is it normal to have a part of your brain projecting forward while your feet are standing in the here and now? Is that the “future hamster” in my head, sort of like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be?

Aha, wait a minute, I might have stumbled on to something there. Perhaps it’s not just the “future hamster” in my head….perhaps there are really THREE hamsters (each in their own wheels) rolling around up there. That would explain a lot actually. Perhaps THEY are the ones who are not present (well, except for the “present hamster”, since that’s his job and all). Perhaps I really am as present as a human can be, and it’s really the hamsters that are running in different timelines and locations.

Yeah, that’s gotta be it. It’s the hamsters.

Phew. I feel so much better.

Reality bites…sometimes…and then there’s the Muppets.

OK – fair enough, my last post was a bit of whimsy combined with a bit of “fake it till you make it.” I was feeling cynical and jaded and also simultaneously aware of the fact that my life is pretty darn fabulous, and that I shouldn’t be so snarky. After all, I am paid to travel the world to bring escape and joy and wonder to people I do not know. That’s a gig that I wish everyone could have, if only for a little while.

The reality is – that was the first time that I posted a new entry to my blog and received no comments, no likes, no new followers. So you guys sniffed me out.

Honesty will always win over fluffiness. I mean, sure, we all appreciate comedy and lightness. And I do honestly believe that a good healthy dose of the muppets is good for everyone’s soul. But let’s look at that, honestly, the muppets are so well deserving of our adulation because they were all about social commentary. They were considered palatable for our children (myself included) purely because they were fuzzy, but boy, did they bring life lessons to us wee sponges. And, as much as I hate to admit it, my last post was not what I was thinking, but what I wanted to be thinking about. (Although, I do stand by the wonderfulness of chocolate mousse…it is pretty fabulous.)

I have a treasured picture of myself in 1979 (way to date myself) sitting in my pajamas, watching the muppets. Well, actually, it was Sesame Street, but the same idea applies, and the same amazing mind was behind it all. My dad took that picture. He was standing behind me and the picture is of me and my cat, Korschka, sitting and watching Bert and Ernie (on a black and white Zenith TV–no remote), both of us with our heads tilted the same way, totally absorbed. And for good reason. We were learning quite a bit. Never mind the discussions that came out in the 90s about how Bert was gay and all that crap wherein adults were trying to cast out a muppet for an alternative lifestyle. Because there I was, living in a household soon to split due to irreconcilable differences and mental illness, and I was learning how to relate to other people. From those two muppets I was getting my first lessons in how to love, care and participate in a relationship–no matter how it was defined. And for all those “adults” who decided to try to vilify Bert and Ernie in the 90’s — shame on you. I learned more from them than I learned in any classroom or in my childhood home. Personally, I think you should all thank whatever mystical thing you believe in for Bert and Ernie and Big Bird and Snuffalupagus and Kermit and Miss Piggy….and especially for Grover…he was always my favorite.

We lived out in the country at the time. No kids around. We had a few wonderful retired folks around us, but I wasn’t at school yet, I was four years old and had no “peers.” I was small enough that our postage-stamp sized backyard was big enough to me that it was a day long expedition to get to my swing set on the “far” side. An expedition that required sandwiches and an apple. That’s how small I was in the big world around me, and having been there as an adult, a pretty good metaphor for how I perceived myself in the “big world.” There was something about those two muppets that drew my attention. Something I didn’t know, but needed to understand. They cared about each other, and, as much as I love my parents, I hadn’t seen much of that. As an adult I can say that they had outlived the time they were supposed to be together, and with all sincerity, I believe that. With heart, and mind and soul. But as a four-year old, I got my cues from the muppets. Well, truth be told, Mork and Mindy played a big part as well….but that might just have been me.

So the reality is, the post I was trying not to write before was about a dip in my faith in humanity. Or, to put it more accurately, my belief in what being an adult is. Why? Well, here we are, having just opened a fabulous show. And I should be on cloud nine because for the most part, everyone here seems to love it. They seem to appreciate what we do, which in all honesty is not rocket science or about curing cancer, it’s about abandon. It’s about creating a space where the troubles don’t matter, where the only expectation is that you let yourself go, and experience the world we have created for you. Even for just a few hours.

To do this took a year of painstaking planning, coordination of several groups of people, and, upon our arrival in London, quite a few days of long hours to make it happen in time. But for all the preparation, and all the fore-warning about what this would require, I found myself with a group of people who at times have turned totally irrational. Now, in our defense, and I do mean “our” because none of us are perfect, we all had times where we forgot the greater picture, and we got nasty or narrow-minded or just plain selfish. And in the end I am responsible for these people. Every single one of them is brilliant, exceptionally skilled in their own ways, passionate sometimes to the breaking point, and in my version of becoming irrational, when they became cranky, snarky, selfish, tunnel-visioned, what have you, I wanted to scream for finding some way to get them to breathe, take a step back and stop them from going down the road they were heading.

But I didn’t scream. Because I knew that their passion, and in some ways that very determined focus on their respective aspects, their specialties, their expertise, was exactly what we needed as a team to accomplish what we have. But the division dismays me. We are a dysfunctional family. And honestly, I believe all families are dysfunctional….even those that appear to be the Cleavers (and for those who get that reference without googling it, I have now dated you but I celebrate you). None of us are perfect. None of us can claim to have a perfect day every day. And for anyone that thinks that they have perfect days, shame on them. We are all human, and therefore fallible. We are exposed every moment to the opportunity to learn. Sometimes we take that opportunity, sometimes we don’t.

Is it a hangable offence to go the way that is familiar, comfortable, no matter how messy it is? No, it’s human — but I suppose it’s just as human to hope…that we might all learn to take a breath and think before we speak or act…together. I know I try, and do not always succeed…so I wonder, with so many under my “responsibility” — do I expect too much or am I settling for “just enough.”

So I beg you all – revisit the muppets….whether its the Muppet Show or Sesame Street. Check it out again, because it’s worth your time, and the wisdom is right up there with Winnie the Pooh, Mahatma Ghandi, and whatever mystical thing you find resonates for you. Revisit your lessons – I know I will, because we are all imperfect, and yet perfect, at the same time. It takes only the willingness to see beyond the obvious to know what might be possible.

As a friend of mine has always said – “flower your dreams.” Take that as you will.

If You Don’t Stop and Look Around Once in a While, You Might Miss it.

Historically, this line has served to remind me of the movie Ferris Beuler’s Day Off, and my misspent youth.

Now, however, I basically use it as a mantra to remind myself of how important the idea is.

However it resonates for you, whether it’s stopping to smell the roses, play more, escape less, whatever…it’s important not to forget the basic reality that no matter how much we do in life, if we don’t appreciate the life we have, well, what’s the point of doing all that stuff?

I’ve mentioned before that I work in the entertainment business. My job is to organize, plan projects and think in the long term. A side benefit to this gig is that the company I work for allows me to travel all over the world and actually live in those various locations for at least six weeks at a time.

From 2011 to part way through 2012 I was fortunate to be able to be living in Japan. Every week, when I got to my day off, I had these great plans of getting out to see the country and really immerse myself in this totally new culture and area.

By the time I had to leave for another territory, I had probably only gone out and explored half a dozen times during the whole time I was there. I will forever regret always thinking that “I can do that next week.”

So today, after a little over a week of preparing for a major opening in London, I found myself required to go with a friend to take a picture of a local historical monument (okay, so all of London is a historical monument when you are an American, but that’s another story for another day). I realized, as we were walking to go achieve this errand, that if I hadn’t promised to go along, I might not have done it at all….and I was pretty thankful that I “had” to break the ice.

I mean really, life is pretty cool, and the stuff around us is pretty cool, and cool things happen all the time. I can’t speak for any of you out there but for me, I typically just put my head down and barrel through the important stuff which isn’t really as important as finding a way to celebrate where you are and what you have around you.

We all have our quirks, I certainly think I may have more than my fair share at times, but that means that we therefore get to create all sorts of new experiences and perceptions, even if we’re all looking at the same thing. That is pretty cool to realize. So, there I was, just this morning, standing on the London Bridge, and wondering why it’s such a big deal when you can see Tower Bridge from there and it certainly seems to have more bells and whistles…..

That’s when I had my history lesson today and found out that the London Bridge has been built, destroyed, rebuilt, and apparently, at one point, moved to Arizona (why there, I wonder), before it arrived to it’s current incarnation. You wouldn’t really think that a bridge in a city as old as London could be found to have had multiple personalities over it’s life, but hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?

So here’s where I’m at – not only might you miss “it” — whatever “it” is…..but if you don’t stop and look around once and a while you may definitely find yourself completely forgetting how much there is still out there to learn, and what a shame that would be.

I think Dr. Seuss said it best – “If you never have, you should, for it is fun, and it is good.”

In Search of Awe

So I find myself, on this first day of a new year, thinking that I may have misplaced my awe.

Somehow, while I constantly marvel that on the inside I still feel the same as I did when I was 14, I seem to have grown up in a less than fabulous way. I seem to have put down my capacity for wonder while picking up work, deadlines, responsibility, and needing to feel useful.

I don’t really think that this has to be a one or the other situation. I believe that in the great Venn diagram of life there should be an overlap of adulthood and child-like wonder. That said, it would appear my current equation is a bit flawed.

Thinking of math, there was a period in my life when I took the time to scratch my head over two hours of math homework that involved imaginary numbers. How could I spend two hours on something that does not exist? And why did I have to?

It’s questions like these that I just don’t seem to ask anymore. I am given deadlines, parameters and requirements and I put them diligently into my to-do list and do what I can to eventually check them off. Of course, while I am striving to clear those items off my to-do list new ones have appeared to take their place and the list never gets shorter. And I accept this. To-do lists are part of my biology….however, it’s WHAT is on the to-do list, or more importantly, what I don’t ever seem to put on my to-do list anymore, that has me baffled.

Once upon a time I had a normal to-do list for life and the realities that go with it, but I also had things like….
– Go to the movies
– Go for a walk
– Go somewhere cool to take pictures of something cool
– Go Read something exciting
– Go join friends for games
– Go find a new Italian restaurant
– Go explore my new neighborhood
– Go somewhere

Now my list is more like this….
– Do laundry
– Do dishes
– Do the grocery shopping
– Do my taxes
– Do conference calls

I see a trend….it seems that taking the initiative to GO versus making it a priority to DO is a big part of it. All the stuff on the DO list leaves no room for picking flowers, enjoying a beautiful day, appreciating a new movie–somehow taking on the DO and putting down the GO resulted in my misplacing my awe.

For example, I have just passed a New Years Eve in London. While I did actually spend time with colleagues and friends, I did not even try to go see the fabled London fireworks in person. I settled for watching that moment on TV. I have stopped experiencing and I have become a voyeur.

I think it’s time to figure out where I put my awe. My capacity for child-like wonder and belly laughs. My ability to be inspired to say “WOW” and giggle.

It’s been a pretty interesting ride during the 39 years I’ve had so far to walk the planet, but I definitely believe that the next 39 will be far more interesting if I reclaim my awe. Perhaps it’s with Eeyore’s tail in the back of an A.A. Milne book, perhaps it’s gathering dust on a shelf I don’t even know I have anymore, but it’s time to jump-start spring cleaning and figure out where the heck it is. I miss it, it’s been gone far too long.