Tag Archives: bucket list

No Small Thing

31 Dec

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart

— A.A. Milne

Small things.

Last night I went to see  Les Miserables. To be honest, I knew the story but had never experienced it the way in which the musical presents, close and intimate, personal and real. So many characters, so many lines registered in my heart that I had little room for anything else when I left the theater. Sacrifice, that is what the story is all about…sacrifice. Perhaps I understood it all too well. The film tired me emotionally and I went home to tissues and sleep.

Sunday, I tried to write but grading papers got in the way and I think I was still trying to process the night before, this meaning in sacrifice.  During my dinner at Dish before the film, I met a young couple from out of town who were interested in knowing more about places to go and restaurants here. I paused from my dinner of little plates and tore a sheet from my notebook, writing down some of the names of places I love . Then, I went to sit back at the bar and smiled that smile. The “I do so like to see the young people in love and having fun” smile. And it gave me a great pause.

Last night as I tried to write, the words still wouldn’t come. I tried to imagine myself in my little kitchen in Ocracoke and it just wasn’t working, so I finally opened the DVD that one of my former students had sent to me, and began to watch: Finding Joe. 

That’s when it all made sense. From beginning to end, the idea of the journey and everything that has developed in the last few weeks just became clear. I’ve been on a  hero’s quest. In its simplest terms, I am on the path to my most authentic life. Each line from the film, each idea, reaffirmed that I am discovering myself and conscious of my own evolution. What causes me the most confusion, frustration, and pain is fighting against myself all the time. Adhering to “shoulds” and t “shouldn’t’s” puts me into a place where I lose my authentic self,  and the sight of my path. I remember walking the darkened streets in Ocracoke with only a pen flash light and not feeling afraid. Of actually enjoying the quiet darkness and the comfort of a sandy path. There I discovered that when I act out of a sense of complete inner conviction, it never goes wrong. And I attain a sense of peacefulness that is hard to describe. Joe would say to me,  “Stop fighting, stop. Allow. Say your truth and let it be Remain in the immovable spot, following your truest self and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

Most people walk this planet asleep,tigers among sheep, eating sheep’s food and pretending to enjoy it. And then the tiger comes and force feeds us the truth about our selves and our lives and we choke. But then we grow and know, I am a tiger, meant for a tiger’s life.

I need to remember that being  awake is to walk a singular road, intersecting companions, experiences, challenges, and gifts of insight.  So much of what the journey really comes down to is small things, basic things that we all need. Life becomes cluttered with trivialities and in that cluttering, we lose ourselves and the chance at happiness. The simplicity of Ocracoke reminds of the life I truly want.

Once I watched that film, I knew that beyond the next month or two, I have no plan, no real expectations and that’s okay. Life should be a series of small plates, small plates shared at the table of life with others. Journeys intertwine for a reason. And I needed to think of my challenges as not being put into my life to inhibit me, but being presented with challenges in which I can grow and eventually make a difference. In other words, I have begun to see that I make a difference inside the challenge. I am an active participant, not a victim.

I have struggled whether I should make this blog public. It is so intimate. Its personal. I’m letting a lot of strangers into my inner world. But its tied into learning my purpose. Now I simply cannot look aside from sharing it. To allow this kind of personal scrutiny is risky, I know. This is the beginning of my bliss, though. One of my friends said to me,”We all have things we want to do before we die Cyndi, but you…you actually do them. ” He said, “One of my coworkers saw your picture while I was messaging you on Facebook and I told him about your bucket list and how you really live that way. I said to him, ‘Wanna see her tattoo?’ And then I showed him the pictures and he was like..wow…WOW.”

My friend also told me a story about having regret over never telling a girl how he felt when he had the chance when he was fourteen. It had stayed with him all these years, so he found her, and told her about his regret. He laughed about the fact that she didn’t remember him and how ironic that was, but the true issue is this:

The things you regret, the things you want to do but never do because of should or shouldn’t have the power to limit your life.

And when your life is limited, you remain a tiger among sheep.

I think I’ve already made the decision, to not worry about what others think of me, to live my most authentic life. And my wish is for everyone to live life with such intention, to follow their bliss, to have the Universe bring them their greatest happiness. Heaven is within us. Joe believed that.

I have fear.. we all do. But having the courage to do and to share what I have been given is the only way to happiness.

I heard the call, Joe, and I’m listening ….and following. Really,its no small thing.

Not in Kansas

22 Dec

What is the sea without the sand

What is the sky without blue

What is the song without the words

What is the world without you.   — Clothilde Arias

Today, I toured the Museum of American History, mainly to see one thing: Dorothy’s shoes. And as I rounded the corner and saw them, I became overwhelmed with the enormity this journey. I’m just at the beginning.

Dear Universe, how can I ever walk this road?

I knelt beside those shoes and it took all the strength in my body not to sob. There they were. The shoes from the most hopeful journey I know, a metaphor for my entire walk from last year to now. It felt as if I was kneeling at a shrine and presenting my pain and grief in front of some sort of relic, a holy object that might somehow erase this grief over a life that has bloomed into a flower I never desired to grow. Behind them, was Kermit the frog, and from the minute his eyes met mine, words from childhood appeared.

Its not easy being green, to spend each day the color of the leaves.

The sadness was overwhelming. I actually had to go to the bathroom and get myself together so as not to make a total mess of myself in public. This went beyond being touched by something; this is a wound that’s leaking an absolute mess.

And I think I know why. Here, I feel so isolated and that is most ironic. In Ocracoke, I felt alone at first, but then comforted and connected. Literally, there was no one around, but I felt safe. Hurt, but safe. Here, there are people everywhere, a million things to do, to taste, to see, to photograph, to experience and all I want is my cottage on Fig Tree Lane and Zillie’s in the afternoon, the ease of a small world. I want to go home. Totally disconnected, I feel completely lonely in the midst of the million or so souls walking these streets. This morning, I saw a man crouch down and hug, cuddle, and then kiss his dog’s head on the street corner and it sent me into a stream of tears. Everything here is fabulous, exciting, beautiful, enticing, and all I want is Clarence, my cottage, and talks with Annie.

I may have left too soon. I may not ever be the same. I have to muster the energy to go to Sax Club tonight. I’ve already paid for it. If I just let go, it will be okay. The night will be a good experience and I’ll be glad I went. That new confident snazzy Cyndi? She left before Ocracoke and never came back. Someone else is here now and although she needs to be freed as well, I don’t like her much. People can sense her depression like a wiff of sour milk.


I went to the Willard today and passed up an experience. Tea at the Willard is booked for months, but they had a small spot for me. I should have stayed despite the $42 dollar fee. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, but I couldn’t enjoy it or give it the focus it needed. I wasn’t happy enough. Mom should be here with me. Today, she made jam with Granny and that’s where I should have been, but I just can’t. I can’t be in that world of pretending everything is alright.

It’s not alright.

I went round the corner  and had cafe au lait and tart at Cafe du Parc, where I’d rather go to dinner tonight instead of Sax. If there was a way out of it, I’d cancel the reservation and go back with friends sometime. I thought I could do this alone. It’s actually the main bucket list event of the weekend. I’m not sure I can, but I’ll try.

What comes will come.

Before I Die

21 Dec

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What people will do for each other at the end of the world. December 21, 2012.

I planned a weekend to Washington D.C.  on the day the world was to end? What was my problem?  Ironically though, part of me thought, How many items off the list can I get in before the Apocalypse? Better leave Lynchburg early.

All the experiences I wanted to accomplish before the end of the weekend, or the world, seemed to place themselves around one area: Logan Circle. My day brightened immensely when I arrived at a most marvelous place. Hotel Helix, a metro/ retro turquoise, pink, lime and silver themed club style boutique hotel blended with modern pop art and wall sized murals of rock and roll icons. Amazing  60’s moderne meets 1980, the halls filled with tunes I knew in my late teens. Remembering those days put me right in the middle of my own version of The Wedding Singer and I went all the way back.

The way you walk, the way you talk and try to kiss me
And laugh in four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks
And I’m giving you a longing look
Every day I write the book

When I booked the place though, I also found that the valet parking would be outrageous, so I arranged to park nearby at a property my cousin manages. For free. Something almost unheard of in DC. There was no doubt that the Universe was looking out for me, just maybe not in the way I had anticipated, though.

Upon looking at the map of the hotel’s location, I noticed the Before I Die Wall. I had never known about it, but after having watched Candy Chang’s TED speech,  I knew I’d need to include it in the weekend’s events. Bucket list proclamation comes first. I need to put something of my own there.

I settled into my room, then up the block I went to see the wall camera in hand. Upon arriving at the corner of Q and 14th, I noticed that construction was happening, but no wall.

I asked. I looked, but nothing. Then, I realized it was gone.

The wall was on unused space, now being used. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I was an awful lot. Everyone needs affirmation. To some, my intense focus on living toward this bucket list is pretty crazy. “Yeah”, they say, “Well,  I got a house and kids and I work hard for a living to care for them. I have small children. I have responsibilities, so living normal life is my intention”.

Yes, you have those things. You have those precious, enviable, irreplaceable things….. I don’t.

So I shopped for wine at Cork and Fork a bit, then went back. I had told the concierge Tam that I was here to accomplish items on my bucket list, and when I returned without pics of the wall she asked why. And the story came out, including my disappointment in small measure. She immediately said, “Well, we will just have to make one for you here” and she flipped out a piece of paper and wrote at the top, “Before I Die”. Then, she proceeded to have as many staff as she could find write something they wanted to do.

I  cried.

This is what people do for each other when the intention is open and honest. This is when compassion takes the lead. One of the most touching moments was when a maintenance man, who obviously didn’t speak English well, wrote “I want to meet President Obama”. I nearly hugged him. What amazes me more and more is that when given the opportunity, most people connect at will and they connect in real and genuine ways.

So now I sit here at the wine hour included with my room thinking about the essence of service, of giving. It’s hard for many people, especially those of us who have been used to giving and nurturing others to allow others to give to us, to show us care. Some are so used to pouring out their lives and experiences to others that they barely know how to hold onto them and keep them for themselves. Like that last piece of pie. They give it away rather than splitting it.

Tam said to me, “I haven’t really ever thought about all I want to do before I die. I need to do that.” Her gift to me, was a response from a gift to her I unintentionally gave. That’s the Universe at work, I know.

I am so lucky living in this moment. I’m not taking anything for granted.

Little Wing

14 Oct

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For nearly twenty years, I have wanted a tattoo, but have been too afraid of getting one. For various reasons, I always put it off, most likely because I feared judgement from others. From my mother to my co-workers, I was always too concerned about the impressions they might have. From the way I looked, to my position as a role model for young people, excuses were quick and palatable and I fed them to myself every time the subject arose. But then, I came to believe that there is no better model than to live from one’s deepest convictions. Simply being myself and expressing what is most within me is a witness to others to do likewise.

The search for the right design and artist began months ago, but when I met Agent, I knew he was the one to do it. I have never met a more calming, reassuring, caring to the core person as this talented artist. His arrival back to Lynchburg from a long stay in New Jersey coincided with my readiness. I know, the Universe brought Agent into my life for this very reason. He was the perfect person to help me claim my body back, for that really was what it was all about. As a woman, I have struggled like all women do in owning my own body. From my mother to the various men in my life, it has always seemed that my parts were there for someone else’s direction and control. Being tattooed was not only a sensual intimate act for me, but one in which I participated with mainly myself. It put me in the driver’s seat, so to say. I became owner of this frame, this skin, this hipbone, this spine. It is mine and may do with it as I will. True, Agent was my partner in this adventure and I often think of the experience as similar to giving birth with the normal stages a mother goes through in the process.

I remember at the beginning of our session that it seemed easier to be bare with him because I had met with him several times to discuss the design. I had told him my personal story, so he knew how much this meant to me and what might reflect my character. I had showed him one small design and where I wanted it placed, and he did all the rest. I knew I wanted it to reflect my inner ethnic identity; I am an Irish woman and my wing represents the blossoming of self which has come from this. He has published a book for the industry on Celtic tatooing, so the union was perfection.

To be sure, when I saw how big it was after he placed the stencil on, I was a bit hesitant, but then, I thought. Why?

Go big…or go home.

My dear friend Amie came with me for support and I was so nervous, despite it all. I popped into the shop and gave this mountain of a tattooed man a kiss on the cheek. He is such a big daddy. I can’t explain it. And we started. He is incredibly precise and incredibly gentle. It was almost like being with a doctor; he does right by his clients to cultivate a sense of trust and care. It hurt, but I kept thinking, I can handle this…just breathe. This isn’t so bad. That’s like the first stage of birthing, I’m told.

By the time Amie had to leave, three hours in, I was cold, nearly in shock, and at what I call “the pushing stage”. The pain was incredible and every movement of the needle seared into my skin and it was all gritted teeth and held breath and tensed muscle and pushing through the pain. Finally, there was that moment, the moment where you just think,  God, I can’t do this anymore. And I looked up into his eyes and I said, “Can I have a moment…I need to catch my breath”. He did something so incredibly loving. I’m not sure he knew or meant to, but he moved very close in behind me. I was lying on my left side and he moved to where I could feel his hip and stomach right behind my hip and lower back. I rested my back right onto him. I could feel his energy right behind me, not in a sensual way, but in real strength. He said, “Love, this is a twenty-six mile marathon, the last six miles are all down hill. We are at mile eighteen…can you give me a few more miles?” and I breathed for a minute slowly in and out and then I smiled at him and leaned fully into him and said, “Yes, I can do this.”

He sprayed my side with lidocaine to numb me a bit, and then it honestly wasn’t so bad anymore. I jokingly said to him. “Oh my god, this must be the epidural part!” He laughed.

When it was over. I was so cold, so shaky. He cleaned me up, took pictures of me for his portfolio and I went to my friend Karen’s to tell her of this amazing experience. I was literally high. My body had taken over and it dealt with the injury as any body would by engaging functions beyond my control and letting the rest,  be the rest. I have no real memories of what I said to my friends that night, nor what they said to me. I just felt free, as if I completely owned myself for the first time in my life. Amie posted a picture of me on Facebook that night. I know its juvenile but for middle aged chick to gather 67 likes and more than 20 comments, all encouraging and supportive, I’ll take that affirmation thank you. I’ve never felt so beautiful. I’ve never felt so strong. I’ve never respected a man more for his talent. He gave me the world’s greatest complement.

“She sat like a rock”

I am a rock.

The Emerald Cities

1 Aug

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This whole summer of adventure has brought me down a golden road that has been freeing, yet also treacherous. I’ve never traveled alone nor lived with the idea of doing exactly all the things I have longed to do. When I set out for Martha’s Vineyard I knew without a doubt that with a tiny amount of bravery, some good friends to be with, a camera, and a pen I could see what it is to really live. Dorothy’s journey has been with me since last October. I remember a dream, a terrifying dream of a tornado and a house, the whole scene from the film exploded into sepia storm in my early morning imagination. A house, a storm…WHAM. Where did these red sparkle shoes come from?

Traveling like this, though, has taught me valuable lessons but none more important than this: I can go anywhere I want, do anything I desire to do, and enjoy myself. I have always been able to do these things, I think, but its surprising to me.

Going to  Boston with Mom, I had to swing into being the one in charge. The derecho changed everything and navigating both home issues and Boston at the same time really showed me what I can handle. I drove that sportscar into Boston, navigated maps and streets and metro for us without GPS or a smartphone. I had my own room which allowed me to write more and I was able to process events much better. The really nice dinners began then, too. The House of Siam on Tremont where we ate on the street and then Roisin Dubh, the best Irish pub in Boston, I miss those moments. That night proved Mom can still chat up anyone anywhere at any time. My game absolutely dissolves in her presence. She is an enigma when it comes to chatting up men. The story of the Fleet Week Warrior still needs writing.

And then there was our walk into North End where we navigated endless streets of Italian restaurants and bakeries and grocery stores. It was a veritable sea for the senses: flowers baskets, and open windows and crystal glasses filled with wine, bread and olive oil and espresso on the corner. Dinner at Assiaggo, amazing.

But then, something dawned on me. I realized, I’m still sharing this. Mom was with me and I wondered what my life was going to feel like being totally alone at home again. It worried me a bit and I also realized, as my phone buzzed every hour or so in Boston, that I had I begun to give the experience away again to a friend during the last few days of our trip via text. Mom complained about it, too. When are you getting off your phone? she’d say. I’ve only had one for a year, I’d reply. I’m catching up.

When I went off to Richmond, something really unexpected happened. Through a chain of events, I found my phone silent and myself traveling pretty much alone. I had a huge lesson in promises and men being asses. A suitcase full of dresses had accompanied me to Richmond ready for promised dinner dates by someone who suddenly ghosted me. Well, what now? Yes, I had a educational workshops during the day. But at night, why couldn’t I go out to dinner anywhere I liked? Why couldn’t I tour the city the same way I did in Boston, just completely by myself? It seems like an obviously simple thought, but it never truly struck me that indeed, I could intentionally go to certain places alone. When I went, words would come, usually half lines of poetry or imagery, maybe a thought or two. But a cocktail napkin and a pen can be a perfect mediator between me and my experience. I didn’t have to text someone while I ate or watched people. I didn’t need a friend to dance or listen to a band. I could do it all with myself. And that’s what I did. To every place he intended to take me.

I suppose you could say that I’m still giving the experience away by blogging about it, but I don’t really see it like that. My writing is largely a conversation with myself. Somehow, it seems important to me to do that. Its a different kind of sharing, one in which I can still own the experience, but share it at the same time. It doesn’t mean I don’t really enjoy going out with people. Believe me, I love going out with others. But traveling this summer reminded me of the difference between “need” and “want”. And I think that’s a very important lesson when it comes to relationships of any sort. I still love to share my adventures with others, but I don’t need to have them with me to do it. Facebook has truly been a friend of mine.

So, Clar and I began to follow the yellow brick road this summer and for sure we needed a wizard to guide us. Somewhere in the summer’s journey, I realize something is at an end. But I now have a set of very sparkly shoes and they will take me further down a golden road to another glowing green city in the distance. . .and then hopefully back home.


Into the Mystic

30 Jun

Mystic Seaport has been on my list for many years, mainly due to one really cheesy 80’s film with Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza. I don’t know why that film touched me the way it did, but its probably something to do with a romanticized yet pretty true caveat about women. From their friends to their mothers alike, women seem to understand each other infinitely better than men do. It must be our hormones. So, it made all the sense in the world to me that I would be going with my mother to Mystic Seaport to see what I could see and to go back to that land of the 1980’s. I hadn’t traveled with my Mom in years, and I mean YEARS, not since I was a teenager going on excursions to Myrtle Beach.  I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how much about my mother I would understand on that trip. And about her connection to me.

Of the many moments we spent together in Mystic, one principle really made itself evident quite quickly. I am an introvert. As chatty and gregarious as I can be, I need alone time, even in the presence of others, to process my thoughts and my world. Especially in the morning. I am NOT a morning person.

Not.    At.      All.

My mom is an extrovert. Her entire world is processed verbally in connection with someone else and its pretty constant. She also needs the safety of plans. Firm plans. Assured plans, plans that are reaffirmed every five minutes so they don’t change. And she doesn’t trust herself quickly, or her ability to troubleshoot if the first decision goes awry. I’m much more relaxed than my mom, and I practice radical honesty which she isn’t used to. She micromanages because she doesn’t trust that even if something goes wrong it’ll all be okay. On our first day in Mystic, within the first two hours, I made her cry simply over trying to read the map to get to the Mystic Seaport Museum less than five miles from our Bed and Breakfast.

Our first dinner was a struggle. We were seated by the Mystic River at a lovely table. It was amazing and I tend to try to quiet myself and just allow. Usually when I eat with others, I’m so wrapped into conversation that a lot of the experience shifts to connection rather than the moment and my interaction with it. But I needed to feel the river, the sunset and attend to the smells, and sounds, and tastes around me. That’s nearly impossible with Mom when she is uncomfortable. The seating wasn’t right, so she moved chairs, twice. The oil and vinegar for the bread needed parmesan in it whether I wanted it or not. The discussion couldn’t lag. Car horns at the drawbridge were alarming, and scary and bothersome. And, I nearly lost my mind. I wanted that experience so badly and I was being prevented from owning it. When she went to the bathroom, the sun was nearly set. I breathed a sigh over the short reprieve and lost myself in a short thought.

The song came easily and I drifted my heart right back into Brian Hall’s voice and tried to send my spirit up and out onto the river.

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

I had to steal a moment just for myself.

And I suppose I was a bit angry about it and needed to let it go. We walked after dinner and then went across the bridge to an ice cream parlor. Mom has been the queen of “fat free this, sugar free that” for centuries and it took her that long it seemed to decide what she wanted. When she, for the millionth time, forewent the full fat ice cream for the “better for you” kind, when she obviously wanted the real deal, I lost it.

Out loud and in front of the ice cream clerk.

“Mom, I am buying this ice cream for you and if I’m paying for it, you are getting the full fat kind!

I’m not paying for something that has nothing in it, damn it!

Life is short, eat the ice cream you like.

I am not having this mess!…end of story.”

So I told the ice cream clerk to serve her up the full fat kind and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. When the clerk looked at Mom, who was mortified at my outburst, and then to me, she broke. She laughed so hard that all of us got the giggles and began to laugh. That’s all it took.

What I realized more than anything is that my Mom needs me to be the leader, because its in my nature and not hers. She is who she is and I have to love her in her faults and imperfections in the same way she has had to love me for mine. I can’t change her. I have to accept her the way she is. It doesn’t mean I have to drop my personal boundaries, though. My mother will never truly perceive me.  Its not possible. But, she can appreciate me and that will have to be enough.

The next evening we had a more informal dinner at Abbott’s Lobster Pound. I had turned Mom on to mussels and we ordered a big pile of them and crab rolls and corn, popping out a bottle of Riesling of our own at one of the picnic tables on the grounds. We ate and watched the water and talked deeply for the first time in a long time. I was able to tell her how much I loved her, how beautiful she was, and to identify the qualities in her that I admire…. like her ability to be friendly with just about anyone, her creativity in decor, her enviable ability to be just fine living alone, something I am still learning to master. And she teared up and told me how proud she was of me and how many talents I had like writing, teaching, painting, and as she puts it, “being smart”. At that moment, I could really see my mom. I have to love her for her honest attempt at living a good life more than anything else.

So we had great moments and not so great moments for the rest of our trip. I’ll never forget that night at Abbott’s, and how the water wove its way into my relationship with my mom, the past and the present all combined.

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic……

How strange our connections to parents are…half person, half creator, deeply a part of ourselves.

Treading Water

26 Jun

On my first night in Kingston, I wondered how long this ride might last. How long it would be until there was no more adventure in this wave. When the swell would flatten, the wind would die, and I would be treading water once again. I love the waves, the wind, the carrying forward that seems so effortless. In each swell there is the hope of being delivered effortlessly into something that feeds my flame floating upon the deep blue.  I remember staring into the marbled velvet blue- purple of an Oak Bluffs hydrangea and wondering how long this small reward part of my journey would last, of being conscious that it would end.

I been trying to do it right
I been living a lonely life
I been sleepin’ here instead
I been sleepin’ in my bed
I been sleepin’ in my bed

So show me family
All the blood that I will bleed
I don’t know where I belong
I don’t know where I went wrong
But I can write a song

So its back to this place of stillness, of waiting for the next swell and I’m paddling in place, just treading water and that’s okay.

That’s okay.

My Number One

8 Jun

I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true

– Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

In NYC, I quickly realized that the experiences I was having were significant. I remember walking the streets with the kids and thinking to myself that I was totally drawing all of it within. I didn’t want to ignore any of it nor give any piece of the experience away, even to them. It was the strangest feeling, and to be perfectly honest I began to feel a tad guilty. The trip really was supposed to be about allowing the kids an experience, but what it ended up being for me was taking it all for myself. I became one of them in a way, trying to fully immerse myself in the landscape, in each event, in each moment.

I think this is where the idea of really living with purpose…i.e. “the bucket list” was actually born. I had always had a list of places I wanted to go, things I wanted to do, and I encourage my students to make a list as well. When I teach Ode to a Nightingale, I always try to connect the kids to the fact that Keats died so young and when you know you are ill, every single instance becomes precious. Every sensation, every moment, every breath you become awake to when you understand that it may be your last. So I ask them to list 25 things they want to do before they die and then I direct them to live life in such a way as to cross things off of that list and then add 25 more.  Sitting in the theater at Memphis, I suddenly realized how many experiences I put off for the pleasure of others. No more; these I need to do for myself.

The number one item on my list was to go to the greatest toy store in the world, FAO Schwarz. I can remember telling my friend Paul when he was a student of mine to bring me back a picture of it when he ventured to NYC as a senior . He did, and brought me a tiny stuffed lion as well. There was something about the idea of a tremendous toy store that allowed me to reconnect with the child within, the simple joy of toy and wonder. I needed to go. I had no idea what I would find, but if I was only allowed one item on my list, FAO was to be the destination.

When we approached the store, the kids knew the whole story of why we were going. In knowing about my list and the importance of this event, they watched me instead of me watching them. They gave me their experience as I so often had done for them and for others. This joy they felt for me, in seeing my excitement was a gift in itself. And so I allowed, probably for the first time, to melt into my truest self in front of a lovely bunch of teenagers. They took pictures of me with the doorman, racing through the different sections, throwing myself on huge stuffed animals, and they began to play alongside me, snapping pictures along the way. I remember one young man who said to me, “You know, I didn’t really get why we were coming here, but this place is awesome!”

After several hours, I struggled with what to buy to remember this moment, this number one experience that I had lived to see. Suddenly I knew. Of all the things to buy, I chose my favorite candy. Like enjoying a piece of candy, these sorts of gifts happen for only a brief moment, and just once. No use in trying to really keep them.

I may return to this land of childhood again one day. I do plan to, but no other afternoon will ever be as important, as meaningful as accomplishing this first one.

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