In my last post, I made a commitment to spend an entire week looking for things that bring me joy, rather than things that drive me nutty. For one week, I’d challenge the belief that the universe plays practical jokes on me alone, and test the theory that indeed it’s a benevolent cosmos, and whatever we desire is there for the picking.
So off I roamed, in search of joy.
To escape the stress of financial and job worries, I drive curvy mountain roads to the ridge line, strap on my hiking boots, and head up a narrow grassy trail. It’s Paris gray, moist and wispy with fog. It’s just me and the redwoods and pines, and the oaks sheathed in velvet moss. It’s just me and the scrubby sage bushes, and ticks waiting to latch on as I brush past, and the wayward mountain lion prowling for a snack.
Look for joy!
I pause at an outlook, and look.
Now, if I write about the blue-green lake undulating in the sharp breeze, the bench at its edge that I hike down to, the Mallard duck paddling in a perfect rippling oval of water, the lilac and yellow and deep purple wildflowers dotting tall grasses, the call of a loon, the twitter of birds, then I would need to change the name of my blog to something other than Squirrels in the Doohickey, because there’s nothing squirrelly about this scene. It’s just me with my hands cupped, meditating.
Until a jogger pounds behind me, his footsteps thudding on the wooden bridge. I hold my breath, waiting for him to zero in on me and do whatever squirrelly thing people who zero in on me do, but his footsteps fade on the trail.
So far, so good.
Off I go in search of a wallet. My own is splitting the seams. I drive to the shopping mall, browse the department stores, and find one wallet that might fit my various expired credit cards and business cards and savings club cards and crumpled bills and handful of pennies. I check the price tag. $185. For a wallet? What’s it made of, dinosaur hide? Overcome with fatigue, I stuff it back in its display and head to my car.
There, in front of my driver’s door, is someone’s lunch. Regurgitated.
I remember the cat in the neighborhood who left a dead mole on my doorstep. A gift.
This, in the parking garage, is no gift.
Of all the cars, in all the parking garages, in all the world, someone had to spit up next to mine. It figures. The one thing, the ONE THING that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Spit up.
It takes a balancing act to get over and around the mess, into my front seat. I check the bottoms of my sneakers. All clear. Just the usual grime.
At the library, I check out a three CD-set by Napoleon Hill, The Road to Riches. I want to be on that road. According to the copy on the back cover, the CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation was doing a bit of inventory and discovered unedited film reels of the old guy presenting his thirteen steps to success. So the CEO had these lectures transferred to CDs, with added commentary by today’s top inspirational leaders, and made a mint marketing the whole thing. Probably.
My plan is to feed these wealth messages into my brain as I drive from work and back, to the park and back, to Target and back, to wherever it is I drive to, and back. I will fuel my mind with positive thinking, supplying what my brain is currently incapable of doing.
It’s a far better thing to listen to Napoleon Hill than my own squirrelly thoughts.
Joy, joy, joy!
The traffic inches down the expressway. A five-minute drive takes thirty. I raise my hands in exasperation, pound the steering wheel, give a good show for the driver in front who watches in the rearview. But it’s just a show. Little does the driver know that I’m filling my head with prosperity thinking as Napoleon Hill counts down his thirteen secrets.
Still, I’m late to my insomnia class. “Sorry,” I say. “I overslept.”
Three people laugh. The other three look half asleep.
Where is everyone? The first night was standing room only. Now, it’s a half dozen die-hard insomniacs sitting around tables, learning how to sleep.
Halfway through the class, I start nodding off.
Joy, joy, joy, joy!
As a member of the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild, I have access to a stable of writers on the forum. I know none of them. However, they are writers, and likely candidates for what I’m currently experiencing, which is writer’s block so severe, I can do nothing more than sit in my chair like a sack of old potatoes.
The stress, the lack of sleep, the muscle spasm in my right side, has drained every ounce of creativity from my psyche.
“Not writing is causing me so much pain,” I post on the forum.
Strangers whom I wouldn’t know if I passed on the street, leap to my rescue.
“I’ll keep you in my prayers,” writes one.
Another suggests that I cast my worries unto God.
A third advises me to take a break, refuel, process my thoughts by writing them down.
Even Jerry chimes in. “Interesting that pain has caused you to not write, and not writing has caused you pain. And then your virtual writing friends have come alongside you – in a writing forum – and given you advice about everything but the craft of writing, which may lead you back… to writing. And less pain.”
Somewhere, someone is ready to catch us when we fall.
Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!
There’s a voice in my head. I can’t shake it. An old man’s voice: nasally, tinny, as if speaking on an old recording.
It’s Napoleon Hill.
It could be worse. It could be Donald Trump.
Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!
I walk to the vegetable market, about a half mile from home. Along the way, I talk to my mother on my cell. I tell her I need to learn to write fast. I’m too tense, hunched at the keyboard.
“A blog post shouldn’t take more than one hour to write. It takes me a lot, lot, longer.”
“It doesn’t take longer,” she says. “You do. It takes as long as you take to write it.”
A wise woman, my mother. A gift. From the universe.
At the market, I fiddle with the knob on the metal toothpick dispenser. An elderly man stops to give me a hand. “I’ve got it,” I say, trying to fish one out before he can touch it, but my fingernails are too short. He pushes a couple of levers, and out the toothpick rolls, into my palm.
An expert toothpick roller. What are the chances?
It’s the universe, providing.
Pick in hand, I make the rounds, sampling the fruits that the farmer in his green apron chops and displays under a plastic dome. The apricots, the melons, the strawberries, the blood oranges. The mangoes from Mexico fill my mouth with sweet juice.
Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!
The experiment is over. In spite of a week of gnawing physical pain, creative angst, and worry, I have come to the conclusion that I have the capacity to turn those blues into lovely hues. While nutty things do happen (fodder for a humor writer), joyful things happen on a daily basis as well. It’s all a matter of looking.
Life is good, as my old pal Quinn, an ex co-worker, would say on a good day. On a frustrating day, he would drag himself into my office and curl into the fetal position under my desk. This is how he soothed himself. By escaping. It was done in fun, of course, but there was a sharp sliver of truth to it.
Which brings me to my second conclusion…
Finding humor in the nuttiness is a valuable skill.
And with that, off I go, in search of humor.