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Posts tagged ‘living life to the fullest’

Exuberance

I was recently in Starbucks – my new go to work space after I discovered how much more I’m able to get accomplished when I don’t make my writing compete with my laundry and dishes – when a father and son came in and sat at the table opposite mine. The father was older than me, maybe forty-five, and the son younger than Loch, close to four. As they enjoyed their separate drinks and explored their different handhelds, I found myself unable to work, not because they were bothering me, but because they were so charming. The little boy was just everything wonderful about childhood squeezed into one person. All fleshy elbows and turned up nose, legs dangling off the floor, his orange ankle socked feet shooting straight up in the air as he sneezed into the arm of his shirt.

Aside from the extreme cuteness and the fact that I wanted to go over and hug and kiss him because I no longer have a three-year-old of my own to cuddle, what struck me most was the boy’s exuberance. His unmitigated joy for almost all things. His outward, visible manifestation of everything that thrilled him. Finding the right table to sit at, taking the phone from his Dad and talking animatedly to the person on the other end, eating his croissant, everything was wonderful and worthy of note. Being told he was allowed to play Angry Birds on his Dad’s tablet resulted in a full body, booty shaking dance that made him fall over. He was just so into everything. He karate chopped the air when the birds hit their target. Pulled out the double fisting air pump “Yes-es!” and exhilarated “I can’t believe this”  Whoooooo’s when he completed a level. He was fabulous and, no matter how into my writing I was, it was impossible to not just abandon it to simply watch this kid exist.

That’s the thing about people who fully commit to life. They’re infectious. It’s too bad we often lose that enthusiasm as we age. Life, bills, marriage, stress, anxiety and, quite frankly, the bloody news just make it more and more difficult to be truly thrilled about anything other than flopping into bed.

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

I guess that’s why I’ve always been such a big fan of parties and holidays and long dinners with people who’s company I love. It’s so amazingly nice to have a reason to leave the everyday behind and live in a moment of excitement no matter how brief. I really wanted to go to this super cool club for my birthday this year. It’s a fully themed Hollywood bar set up like a 1970’s house party where you enter through a vintage beer fridge at the back of a garage sale. What?!?! Come on!! So good!! It’s all shag carpeting and lava lamps and beer served in #1 Dad mugs. I love the idea of it. I love the effort that went into creating it, the attention to detail and the complete lack of irony in which you can embrace it. There’s a roller skating show for crying out loud. How can you not love the idea of putting on wide leg jeans and drinking properly mixed cocktails with your friends in a different decade?

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

It was in the same vein that Sean and I planned our school’s fundraiser last year. It was a 1920’s burlesque slash prohibition night at a club owned by the same people as that 70’s place. These genius brothers took one of the oldest private homes in Los Angeles and turned it into a what looks like a very hip, traditional speakeasy. Again, how fun to be greeted by a 1920’s madam in a vintage hotel room just to be directed to a secret set of stairs that leads you to a vintage club? Even knowing how reticent grown ups typically are at the mere suggestion of costumes, we went ahead and encouraged theme dress and it was amazing to see how many people actually made the effort to show up in period. The thing is, once you get over the discomfort of doing something out of the ordinary, people usually have a pretty good time.

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Halloween for most children is right up there with Christmas and their birthday. It’s a BIG deal and they devote themselves to it whole hog. On Loch’s first Halloween, like the newbie parents we were, Sean and I decided to embrace the holiday and try to enjoy it the way the kid’s did. Every year since then we’ve done our best to be the Supemes to our child’s superstar. We try to back up the costume he’s committed to and attempt to have fun while doing it. When he was a three-year-old vampire, we tossed around the idea of being people who’d been bitten but, to ensure we were also entertained, we ended up as Sookie and Jason Stackhouse from the popular vampire show “True Blood”. Loch had fun, but so did we. Last year’s costumes were my favorite so far because Loch’s adamant decision to be Aquaman (a costume that is NOT sold in stores by the way) stumped us on what we should be. After talking though relatively pathetic, homemade jelly fish and squid costumes, we considered – for the first time ever – abandoning our family plan. When we finally figured out something we could get on board with: Punk Aquaman fan club members, it became easy and, once again, fun. Multiple fake face piercings and our son’s own costumed picture silkscreened on our shirts, we arrived at Loch’s school Halloween party with an unbridled enthusiasm that darling boy from Starbucks would have truly appreciated. Plus, we kind of made people nervous, which was an added bonus.

The McGowans circa 1955.

The McGowans circa 1955.

It’s fun to be committed. It’s incredibly enjoyable to dive in to things with enthusiasm and, from what I’ve noticed over the years, that kind of keenness is contagious –  even if it’s just to yourself. Putting energy into something and getting positive feedback inspires you to make that kind of effort again and do it even better. That’s exactly how my family ended up with our increasingly elaborate Christmas card.

Every year we’ve been married Sean and I have sent out a Christmas card. For a while we couldn’t afford an actual card so we’d send a short letter with a separate photo we’d mass produced. Personally, I love getting Christmas cards but I wish every single one had a picture. I love to see people. How they’ve changed. How they look. It’s nice to get smiling faces in your mailbox and really, so much better than what usually ends up in there. I’m looking at you bills and black widow spiders! Anyway, in 2010, burnt out trying to write our Christmas wrap up, Sean came up with the idea to put our family on the cover of a magazine called McGowan (fonted to look like Esquire) with just teaser titles to highlight our year. It was easy and fun and the response we received made it well worth the effort we’d put into it. We were so glad we’d done it, in fact, we found ourselves in the catch twenty-two of trying to outdo ourselves the following year.

The McGowans circa 1973.

The McGowans circa 1973.

We failed.

2011’s photo strip was cute – with the added bonus of it’s size leaving absolutely no room for any sort of written debriefing – but at the end of the day we felt we could have done better. So, the next year we stepped it up and did a full fledged 1950’s family portrait that entertained us probably more than the people who received it. It was a riot. In fact, it was that card that solidified for us that sending a Christmas card to your friends and family shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be a happy thing that makes YOU smile as much as anyone else. If you’re not enjoying it what are you doing other than adding yet another thing to your “To Do” list? So, with that idea firmly in mind, and Loch old enough to truly be on board with the revelry, we went straight over the top last year with a card inspired by Sean’s Barry Gibb hair phase and shot a Bee Gee’s type Holiday Album cover. I take the fact that people tell us they now “look forward to our card” as both a compliment and reminder that we’re doing something right.

Take a moment and remind yourself to embrace life with the joy of your inner orange socked kid. Find the things and people that make you want to double fist pump or scream whooooo! Why not commit to a little escapism? Is it really so terrible to engage in things that might make you smile?

DSC_0818That little boy’s voice. His shining face. Every day my Lochie grows farther and farther away from being a little person and I want so desperately to make sure he doesn’t lose his joy while doing so. He’s still excited about everything. He’s still lives in a world without shame or self judgement but, I see it changing. He’s aware of people now. He’s mindful of who’s watching. He’s becoming conscious of what’s “cool” and what his friends are (or are not) into.

That little boy in Starbucks didn’t care anyone was there but his Dad. He was in the moment every single second and I want my boy to be able to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. I don’t want him (or me, for that matter) to turn into some adult who’s forgotten how to have fun. Someone too jaded to be thrilled. Too caught up to let go. I want Loch to live in a world where, even with all the real problems and worries he’ll face, he will still strive to find the moments where he can fall over laughing.

In my perfect future that joy will advance past Angry Birds…but, you know, I’ll take what I can get.

xo leigh

Blink of an Eye

For my birthday Sean bought tickets to the Hollywood Bowl. 10 years in LA and I’ve never been. Every year I say, “You know what I really want to do this year? Go to the Hollywood Bowl” and every year we never quite get around to it. Life’s like that. Best intentions and all that. This year though Sean took that extra step and actually bought the tickets to John Williams conducting the LA Philharmonic and I was so excited. Maestro Williams conducting a collection of his greatest movie scores – Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Superman, etc. – a tribute to Henry Mancini and Blake Edwards and the evening hosted by Mary Poppin’s herself  (Mr. Edward’s widow), Dame Julie Andrews. It was a marvelous. We had our picnic basket, our wine & cheese, our squares of after dinner chocolate. The night was gorgeous and warm and Sean and I were able to relax and reconnect in a way you can’t do at a traditional movie or dinner. It was magical and, as the music swelled and images swirled on the screens, my hand interlocked with my husband’s, I looked up to the heavens (and I say that without dramatics because there is a lot of sky at the Bowl just begging to be spoken to) and said a silent prayer to God for how happy and lucky I was.

The Bowl really does look like this shot from alumniconnections.com

The Bowl really does look like this shot from alumniconnections.com

Near the end of the concert, while the light saber wielding crowd delighted to the multiple scores from Star Wars, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Sean told me to hurry or I’d miss it, so I scooted out of our seats and hustled to the closest washroom which, because we were technically in a theatre built into a cliff, turned out to be up an extremely steep hill. As I arrived at my location I was instantly aware I’d made a terrible error in judgement. I found myself hopelessly out of breath. Like, really out of breath. Once in the stall I put my head between my legs hoping to counterbalance my lightheadedness but it didn’t work. I couldn’t get a full breath and I couldn’t think my way out of it. No matter how hard I tried to calm down and breath normally I couldn’t will myself better, and it quickly became clear I was going to pass out. I knew I had to get out of the stall or people would simply ignore me thinking I was just some drunk girl who’d passed out while the timpani banged out Darth Vader’s theme. I crawled out of the stall on my hands and knees and just before I lost consciousness I saw one pair of shoes in a stall down the way. She’d find and help me right? With that I let go and fell from my hands and knees to my shoulder and face.  When I came to I was lying on the bathroom floor (the bathroom floor!!! Gross! My poor skin!), my head was killing me and those shoes hadn’t moved at all. I lay there looking at those sensible, beige pumps while my breath normalized and by the time she came out I was sitting up leaning against the wall.

I left this cuteness to go pass out in the bathroom. What a fool I am!

I left this cuteness to pass out in the bathroom. What a fool I am!

Not surprisingly she ignored me. I’m not sure what she thought I was doing. If I was 10 years older I’m sure she would have asked if I was ok, but being younger I think she couldn’t help but silently judge me. I look too healthy to have anything really wrong with me right? She left and I said nothing. When I finally had the energy to stand up I washed my hands, splashed water on my face and slowly made my way back down to Sean. He looked at me when I got back as if to say “Where have you been?” and I burst into tears. I felt completely traumatized. Just thinking about it replayed in detail how awful it had been to be unable to breathe, to know I couldn’t help myself and to be reminded that no matter how happy I was, I was also really sick. That, combined with the fact my head was absolutely throbbing where I’d hit it, caused me to silently sob through the second encore while Sean packed up our stuff.

My bump. It hurt for a week. I even needed a brain scan to rule out a bleed. Post concussive syndrome!

My bump. It hurt for a week. I even needed a brain scan to rule out a bleed. Post concussive syndrome!

The next day my head was a sight to behold. It looked as if I’d had a derma implant with a golf ball. My shoulder was aching and I was so overwhelmingly tired that my parenting consisted of allowing Loch watch TV all day. As a side note, he told me it was “THE BEST DAY EVER!!!” Around 4:30 I texted Sean, who had left our house at 6am for work in the desert, to come home. My text read: When do you think you might be home? I don’t mean to alarm you but I think I have a slight concussion. As I lay in my bed waiting for his answer, the sounds of Phinnus & Ferb drifting into the room, I started to think about how quickly things can change. Here I was moments before saying my silent prayer to God about how wonderful my life was and then, without warning my disease, physically and metaphorically, knocked me me on my a*#. Or in this case, my head.

Things have a way of changing instantaneously. For the good and the bad. I knew on our first date I’d marry Sean. The world just shifted. I walked out of the restaurant with a different life than when I’d walked in. I grew a baby in my body for almost 10 months but was the same girl until the night I went from being just Leigh to Loch’s Mom. I went to the doctor 6 months later thinking I’d developed asthma and 4 hours later was told I had 2-3 years to live. It can all change in the blink of an eye. Everything can shift in a heartbeat and that knowledge should act as a reminder not just to appreciate every great moment, but also not to get too mired down in the dismal ones. What do they say? The only constant in life is change?

I'm writing a memoir myself. The strength and bravery it must have taken for Matthew to have written this one is inspiring.

I’m writing a memoir myself. The strength and bravery it must have taken for Matthew to have written this one is inspiring.

I was recently at Target cooling my heels while Loch entertained himself in the toy aisles and I picked up a book called Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Matthew Logelin. It was the story of a husband who lost his wife to a random brain embolism the day their daughter was born. Written from his perspective I was pulled into the immediacy of the chapter of when it all went down. He vividly expresses the confusion he felt when his wife collapsed walking the halls of the hospital. How helpless and angry he was as the doctors buzzed around while the code alarm blared through the halls. How surreal it felt making calls to people expecting the happy “we just had the baby” song to the “you better get down here they don’t think she’s going to make it” terror. When his wife dies he describes the floor opening up, the fury he felt towards the placating grief councilor, the horror of the realization that he was now completely alone with their newborn, his devastation knowing his new daughter would never know her spectacular mom and the utter confusion that drowned him trying to rectify how his perfectly healthy wife could just be gone. I found myself moved to tears right there in the superhero aisle.

I know what it’s like to have your life open under you. To feel as if you’re drowning in your own reality. Reading Matthew’s words however, I was also reminded of how lucky I am. How different my story could have gone – could still go – and how very much I must try to appreciate every day. People are always saying, “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow”  and though you probably won’t, metaphorically the possibility is there. Things change and things can change quickly. Whenever I’m feeling upset I often think back to the days I was told I wasn’t going to live and my perspective immediately shifts. I do this when I’m mad at people too. How would I feel if they were gone? If I could no longer speak to them? It’s hard to stay mad when you consider the alternative and count your blessings. photo copy 2 That being said however, I think it’s too much to ask of ourselves to appreciate every day, to always be in the moment, to live only in the present and to appreciate everyone all the time. I believe it’s a noble thing to attempt and something we can all hopefully accomplish at various moments in our life, but I don’t think we should put pressure on ourselves to be zen in every instance. When we do that it just becomes yet another thing to get down on ourselves for, to feel we’re failing at.  I think the big picture is simple awareness and the acknowledgement that nothing ever remains static. If your life is good, be grateful. If your life is tough, be hopeful. Try not to dwell. Keep moving and growing. Appreciate and celebrate the moments and people that bring you joy. Tell people you love them. Be kind to others. Create memories and relationships that will live on after you’re gone. Make the most of your life because you’re not getting another one and it can all change on a dime.

Passing out on the floor of a bathroom reminded me to take stock of all I have to be grateful for. That no matter where I’d like my future to go, I must appreciate my current reality and truly saver my moments because I don’t know how this is going to play out. Passing out forced me to stop and acknowledge my reality and, for better or worse, embrace it. I may dream of a bright future but I have to care for myself in my present so I’m around to enjoy it.

For now that means more unique dates with my husband and not walking up hills at speed.

Duh.

xo leigh

photo copy 3