Swoop

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Ever have one of those days when your heart is not just on your sleeve, it’s flat out all over the front of your shirt like a Thrifty’s triple scoop cone on a hot summer’s day? That’s today…

A sweet mess.

It started out a little off. It could have been because the water heater went out a day and a half ago and I’ve had to take lukewarm baths. That could have been what’s throwing me off.  But, no, that’s not it. Pretty sure of that.

Five years ago my 15 year old cousin was kidnapped and murdered. My family is preparing for a verdict to this horrific event. The jury deliberates as I type this. So we wait. The man accused sits in his cell right now, also waiting.  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around this, even after five years. I have moments when I attempt to. It’s a big thing for us mere mortals to undertake. It seems that something always seems to swoop in and protect my soul from such thoughts.  So, I’ve learned to sit with it. The ache I carry for my family seems to just soak in as time passes. It has become part of me.

I’ve also had some others outside of my family on my mind. What seems like a lifetime ago, I was the caregiver for a family that blessed my life with three enchanting little girls.  One of them passed away two years ago. She’s been heavily in my thoughts the last couple of months. I wonder if that’s  because a woman I work with could be her sister…her slight doppelganger if there is such a thing.  Or it could be that the sunbeams are shining down more so from above as summer, her favorite season, approaches.  This too, I let my soul sit with.

I recently started working in a little bookstore on a very obscure college campus.  We sell books that are not mainstream.  I find them a bit wacky but also fascinating. It’s  very spiritual. I’ve observed devout Christians say this as well as die hard agnostics. I’ve felt it as well.

Today.

When I unlocked the door this morning (after washing my face with ice cold water) I saw that the alarm was disarmed. Not really strange if a coworker arrived before me. But the place was empty. I assumed it was the maintenance guy. As I unloaded my purse and iced tea on the counter I noticed a book lying in middle of the floor. It was as if it jumped from the shelf and was rethinking its decision.  Hmmm…

The place was empty. Hmmm…

A little later a couple of coworkers arrived. I told them about the book. They both shrugged it off.  Hmmm…

As the afternoon slowly passed by, thoughts of the two girls I mentioned earlier tiptoed around the edges of my mind.  The humidity seemed to lighten up. The roosters started crowing (yep, there are roosters….at…my…work.) and we were even blessed by a visit from an intriguing, yet strange,  super tan man who chatted with me about “catching some rays” and also made sure to tell me that once we start noticing things we cannot stop seeing them. Then he misquoted a saying about becoming a seeker.

I love these kinda days.

As I was about to wrap up my shift  two men from the alarm company walked in with tools and a ladder.  They started asking questions about the alarm and doors. Apparently at 3 a.m. last night one of the sensors in the middle room was tripped. We supposed that someone from the college came over and turned it off and called these guys to double check everything. Nothing seemed to be missing. After some poking around the technicians determined that whatever it was came through the (un-wired) back door and triggered the closest sensor in the middle room. It’s a very old building. They decided that it must have been a gust of wind blowing through that not-so-well-sealed old door tripping the very sensitive alarm system. They suggested that that door be fixed.

Then I remembered…

The book. The jumper….

Leaving Room For Angels.

That’s the title.

Hmmmm….

Sitting with it. It’s not easy. Not one bit.

Notice.

Seek.

It leaves room for the angels when they swoop in.

 

Sunbeams

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“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Ronald Dahl

She was about 2 when I met her…just a toddler. Only, she didn’t toddle.   An everlasting infant of sorts.  I was barely twenty when I began caring for Miss Hannah.  Still learning about the care of small children, taking on a child with special needs pushed my very own underdeveloped comfort zone.  I was scared for sure…scared I’d do something wrong, scared I’d not know what to do, scared I’d break her.  She also came with a tiny baby sister.

Along with their mommy and daddy, these two girls {and eventually a third}, these pixies, these exquisite little fairies taught me to soak up the sun while it is shining.

Hannah was born a normal, healthy baby…thriving.  Being only six months old when she got sick, many of the typical baby milestones hadn’t yet occurred.  To make a long story short, many years ago Hannah stopped breathing for unknown reasons while taking a nap one day.  They weren’t sure just how long she went without oxygen so the damage to her brain was unknown. As months, then years went by, Hannah seemed to still be the six months she was when this happened.  Along with the brain damage, atrophy and cerebral palsy set in.

During the time I had the privilege to be involved in Hannah’s life, her family’s life, I watched in amazement their perseverance to keep life simple and to always plow ahead, living in the moment rather than getting lost in the past or the uncertainness of the future.  I saw them accept their circumstances and always go on.  Life was normal…their normal.  From someone on the outside I admired this so much.

I spent many a day with Miss Hannah…keeping her fed, clean, and comfortable.  Since she couldn’t speak I needed to learn to read her….and that I did.

She had her varying cries…one for hunger, or pain, or sadness. She giggled and cooed. She was like every baby I ever took care of, only bigger.

Something set her apart though. Her colossal smile. It was absolutely enchanting.  Never have I met anyone with such a wonderful, honest, humongous grin as Hannah.  She loved the outdoors, the sunshine. The warmer the better.  She’d turn her face into the glare of the hot sun and soak it in.  The details, she loved the details…birds chirping, wind chimes clanging in the wind.  Her head would whip back and forth as the sounds of the neighborhood sang to her.   She had one of those whole mouth open types of smiles…beaming like the sunshine.

And music, the louder the better.  Some days we would rock out and wheelchair dance around the room and other days she was simply happy to listen to the cassette tapes I found at a garage sale for a buck: Birdsongs and Wind Chimes.

She also had a sick sense of humor. Once while I was feeding her, a favorite, avocado mash, she sneezed all over the kitchen wall.  As I was bending over cleaning it up she sneezed again…spraying the back of my head with fresh avocado! I let out a screech and turned to see her smirking ear to ear laughing at what she had done. I always think of her now when I eat an avocado.

Avacados.

Wind chimes.

Live in the moments…

Though I didn’t know them yet, I often thought about her parents the day Hannah got sick.  What hell they must have gone through. I cannot even begin to process it.  I see it as a day that the expectation of what they thought they had died.  What they hoped for and anticipated, as all parents do, was lost. I believe they grieved and mourned for a spell, and then they evolved little by little in to the strongest family I’ve yet to know.   I don’t know if I personally could be as graceful as they always seemed to be to me.

Hannah left this world a little over a week ago. She was 23.  The family has been heavy on my heart.  Her second passing away of sorts…Though it has been a handful of years since I had last seen her, I can still remember her head turning and smiling at me when I walked into the room even after being gone for a while.  I can still feel and smell her silky strawberry blonde hair as I’d bend down to kiss her head and the softness of her fingers curled around mine.  I can picture her now, at last, running, jumping, even kart wheeling and, of course, dancing barefoot in a meadow of dewy grass and white flowers, sunshine glowing all around her.

Lovely.

Flex

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When I was about seventeen I walked in on my little brother in the bathroom during a very private, personal time.

I know, right? Awkward.

The door wasn’t closed tight so I just waaaalked on in. I had no agenda of catching him in the act. I just pushed open the unlatched door, and there he was….with it aaaaaaalllllllll out there for his big sister to see.  Standing in front of the mirror, in only his tighty whities and socks was my little speck of a brother flexing his puny 7 year old muscles. That’s right…flexing his muscles like he was Hulk Hogan himself.

Like any good teen movie straight from the 80’s, he got all pissed off and screeched at me as he slammed the door with all his might in my face. But I didn’t care one bit!  I was already doubled over in laughter!  Ahahahahahahaa! I couldn’t wait to tell our sister what a little dork he was!

This is one of my all time most wonderfully favorite moments with this guy.

Tonight, as I was fiddling around in my room I caught my reflection in the mirror of my antique dresser.  Just home from yoga class, my hair was a mess, my face horribly shiny as I had thoroughly sweated off any remaining make up after a long day at work . Still in my tank top, because it takes this old gal a while to cool off these days, I noticed new wrinkles around my mouth and on my forehead. My roots were peeking out from under my red locks and let me tell ya…they weren’t all blonde like they used to be….silver strands here and there. like glitter, caught the light as I inspected what I’ve become. The tired eyes of the person in the mirror met mine….They were still.

Reflective.

Observant.

Who is this girl…excuse me…woman…looking back at me? Where did she come from? When did this happen? Then I looked a little closer…

My skin has a glow to it that I longed for as a teenager..Living by the beach and downward dog does that….My arms, I like my arms…thank you yoga.  My eyes, they are tired because after a long emotional night I still managed to put my whole heart into a full day of work at a job that I love. They are tired because blessed myself with a yoga class where I pushed not only my balance, but my physical comfort zone.  They are tired because ahead of me are a few things that constantly test my patience as well as my heart.

I observe.

Flashing through my mind was that afternoon with my brother…there he was, all sweet and innocent, checking himself out. Observing.  And why the hell not?? He was fabulous! He was seven and wonderful! Take it in little guy…take it in…

And that’s just what I did.

“People think a true soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention….” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Pay attention. 

janelle flex

Run

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Note to self: Only run downhill. It’s way more fun.

 

I went for a walk tonight. I’ve been doing that a lot again lately. It’s good for my body as well as my soul. My brain gets going on overdrive sometimes. {All the time} Yoga really has helped me subdue this mind habit I’ve had as since I could think. But, there are times that I just need to move, fast…burn off brain energy at a quicker pace. As I bounced through unfamiliar parts of my neighborhood at dusk this evening I lost track of where I actually was. I asked a man walking with his dog and daughter if the way I was going would lead me to a dead end or not {way common in this neck of the woods}. When he asked where I was headed I smiled and said, ” I don’t know.”

”That’s awesome,” he replied with a grin and assured me I would find my way.

 

I’m never been much of a runner. Ok…I’ve never been a runner. Ever.  At all. Its pure torture. Every step I do run I hiss to myself, “This sucks. I hate this. I wanna kill the inventor of running”.  So fast walking it is…mostly.  My neighborhood is full of hills and slopes so it’s actually an amazing workout.  Plus I get to look at the beautiful enormous million dollar spectacular houses and wonder if the neighbors are wondering how I managed to squeeze my gypsy-like ass into their hood.

 

The last few years of my life have been rough. Shitty actually. Worse than shitty.  I’ve managed to sail through several storms of depression, illness, deaths, divorce, poverty, separation from my children, a massive broken heart, and a couple of horrific family tragedies…and survived.

 

Not just survived, I’ve come out tough as hell.  I won’t deny it.  I’ve never felt so weak so often in my life…

 

And never so strong.

 

Life has been more uphill runs than I ever imagined. It sucks. It sucks hard. That’s why, when I get the chance….I fly down the hills as fast as I can.

 

Ready.

Set.

Go.

Post Mortem

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Hazelnut coffee always reminds me of my father. So do hummingbirds, tool belts, tubes of Chapstick, rutabagas, and inappropriate jokes at more inappropriate times….like for instance the text I just received at 9 a.m. from one of my favorite people in the world saying they already want a beer…my reply? “I’ve already had two.” Kidding of course…Dad would be proud. Make em wonder.

Coffee. I’ve had two of those today.

Last Saturday marked the five year anniversary of him leaving us all behind. A few days after that I had whispered to him as he lay in his coffin all prim and proper the following last words of love I would ever say to him:  “Thanks.  Thanks, Dad, for leaving me here…without you…. with all of these nuts.”  

Inappropriate inappropriateness. 

I miss him.

***********

Today would have been his 63rd birthday. I wonder if he was still here what he would think of my life now…so much has changed since he’s been gone.

I’ve left a marriage.

I’ve moved away from my family to a very different town.

I’ve started doing yoga.

I’m not quite sure how he would process my changes.  But, I do know I never would have done any of it if he were still here.

Since I was a little girl he always told me one thing over and over in subtle and not so subtle ways…Guard your heart. Had he survived the hell of cancer and was still here today I believe with all my heart I would have guarded his. I would not have left the marriage. I would not have moved. I would not have discovered yoga. 

I would have fought with all my might to keep my chin up and find little things to make me happy just to be able to continue to survive the years and years of not feeling like I made the right decisions as a nineteen year old girl.  I had too much pride to ever let my father know that I was hurting and sad and regretful. If he had ever known of my heavy hearted secret I kept to only my soul it would have shaken him to his core. I never could have mustered up the strength to make the decisions I’ve had to make these last handful of years knowing it would have crushed him.

It would have broken his heart. 

So I guarded it.

I realize this is quite mentally as well as physically unhealthy.  I didn’t do it just for him. I did it for my boys, my church, my friends, my I’ll-get-through-this-and-one-day-will-wake-up-and-realize-I-sure-am-swell-with-all-my-decisions-lie  told myself daily.  

My dad’s death was my tipping point.

It softened me. My shell cracked and emotions I never knew I was capable of seeped out.  I tried for a while to sweep my emotional mess under the rug but it got too difficult.  The fractures became too much and my walls came crumbling down. I opened up and let me…the me I hid from others as well as myself pour out into a giant puddle of raw emotions laid out for my world to see.  And life, as it should,went on. 

I cannot say that his death changed me as a person. No, it enhanced me.  Finally I allowed myself to emerge from this “happiness” bubble I surrounded myself in. Bubble:Can you say “bubble” without smiling? I mean really, who doesn’t see a bubble and not smile…let alone actually saying that fun word? My bubble made me “happy”.

Bubble.

I enveloped myself in this big bubble of friendship, kids, hobbies and responsibilities. I loved it. They were amazing and wonderful distractions to something I thought I could get over: Regret. 

Some things in that bubble of mine were just blisters though…and a blister tends lead to a callous. I became hardened, stubborn, and unfortunately unresponsive as ways to protect myself. This is a terrible place to be. 

Then my dad died.

As I just said, my dad’s death didn’t change me, it enhanced me. It brought to surface things I had been needing to face for years. Only this time I needn’t  worry about disappointing my favorite person in the whole wide world. A few years ago my counselor, one of the greatest blessings in my life, said something to me that was a major ah-ha! moment. Probably the biggest one in my life so far. She said that maybe my dad’s passing was his last gift to me…a gift so that I could be free to find myself and let go of the “should be” and  “should do” that I placed on myself over the years. 

He taught me to fish, to ride a bike, to drive.  He showed me how to appreciate the little things like sunrises, warm coffee, hummingbirds.  He encouraged me to work hard and to love hard. But I also learned how to be hard on myself from him.  He was a man of high self standards and pride. Inherited this bittersweet trait from him.  

The thought of disappointing him was way below the surface of my soul. Something only to be discovered during some much needed therapy sessions and a fantastic excavator.  The day my counselor made that eye opening statement I felt like an enormous boulder was lifted off my gut that was weighing me down for for years.  I swear I could see my dad, smiling a knowing smile, wearing his tool belt and tipping his hard hat, working the crane that removed it from my body. A huge self imposed weight removed so that I could stand up tall again….

Some days the amount I miss him is almost as unbearable as the thought of having that boulder back upon me.  But I know I could never carry it again.

And I don’t have to. 

Parachute

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Time flies…damn…it does.

About six months ago my biggest boy turned eighteen.

{Gulp.}

Six weeks ago he graduated from high school.

It absolutely blows my mind as I try to grasp this. His years of babyhood, toddlerhood, childhood.  and teenagehood, have been running through my brain like a coming of age movie…a movie that I produced and directed.  As the days leading up to his graduation unfolded my man-child had been heavy on my mind and heart….oh to be at his place in life again myself…man oh man, would I want to return to that era myself? Such a exciting yet transitional time of life. 

One of the most cherished gifts ever given to me is a card written long ago from my father.  Handwritten and full of honest emotion, he shared his wisdom and love for me….over the years I too have developed a knack for the written word and so I had a special leather bound notebook….a word holder…crafted especially for my son. Letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence I put together a love note for my firstborn. 

******************************************************************************************************************

 

I love you more than words can say…. ….but I will never stop trying to tell you.

 When you were just a tiny little guy your daddy and I would call you “Super Baby”.  It began, like most dorky nicknames do, when you were quite tiny.   We would lift you high above us and make you “fly” in the air, safe in our hands. Your eyes would get even bigger than they already were! {which was HUGE}  You’d open your mouth almost as wide as your eyes as you’d soar in the sky like the super baby we knew you were. I’m sure Dad started it…but we’d sing a goofy song that went something {exactly} like this:

SUPERBABY

SUPERBABY 

SUPERBABY

SUPERBABY……

Eventually we added a chorus of:

“SUPER DUPER POOPER BABY”.  

It was wonderful.   It’s been a while since I thought of this. Yet, it feels like it just happened five or eight minutes ago.   Where did the time go? When did my Super Baby grow up???  

When you were about three Dad took you to a Fresno State football game.  During half time a plane flew over the stadium and a bunch of parachutes sprinkled the night sky. You thought it was fantastic. You came up with your own term for them….. “Hang-A-Man’s”.  Before long you were constantly sporting your own “chute”…a backpack ,as you scaled rocks,furniture….playground equipment. You’d jump off and shout,  “Look, Mom! I’m a hang-a-man!”   I loved those days. You were so quirky and brave and silly.   Funny……….you still are.   Looking back, this thing you had for “hang-a-mans”…parachutes…it makes me think full circle….from the little boy you were, to this amazingly strong, playful, and confident young man you have become, so brave in spirit.  Parachutes….. much to learn from this childhood obsession of yours….

 

*****

One winter’s night, late….while nursing you in our big green rocking chair…you were just a fuzzy little bundle in my arms…I cried at the thought of you growing up. Sobbed. Chokes me up now thinking about it, and how unbelievably fast it has gone by. I want that moment back again just to savor you in my arms and feel your blonde dandy-lion hair tickle my nose as I leaned down to kiss your noggin. I want to feel your weight in my arms.  I want to find a rewind button…then the pause. What’s so amazing now as I write this…

I really don’t need to do that…

cause here it is, eighteen years later, fresh in my mind as it was that chilly night.

I can smell you and feel you wiggling into me….my sweet little man.  Stamped into my memory it is. This makes my heart swell.   Eighteen…graduating…growing up. Here it is my Super Baby. I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few months. What wisdom can I share with you as you move ahead into adulthood?  Not too long ago while I was hiking my favorite trail along the Pacific Coast I saw a huge flock of parachuters….hang-a-mans. I stopped and counted fourteen! I thought of four-year old you….how excited you’d have been to witness such a thing! It got me thinking…parachutes….hmmmm….I’ve always had a thing for stories,analogies, metaphors…parallels.

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Parachute Parable….

Prepare: Back in the day people were  required to pack their own chute. Why was this? Trust…your life is on the line. Who best can you trust better than yourself? In life you will be called over and over to rely on yourself for big things and a crapload of little things. Anticipate this. Though its difficult to know what is to come…being prepared by trusting your gut, your instincts, your intuition, will help you to protect yourself.

Fear and hesitation: How many times have you felt scared about something and later you laughed only to realize how silly you were being? Some fears are just worries that we confuse ourselves with.  On the other hand, listen to  your fears and hesitations.  Listen with your soul.. If it’s that deep…protect yourself, pause, give yourself time to evaluate this inner fear.  If it is legitimate I hope you don’t hesitate to armor your mind, your heart or your body if you have to……no matter what the world, society, your friends, or even your family says.

Jump: The hardest things we come across sometimes are those first leaps of faith. So many times we stand with our toes to the edge looking down, wind in our face, clinging to something, anything, stable and seemingly safe.  Our heart screams “JUMP!”, but our mind whispers “Cling on…”

Follow that heart, my boy…jump….because when you take off guess what you do? You…..

Fly: Once  you push yourself out over the edge there will be that magnificent moment of letting go as you soar and float in the air.  Freedom rushing at you faster than you can breathe. Feel it…relish in it.  Soak it in.  Take it in.  Freedom in the flying only lasts for moments sometimes.  Acknowledge those moments. Tuck them in your memory so you always work to find more!

Trust: Again, this word. In the beginning I mentioned trusting yourself….so magnificently important. But you know what else is crucial? Trusting others; Your friends, your family…your people.  Just as a parachutist trusts the giant piece of cloth and ropes he is strapped into to keep him from splatting on the Earth below, find confidence and sureness in the people you surround yourself with.  These are the ones who will stand in and up for you, the ones who willingly lend a hand…no strings attached!  And the people who love you.  No one in their right mind jumps without a chute….find those you depend on…they will catch you as you fall.  

Community: Remember that bad ass VHS video that that man we discovered folding a parachute in the park gave you when you were just a little guy? You watched that goofy 80’s video over and over until we all had it memorized!  It was a film about a community of parachutists that banned together with their common interest.  So much fun they seemed to have, each had a part in their crazy silly world.  Go out there, my boy, go out and find your community.  Fall into it.  Be a leader…but know at other times it’s ok to be a follower.  Just support those around you as they support you as well.  Give and take.  Surround yourself with the company of those who you respect.  And most of all feel honored by the appreciation they give you.  

Expectation:All jumpers expect the plan to go as…well…as planned.  Kinda like this:

1. Go up in plane

2.Put on chute

3. Jump out of perfectly good plane

4. Free fall

5. Pull chute

6. Sail safely to the ground and land on two feet.

Not all landings are that pretty though.  You may get dragged to the ground.  You may land in a tree.  

The variables of life have a way of ruining our expectations…our perfect landings.  

We cannot help being disappointed when we are left with unfulfilled expectations, ruined plans, broken hearts.  There will always be moments of disappointment, fear, sadness, hurt…sometimes these moments will last longer…like days or months or even years.  I can only hope they don’t.  Be careful with your expectations. Don’t let ’em control you.  

Live in the moments and not in the plans.  

When things go awry…remember, you’ve got a back up chute.  And there is always another chance for another jump.

******

Over the years I’ve told you the story  about my dad, your Grampy’s philosophy of learning to fly….His job, he said, as a parent was to teach his children, his birds, to fly….how to grow up and know how to take care of  ourselves on our own.  I didn’t really grasp this until, you, Keaton, my firstborn, came along.  I so wanted to cling to you and hold you tight and not ever let go…but little by little you as you grew and got closer to the edge my grasp loosened as you…. ……my Super Baby …………………………………

You taught me to fly. ………………………………………………………………

I love you…..I think you are so neat…and I think you are ready.  

Now jump!  

Essence

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It’s been nearly seven years since I traveled to a little place called India.  I don’t think a day goes by that it doesn’t cross my mind. Many souvenirs returned home with me from that trip….bangles, tunics, carvings, blankets, memories….but mostly magic. Along with the parasite that snuck into my body, my soul seemed to be somehow altered somewhere between those misty mornings bouncing along the dirt roads in a jeep and those evenings where incense smoke twirled around my head.   It was sort of my own magical mystery tour….

I fell in love with the wildlife of India…the monkeys roaming the big cities, peacocks parading along the roads, and the dancing cobras. Amazing. The ancient architecture and history was spectacular.  The endless fields of golden grass and the rivers winding through them were breathtaking. But the people…oh the beautiful people..My heart grew with each genuine smile that was given so openly to me. In a country so poor and dirty and left for ruin in so many places, the people are so far from that. Despite sadness and poverty and sickness I have never experienced such true soul-filled happiness oosing from other humans as I did on this trip.

I want to be like the people I encountered. Filled to the brim with happiness so much it cannot be contained and I spills out to those around me. I long to return. I crave its mystery and peace. I yearn for India and her solace.  I need it.

The trip consisted of many trains, planes, and automobiles. We spent over 24 hours in the air just to get there. Trains glided us past villages and rivers. Cars bounced us along the funnest, most pot hole filled roads in the world. Each time we got in the car we were guaranteed a wild ride. I sat in the jungle surrounded by badass monkeys. I wrote in my journal as a fox observed me from the foliage.  I held a cobra. I touched Gandhi’s grave. I walked barefoot in the Taj Mahal. But, the thing that crept into my soul, my essence, my marrow…was this one woman…I don’t know her name and she didn’t speak a lick of English….but she was always there…watching me.

I am guessing she was about my age…34 at the time. I was told that she was the mother of four small children and had been widowed twice. Now a single mom, she struggled every day….every moment. Back in the day they used to burn widows. She is lucky to live in a slightly more progressive India.

I noticed her fascination with me one night following an event that I spoke at. It was a gathering for single women…mostly widowed and divorced. Both of these kinds of women extremely shunned and low in this absurd thing they call a caste system.That night I was very nervous…public speaking…even with an interpreter by my side…was terrifying. Give me a cobra to hold anytime! As I began I noticed the women were waving the smoke from the incense burning to keep mosquitoes away from their faces. The smoke seemed to gravitate to their eyes. My opening line, I believe, went like this….”Where I come from they say that smoke attracts beauty…I believe I must be surrounded by some of the most beautiful women in the world right now.” They loved it…I was an instant hit…and suddenly very comfortable up there in front of all of those strangers.

What I talked about that night still to this day gets me. The story, kind of a parable, I told was not only  extremely relevant to these women but also applies today with so many people in my life right now, including myself.

I began with a question….

Holding up a crisp rupee (their form of currency) I asked if I offered it to them would they take it?

All those lovely faces smiled back up at me and bobbled their heads shoulder to shoulder in unison. (Heavenly.)

Of course they would take the free cash.

Then I crumpled up the money. I wadded it up. Unfolded it. Dropped it in the dirt at my feet and stepped on it over and over. Then i held it up again, not even dusting the grime and dirt off.

Again I asked if I offered it to them would they take it?

Again, the smiles and head bobbling.

But its dirty, and crinkled, and ugly???

Why would you want this???

A bit of confusion at first. I could see the questions in their eyes. Not sure where I was going with this. Then I added this statement:

Because it didn’t loose it’s value. 

Pause.

I went on to explain that we too are like this…no matter how wrinkled, crinkled, torn up, grimy or dirty we are we still haven’t lost our value. It will always be there no matter what.

That mysterious woman…she got it. I see her face now in my mind’s eye. To me she will always represent all of us out there who are beat down and torn apart on the inside as well as the outside. I see her face everywhere. I sense her when I talk to my dear friends who stumble on hard times. I feel her essence when I hear my own thoughts rattle through my head like that cobra I had wrapped around my throat that one amazing afternoon.

Our value will never be lost.

Even through the fires of life….smoke follows beauty.