Years ago, I was dropping a fistful of dirty silverware into the sink when my sister-in-law at the time asked what my youngest was doing outside. She pointed in the direction of the cement patio where my son was moving through a series of complicated tai chi like moves. He cupped his hands, kissed the tips of his fingers, and reached toward the sky before swopping his arms downward like two imaginary wings and landed a five-year-old warrior stance. I watched amazed and confused. He had never taken martial arts and these moves surpassed toddler yoga from preschool.
“Not sure,” I murmured, still watching.
Later when my son came inside to avoid becoming mosquito crunch and munch, I asked him about his Zen-inspired performance.
“I was calling my dragons,” he returned in his usual, matter of fact tone. “I’ve got a thousand and one is Golden.”
He then showed me the calling ritual. His body melted into soft form. He touched his heart and kissed the tips of his fingers before continuing through a series of impromptu poises. Once his summon was over, he bowed in a sign of respect. He wasn’t going to slay them and they weren’t his pets either. They were his dragons, an extension of his beautiful, bold little self.
Each time he called to these mystical beasts, the ritual changed but the grave respect and sincerity in which he moved never altered. He had become an old monk, not a five year old with ketchup on his chin.
Of course, over the next couple days, I tried to coax him into calling his dragons for others. Flattery got me nowhere. He just tilted his head, widened his eyes and whispered, “That makes me nervous.”
Thank goodness my consciousness kicked in before I started bribing with cookies. What was so extraordinary about what I witnessed was exactly why he wouldn’t do it on command. You know when you see a movie and there’s that part where the character happens upon some curious moment. A wise stranger arrives with an answer, a sword appears above a lake, or a skinny kid with round glasses runs at a brick wall and lands on an invisible train platform. Even at 45, a voice still screams inside my head, “I knew it!” in such moments, “It’s real.” That thing we can’t find words to adequately explain.
So why was I wowed at my son’s ability to summon a 1000 fire-breathing dragons? This is a kid who took a brown and orange marker and striped his entire body, transforming into a fierce tiger a week earlier. All choices are possible for him. He wants to be a tiger- bam! He is one. Want to invite forward 1000 dragons, just start calling. Whereas, I run my choices through a manufactured “be reasonable” test before acting with such thoughts, like— what will others think? Reasonable? I hope that word never finds his vocabulary. He calls in dragons because he can and that got me thinking. What have I forgotten I can do? What have I tagged with such reasonable-ness as, “I’m too old for this now; it’s way over my head, too risky or good to be true.” When did I become the actual rain on my own parade?
If I’d listened closer, in my son’s firm stance was really the question, “Do you need me to show you something you can already do too?”
And I thought, “Yes, because… most of the time, I’m too afraid to call in dragons.”
And I realized. He wasn’t afraid standing outside on a summer evening calling in his wave of fire breathers. The idea that they might be too much to handle certainly never crossed his mind either. If I announced my own iridescent blue dragon, he wouldn’t think, “How cute. I’ll have her show others her pet.” He’d just nod, ask how far my dragon could blow fire, did it fly upside down and get along with Golden ones, like his?
So I said to my son one morning. “Hey, I think I heard one of your dragons in my room last night.”
He listened intently as I described the sound of the dragon’s tail brushing against the side of my bed. Without blinking he responded, “Yay, that’s one of the babies. Sometimes they get up at night. Just send them to my room next time.”
“Yay. I will,” I returned smiling. Nothing more needed said.
At the end of Willy Wonka, the candy maker reminds, “But Charlie, don’t forget about the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted.”
The adult brain shouts, “He became lazy. He never learned to share. He lost his worth ethic. Dragons ate him.”
“He lived happily ever after.”
I guess it’s time to call in some dragons. Who knows what might just appear…
I knew I was in trouble, one past summer, when on the car ride there, my youngest asked which I wanted to ride, the Cliffhanger or Diablo. With his profound eight-year-old logic, he surmised that the Diablo probably had more turns while the Cliffhanger definitely had more drops. Suddenly, I felt compelled to warn him that bad words like the “s” one might come out of my mouth during the ride down and he should just ignore me.
“It’s ok Mom if you yell the ride is stupid. You’re old enough.”
I nodded back at his sweet innocence. This was exactly why I had agreed to go on a ride to please him.
“So which one?” he asked again.
Holding back the urge to shout, “Neither!” I said, “You choose.” Before I knew it, a teenager in red shorts and matching whistle waved us on. As I climbed into the icy spray, my son graciously opted to let me ride the Diablo which was enclosed so I wouldn’t have to see how far down I was falling. Awesome.
Had the birth canal felt like this, frightfully uncomfortable and tight? About ten seconds into the ride when the confined reality registered, thinking was not a good idea unless I wanted complete fear to take over. We’re talking, cat clawing through a screen door fear. Instead, I expelled all air from my lungs with an extended what the hell scream. Later, I relayed to my friend between coughs of swallowed water, “Well that’s one way to strip away any inhibitions or vulnerabilities you might be carrying.”
Better than Botox, in thirty minutes the tension in my forehead had dissipated. Somewhere between coughing up water, laughing and screaming at the same time as I descended the shoot, I forgot all the things I was worried about before I had climbed on. I couldn’t think of one problem as I stood there laughing by the edge of the pool, my butt cheeks definitely showing.
Suddenly up for anything, I was cutting off my eight-year-old to beat the crowds toward the next adventure. He trailed behind watching dumbfounded. Nothing could threaten my safety now. I had fallen, confined in a dark tube and it was awesome. Not in a, I really enjoyed that kind of way but more, I can’t believe I just did that and didn’t die one.
A day later, I realized holding up my head repeatedly just inches above the water had caused a serious knot in my neck but I didn’t care. The waterpark had become my new mantra. Now when fear and doubt showed up, I’d confront them with my new water park goddess chutzpah.
Generally speaking, I hate the feeling of being out of control. I’m a bit of a rule follower. When my teen friends went to toilet paper some cute boy’s house, I pretended to be attacking the nearest tree and then doubled back. Nerd, oh yes, it’s one of the many hats I’ve worn and still do.
There’s this great commercial, where this woman finds her husband wearing night vision goggles sitting in the dark guarding his favorite crackers. When she asks what he’s doing, he tells her that he’s protecting his snack from a string of various unbelievable characters including Bigfoot. She rolls her eyes and leaves when suddenly a real life yeti attacks. It makes me laugh every time. Sometimes I feel like a man in night vision goggles guarding a box of crackers. Worry is exhausting. It’s summed up best by one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
When my friends are particularly stressed, the idea of a spa weekend often comes up. Perhaps what we need is not always more quiet contemplation. Perhaps once in awhile a push out of our comfort zone is called for, no judgment at choice of roller coaster or swing, no analyzing of past wounds needed to fly down a water shoot. Just a good thrill ride for the cells. Hmmmm… a good indoor park that also offers massage…I may have to Google that?
You got this.
When you announce to the world your marriage is over, (after the apologies) the, “I had no idea,” “Is there someone else,” comes the question, “Are you dating yet?” Seasoned with a- won’t that be fun- grin. Three years later, having perfected my two minute “it’s over” story, adjusted to A LOT of change, I still hadn’t started “the dating” part. Fun? The idea of the slightest emotional involvement even in “yes” to coffee sounded not fun or scary as much as exhausting. The energy required navigating what had been coined the beautiful nightmare, gifts of internal awareness implied, had left me spent.
So where does a sudden channeling of Forest Gump, eating chocolate optimistically, finding some sweet surprise occur? Make each moment a practice in openness, I told myself one day, sucking back the eye roll before straightening my posture where I sat in my car outside an upscale grocery. Today could be different, I thought, heading in toward the ready-to-go section that drew a large lunch crowd of older professionals. Ok, cute guy waiting for sandwich, move closer, nothing, not even a glance. What about sushi…again not even a pleasant ‘excuse me’ for leaning past to grab the spicy tuna. Dairy? And then it hit, the idea that I would meet my or any someone next to ketchup, seriously? So I grabbed a pack of shrimp rolls and a Diet Dr. Pepper, and headed to check out (literally) before walking back to my car.
And that’s when it happened, attention…and from a man. Walking toward my car, an older gentleman a few yards away signaled (and really loudly), “Hey, your zipper’s down.” “Huh?” I looked in the direction he was pointing (along with others in the parking lot) and yes indeed the front of my undies were fully exposed. I smirked, not even that had helped snag a date. “Well played,” I whispered to the fate sisters above before looking him in the eye and smiling, “It is. Thanks.”
“Butterflies, Lisa, butterflies,” I sighed in my car, letting a full eye roll have at it. It was a line from my go to movie, reminding, when you stop trying so hard, the thing you desire will come. Then it hit me, that wasn’t the line. (Yes, you know it.) “Ladybugs, lots and lots of ladybugs,” I corrected, “Damn.” I snickered because in messing up, even this well-known metaphor with my usual quirky brain fart, one I so obviously needed, I had indeed made its point…again. Some times it takes a hammer, (perhaps a Nerf one) but a hammer, I mused.
Seconds later, I put my car in gear and pulled from the parking lot into stopped traffic. And cue the movie moment. On the back window of the SUV in front of me where I sat at a red stoplight was a decal of bright butterflies flying across. I just sat and stared. Swallowing a sip of Diet Dr. Pepper, tears came to my eyes and I smiled. Someone was listening.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Women’s March. At first, not wanting to take part in what I feared would be more hateful and angry banter. The kind that had caused me to stop checking my Facebook feed, something nudged so I put on a raincoat and headed out. I did want to support. I did want to go. My reluctance was not because I didn’t care. Oh, I cared. I cared so much, the overwhelming reality of it all, often paralyzed me. This was real. Children worried about parents being taken away. Uh, real. Women, I respected, justified being referred to as sex objects as just boy talk not because they thought ok, because that’s how it had always been. Uh, yes, real. So, yes I cared. I just hadn’t found my way to do something with those feeling. And I wondered how many people felt the same?
Because of traffic, I parked a few blocks away from the rally and followed the crowd. My plan, lay low behind a paper cup of Earl Grey. Just look; absorb, and silently support. So I stood on a tall wall, sipped and watched and something in me instantly softened. It wasn’t hate I felt all around me, it was, ok eye roll, love. Yes, fierce love… but love. The kind of love that says, ENOUGH not as in- revenge time– as in, this is not ok, life is sacred, life should be respected– stated in all CAPS.
I watched fathers with their daughters on their shoulders, women who like me and looked a little shy pick up their pace, and then two elderly women shuffling down the sidewalk, with signs half slant caught my eye and my throat instinctively swallowed a big gulf of gratitude. We weren’t there to defend why we had a right to exist. Many before and now do and have done this for us, I realized, feeling this different wave of responsibility as the elder couple passed. We are here to exist, in the way only women can- lovingly bold. And feeling into the power of that incoming wave, I spontaneously stepped from the wall.
Butterflies can taste with their feet. They can see ultraviolet light. Some have ears which to sense vibration and as we all know they are the supreme metaphor that transformation leads to unimaginable beauty. They weigh about as much as teaspoon of rain yet can fly for hundreds of miles.
So as I sort out and focus what to do with my feelings on any day I feel into that wave. Kindness is not a weakness and love is not just a sappy lyric in a song. And change is a quirky constant that reminds just show up, and when possible, boldly.
May you show up today and BOLDLY and let the butterflies or ladybugs or whatever needs to arrive…appear. And as you hold, open to what’s to come, a good box of chocolates never hurts.
You got this.