Today the universe is sending winged messengers bearing exigent communiqués and missives–it will not be ignored. It’s message is strong and urgent. It seems to be demanding, in an impassioned and loving manner, “Love yourself.” Or in Shakespeare’s parlance, “To thine own self be true.” The universe speaks in flowery form, to be sure.
I am neither religious nor particularly spiritual–my spirituality comes from truly recognizing what is beautiful in the world and cherishing it. But even I can appreciate it when the universe sends couriers to beat upon the door of my consciousness.
Believe it or not, I’m still having difficulties. It’s not that I don’t expect to be melancholy at times. It takes time to mend after concluding a relationship. No, my challenge consists of pouring love into myself–in the form of spending time with friends who will hug me and encourage me and dry my tears, and in being loving and nurturing towards myself.
So today the universe knocked on my door three times–more like beat the door down. The first time, I was at work at my lovely little job that I adore more with each passing day. Yesterday I learned that over the weekend, the owners’ two-month-old-baby had been hospitalized with RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection and bronchiolitis. That didn’t surprise me, because the baby usually comes to the gym with his mother while his father coaches team practice, and his cough sounded unnatural to me, in terms of everyday coughs. Erina* and I had even talked about RSV when I saw them last. Needless to say they spent a difficult weekend with the baby at the hospital, when their older child also became ill. Now they have a sick two-year-old and the baby is home on oxygen.
I recall from early days with my children how terrifying it is to have a child and how tired you get from being up at night with them. It’s hard to get a healthy meal together under these circumstances. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it yesterday, but my mind clicked into gear today, and after I finished the morning duties, I set up a dinner rotation and made calls. By the time I left work, I had volunteers scheduled to bring dinner to the family for the next ten days. It occurred to me later that I’m still in my probationary/training period there, and this could be construed as sucking up. Pfft. So be it. It’s part of my belief system to help people in need–period. The kids on team at the gym practice three, four, and sometimes five days each week, and their parents are very active in the foundation that takes care of the myriad of details related to having kids in competition. If it were me, I’d want to help. So all I really did was give them a vehicle by which to do so.
I came home and made a big pot of tortilla soup as part of my contribution for tomorrow’s dinner, also making enough for myself to last for several days. When we help others, we help ourselves also–not only are we allowed to be of service, which is an honor, but we get to feel good about ourselves in doing so. And then there is something about switching gears and in turn nurturing yourself that feels so right when you are careworn. Giving to yourself nutritionally, particularly with soup, is so amazingly loving and…well…generous. I don’t feel that way when I make other foods. I guess to me, soup is that beautiful-mother-love-care-and-devotion-that-you-want-when-you’re-ill food. Of course, I’m not ill, but spiritually and emotionally, I’m a bit ragged around the edges. And it’s up to me to love myself back to health.
My second cosmic reminder to appreciate my own unique inner light came from…you guessed it! My horoscope! Rob Brezny is always there to prod me in the right direction should I stray.
Nobel Prizes are awarded to geniuses in a variety of fields for work they’ve done to elevate science and culture. But have you heard of Ig Nobel Prizes? The Annals of Improbable Research hands them out to eccentrics whose work it deems useless but amusing. For instance, one recipient was honored for investigating how impotency drugs help hamsters recover quickly from jet lag. Another award went to engineers who developed a remote-control helicopter to collect whale snot. In 2000, physicist Andre Geim won an Ig Nobel Prize for using magnetism to levitate a frog. Unlike all of his fellow honorees, however, Geim later won a Nobel Prize for his research on a remarkable substance called graphene. I think you’ll soon have a resemblance to him, Cancerian. Some of your efforts will be odd and others spectacular; some will be dismissed or derided and others will be loved and lauded.
It’s a little difficult being different, sometimes. The 1950’s was a time of conformity. Men (and some women) had just returned from WWII and were taking back the jobs that women held while they were gone, and traditional roles were reaffirmed. Television was homogenizing the American public by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns. McCarthyism made it dangerous to be different–it wasn’t just a suborning of political claims–it was also a social and cultural phenomenon. In the 1960’s, the rebellion against this constricting conformity took root, but Americans in the 1950’s were fairly entrenched in it. My parents didn’t become hippies in the 60’s–I grew up with 50’s parents. I don’t really have much of a feeling for this, but I believe, as a child, my parents had a strong expectation that I would conform.
Loving someone who is different can be scary too. Often we want our loved ones–children, friends, and lovers– to be somewhat like us because we believe we may understand them better that way, and be better understood. When we have common interests, we count on them to carry us through when appreciation is taking a beating.
My son describes me as “counter-culture” and I believe I understand myself this way also. There is nowhere this is as readily apparent as on Facebook. I am a Midwesterner, but I am not Republican–I am a bleeding heart liberal. I am not Christian, I regard the Bible as creation mythology. I don’t watch television–ever–and I get my news from NPR. So I guess counter-culture is a pretty good label, if I have to have one. But when I see myself, I see a person, a human being first. My heart beats just like any other person’s. I laugh, cry, feel, love, think, and do all of the regular things most people do.
That is not to say I’m not pretty zany sometimes. Not everyone appreciates that, but not everyone has to. I do get strange looks sometimes when I tell people that while my children haven’t been to Disney World, they have been to the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. You probably know all of the Disney princesses, but what do you know about Mike?
Back during WWII, Farmer Olson of Fruita, Colorado, was going out to the chicken coop to pick a young rooster for Sunday dinner. His mother-in-law had a fondness for the neck, so when he chose Mike and put him on the chopping block, he thought to make the cut leaving as much of the neck as possible. Poor Mike lost his head. Then he got up. Dazed and confused, and tried to peck at the ground. Having no head, it was downright impossible. So Farmer Olson begin feeding him by putting corn down his gullet and giving him water with an eyedropper. Mike survived his beheading and went on to make Farmer Olson a fortune. He was shown at county fairs across the country garnering a quarter for each peek and even had a $10,000 life insurance policy. Every year in Fruita they remember Mike’s extraordinary will to live (he lived for 18 months without a head) by commemorating his life with a festival. There are lots of activities like a marshmallow peep eating contest and run like a chicken with your head cut off 1K and 5K races. Now doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than Disneyland?
I appreciate “different.” I love all the forms that “different” takes. I love it that not everyone is like me. And I love my friends who are “different.” I love the richness they bring to my life. And I hope that they appreciate the same in me. Which brings me to my third reminder to love myself as I am, which came in the form of a Facebook posting from a former publishing colleague. Please devote the ten minutes it takes to watch this video, you’ll find it worth it. Then share it with someone who might be feeling a little lonely, a little down, or a little different. Its aim is the GLBT community, but its message of hope, “It gets better,” is for everyone.
1.) My children, it is my hope that you have an intense love affair with yourselves.
2.) My friend P., who makes being different an art form.
3.) Those of my relatives who may not necessarily understand me, but who love me anyway.
4.) Pennie and Lady who don’t give a crap if I’m different or not.
5.) Mike, the Headless Chicken.