"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
I have a friend, petite and southern, and if you were to meet her and asks, "How are you?" she might say, "Oh, I'm fine. I'm neurotic and anxious and a flat out hypochondriac, but I'm fine. Nice to meet you." It isn't a schtick, she's just quite open about who she is and as she puts it, "People are going to know sooner or later."
Bettye June is a bit eccentric, in my sense of the word; meaning a little outside the norm, no harm done, often whimsical. Walking buddies, she and I chat about the small occurrences of the day, but, no matter how mundane the conversation, I can count on her to say something enough out of the ordinary that it will stop me in my tracks and leave me laughing on the sidewalk. I find it interesting and fun to view the world from her perspective. The same is true of another friend, more buttoned up than Bettye June, but surprisingly original. A fine doctor, he had, among other oddities, the habit of watching the weather channel with the attention I would give to a movie, and by "watch" I mean for hours. He saw nothing unusual about wanting to know, in real time, the temperature in every city on the planet.
These friends have pockets of eccentricity. Margaret, on the other hand, is a full-blown eccentric. Visiting the village in Ireland where my folks come from, I often see a woman walking with a quick, purposeful pace, sometimes several times a day in different locations. Curious, I learned that she is called, "Margaret Who Walks the Roads." Everyone knows her and, if the weather turns rainy or if Margaret gets tired and sits by the side of the road, someone will stop and give her a lift back to her cottage. Cared for rather than shunned, valued rather than ridiculed, Margaret is part of a community that accepts eccentricity. If you ask her why she spends her days as she does, she will tell you, "I like to walk."
A lot of us have small eccentricities and they remind us that we are not just like everyone else. I like that. So much of the time, we feel compelled to conform and we demand the same from others. I find that I am more tolerant, far less annoyed and often amused when I view people through a Dickensian eye. Try viewing the current crop of politicians this way and fall on the floor laughing.
I'll keep my own eccentricities to myself, only saying that as a child my mother called me a flibbertigibbet. If you are not familiar with the word, think flighty and silly ... which, as an adult, can come out in eccentric bits. I'm OK with that. I've come to value Flib. She's the one who has fun.
Bear with me, folks. This is a bit of a circuitous story. I've been flipping through the online pages of Etsy, looking for special little gifts. If you don't know about Etsy, it's an online clearinghouse for homemade and vintage items. Here's a link if you want to find some unique pieces but be warned---give yourself plenty of time to roam: http://www.etsy.com/.
Then, last night, I heard about a website called Regretsy. At this site you will see all the many seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time objects that people purchased on Etsy and later regretted. You can find them at: http://www.regretsy.com/. (They also have a charity component so it's good for more than just a laugh.)
This takes me to the topic of regrets. I'm sure I'm no different than most of you in my desire to live with as few regrets as possible so i was happy to read an article via my friend, Bette. Here, according to someone who worked for years in palliative care, are the top 5 regrets of the dying:
1)I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2) I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5) I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I intend to read this and read it again and again to keep myself as alert as possible to the courage it takes to live a life free from the burden of regret.
A familiar childhood memory for many of us is that of winter's first snowfall when, in bed, just opening your eyes, you sensed that the world had changed and you rushed to the window to see it. A moment so magical that it is easily recalled, often with the wish that it could be replicated; and sometimes with a self-scolding because you can't bring up that feeling again. "What has happened to my sensitivity?" you wonder, as you grumble about the morning's drive ahead of you. Well, ease up. No one can produce magic. You can produce a wonderful setting, a grand wedding or a perfect Christmas morning. Such settings may be fun and moving and memorable, but not have a single magic moment. And that's because you bump into magic, you don't create it. It's a fleeting glimpse into another world. Time and place are suspended in a moment of harmony and joy and mystery. And, while there is mystery, at the very same time, there is a sense of understanding ... though you don't necessarily know what you understand. Sometimes, in larger moments, one is aware of a coming together of various elements, a confluence never thought of. I had such a moment a few days ago.
The evening before, I watched the 1949 film, "The Secret Garden," which was one of my favorite books when I was a child. The next morning, while going through my usual routine, I had a sudden, intense realization that the major themes of my life were present in the film I had watched. It wasn't a mental activity. That is, I didn't name and sort out the themes. (Hey, I'm a psychologist, been there, done that) The experience was one of integration, unity, wonderment at how things can come together, outside our range of consciousness. My life made sense in a new way and with that came a rush of joy. It lasted, at most, a minute. I hadn't learned anything new about myself, but I had a more integrated understanding and a keen sense of happenings beyond my control. It was enchanting.
While you can't create magic, you can be open to it; aware enough that when a magic moment occurs you don't dismiss it and hurry on to other things. For me, nature sometimes calls up magic moments as does creative activity. How often we hear writers and painters say that they have no idea where a creative impulse comes from; it mysteriously appears and then is gone. While there, they are indifferent to time and place, aware only of a force or energy that seems to be beyond the usual self.
Before I go to sleep at night, I like to ask myself, "What was the surprise in my day?" No matter how humdrum the day, there is always a surprise to be found. It's a habit that helps keep me open to surprise, to valuing those rare, soul-satisfying moments of magic.
DUST OF SNOW
The way a crow Shook down on me The dust of snow From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart A change of mood And saved some part Of a day I had rued.