I was in San Francisco a little while back, and I was on a jaunty little run from our hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge which turned out to be a 9.4 mile round trip, and I was watching the world sway, the way you can when you are away somewhere, removed from all of your personal attachments, and when that somewhere extends into ocean as far as the eye can see. I was in motion, the waves were rolling, there were other runners whirring by, dogs sprinting gleefully across wide open stretches of sand, foreigners on bike tours negotiating unnaturally inclined hills (I can’t do it. Yes you can. No way, I’m walking. Just put it in the granny gear. Okay okay I’m walking too.), and in all of this motion there was a connectedness, a sense that crept up on me that we are all going to the same place. And I don’t mean Disneyland.
I mean I know we are all going to the same place. Intellectually I understand the spiritual and emotional truth of it, but there were these expanding spans where I done did FEEL it. Someone grazed past me on their bike and I did not have to override the distress signal in my brain which typically lands somewhere between Geez, someone’s in a hurry (Mr. Roger’s neighbourhood) to Watch it asshole. I’ll take you down! (less Roger more Bruce Willis). But there I was confronted with how very near I was to painting the asphalt with my face, and instead of grief or despair I just saw a person trying to negotiate their way through a bottomless pit of worldly problems on the same old metaphorical bus as me. And I felt simpatico. I felt encouraging. You got this, guy on a bike. No harm no foul.
The world is presented to us in 8 billion parts each with a singular agenda competing with the next for worth, for meaning, for less suffering, for love. We are presented with what I call a model of emotional debt. We are all trying to prove our worth, and our worthiness is measured by our neighbour’s worthiness. Our successes are those that stand out against our neighbour’s successes. We got into the program, we excelled, our marks were higher, we produced the greatest number of sales, ran the most miles, bought the bigger house, or outsmarted all those Jones’ by not buying the bigger house, or did it our way, or the other way, or ate the most hotdogs! (#achievablegoals). We shone, but for our shine to count, it had to outshine another’s. Now there is a school of thought, if you will, that suggests that we all have a unique gift to give, and that if we figure it out, and figure out a way to share it with the world then we will hit the bliss jackpot. Everyone can shinus maximus and no one gets left out. Well shit, if that’s IT, then how could we possibly be buggering it up so badly? Where is the guide to this ‘all little stars are perfect as they are’ galaxy? Why do I feel shamefully sad when Susan loses ten pounds by eating elderberry and wild grass smoothies infused with the DNA of a rare swordfish that when mixed with elderberry and wild grass causes accelerated fat burning in humans, yet I know it’s somehow NOT going to work for me? Why the flash of relief when someone else can’t get the smoothie to work, but then the shame because who wants to share the suffering, that’s not any better, sniffle, sniffle, pass the cookies please.
Well I am going to suggest something radically different than the 8 billion little stars with their own tiny shines. I am going to suggest that all of this shining is not getting us that whole love, meaning, worth deal that we signed up for. It’s like the Big Loser for everyone. At best we are conquering all of those heavy heavy pounds, with the terrifying and sad knowledge that somehow we are not going to be able to keep it up. We get tired, and we lose our edge. In the BEST CASE SCENARIO, we ride the wave of wealth and success into a sunset of wrinkles and death. I don’t mean that in a bleak way. I mean it in a hilariously factual way. Where is the glory in being richer or more appreciated, or in having won the Oscar when you’re no longer showing up for roll call?
I now take a sharp turn to another summer adventure, the one where I went to Banff for the night, enjoyed four hours of dancing with a stagette, a wedding party and a forty year old man dressed as the Tooth Fairy in celebration of his dad’s 85th, to find the highway was closed on my return. Just like that. There was no detour sign or process, we were just diverted either back to Banff, or to somewhere LEFT, okay well it seemed to be North, but I had no way to discern the path of the road while driving it, and so I spotted a car pulled over with his lights flashing and I zipped on over to ask his opinion (I had a bestie in car so safety was NOT compromised). Well folks I had a big day ahead, and I did not want to be detained by aimless driving in many wrong directions (not that this happens to me often). Truth be told I had to make it to Calgary in time to wriggle into my Cat Woman costume, apply false eyelashes and celebrate the afternoon with a hundred other super heroes and villains (I’m making it sound like I have a rigorous extra curricular regiment but we can solve that equation some other Monday). I approached the vehicle, still in my civvies to find a shirtless kid of maybe, 21? Why was he driving topless, well because he could? Feeling free? It was cold and cloudy and 7:30 in the am, so yeah, that remains a small mystery. But he was on his phone finding alternate routes, and after a few minutes was fairly confident directing me home. I thanked him and I got back in my glamourous minivan, which if you’ve seen the inside after my summer shenanigans looks a lot like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys set up a secret camp in the back, but yeah, I said to my friend “I wish he was first and we could just follow him!” And then Tinker Bell flew in through the open window and after sprinkling us with head to toe pixie dust she granted our wish. Okay a heads up would have been nice because I would have wished for millions of dollars that when spent would create instant world peace, but there was no heads up, so we took our pixie sized win. Suddenly a small rust coloured hatchback pulled passed us, gesturing actual directions out of his window with his bare hand! And so the frog became a Prince. What ensued was us being lead along a one hour drive through the perils of whatever highway turns into Crowchild Trail with its harrowing slightly more bumps and winding road as well as more fog than usual, heralded by our fine young friend who made sure to pass other vehicles only when it was safe for us too to pass, so that we never broke formation. We, in kind, bravely passed at least 3 other cars, in favour of well, keeping whatever strange bond had formed between us and Sir Kid. Now you can’t really place love on a scale with separation and divisiveness and competition. One subsumes the other. But the light between us felt greater than the sum of three tiny stars.
Remember the 2013 flood? Well there was a secret going on during those floods. While our houses fell to disrepair and we cried over children’s grade one masterpieces and family photographs gone to mush, while we trudged through the slop that is created by marinating all of your precious objects together, but then also throwing in some garbage and the refuse from that time your dog pooed in the storage room 3 years before, well a strange magic happened.
We became each others’ heroes and heroines. We became united in a common cause. We became united. We walked through the sludge together. We stopped trying to shine, to earn our worth, and a portal opened up. Our hearts grew three sizes. And it was hard to come back through it my friend, to the land of the trying and shining, after feeling THAT.
And THAT is what happened for us one morning on our way from one party to another. We followed a topless blond boy through that same portal on a simple drive from Calgary to Banff.
Maybe you have worked really hard for your piece of pie and you really deserve it, or maybe feel you have to fight to feel you deserve it, or keep it, or hold it there in the pie sky, or perhaps you feel guilty for having it even though you deserve it. Maybe the pie has passed you by and you didn’t deserve that. Maybe you have the money pie, but you missed the love pie. Or you have become stranded in mixed metaphors of dessert and astronomy.
My wisdom? Next time someone is speeding down the hilliest hill in Hilltown and headed straight for your unarmored little body, remember this, that your Villain is one wish away from being your Super Hero, baby.
And that is a party we’re all in hurry to get to.
— Love Erin
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