Category Archives: “life lessons”

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

The Forest Cats

"When the solution is simple, God is answering." -Albert Einstein

“When the solution is simple, God is answering.”
-Albert Einstein

As Lulu stared into the stars, she knew her life would never be the same.

The day started out with the other forest cats in Lulu’s tribe arguing amongst themselves.
Who was the best looking? Who had the best lair? Who had the best stash of dead mice and birds for the coming winter?

In truth, they were all fearful of sickness or a storm that could destroy it all. Lulu quickly tired of the bickering and boasting. She wondered why she could not muster the interest to join in. They always had more than enough to feast on every winter. Everyone was unique-looking, as was their skill set at hunting and lair building. It was quite pointless. Why was the tribe always trying to be separate from each other? They were never satisfied. Their strength was in working together, using all their different talents.

“Is there more to existence than this?” Lulu asked.
Nobody heard her. She felt she was having something akin to a dark night of the soul.

Lulu became restless and started to wander off for some solitude. A pale blue flash caught her eye. It looked like a rabbit. It ran like a rabbit. It stopped and watched her with the most unusual and penetrating sapphire blue eyes. Unlike any rabbit she’d ever seen. She took off after it. The rabbit hop-skipped a narrow rutted path ahead of her. Every so often he would stop and turn back to look at her, teasing, to make sure she was following. She was, and felt a little silly with her head low, crouching, moving slowly and deliberately. He was in charge, not her. He wanted her to follow him. Lulu had every intention of doing just that.

As he ran into the nearby open field he took off at an unworldly pace. Effortlessly, he floated through the field. She tried her best to keep up, with the tall, dry field grass whipping her face. She never took her eyes off him. Then he suddenly stopped. He turned back to look at her with those magnetic eyes. She stopped in her tracks as she watched him become a tiny tornado of swirling blue light. Moments later, he dissolved from the bottom up.

She rushed to the spot only to find a typical rabbit hole. She wasn’t sure what just happened, but she was sure it happened.

She moved closer to the hole and cautiously peeked down into it. She felt a vastness drift through her—as though she were pure energy, her body gone. She stared in amazement as the entire universe stared back, drawing her further into its eternity.

“Everything is upside down.”

Words tumbled into her consciousness, as if they were not her own—but yet they were. Lulu listened, purring with excitement and anticipation. It was as if some other consciousness was downloading information into her mind, yet it was familiar.

“The others are living from the outside in. Perceiving they never have enough. Looking for happiness in more of the same, which keeps them in a state of lack. Their egos are never satisfied. There is never, ever, going to be enough to fill the emptiness inside. The only thing that fills the emptiness is my love. Through my love, you learn to love yourself—your uniqueness and the uniqueness of everyone around you. Look inside—not outside—for a love like no other. No matter how many mice and birds you have, no matter what you look like, or where you live…I will always love you.”

Silence.

As Lulu stepped back from the hole, she was purring at a deafening volume. She was suddenly aware of her surroundings, the soft dirt under her paws. She inhaled the gentle breeze, gazing up at the beautiful white clouds drifting overhead. She felt awash with a sense of comfort, a joy on a level she had never experienced. She could not wait to get back to the tribe to tell them of her adventure and bring them all to see and experience the hole!

“Come quick, everyone!” Lulu shouted as she got within earshot, closing in on the still bickering tribe. “I have to show you, everything is going to be okay, I can’t even explain it, but it will change everything!”

All being curious, they jumped up and followed her out to the field. She stood over the hole and said, “Go ahead; you have to look inside.” She waited for someone to step forward. Nobody seemed to want to look inside.

One by one the forest cats started laughing. Pretty soon they were all joined in laughing and rolling on the ground. “Look inside!” someone would shout and they’d all laugh again hysterically. Lulu didn’t understand they couldn’t see the hole.

They all wandered back to camp, enjoying the joke. Lulu tagged behind while they chanted “Look inside, look inside,” laughing anew, and never tiring of the ridicule. Finally one forest cat turned to her and said, “You’ve gone mad. I sincerely hope you do not become a burden and drain our resources.”

Lulu felt an unwavering security within herself that whatever happened, she would be fine. She didn’t understand the reaction of the tribe at all; she thought they’d be excited.

Bebe was a quiet forest cat, older—and mostly she kept to herself. Even during the recent commotion she steered clear. Lulu watched as Bebe sauntered up to her.
“I was wondering when someone else would discover the hole,” she said purring loudly and smiling at Lulu. “The others can’t see it Lulu. I’m sorry.”
“Why?” Lulu asked. The thought never occurred to her.

“Because they purr at such a low vibration, always living from the outside in. They don’t want change—even though they are never satisfied, they believe it’s as good as it gets. What you are seeing in the hole is the universe inside yourself. When I look in the hole, I see the universe inside myself. The point being, we are seeing the same universe because we are both a part of it. As are the others. We are all One. All connected by a knowingness inside. The others strive because they resist the knowingness, but it will be there if they ask. You must have asked if there was more to life. It always answers. Eventually. If you remain open for the answer.”

Lulu thought about how this changed everything for her. She couldn’t condemn the other forest cats for something they couldn’t see. She felt compassion for the others but knew she could never go back to life before following the strange rabbit to the hole.

Winter came in like a bull. The storm destroyed everything in its path. All the lairs and food supplies were gone. The forest cats were getting sick and weak, losing patches of fur and feeling very scared. Lulu marveled at the strength of the storm and what it had done. She couldn’t help thinking some good would come from it all. Even though the suffering of the tribe was terrible and she was feeling very weak herself.

She and Bebe decided to go to the hole to meditate, without telling the others. Relieved it was still there, unchanged by the storm, they both peeked inside at the glorious universe. Then they sat back, closed their eyes and synchronized their purring. They desperately needed guidance.
Bebe whispered, “What now?”

It wasn’t long before the words flowed to them: “The storm was isolated. About 200 yards north from your camp it is untouched by the storm. It is near a stream loaded with fish for food and surrounded by a bank of trees that will provide shelter. Move the tribe there now.”

Bebe and Lulu rushed back to the camp and told everyone to follow them. The forest cats were too tired to argue or make fun of following crazy Lulu anywhere. The new camp was just as expected—only better. Fish jumped from the stream as the forest cats caught them in their paws. It was better than anything they had ever imagined. The shelter provided by the trees was natural, providing strength by having grown through many storms. The cats surrounded Bebe and Lulu, dancing in a circle and celebrating their genius.

“How did you know this was here Lulu?” asked one scraggly forest cat.
“A blue rabbit told me it would be purrrrrrfect for us.” She winked at Bebe. Confused, he walked away saying, “Lulu, you’re as crazy as you ever were.”

“As the saying goes,” said Bebe, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” She and Lulu lay down, stretching out in the sun.

“To understand the true nature of the Universe,

one must think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

-Nikola Tesla

Some Love Stinks

"You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!" -Maya Angelou

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!”
-Maya Angelou

His odor was unbearable. His wretched bird-breath was just another indication of how rotten to the core he was. As they neared the hole, she felt her grip loosening, on purpose…

Ginger let go. She gave a small twirl of celebration as she did a free fall into the hole. She descended into darkness. Her constant fear of him was replaced with a fear of what might await her at the bottom.

Her thoughts were moving slowly, struggling for clarity in a surreal fog. The air was damp, kissing her cheeks with salty lips.

He’d come into her life so quickly, he seemed to eclipse her very existence. He took charge, and he made assumptions that were not accurate. Had she been more secure, she bravely would have disagreed. But he was an overwhelming and powerful presence, so sure of himself, as if he were a gift. Ginger blamed herself for being too cautious—there was no stopping him—still something made her feel uneasy. He seemed so interested in her. She was swept away, literally felt like she was floating. They were “dizzy in love,” he’d said.

He quickly professed his love for her and gave her a nickname, Toad. He told her Ginger was just too long to say all the time, so he would be calling her Toad. She thought the name was degrading but was sure he didn’t mean anything by it. Perhaps it was just as he had said, and she should look at it as a term of endearment. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings or spoil the mood.

He called to her constantly—wherever she was, he seemed to be hovering nearby. She was flattered but had an underlying feeling of being prey to his predator. Never had anyone cared so much where she was and what she did. She lost count of how many times a day he told her he loved her. “I love you, Toad. Do you love me?”
“Yes, I love you too,” she always responded, as if under a spell.

It was not long before they were nesting together. Soon he told her she was his perfect soul mate. She thought he really didn’t know much about her—he never asked or seemed to care. She decided it didn’t matter—he could make her laugh with his quick wit, usually at another’s expense. He seemed to be more important than her, to have everything she thought she lacked. Assertive, brutally honest about what mattered to him, intolerant of other beliefs, bold—even brazen and insulting in his speech—somewhat intimidating. He constantly bragged about his accomplishments. She had to admit, the list was impressive. How lucky she was he loved her. He was actually impossibly accomplished. Although…she saw no evidence of his past accomplishments anywhere. At times she felt more like an assistant to his life and his grandiose plans for them. She learned all she could about things he cared about, even if it didn’t interest her much. He didn’t know her interests—she was just Toad.

It was all moving so quickly. Soon they had their first fight. She was tidying up the nest, as she often did. He demanded it be neat for someone of his stature. That day, he escalated a benign conversation into a needless battle, accusing her of horrible thoughts and intentions. She was shocked at the shear velocity of anger being leveled at her! The accusations and insults came at her, rapidly firing with what seemed to be a studied precision. Each one a direct hit on her heart. She watched him rant, deciding there would be no defense. To engage him would just enrage him more. She didn’t have to win every battle. She had only known him a short time. She never could have imagined he was capable of so much anger at her. She thought she had only tried to please him.

Then she smelled it. It permeated her nostrils as she witnessed him vent. She could still hear him, but the smell was overpowering. His voice became chatter in the background of his horrible stench. She silently fielded accusations as they sailed at her. They didn’t even sound like anything she’d done, all twisted as they were with his malice. She had abandoned him when she was talking to the neighbor; she should never leave him alone. She was selfish, uncaring, ungrateful, and didn’t really love him. His face was filled with contempt as he went on to tell her she was just like all the rest. He told her she was lucky he loved her because she had all kinds of things wrong with her. Her face was not quite pretty. He’d had much prettier share a nest with him. She never said the right things. She didn’t do a good job on the nest—as a matter of fact, she was a pig! Her clothes were wrong, and she was fat. Until, finally, he explained he was only trying to help her because he was so much smarter.

He stopped as abruptly as he’d begun. A look of smug satisfaction broke out as he saw her fear, the tears rolling down her cheeks. She was crying because along with being awful, he smelled so freaking awful. Skunk, onions and old tobacco. He acted sweet again, as if nothing had happened. But her emotions—and his smell—remained raw, keeping her steadfastly in the fear zone. Why had she never smelled him before? Perhaps she didn’t want to. She wanted to believe the illusion he’d created for her, a brainwashing of sorts. All she saw now was a very bad situation.

He interrupted her thoughts calmly now, but with a threatening undertone: “Toad, I want to go out, and I want you to come with me.”
She was afraid not to agree, so they took off.
He always had her hang on to his talons. He told her she needed to “hang on,” while he reserved his strength to concentrate on navigating and flying. Also, that she should not bother him during flight. She was not sure what she was supposed to do if she ever got tired. He had become so cold, so fast. It seemed more natural for him, being mean.

She welcomed the wind rushing her face. She had noticed the hole on previous trips, but this time it really got her attention. She didn’t know where it went, but it didn’t matter as long as it went away from him. She no longer felt she lacked what he had—she didn’t want it. She just wanted to be Ginger again.

As she fell, suspended in darkness, emotions arose and dissipated like waves. She felt strong by choosing to save herself. Her fear quieted down. She decided calling fear love, as he did, didn’t make it love. A different kind of love filled her as his spell was broken. She felt connected again to who she was—not Toad. She was overwhelmed by her feeling of wholeness. She had learned her lesson. The feeling of love swept through her in a safe, warm vibration. She would be fine. She loved herself enough at that moment to know that she only needed to stand up for herself. That she lacked nothing. She felt perfectly unique—exactly as planned.

The entire experience seemed part of a larger picture of her life, somehow intentional. She was good enough to do and be whatever she decided. Nobody could take this feeling away from her without her giving it away. It felt like such an indestructible strength, a super power! She didn’t need approval or anyone to tell her how to live.

She was almost blinded by the bright light as she was gently deposited on a shoreline. Colorful shells glistened in the sunlight. The smell was gone. Ginger was Ginger again, only better.

Jens has perfect music to go with this story, lots of wisdom on her blog if you have not visited yet!https://3wwwblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/for-christina/

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

Choices

"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you."... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt." -Maya Angelou

“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.”… There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
-Maya Angelou

Mia sat in the middle of the two paths, determined to muster up the courage to take the one Chester was not taking.

Mia couldn’t think of any one thing that caused the shift in her feelings about Chester. They had been together so long; perhaps it was many small things. But one thing she was definitely tired of was feeling invisible. She was no longer content to follow Chester, the “King,” around while he hunted and scratched and intimidated everyone. He ignored her except to illicit constant praise from her and continually ask if she loved him. Her now mechanical answer of “Yes” avoided an argument, most of the time. Other times, when she answered appropriately, he countered that she didn’t love him and started an argument. Life had become so exhausting. She felt empty and confused. At one time she truly did love him. His abusive behavior wore her heart out. Now she just pitied him.

She was restless as she watched Chester start down one of the paths. Staying back, she vowed to hold her ground no matter what. Her heart was flip-flopping wildly with a mix of excitement and dread. She sat with the feelings in her heart—an ending and a beginning—a yearning for a purpose yet to be identified. She felt if emptiness could explode, it would certainly happen if she stayed with him.

She watched as Chester arrogantly sauntered down the path, and then suddenly stopped. “Why aren’t you following me?” he asked with a curled lip and the usual sneer in his tone. He started back to where she was, “It’s your job to follow me; I am the King!” he roared.
“I’m not coming.”
Mia was shocked by the calm in her voice. There was no turning back now.
Chester escalated his demand for her to come with him, roaring loudly and becoming a tyrant. The more abusive he became, the more she dug in her heels while he unwittingly convinced her to leave him.
“I want a happier life. I’m tired of walking on eggshells around you,” Mia said, calmly. She felt the power she’d given to Chester flowing back to her. Her confidence was buoyed as she held his glare.
Chester put his nose in the air. “Fine, I will easily find someone else to take your place; I’m the King, and nobody disrespects me like that. I am better than anyone else; you will never replace me. I am the most cunning and ferocious in all the kingdom!”
He stomped off down the path, wishing secretly she would change her mind. He did not like to be alone at all. He didn’t like being with him either. What would he do without someone to blame for all that goes wrong?

Mia let out a deep breath, immediately feeling giddy. She followed her heart down the other path.

It was the first time Mia had ever been alone. She was struck by how wonderful it was to think uninterrupted. Although she was still jumpy, she gradually started to relax as she inhaled the fresh air. Had it always been so sweet? Her new freedom was intoxicating as she drank in all the sights and sounds. She could do anything now. Nothing could stop her! Only…she had no clue what she wanted.

Mia decided to try an experiment. Everyone she met on her path was there to teach her something, she thought. She would leave herself open without judgment about the messenger. As she settled into her game, she spotted a lovely giraffe out in the field munching on the high leaves of a tree.
“Excuse me, may I ask you what you’ve learned from life?” Mia asked in her softest voice, trying not to scare him.
“Well, the first thing I’ve learned is not to talk to lions!” Max said.
“Please, I mean you no harm. I am searching for answers,” Mia pleaded.
Max acquiesced, sensing something about her was different.
“Okay. I will share with you the most important lesson I have learned: Never be afraid to reach for what you desire your life to be. But always with detachment and acceptance of where it leads you. Staying in the stage of desire all the time will make you unhappy. You will miss the beauty life has to offer each moment, especially for you.”
Max turned and walked away, his long neck swaying gracefully as Mia shouted after him, “Thank you so much! I think I understand.” She found the encounter so exciting and insightful. She decided that was exactly what she was doing. Leaving herself open to life, enjoying each moment.

Several hours went by before Mia came upon a stand of trees. She watched in amazement as the monkeys swung from branch to branch, tree to tree, like chattering trapeze artists. One monkey spotted her and yelled, “Lion!” All of them scattered, except one who looked very old.
“Why didn’t you run in fear with the others?” she shouted up to him.
“I have a good feeling about you, and I am way up here with ample time to go to a different tree, should that change,” Ogdon said confidently. He looked at her curiously and asked, “What brings you here?”
Mia looked up at him and said, “I want to know what life has taught you.”
Ogden scratched his chin thoughtfully and tilted his head to the side.
“I’ve learned that thoughts are like tree branches. There are no bad ones, as they are just thoughts. Only hold them long enough to determine if they make you feel loved and strong, or if they are weak and unsupportive. Then, let them go—don’t hang onto them or you will stay stuck there. Always look to grasp the next thought that makes your heart happy and strong. You naturally will share that happiness. Likewise, if you grab and hold onto weak and unsupportive thoughts, you will stay stuck and share those too.”
He nodded affirmatively, pleased with himself, and looked at Mia.
“Oh, that was very nice! Thank you for sharing that with me.” Mia walked back to the path feeling like she had so much to learn—but realizing all she had to do was ask. Everyone seemed to have something to offer.

Mia continued walking on the path when she noticed a wildebeest strolling towards her. Well this was most fortunate, as Mia loved wildebeest—they were delicious. She was very hungry; it had been a long time since she had eaten. She was proud of herself, finding how capable she was. She could do anything that needed to be done, on her own. Chester had always informed her otherwise. The wildebeest had not spotted her yet, so she moved off the path into the bushes.
As it strolled by her, unaware, she lunged from the bushes, latching onto his neck and taking him to the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me!” he pleaded.
Mia remembered her promise to herself, to learn from everyone on her path. Reluctantly, she released him, using every ounce of self-control as he lay bleeding.
“I hope you will forgive me. I want to ask you something. What have you learned from life?”
He strained to lift his menacingly large head with its shaggy mane. Resigned to his destiny, in a weak voice he said, “Know when it’s time to leave. Realize when you have gleaned all you can from your current environment, and have the courage to seek greener pastures. Enduring something that is not likely to change is just fear of change. Don’t stay where there is little nourishment for the mind, body and soul. We do this every year when we migrate,” he said, wistfully.

She was touched that he would share such profound last words. That is what she had done with Chester, left for greener pastures. She thanked him as she watched him die. And with tremendous gratitude, she dined solemnly, accepting that she was still a lion. One with a greater understanding of life and how connected everything and everyone seemed to be. It seemed she already knew what she had just learned—that all paths lead home, to the same amazing universe within everyone, no matter their role in life.

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

Always A Race Horse

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
-Mark Twain

Savannah was beginning to feel the gloom of her surroundings. Only a week ago she was living on a preschool playground with lots of friends. That was until the gang member kidnapped her as part of his initiation. Only no ransom would be demanded. It was over—everyone laughed at how clever he’d been.

Life in the “cave,” as they called the long since abandoned building, was depressing. They came there in the evening to do drugs and put out their cigarettes on her. They strutted around displaying various acts of bravado fueled by lots of liquid courage. Then, the grand crescendo, smashing their bottles against the back wall. Mostly they got into fights with each other and tagged the walls.

She missed the playground with its lush trees and laughing children. The children had called her the Race Horse. It made her feel invincible. Obviously, there was more to being invincible, Savannah decided. She had to keep believing that was still who she was, even if nothing else around her indicated that.

As she looked around at the graffiti, she began to appreciate some of it as being quite artistic. Some with very vibrant colors and 3D effects. But the messages all of it sent were the same, some more blunt than others. Hatred, fear, despair, jealousy, insecurity, lots of anger, blame, hopelessness and no love for themselves or the world. Some she didn’t understand at all. Surely they had once been just like the children at the preschool. Full of joy, excitement and the wonder of life. Somewhere they had gotten abandoned, or worse—just like the building they gravitated to. Here they were, all of them together. They had found each other, like magnets, drawn to one another. All wanting from the others what they couldn’t give themselves—unconditional love. She felt compassion for all of them. The garbage smelled.

If she closed her eyes, she could imagine herself back on the playground. She could hear peals of laughter as the kids bantered over whose turn it was to ride the Race Horse. She imagined herself, a white Arabian horse, galloping on the beach, kicking up sand in the ocean air. She did not have to be her environment. Savannah realized she was the same inside, no matter where she was. She was still the Race Horse, because that’s what made her happiest.

The night stretched into the wee hours. It degenerated into gunfire into the desert sky as they all moved outside to shoot beer bottles. A typical raucous night with her new family. All had gone quiet as the gang dissipated, going their separate ways. A few hours later, Savannah heard a large vehicle just outside. Its headlights shining into the little windowless hole in the wall. It was very early morning, still dark. Something was up.

Three men with hard hats and flashlights entered the cave. Three beams of light painted the walls every which way.
“We might be able to salvage the bricks and resell them,” the tallest one said, looking around. “This will come down pretty fast, and I do think we could get something for the bricks. The paint might even make them sell better to some ‘artsy fartsy’ people.” They laughed.

Savannah felt panic shoot through her as she realized they were talking about tearing down the building! Just when she didn’t think her life could get more challenging, it did.
“Hey, check this out! Pretty cool—I’m going to take it home for the kids and clean it up,” the youngest one said. It took Savannah a minute before she realized she had been saved. “Help me get her on the truck, will you?”

Savannah felt herself being hoisted up and out into the dizzying fresh air. She gulped fresh air deeply, breathing out, ahhh… no garbage. They set her down on the bed of the truck and secured her with straps so she would be safe. Yes, they knew how to take care of a Race Horse, she giggled to herself. She sat in the back of the truck for another hour as they surveyed the rest of the building. She grew anxious waiting. Finally they all came out and piled into the truck.
After a bumpy ride, they stopped abruptly and the engine went quiet. A cloud of dust from the dirt road enveloped her. She couldn’t see a thing but she could hear.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Is that a horse? Is that for us?”
Several young voices were all talking excitedly over each other. As the dust settled, she could see three young girls and one quiet, overwhelmed little boy. Eyes transfixed on Savannah. They all gathered around as the men lifted her down off the truck and carried her to the garage.

Savannah sat there in the garage for the rest of the day with an occasional visit from one of the children. That evening they watched their Daddy as he carefully cleaned the dust off Savannah. He filled her cigarette holes with putty. He sanded and applied matching white paint to the wounds. Just for fun, he grabbed some tar paper and crafted little blinders for the side of each eye. One little girl said in hushed amazement, “Daddy, she looks just like a race horse!”
Savannah knew she was home.

                                                                                      Be as you wish to seem. – Socrates