Category Archives: gifts

Chasing Bliss

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option." -Maya Angelou

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
-Maya Angelou

She’d been in the back of the truck outside the bar for hours. He would come out at some point, drunk. It smelled like snow was on the way, and Dahlia was cold. She had always waited in the truck; her job was to guard the truck.

It was not a loving relationship with her master. He loved his truck and beer, not her–she could be any dog.

Dahlia felt uncertain about her future as she stood in the bed of the truck, shivering. She was getting older; the situation was very predictable and never going to get better. She could have felt hopeless and full of despair, but Dahlia’s imagination was her best friend. Suddenly she was gripped by an unexpected urge that excited her so much, she almost couldn’t contain herself. So she didn’t. Dahlia looked around. The path was clear. She jumped out of the truck and ran. Dahlia felt there was a better life waiting for her, somewhere.

When her master had brought her home after picking her from the litter seven years earlier, she felt so special. She got bored when he was at work and began to chew on some things to pass the time. He was angry when he got home and found the dissected TV remote control. Then he saw the barely recognizable cowboy boot in the middle of the living room rug. He yelled at her and kicked her until she yelped in pain, before throwing her outside, forever. He didn’t understand her new teeth hurt and she was bored. Dahlia never saw the inside of the house again. He was always mean to her, even though her chewing days were long gone. He paid no attention to her other than giving her some dry food and water. He considered “play” to be taking her with him to watch the truck while he drank with his buddies. She wasn’t going to wait for him to be happy with her.

Being outside had its benefits. She heard all the dog gossip in the neighborhood. She got to chatting with the other neighborhood dogs while he was at work. Everyone had a story to tell. Walks, road trips, naps on the couch, toys and table scraps—especially the food the kids didn’t like. She discovered she had not lucked out in the lifestyle lottery. She had grown to enjoy the outdoors but would have liked to have a choice to go inside when the weather was bad. She was happy for the others—it gave her hope. She wanted to feel loved and appreciated for who she was too. She had a lot of love to offer in return.

After traveling for hours, she was thirsty, hungry, cold and exhausted. Even a bit afraid. It was getting dark. Dahlia found a nice soft place to sleep under a large bush that barely sheltered her from the chilly wind. Before she closed her eyes, she looked up at the moon. She asked that she be shown the way to a joyful life—one meant just for her.

Dahlia awoke to a light dusting of snow surrounding her. It was beautiful and very cold. Her immediate goals were water and something to eat. She walked until she reached a bay where the calm water had frozen over. She ventured out onto the smooth surface and licked the ice. She surveyed the scene, still full of exhilaration over the adventure that awaited her, but worried about food.

A small black thing bouncing through the ice distracted her. What was that little thing? She watched it bounce up, each time a cracking sound. Then, down it went. It moved rhythmically up and down through the ice again, now several yards away. She wanted to chase it, catch it and perhaps eat it! Chasing it was great fun! She never knew where it would pop up, and she became happily lost in the challenge of it all. She did not remember when she felt so blissful.

At the edge of the bay she was confused as the little black thing sped out to deeper water. She was mesmerized as it rose up, exploding out of the water in a spectacular display of power and grace. A whale! She had been chasing a whale! It crashed down into the choppy water and swam back to where she was pacing excitedly on the frozen bay. A gigantic head poked through the water.
“Hey, that was a lot of fun. I bet you weren’t expecting that! What’s your name?”
“Dahlia. I was having so much fun I lost all track of time chasing you! I even forgot how hungry I was,” she said, a little dismayed he was not food.
The whale blinked his enormous eye at Dahlia.
“Wait here,” he said.

The big head was gone. Ripples of icy water sloshed at her paws as she stood on the edge of the frozen bay. She watched the spot where he’d disappeared, having no idea what she was waiting for. Up he came with a burst, spewing a mountain of wiggling fish onto the ice for her to feast on! And feast she did, until she could hold no more. She burped.

“I’m so sorry; you have been so thoughtful and kind! Thank you for the fish. I don’t even know your name.” Dahlia hung her head in embarrassment.
“Tahi. The pleasure has all been mine. I hope we can play again soon!”

With that, he turned and disappeared under the water. Dahlia smiled as she wandered off with her bulging belly. What a difference a simple act of kindness made, she thought as she felt her spirits buoyed. Now she needed to find better shelter than the bush she’d slept under.
She spotted a grouping of rocks a short distance away and walked with new energy to investigate. As she walked around the huge, grey boulders she saw nothing that could be considered shelter. She spied a small opening near the bottom of one of the rocks. It looked barely big enough to fit her and her full tummy. She squeezed herself under it, burying her claws into the ground to pull herself inside. Dahlia was amazed to see that once inside the rocks, there was a cavern. A perfectly sheltered, hollow area where she could stand up easily and walk around. An ideal new home. She promptly turned three times, laid down and took a long nap.

Tahi and Dahlia grew very close over the months; they were inseparable. Tahi would take Dahlia for exciting rides on his back and bring her bounty from the sea. Dahlia would lick his salty face with loving kisses of gratitude. She’d run in circles on the beach, barking while he frolicked in the waves, putting on a show for her.

One night, nestled in her cavern, she was struck with how easily things started to go right, months ago. It was only when she decided she deserved better that she found better. When she followed her happiness, it grew into something unimaginable. Her happiness was her guide; it pointed where she needed to go next. All of her needs that she had worried over had been fulfilled in the most remarkable ways. She’d put forth effort, but it was enjoyable. She couldn’t explain it. She laid her head down to sleep as Tahi wished her a soulful good night off in the distance.

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

-Rumi

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The Gifts Of A Terrible Day

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it. -Mark Twain

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it.
-Mark Twain

Special note to my followers:  The very talented Cathleen Townsend, author of the recently released, ‘Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie’ has done an interview with yours truly to be released on the 17th of Dec. – Please click the link below to read: http://cathleentownsend.com/2015/12/17/interview-with-christina-barnes

Now, onto the gifts of a terrible day….

Gigi stared out over the ocean at the giant, full moon rising. The pageantry of clouds lit up, dancing slowly to the music of the evening breeze. She was ready to scream.

The same storm front had kept her in bed late that morning. It seemed cozier with the clouds, so she stayed a while longer to enjoy it. She finally arose, joyfully as usual, eager to see what the day would have in store for her. She prepared herself a ginger and celery smoothie before checking in with Gotu.

Gigi called the troop leader—her boss—Gotu. Gotu was surly, complaining about the weather and in a foul mood. He complained about everything and everyone, and he promptly assigned her a mountain of tasks that were his responsibility. So dreary and detailed they were, she doubted she would ever get through them. Gotu announced he would be playing golf and lunching with clients. Maybe if there was time they’d do a happy hour somewhere, while she covered for him, as usual.
“What a team they were!” Gotu pronounced, unconvincingly.
She felt her ears turn red as she filled with resentment.

Six hours into the first task on her list, her computer screen froze. Gigi couldn’t get it to do anything. She felt the tingle of panic rising from her feet as she realized she had not remembered to back up her work. How could she have been so careless? She frantically punched at the keyboard. But there was no magic key that would unlock the screen. The screen crashed into blackness. Six hours of work gone—poof! Gotu was going to be furious. She poured despair on top of her resentment like chocolate sauce.

She decided to leave the computer off and go to lunch. A break would do her good. She spied a cute little place she had not noticed before and thought she’d be adventurous and try it. She found a nice table with a view of the ocean. She plunked down in her seat, helped by the weight of the world on her shoulders. She observed the surrounding guests enjoying the tasty-looking dishes in front of them as she waited for her server. And she waited. She noticed a server on the other side of the patio. He was deeply involved in an animated conversation with a table of eight celebrating patrons. Surely someone would notice her sitting there with no menu, utensils or water.

More time ticked by when a whir of activity and loud voices behind her got her attention. Two of the staff were quarrelling as a glass crashed to the ground and shattered. One of them caught her staring at them, his eyes wide.
“Have you been helped sweetie?” he said, with a big, insincere smile.
Gigi raised her hands, palms up, presenting her empty table as she returned an equally fake smile. He hurriedly brought her a menu. No greeting, no water, no silver. He was gone in a flash to continue the heated discussion, now in a hushed voice. His opponent turned and walked away from him, surrendering his hands to the sky and shaking his head. Her server threw his towel down and came to take her order.
“Mediterranean salad,” Gigi blurted out before he could leave again.

The beautiful salad arrived—no silver, no dressing and nothing to drink. She looked around for him, but he was nowhere to be found. More angry and frustrated than hungry now, she pushed the salad to the center of the table, and got up and left.

With a frozen computer and no energy or inclination to start over, Gigi dubbed the work day “over.” She dragged herself up to her favorite spot on the cliff.
“I have accomplished nothing today; the day has been a total waste,” she told the ocean. She went to this same spot on the cliff often. She enjoyed sitting and meditating about her day, although today she was not sure it would do any good. It had been a terrible day. Gigi sat quietly as she thought about the day, how she had started it filled with joy.

Her stomach growled. She thought about the waiter. Her anger rose as she replayed the scene in her mind. She thought about times when she had been consumed by a conflict with someone. She admitted she was not very good at focusing on much else during those times. She thought about it and decided he’d done the best he could—he was very, very upset. After all, it had nothing to do with her—she was just caught in the crossfire.

Her mind wandered to Gotu as she took a deep breath. Gigi exploded, “How dare he dump all his work on me?”
She felt her teeth clenching and her lips lock around them. Her heart raced as she thought about her six hours of vaporized work. Nobody to blame but herself for that.
“But he threw all of his responsibilities on me while he went off to play!” she yelled at the moon. He was always doing that. He felt entitled as the troop leader to do as he pleased. She simmered in thought. She had done his work for him for so long. He probably didn’t even know how to do it himself. After all, he never had. He just looked like a troop leader. He bragged and threw his weight around; he knew how to schmooze. She thought about how much she had learned by doing his work for him. The tasks were things she never would have learned had he not had his attitude of superiority. What a gift, she decided. With all her knowledge, she would start her own troop!

As she felt the gentle breeze blow through her, her emotions became small clouds drifting through her sky of joy. They were not all of her, as she had felt earlier in the day. Yet they were all a necessary part of her. She realized each emotion, no matter how unpleasant, taught her something about herself. She needed to love and accept each one as she asked herself two questions: Why was the feeling present? And what did she need to understand to make it go away? She felt gratitude for her anger, despair, resentment and frustrations. They were replaced with compassion and an empowering enthusiasm for her new path. Tomorrow was now full of inspiring possibilities!

Her stomach growled a long rumble as she took a deep breath. She released a soft sigh and a little chuckle at the wonder of it all. Yes, this day was a gift after all.

These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them.

-Rumi

SKYVAC 1.1

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." -Nora Ephron

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
-Nora Ephron

Lola sat on one of the intake ramps of the SKYVAC 1.1. She sipped her wine as she stared at the culprit, the murderous intake facilitator. She was a failure. All she could feel was the intake sucking her dreams out of her. She felt all her fear and anxiety rush in to fill the void. Ten years of her life a waste—a failure. The test cities, New Delhi and Beijing, wanted nothing to do with her now.

She had invented the SKYVAC 1.1. It was a sophisticated vacuum cleaner for the sky. It was intended to float above the world’s cities with the dirtiest air, quietly sucking in polluted air and expelling clean and filtered air out the other end. Thinking she had considered everything, she had forgotten the birds. Curious birds were sucked in too. Not good. Now she had P.E.T.A. on her back. The self-flagellation continued to chatter in her head as she stared at the intake. How could she have been so stupid?
Lola thought aloud, “Who decided it was a failure?”
“Everyone,” she answered.

Something nagged at her though. It was that “don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater” thing. The rest of SKYVAC 1.1 worked perfectly. She looked heavenward.
“Some help for the bird murderer, please?”

It was all Lola could think of, as a tear rolled down her cheek. Everything sucked everything.
She took another sip of wine and watched a small bird land on the rim of the intake. A moment later, a larger bird landed on the other side of the rim, scaring the little bird off. Lola froze. Her mind raced. She was able to picture exactly how to make the SKYVAC 1.1 into a giant bird! It would have giant flapping wings that would scare the birds. They’d never want to come near it in the first place! She had to do this! She prayed they would give her another chance once they saw it.

A few months later, the ArgentaVac 1.2 was born. Named after the largest known pre-historic bird ever to exist, the Argentavis. It had a wing span of 25 feet and weighed about 200 pounds. She invited the reluctant and doubtful clients to the hanger and was grateful for another chance.

Their jaws dropped in unison as she rolled the concealing screen to the side, revealing the enormous bird. They were speechless; she couldn’t tell if they loved it or hated it.
“Say something,” Lola said under her breath.
Beijing smiled and nodded in the affirmative, saying, “This is brilliant, it will work!”
Pretty soon New Delhi was smiling too. “This will be something tourists will come to see—and it will not only clean the air, but it will help our economy too!”

Lola let out the breath she’d been holding. She breathed deeply and smiled along with them.
Word spread quickly, as orders from dirty cities all over the world poured in. Everyone wanted the spectacle of the giant bird flying over their city, cleaning the air and delighting children. It wasn’t long before it was ironically nicknamed the Bird Fart. F-resh, A-ir, R-elease, T-ransformer.

One evening, as she lay in bed, she thought about her supposed “failure.” She was sorry for the birds that were lost. She saw the whole story in a way that boggled her mind. Birds had ended her life as she’d dreamed it would be. Then, birds also led her to an inspired new and better life, for everyone. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was not a failure after all, but merely a direction correction. She never would have come up with the ArgentaVac 1.2 had the SKYVAC 1.1 not been such a ghastly experience. What if she had quit then and there?

As she lay there thinking, it occurred to her that the most significant lesson in all of this had been when she had surrendered and asked for help. Then she watched the answer come to her, as if on the wings of birds.

“Remember your dreams and fight for them.  You must know what you want from life.  There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

-Paulo Coelho

Castle Of Love

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab life by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
-Maya Angelou

Sophia watched as he kicked over the spire she had just carefully crafted for her sand castle of love. Bradley was getting her back for telling him he wasn’t doing it the way she wanted it to be done. He’d asked if she would teach him to build by letting him help her. Then, as soon as he got a shovel in his hand, he was directing the whole project without a clue on how to do it.
“I wish I could push you off a cliff!” Bradley said. He folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip.
“I’m firing you from my Castle of Love Club,” Sophia said glumly. She watched as Bradley threw down his shovel and trundled down the beach, his pants full of sand and falling down. She found the whole thing ironic.

Sophia resolved to build her castle of love by herself to herself. Dressed in her pink party dress now wet and covered with sand, she got to work. She worked tirelessly, hoping to finish it before the tide came in. As she went for more water to fill her bucket she began to worry that the tide would wash it away before she could finish. If only she hadn’t wasted so much time trying to train Bradley…but everything happens for a reason, she supposed. Poor Bradley, she thought. He just didn’t get it. Maybe someday he will build his own castle of love.

As the water inched up the beach, she found herself deeper and deeper. At first she didn’t believe she saw what she saw. She dismissed it as a sort of choppy water shadow. But then there was no mistaking it. It was a big, slick bald head, with whiskers and dark soulful eyes, looking right at her. Sophia’s first reaction was to scream.
“Please, don’t be frightened! I’m so sorry; there is no other way to come up for air other than to just pop up!”
Sophia shook her head in agreement, not taking her eyes off the seal.
“Hey, nice castle. My name is Lilo. Yours?”
“Thanks Lilo. I’m Sophia. I’m sorry for screaming.”
“Can I help you finish this before the tide comes in? You will need to train me, but I’m a good student.”
Sophia took a few minutes to show Lilo what he needed to do, and placed Bradley’s little blue shovel in his mouth. He proved to be invaluable and had such a supportive attitude. He worked fast and was able to pat down the sand quickly with his strong foreflippers. They had built a magnificent castle of love—it was even more beautiful than she’d imagined it.

Lilo was so excited to be involved in the project that he wanted to do it again. They agreed to meet again, and again, and again. Within a short time, they were a team. Hotels advertised them as a “must see” attraction. Soon beach walkers came from all around to see the amazing castles built by Sophia and Lilo. They threw money in their little red bucket which she’d then split, buying fish for Lilo with his half.

The two built castles daily for the tourists to enjoy, and they grew very close. Each inspired the other to try new and more imaginative challenges. Sophia felt her life was very full, and she cherished her friendship with Lilo. Lilo was very protective of Sophia and once chased Bradley down the beach. Bradley discovered them one day building the most ambitious castle yet. It had motes and a drawbridge, and was very, very tall. Bradley told them the castle was ugly and they would die dumb from building dumb, ugly castles. That was enough for Lilo, who barked while chasing after Bradley as he cried in fear, running down the beach, and peeing his pants.

Sophia lay in an almost overflowing bath of bubbles. It had been a particularly profitable day. She thought about how determined she had been to build her castle of love, by herself. Not until then did she attract others who were supportive and wanted to help.

So, for now, young Sophia found it was easier to train a seal to help build her castle of love, than it was to train a boy.

Arabian Dreams

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint- and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the Universe to lead you." -Oprah Winfrey

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint- and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the Universe to lead you.”
-Oprah Winfrey

She felt the ice cream melting through her mane. The little boy incessantly kicked her ribs and shouted, “Giddy-up stupid!” Another child pulled on her tail repeatedly with a sticky, blue candy hand.
Tourists.
The Arabian Dreams Ranch was a tourist trap. A miserable life. Walking in the hot sun, carrying overweight, beer-soaked tourists and their screaming, unruly children. Seven days a week. Piper was far from her dream life, a life of meaning.

One evening, after all the tourists had returned to their hotels, Piper did as she usually did. She watched the ranch hand shut things down. She watched as he swigged his beer covertly from a brown bag, getting a jump on the Friday night festivities. She watched him drop his keys in the dirt as he was going to lock the gate. As he picked up his keys, his cell phone rang and he quickly broke into a smile. He spoke in a very suggestive and lovie-dovie tone with the person calling. Piper looked on as he anxiously headed off to his truck. He tossed the empty beer and bag into the truck bed, got in barely closing the door, and drove off. He’d left the gate unlocked.

It didn’t take Piper long to realize she had an opportunity. She wandered over to the gate, nudged it with her nose until she could fit through. She ran like she had 20 zombie tourist children chasing her. Freedom was sweet. She ran into the woods where she would have some cover from being seen.

Piper spent the night under a big, twisted tree near a stream. In the morning, once the sun was on the stream, she waded into the water. She washed all the sticky mess from her mane and tail, and she felt rejuvenated with excitement for her future. She knew deep down it would have to lead to her dream—a meaningful life. She followed the stream the better part of the day. Until it flowed under a wall of jagged rocks and into the ocean. As she hiked the treacherous rocks, doubt that she could continue crept into her thoughts. She worried as she stared at a huge hole in the rocks where the waves crashed through with enormous power. She admitted to herself she was trapped. Piper wondered if looking for a life of meaning wasn’t possibly the most stupid thing she’d ever done.

She closed her eyes and let the powerful spray cool her down, as she slowly started to panic. “What am I going to do? How will I ever get out of here?” She was exhausted, and talking to herself seemed a logical next step. She closed her eyes. An unusual flapping sound made her open them. She marveled at what must have been a five-foot wingspan, belonging to a most exotic looking bird.

“You look very forlorn. Can I help? By the way, I’m Lourdes.” She circled around Piper and waited.
“I’m afraid I’m lost and worse yet, trapped. I don’t know how to get out of here. The sea and rocks are too rough for me now, and I don’t know where to go.” Piper babbled on in her exhaustion, telling Lourdes all about the Arabian Dreams nightmare. She told her how she was looking for a life of meaning. Lourdes listened patiently, occasionally nodding understandingly. Piper watched Lourdes take a spiral path upwards, then widen her circle back down to where Piper was stuck.

“No worries. Follow me. But it’s going to get harder before it gets easier…”
Piper followed Lourdes, one step at a time over the uneven, slick terrain. She did a slight backtrack over the rocks, taking a sharp turn and going down to the left. Finally, she hovered over a narrow opening, a cave in the rocks. “I’ll wait for you on the other end. Be careful!” The giant wings effortlessly lifted her up, and Lourdes was gone.

Piper struggled to fit herself through the narrow opening. She walked over the smoother but slippery rocks inside the cave. The damp smell filled her nostrils as she could hear the muffled crashing of the relentless sea. She was very focused as she slowly navigated her way through the darkness. It seemed like it would never end, until finally, she could see light. She stayed focused on the light, and as she exited the cave she found herself on a sandy beach. A choppy shoreline lapped at her hooves. There was Lourdes circling around, waiting for her.

“I can’t begin to thank you enough, I don’t know what …” Piper quit talking as she watched Lourdes fly away. She swooped up and went high into the sky and was gone. Piper looked out over the beach at the small structures dotting the shoreline. She spotted a very pale little girl with a scarf on her head. She was walking towards her. She was carrying something. A woman all dressed in green followed behind, carrying their shoes. Piper’s gut told her to stay put. As the little girl approached, Piper could see she had a plastic bag with slices of apples and carrot sticks. As she reached Piper, she attempted to gently pet Piper’s neck. But the woman shouted to her, warning her not to touch the horse. She ignored her and opened the bag, giving Piper a carrot stick. Piper forgot how hungry she was and happily accepted. The little girl seemed to not have much energy. When the woman reached them, she told the girl to rest on a nearby rock. Piper followed the apples and carrots to the rock. The girl smiled at her as she pushed another carrot stick to her muzzle.

“I bet the other kids would like to pet her too. She seems nice. Maybe we can keep her!” said the girl.
“I’m sure she belongs to someone who is missing her. She’s so pretty,” said the woman.
Piper continued to eat from the girls palm as she giggled and kept a steady stream of carrots and apples coming. Piper thought this was the sweetest child in the world. The woman stroked Piper’s neck as she told the girl they needed to get back to the hospital. She agreed to take her back and said they would take care of her while they tried to find the owner.

Piper followed them up the beach to the building. There were several children sitting outside on the patio, also wearing scarves. They all smiled at once, and rushed onto the beach to see the horse.

As the weeks went on Piper gave rides to the sick children and made them laugh. They adored her, and she loved making them happy. The woman was unable to get any response on her efforts to find the owner of Piper. After two months, she finally gave up. Much to Piper’s relief.

One evening as Piper was watching the sun set over the ocean, she thought about the significant events in her life. About how she had gotten her sense of adventure and courage from the herd of wild horses she ran with. That was before getting separated and ending up at Arabian Dreams. She thought about how her life had tracked in a way she never could have imagined. She needed to be captured and have the horrible experiences with the tourists. While both were dreadful experiences, now she was grateful for them. She would not have known how to give rides to the sick kids. As she connected the dots of her life, she realized how everything led to her ultimate happiness, a meaningful life.

And Lourdes…she showed up out of nowhere to help, with eerily perfect timing. Perhaps she was somehow being prepped for this by something larger than herself? She wondered.

A Burden, A Gift, A Purpose

“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” -Golda Meir

Daisy stretched and turned to the skin she’d just left behind. As she let out a little cough, a tiny spark escaped, much to her surprise. She watched as her exuvia shriveled and burned, fell off the stem and onto the surface of the murky swamp.
What an interesting thing to be able to do, Daisy thought. She wondered if all the dragonflies could spark. She quickly discovered they could not, and she wondered why she could. I enjoy it, but of what good is it? I don’t see that the other dragonflies can spark; I don’t like to be different. They might not like me if they knew, she lamented to herself. Daisy decided things were not off to a good start. Best to keep it to herself so she would fit in. It wasn’t long before she discovered she actually loved to spark! She started to make excuses to go off alone so she could singe small things.

One day Daisy was on the swamp practicing burning little leaves, giggling with delight. She heard someone say, “My, what a gift!” She detected a smile in the voice. She looked around and saw nobody.
“Where are you? Who are you?” Daisy asked, looking up into the trees and scanning the swamp. “And why is this a gift?” she added.
A giant scaly and bumpy head arose from the swamp.
“I’m Adora.”
Adora was a most captivating, white crocodile.
“It’s a gift because I see it gives you so much joy. Everyone has a gift, but some go through their entire lives never knowing what it is.”
“What am I supposed to do with it?” Daisy asked.
“Like any gift, you share it to give others joy as well.”
Daisy thought about it.
“But I’m afraid to show the other dragonflies. I won’t fit in anymore.”
“I’m sorry, but you don’t have a choice if you want to have a happy life. Have gratitude for your unique gift. It is part of the puzzle that will help lead you to what your life purpose is.”
Adora smiled sympathetically.
“But who cares about a spark? I mean, it’s pretty cool and everything…” Daisy trailed off, confused.
Adora rolled her eyes and said, “You nurture it. You see what makes it flourish and thrive. You may combine it with other talents, desires or life experiences, and when you’re ready, you share it with the world! No need to be afraid—everyone has a gift. Be grateful for yours. Some will appreciate your gift and some won’t. It doesn’t matter as long as it makes you happy and gives you great joy. Now, go practice and don’t worry about how it will work out. If you get all caught up figuring out the details, you won’t do anything, which you will deeply regret.”

Adora’s big smiling head was gone, sinking under the soupy, green water.
Inspired, Daisy went off to a private area of the swamp to practice. She ate a variety of swamp delicacies to see if they made any difference, but no, still just a little spark. She found when she was tired or frustrated she just couldn’t spark at all.
After much trial and error, she’d hit upon the magic formula.

First, she needed to be really excited about what she was going to burn. She found if she vibrated her wings to create heat, the spark became a torch! She discovered a talent for architecture. She gathered small twigs and built elaborate floating castles which she then sent into a spectacular blaze of glory.
“Now, this is a wonderful gift!” she said.

She went off to find Adora and show her.
“Bravo!” cheered Adora, as she gave Daisy a big, toothy grin. “Now how will you be of service to others with your special gift?”
Daisy was proud of how hard she’d worked and persevered…but also a little dismayed that she wasn’t quite there yet.
“What if I fill the castle with something? I assume I’ll have a group watching. What if I have everyone write down something they want out of their lives on a scrap of paper? Maybe they put down relationships, situations or just something that pisses them off. Whatever they think no longer serves a purpose in their life. Then they drop it into the castle, and I torch it! How cathartic that would be! But how do I share it with the world?”
Daisy’s mind was racing.

Adora had many contacts in the entertainment industry from before her retirement to the swamp. She winked at Daisy, “Baby bug, you’re ready for Vegas!”

Awesome

“Dying seems less sad than having lived too little.”
-Gloria Steinem

Lila tossed and turned in the poppies. Finally, after an hour of staring at the moon, she rolled over, opened her book and tried to read. But Lila couldn’t focus. Not so deep down anymore, feelings of dread struggled to the surface. She knew what she had to do, and she begged for the timing to feel right.

How had her life gotten away from her? How did she have a job she hated and a lazy, unsupportive mate? Working for Awesome Life, Corp. was depressing. They bought life insurance policies from those who were dying so they could cash them in, sooner rather than later. She was Head Field Investigator. Her job was to check in from time to time to see how the clients were doing. She felt predatory and cold.

Company policy was strictly enforced. When anyone was asked, “How are you doing?” “How do you feel about the company?” or, “How was your weekend?” they were to reply, “Awesome!” Or they would be fired immediately. She hated it. Compensation was excellent, and she felt guilty for feeling ungrateful. Her mate was unsupportive of her quitting, as he had no intention of working, ever.

One day she was checking in to see if her young client might die soon. She was shocked to find him swimming laps in the pool. Her files indicated he should have been on life support or receiving hospice care by that time. She had not seen him in six months.
“Hi, how are you? So sorry to just pop in like this—I hope I’m not interrupting…” Lila watched him emerge from the pool with all the energy and musculature of an Olympic athlete. Giving her a huge grin, he replied, “I’m awesome!” He laughed.
Lila laughed along as if she’d never heard it before. “You look good—so healthy,” she said with mixed emotions.

“Thank you,” he said, still beaming at her. “I’ve made a full recovery since our last meeting. There is no sign of disease anywhere in my body—it’s all gone. Isn’t that amazing?”
Suddenly Lila felt a change come over her; she felt his happiness, and she actually was happy for him. “Yes, that is amazing. What changed?” Lila asked, genuinely interested.

“Well, I found myself at a crossroads without much time to choose. I fast-forwarded my thoughts to me on my deathbed, one day in the not so distant future. I wondered what I’d regret once it was all over. The answer came so fast and so simply. I was going to regret never using my gifts to make a difference for others. I worked at a job that paid well, but I hated it. My relationship was over a long time ago, and that was how I would die. In a sea of regret over the two things I spent the majority of my life doing. I would regret not living my life. Doing what gives me joy instead of doing what others think I should do. So I quit. I ended my terrible relationship where I felt used and abused, and I started my own business. I now do what I love and make others smile.”

He wrapped a towel around himself, and she followed him into the house. Her nostrils filled with the most soothing scent. She watched as he pulled a tray off of a rack and proudly handed Lila a gorgeous, chocolate butterfly, its wings resplendent and artfully decorated with tiny, ornate and delicate designs.

“This is a work of art,” Lila said, sheepishly taking a bite out of one of the wings. It melted in her mouth as chocolate and orange did a succulent dance on her tongue. Lila closed her eyes and smiled.

He continued. “I’m making more money now than I ever dreamed of, but that’s not the point. I’m doing what I love, so it doesn’t feel like work at all. But what I didn’t expect was how good I would feel about myself for taking action before it was too late. As I felt better and better, I felt a shift: I love being me—all of me, unconditionally. All my life, every person, every event, was perfect in what I learned. It all prepared me for what I needed to know, to be here now, doing this. The doctors are baffled. Three weeks after starting my business, my symptoms vanished. Sure there are some struggles, but they are small compared to watching others feel good by me sharing what makes me feel good. I feel I have a purpose for being alive—it all makes sense.”

Lila felt like a mirror was being held up for her to see her own life in his, only she didn’t like what it was reflecting. It was everything that kept her up at night. Everything she knew she had to do but needed the faith and courage to do it. Right there, she decided she would do what he did—and before it was too late. She too felt a shift of exhilaration fill her as she saw her current struggle with new eyes. She felt powerful as she thought about going back to the office and seeing how “awesome” they thought his story was.
And then she would quit.

They talked for a long time before she left with two more chocolate butterflies in her briefcase. Lila was excited about the idea of living a life created especially for her, by her.

She arrived at the office late, having spent a beautiful afternoon with someone living rather than dying. Sitting down across from her boss and his “Yes, sir” assistant, she told them the client’s story. She watched their faces drop at his good fortune. Then she told them that she would be leaving to open her own sleep disorder clinic.
“Isn’t that awesome?” she added, smiling as she walked out the door.

As she arrived home to find her mate sleeping in the sun, she calmly informed him she’d quit. She listened to him go into a rage that carried on well into the night. Oddly, she felt so utterly calm inside—like she would be fine because she was finally doing the right thing for herself. After he calmed down, she told him it was over. She realized it was a lesson that needed no further teaching. She got it.

As she wandered out to her poppy field she could still hear him. She slept fitfully for 10 hours. Life really was awesome.

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life.”

-Maya Angelou