People Can Surprise You: Everyday Magic, Day 889

Last night I dreamed I was a stand-up comic doing my first gig. There was mic trouble, and as I tried to riff off a list of topics I had scrawled on a wrinkled piece of paper, people wound around me, trying to get the mic to work. Most of the audience, dazzled by the previous act and impatient with our technical troubles, were leaving in droves while I tried to come up with something funny from my notes. Very quickly, I realized two things: it’s all in the timing, and it’s best to simply take the leap and leave my notes behind.

So I started talking about how people will surprise you, the examples pouring down on my pillow. I remembered how my father held on in a coma for 10 days until I arrived, and to my still astonished surprise, died 15 minutes after I walked in the door, my hand on his knee as his pulse ebbed away. I thought of a friend, with whom I was so estranged after years of tangles, that I was sure was gone forever. One night, after I dreamed of our reconciliation, I emailed her to find out that she had the same dream, and even more miraculous, we not only reconciled but found friendship on higher ground. My children, my siblings, my friends and community, and especially my husband frequently surprise me, acting in ways I couldn’t have scripted. I’ve received boatloads of delightful surprises, blessings all: flowers, apologies, requests, great stories, hot meals, bouts of laughter, weather-induced adventures, and cold drinks.

People can also surprise you in bad-to-worse ways. Someone recently lied to me, sparking my outreach. A sullen teenager I knew ended up taking his own life, breaking our hearts. Our world is peppered with betrayals, broken promises, sins of omission, and sly deals for the greedy.

Yet as my friend Shelley once told me — after adopting one baby to, a year later, receive the message,  “Do you want the brother?” — life has more imagination than we do. So we’re in for a lot of surprises. What we find in books and movies — the magical endings or new beginnings — may thrill or satisfy us, but surprises are even sweeter off the page and screen because they’re happening to us: the new love, the old pal returned, the book or record deal, the first green of the lettuce after the frost we thought killed it, the last sweet potato dug up in late November, the sudden sun shower, the resolved fight, the new kitten,  the drought or flood years, the way just a little hammering can repair a falling-down porch, the first mosquito of spring, the shimmer of lilac a month early, and the snowy owl on the power line.

My dream ended with this line: Enjoy the show, and when it’s over, see what’s next. We’re all tuned into the surprise channel, and you don’t have to be a stand-up comic with technical issues in an empty room to see the folly, beauty, and sweetness of that.

We Have Less Control Than The Little Control We Think We Have: Everyday Magic, Day 153

The older I get, the more apparent it is to me that whatever control I thought I had was largely illusionary. Beyond having real choices here and there (what to wear, eat, do in various moments), most of life is beyond my plans. This brings to mind two important quotes that guide me — one from my friend Shelley. When she and her then-partner received, a year after they adopted their daughter, received the phone message, “Would you like the brother?”, she quickly realized that “Life has more imagination that we do.”

The other quote comes from Pema Chodron, and I know it’s about how we humans are wired for solid ground while life is the opposite, but when I looked through When Things Fall Apart for it, I found this quote: “Impermanence is a principal of harmony. When we don’t struggle cialis online get prescription against it, we are in harmony with reality.”

Life is more imaginative. The only way to find the groove is to stop fighting change. All true, but why does thinking about this shake me sometimes, even bring me down to sad stillness? “This shaking keeps me steady. I should know,” Theodore Roethke writes in his great poem, “The Waking” (the one with the line, “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow”).

I watch the window, the sun almost burning through the clouds but not quite. The tree stands bare with just one remaining leaf shaking. A remnant of a spider web blows against the glass. It’s all always changing and even the lack of birds in the tree, something I just noticed, has been remedied. How little control we have, and yet this is the gift of being alive.