stories

Not Today Boys

Not Today Boys

So there I was.
Standing on the edge.
Feet scuffling pebbles
into the abyss below.
One shift.
One tiny shift in weight
and I would fall.

My life is not a movie.
There would be no
superhero to catch me.
No resilient awning
to bounce me back.
Just the hard, cold surface
of rock bottom.

In a way,
it called to me.
So much easier to fall than to fight.
I could lose myself…
and gain nothing.

In the not too distant past,
I would have let myself slip;
welcoming the familiar
pain and self-satisfaction
of mini-martyrdom.
As if falling into self-pity
was somehow noble,
wise,
deserving.

But today,
I am different.
I step back,
hug myself,
thank God for all the good in my life,
and walk away from the edge.
As my heart proudly whispers
“Not today boys.
Not today…”

This is a part of my “I can write/post whatever I want” freedom. Self-pity is a pit. A deep, dark pit of unnecessary negativity. I don’t step away from the edge every time but it sure feels great when I do. Do you know this edge? Have you heard the endless echo of the rocks falling beneath you into the darkness? What did you do? What stories do you tell yourself to back away from it? What stories do you keep in your heart to keep away from the edge altogether?

I’m not asking because I’m trying to get you to leave a comment (and therefore make my blog look more appealing). Please leave one if you have something to offer. I’m new to this kind of self-awareness. I’m mostly just curious about how other people stay sane. 🙂

As always, I’m grateful for your time. I’m grateful that you read my words. Sincerely. Namaste, my friend.

Love and Light,

Ginny

Little Heart. Beautiful Courage.

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it. – Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon’s Character) in We Bought a Zoo

My favorite man on the planet has many talents, and he gets to include “versatile, gifted musician” on his life’s repertoire of skills. A bar in a nearby town has become a pretty popular spot on Thursday nights because they host an open mic night. It’s not your usual gaggle of solo singers and wannabe guitar players. The guys and gals who show up to perform have some serious chops. On a whim, I decided to release my deep attachment to going to bed super early and go with him.

I don’t know how things are for you. But I have these weird days when my perception of myself is all wonky. No matter what I do, I feel like my hair and skin look like crap and my clothes look boring, old, and show off every flaw in my figure. That’s how I felt while getting ready that day. I finally settled on my tried and true Lily, no accessories except for my dry, summer locks, and a little extra eyeliner.

I’m a bit of an oddball. I bring a notebook with me and write my thoughts when I don’t know what else to do with myself. I use writing to help me push through my strange insecurities. Oh, and beer. Beer helps too. While I sat with my little notebook, I watched people and listened to the music. I noticed the beauty in all of it. A light began to grow in my heart. Here are some snippets of what I wrote:

  • I’m fucking in love with all of it. This place. The dirty hardwood floor. The smoke. The lanky cowboy dancing with his granddaughter. The chick with the super bright orange toenails.

  • It’s a gritty good time at its finest and I’m so in love with all of it.

  • None of these people give a shit about minimalism or running or travel clothing. But we are here, connected to the music and the beautiful noise of a good time.

  • I’m not a smoker but I inhale deeply. Let the air and the music of voices fill me.

  • I stand at the edge of the universe in complete awe of it all.

Then my eyes wandered to a rather overweight woman across the room. She was sitting with friends and seemed happy. There was a lovely glow about her. Then a familiar “knowing” came over me. It doesn’t happen very often. It requires a lot of courage on my part. Mostly because I’m still growing out of my insecurities. But I also know that I must do it or I will regret it forever.

I knew I had to go tell her I thought she was beautiful.

So here I am, bad hair day, running low on confidence, and I feel the nudge to walk across a crowded room, in front of the band, approach a stranger, and like a total kook, tell her I think she’s beautiful. Great. Just great.

At first, I really balked. No way was I going to do this. No effing way.

So I drank another beer and thought about it. My heart felt so full love for the moment. So in a break between songs, I gathered my courage and went for it. I walked across the room without tripping. I made it to her and here is how the conversation went:

Me: Hi. I know this is really random and you might think I’m crazy but I just want to tell you that I think you are beautiful.
Her: Me? Oh thank you. What a sweet thing to say! Bless you.
(She touched my arm.)
This is my first time to go out in years.
Me: Well you look great. There is just something about you that I noticed from across the room that glows and I knew I needed to tell you that.
Her: Oh thank you (with tears in her eyes). I was just telling my friend that I thought you were beautiful had such pretty hair.
(Then she hugged me.)
(I smiled.)
(Her friends were giving me some pretty strange looks.)
(I didn’t care.)
Me: That’s all I had to say really.
(I smiled and shrugged. Unsure of what to say next.)
(She hugged me again.)
Her: Thank you again.

Tears filled my eyes as I went back to my seat.

I pulled out my notebook and wrote about our conversation. Then I wrote this:

Now I’m the nerdy girl in her Lily dress writing in a journal. In a bar. Shit yes. This is who I am.

The memory of the last time I felt the urge to tell a stranger I thought they were beautiful came back to me. I’ll skip the details but the bottom line is that she hugged me too and told that her husband had been fading into Altzheimer’s and that she had been having a really rough time. She said it made her day to have someone tell her she is beautiful.

For the rest of the night, I didn’t care about my hair, or my dress, or just about anything else. I was alive and full of light. Completely on fire with life.

My favorite man on the planet played like a boss and on the way home patiently listened to me as I told him about what happened and how this moment made me feel so beautiful. It wasn’t about the damned dress or the hair or my nerdy little notebook. It was about being connected to the light inside and pushing past my personal barriers and feeling myself shine. He smiled and agreed. He already knows I’m a total kook. 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read this, friend. I really appreciate your time and I hope that in some small way, it encourages you to listen to your heart, step outside of your comfort zone, and shine…

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This is me and my adorable friend Nikki on Thursday.

Bittersweet – This is Me…

20130819-133342.jpgThis image is from Story People. Short clusters of words (sometimes with images) that reach right in, grab my heart, and make me glad to be alive. I’ve read many that resonate with me over the years (I have three prints and a small stack of Brian Andreas books in my home) but this is my favorite for 2013 and possibly forever. Please go to their site and read a few. Then come back here and tell me what you think in the comments section. 🙂

Cheers!!!

Stone Gate Days and Minimalism

“Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths, false values and false ideals. But you are not part of that world.”
– Sai Baba

On random days, I get this feeling. This uncomfortable feeling that we live in such a fake world. Buildings. Food. Politicians. As I look back, I can see that I’ve felt this way since I was very little. But it wasn’t until my twenties that I gave it a name: Stone Gate Days.

Our transition from Houston to “the country” took about a year. We made weekly trips back and forth to get more things (oh how I wish I could go back to that younger version of myself and tell her to just leave it all back there). On these trips, I watched the quick development of a cookie cutter subdivision go up almost piece by piece.

First, they cleared the land of its native trees and bushes and grass and flowers. Then trucks hauled in dirt to make roads. They covered it with concrete. Not long into the process, they built two columns on each side of the entrance. Tall, ugly pillars of particle board welcomed the contractors as the houses went up.

The houses were nice. Ordinary as far as subdivisions go. When they were finished building them, they brought in trees and pallets of grass. I thought of all the trees they tore down. The animals they probably displaced. Then I went home, felt the rough country grass beneath my feet, fed the goats, leaned against an old oak tree and promised to protect it.

The whole time, those unattractive, unfinished pillars waited. The neighborhood seemed finished. I wondered why they would leave those awful towers of crap-pasted wood at the entrance, convinced that they must just be place markers.

On a solo trip (to get more stuff, of course) I saw why. A group of men in dust-covered overalls worked around them, pasting stones to the cheap wood. On my way back by, I stopped and stared. It looked like real, solid, stone columns. At the top, the sign read “Stone Gate”.

I cried all the way home.

It felt like someone had drawn a curtain and I could see behind the false things of my world. Not just the subdivision. But all of it. It stained me. It broke me. In a red pill kind of way.

I don’t have to drive by that subdivision to remind myself of Stone Gate. When money was very tight one year, we decided to “treat” ourselves with a fast food burger. And then it hit me again. The “food” was fake. All a chemical illusion. I get the sense sometimes when I go shopping or catch a few commercials while waiting for my oil change. That sense that we are surrounded by lies.

I don’t cry for hours any more. My therapy is to go for a run in the woods. Or just press my face against the rough bark of a cedar tree to smell its sap. I hug my favorite man on the planet. I play with the kids in my life. I call my Mom. I pet our dogs. These things are the “realest” things in my life.

On my quest for simplicity, the easiest things to get rid of are the things that remind me of Stone Gate. Plastic parts painted to look like metal. Lotion that smells like lavender but doesn’t actually have any lavender in it. Foods that have to scream “natural” and “wholesome” on the label with a chemical ingredient list a mile long.

I’m still feeling my way around minimalism. I move forward. I fall back. I stall. I learn. The more I do it, the more I realize that I want a life free of Stone Gate. I want my living space, the tools I use, the person I am to be as real as possible. Simple. Beautiful. To the core.

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Minimalism and What We Leave Behind

20130707-140800.jpgOn the road in my treasured Jeep Cherokee. Just me and my Lily. Somewhere between two small Texas towns. The AC is out. Again. (It’s a long story). Warm air rushes around me as I head toward my cousin’s memorial service. It’s my favorite white noise. Sometimes I put my arm out the window and play with the wind. Up. Down. Up. Down.

I can’t hear my phone if I get a call or a text. For about an hour it’s just me, my Jeep, the wind on my skin, and the road ahead. Time to think and process where I’m going and what I’m doing. Not just the memorial service but all of it.

My mind wanders  to conversation with a well-meaning friend about how I should keep my childhood artwork because it might be nice to display some at my funeral someday. My response was self-righteous and inconsiderate. Pssht. I’m a minimalist. I don’t keep anything. But she didn’t mean keep everything from childhood. She actually helped give me some boundaries in my quest for simplicity. My apology was a little late and a lot lame. I should have listened better. Been kinder in my response…

At the little church where we gather to honor and say farewell to my cousin I stare at the photos and things he left behind and my mind wanders again. I said goodbye to my father in the same church more than twenty years ago. I’ve since said goodbye to his three siblings there as well. I inherited things from all of them. Things. Stuff. But they left behind so much more: stories, kindness, an appreciation for hard work, and a deep love for people and Texas. I have no greater inheritance.

It’s a small service. My cousin was a natural minimalist. He lived on a small ranch in a small cabin. He fought illness and social stereotypes while training horses. People take turns standing up and telling stories about him. “He was kind.” “He loved people and animals with all of his heart.” “Even when in pain, he had so much joy.” My favorite words are “If you knew Larry, you loved him.”

And like a flash of sublime light it hits me. In seconds, several moments blend into that tiny church. My conversation with my friend about saving stuff for my funeral. Driving in my Jeep. The pictures of Larry. His saddle. Memories of my dad. My aunts. My uncle. The words. The beautiful, sweet words that people said about my cousin.

For just a few seconds I get it. All of it. Life and what is important is incredibly clear. And I want nothing more than to love on the people around me, shower the world in sunshine, and leave behind more kindness than nicknacks.

The drive home is hotter. I don’t mind. The wind dries my tears and the ice water by my side keeps me cool. I’m going back to my collection of things with a new perspective. My heart is full of what matters more than my Jeep, or the heat, or the road ahead…

Thank you for traveling this path with me, dear reader. The AC doesn’t always work but the road remains a wonderful teacher. Cheers!

It’s About The Stories

Ginny and Julie. Circa 1980.

Our lives exist in a series of stories. Stories. Memories. It’s the collection of those stories that we present to the world as who we are. I love the stories. They surround me with love and life-lessons, filling my days and changing my moments. I love the idea that we are constantly creating our own story to share. Stories. Memories…

Many years ago, four hundred miles away from where I lived at the time, two boys did something foolish that would change my life forever. After years of dealing with what they did, I’ve learned to see how they were unintentional teachers. Painful lessons, yes. But good ones. I’m honestly grateful.

Mozelle Austin, my “Granny”, lived in a small, Texas town. It’s where my mother grew up and where I spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and many weeks in the hot Summer months. She was a wonderful woman. Strong in her faith and tender with her love, a most beautiful soul. She owned Mozelle’s Grocery, the only place in town to get a cold beverage, a Mrs. Baird’s fried pie, play a game of dominoes, and get your mail.

I have wonderful memories of the sound of my bare feet running across that hardwood floor. I spent hours eating gum balls and playing with her cash register. On cooler days, she would turn off the air conditioner and let the breeze blow through the screen doors. People would stop by to get mail and visit with my grandmother – mostly locals and tired, thirsty men from the nearby cotton gin. Even then, I sensed the magic of the place.

Fast forward to my teenage years. Granny retired then not long after, passed away from heart failure during surgery. Unable to part with the building, my mother and her siblings used the old store for storage. Treasures within a treasure itself. As I moved into my twenties, I needed a place to store the things I loved but did not use. Things saved for “someday”. Clothes, dolls, furniture, books, my Father’s rocking chair from his childhood…

Enter my unintentional teachers. I don’t know why they did it. I don’t want to know. I have some guesses but they don’t matter. The bottom line is that they set fire to Mozelle’s Grocery. That plain, small town structure had no value to them and in one night, they destroyed the building and our belongings. The left behind a grotesque pile of charred objects and ash. Nothing survived. The boys weren’t harmed at all.

I felt angry and hurt and sad. All those things I meant to pass on to others, just gone. The children in my life will never get to sit in my father’s rocking chair or play games on my little bamboo table. No one one will ever see the Easter dresses my grandmother made for me or my baby blanket that my mother made for me.

The biggest lesson I learned was that it was just stuff. It’s stuff I don’t have to process, or hang on to, or get rid of. In one night, the decision about what to do with most of my childhood things was made for me. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

On days when my possessions feel overwhelming, I am sincerely relieved that I do not have to deal with those things now. I’m pretty much buried in my current collection of stuff so that would have been even more stuff to wrestle with emotionally and physically. I can’t get it back.

On other days, I get a little sad when I think about some of those items. My father died when I was fifteen. The situation with his will and my step-mother was “complicated”. I have so few of his things to keep with me along my journey.

But if my limited experience with minimalism has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not about the stuff. It’s about me and my memories. My stories of Granny, and my dad. It’s about who they were that I carry with me and choose to make a part of who I am. It was never about the store or the rocking chair.

So I send out a “Thank You” to those two boys. You helped me to let go when I might not have been able to. I needed the push. I hope that you have full lives that you lack for nothing. May your hearts be full of love and joy. For you have blessed me in my quest for simplicity…

As always, thank you dear reader. I’m grateful for your time.

(In the picture above, that’s me on the left and my cousin Julie on the right. We are sitting at my bamboo table and that is my father’s rocking chair in the front near Julie. Memories. Stories…)