11 2009

When did I quit skipping?

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I used to skip all the time. Next to running, it was my favorite mode of transportation. Whether I was singing, whistling, or humming; wherever I went, whoever I was with, all the while I was skipping.

Then one day I just stopped and I can’t remember when or why.

I didn’t skip because my world was ok. My world was ok because I skipped. I was living in a river of joy and I knew that for this one moment, I could choose to skip. I could choose to celebrate. I could enjoy what was right in front of me. I found delight in skipping alone, but more so when I skipped with others. I remember holding hands with girlfriends during recess, heading to class, to the bus, in the neighborhood, at the library, to the ice cream shop, at church. Everywhere was a skipping zone. I couldn’t have cared less what others thought of me. Why they weren’t skipping, never crossed my mind. Nor did I concern myself with what they thought of my gleeful steps. Part of what I remember is that it was just part of my nature. There are days that my memory of skipping is like a memory of another life, because it seems so long ago.

Do you have any of those kind of childhood memories?

In Brenning Manning’s book, The Importance of Being Foolish” [associates link] he says, ” to become a little child again (as Jesus encouraged we must) is to recapture a sense of surprise, wonder and vast delight in all of reality.

So when did I quit skipping? When did a nap become a guilty pleasure – or dreaming become something only children and the foolish do? I would love to think that I am over what people think and especially what people think of me. I profess to be and yet I dare not skip, lest someone will talk, or stare, or giggle, or whisper, or smirk, or even gossip.

Enough already! Let the skipping begin!

Today I saw a little girl dressed in a black sweater with a pink heart on the front, white tights with a pink skirt and purple rain boots. She was skipping with her mother. But her mother wasn’t skipping… at first. She was walking while her daughter skipped. The mother was being pulled by the little girl’s sheer will. Every once in a while the mom would speed up or have to slow down to keep pace. Then finally the mom gave in and she began to skip as well. They smoothly rounded the corner of the building and out of my sight. The best part of watching the two of them was the whole time the girl was yelling at the top of her 3 year old lungs, “Yea! Yea! Yea!”

What is it in your life that makes you yell yea! When was the last time you lost yourself in joy, you let go? How can you and I get back there?

In Terry Hershey’s book The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less [associates link] he writes, “We live in a world that urges us to admire and pursue whatever is faster, whatever is newer, and whatever is bigger – the underlying idea being that we should be living a different life, not the one we’re living now. We are wired to be present. We are built to honor the senses. We are created to be attentive, or literally just be. But somewhere along the way, life chokes the music and poetry out of us.” Terry is always a wonderful reminder for me of what is important.

Maybe we could live in the present- unburdened by regret over the past or anxiety about the future. But it means letting go of control — control over things that we cannot change and taking responsibility to change those we can. For every year that passes, I can better appreciate the power of the simple wisdom of the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Living that prayer in a daily framework helps me to live in the present moment, allows me to embrace what is before me and maybe even frees me to skip along the way.

We can also be grateful for what we have — the hands we hold, the gifts we have in our lives, the lessons learned along the way (even the hard ones).

I love that the little girl did not care if her mother skipped. She continued to travel in her chosen way and let her mom walk at her pace. All the while she wooed her to share in a moment of joy. She put into words her thankfulness-“yea!” We can too — in a whispered prayer, when I tell a friend, “I like you and I love you,” when I accept and embrace others unconditionally and I realize the gift they are in my life. I can tell you how loved you are by my baking my aunt Rosemary’s Mac and Cheese and dropping it off one afternoon. That’s one way I say yea! I can write a note to a mom that I was brief with in the hall one day. I can tell her honestly, “I was distracted that day–you tried to talk to me and I had other things on my mind. It’s not my best self and yes there is a time we can get together and grab a moment to get to know each other over lunch or coffee.” To be honest, it’s hard to send notes like that one. But I can tell you of the joy that followed in a simple email from that mom that said, “thanks for your note, it meant a lot and I look forward to getting to know you as well.”

All of these things I do, except some days I don’t. Like the good Dr. Seuss in his great book of wisdom, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” [associates link] – “You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t, because, sometimes you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but sadly it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.”

Some days I get it. I realize the biggest in life are ironically the small things. We can throw our arms around today with a warm embrace, knowing peace, and pain, presence and distraction, love and fear. We can trust that we are enough, that today is enough and that tomorrow will be enough.

A few years ago my friend Jessica, who was in college at the time, let me look at a journal she kept as a youth. (shout out to Jess who moved to L.A. to work with a non-profit urban ministry – last month she came to hear me sing at California Lutheran College and hug my neck). I lead several retreats for her youth group and we had had many conversations about life, loss, faith and faithfulness. One quote in her journal caught my eye “Life is a vapor and we must understand that tomorrow isn’t a promise, it’s a gift.” I quickly said, “I love that. Who said it?” She smiled and said, “look at the bottom of the page.” At the bottom of the artwork under the quote were these words, “Celia Whitler – 4/26/06”

Ok, so I need to be reminded about what I believe is true and about the way I want to live my life. So today friends, today, I’m gonna laugh a little more. I’m gonna let my boys talk me into one more game before bed. I’m gonna sit with a little longer with a friend while a couple of cups of coffee steam in front of us. I’m gonna watch the trees turning fall colors. I might even permit myself to break into a skip! Join me.

I’ll close with these words from Mother Teresa

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.”


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