Make effort to live a bright and happy life.
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Salma Hayek told Oprah a story: When she was 10, there was a neighborhood flasher. This man accosted her and exposed his full frontal nudity. “I was terrified, just so scared…” She went home and told her grandmother who then gave this advice (Hayek offered a disclaimer – she is by no means telling little girls they ought to do this) BUT…
“The next time that man flashes you – even if you are terrified and alone – LAUGH at him. Point at his groin and LAUGH.”
The man DID flash her again. And little Salma stopped. She felt her entire body tighten with fear. But she remembered her grandmother’s advice. So she stared, pointed at his groin and laughed.
“He ran away, he cowered and ran away!” Hayek says, still incredulous.
You can always choose to reclaim your power.
My mother arrived in America in the late 1960s from a small town in rural South Korea. She knew a little English from school, but you can imagine going from the countryside in South Korea to a small apartment building in North Carolina is not exactly a smooth transition.
My sister, brother and I were born in quick succession following her immigration. We quickly grasped the many, many nuances of the English language, especially slang. Mom tried to understand it. But the words and gestures of profanity eluded her.
One day, my siblings and I were doing something that caused her displeasure: eating with our mouths full? Fighting with each other? Getting Bs? I don’t recall. But I do remember her suddenly raising her fist in an incomplete “f*** you” gesture (no middle finger) and yelling, “Fist up!” This created peals of laughter from us and, in her frustration, she gave chase. With a wooden spoon.
The chase was thrilling. Mom and that spoon could sting. But the sight of her in that apron, her face red with anger…it was too much.
As we ran around the house – us kids laughing at the sight of our indignant mother and the epic fail of her attempt to be obscene -she broke into laughter too. Soon, all four of us were in a puddle of giggle tears.
We carried on that day in a lighter state. Life is good. Grades are grades. People are people. Poor is poor. As long as we have each other, we can laugh.
I laugh a lot all day while I work.
Kids say the funniest things. There are entire shows and books about the humor of children. As a teacher, I also get a lot of hugs. AND, I really like the other teachers, my co-workers. We laugh a lot together. This job is pretty awesome.
Many years ago, I had a position in a money management firm where the “COO” (Chief Operating Officer, or soft murmuring sound made by a pigeon – (you choose)) walked briskly from his office to my cubicle and told me, “You are laughing too much and too loudly.” And then he stomped back to his office with a grand view of the San Francisco Bay. He made a lot of money. He died a couple years ago. I hope he laughed before he went.
I’ve held other jobs where I didn’t laugh all day. Isn’t that sad? I mean, it would have been inappropriate – unprofessional – to do so. The guys in suits, taking themselves so seriously and looking down at you for being….happy you.
You know what? It’s them, not you. You’re not too loud, or too happy. You’re not unprofessional (unless you’re taking lots of cigarette breaks, or calling in sick all the time, or just not doing your job). You are fine just the way you are. If your boss doesn’t like you, or if you’re unhappy, you might consider changing your job.
My friend Angie and I were talking about the quote, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”
Angie: I don’t agree with that! I think I love life so much, that I don’t want to die! I don’t want it to end!
I know that is a lot of exclamation points. But my friend Angie is very passionate. And funny. She’s a teacher too, and she works in the room next to me. This is a recipe for a lot of giggling and nonsense. We laugh so hard that tears from my laughter make my eyeliner run. Anyway..back to the quote.
I understand the quote. I understand that if we live in the present, moment to moment, and live it well, then we do not fear death. Why would we fear the inevitable? Because we haven’t finished everything we set out to do. We don’t want regrets. But I also understand what Angie is saying. We love our lives. We love our families, our jobs, the sun, the moon, Arizona monsoons, great movies, fine wine, kids’ laughter and funny sayings and really, really good food! Of course we’d miss that! Yet…
I think another buddhist philosophy can answer this:
“Walk through life unattached.” This sounds cold and boring, but it doesn’t mean to lack joy. It means, don’t be attached. Don’t hope and hope and get disappointed. Work for what you want and then…let go.
We’re too attached. We ought to enjoy the moment and let it go.
I’m not good at this. Yet.
One of the writing prompts to my students last week: Think of something you must do. Maybe you have to do a chore. Now, put it in a sentence. For example, “I have to take out the garbage.” Make it a true sentence. Now, replace the words “have to” with “get to.” Do you see or feel a difference?
One of my fifth graders wrote this:
“I have to do the dishes. I GET to do the dishes. I have food I get to clean off the dishes. I ate food with my family last night. My dad, my stepmom, my brother and I talked and laughed and ate food and then I got to clean the food off the plates. I am really lucky because I have food to eat. I have a family to love. And I get to do the dishes.”
When Josie was two years old, she slept in a white iron crib.
When I heard her stir, I’d come into the room and sing, “Good morning, my beautiful child!” I’d make up my own lyrics and melody, and she stood there, hands on the rails, lips pouting, curly hair flip flopped about her head. Then she’d lisp, “No thinging! No thinging!” I’d stop singing and carry her out of the crib. She had the Terrible Twos something bad. She threw temper tantrums daily and her jealousy of her newborn sister was immense. Finally, after a week of this, I decided I couldn’t be bossed around by my own toddler. I sang my song and she demanded I stop. This time, I answered, “Josie, it’s morning. I love you and I’m the mommy and you’re the baby and I’m going to sing if I want to and you’re not going to tell me no.” So I resumed singing. She stared at me incredulously. “NO! NO THINGING! NO THINGING!” She started to jump up and down, hands still on the rails. As she came down, her chin hit the rail and she bit her tongue. She cried her little lungs out. “Uh, I will come back later.” I told her. I felt the Mom Guilt all the time. Poor Josie was left to her own devices while I changed Ava’s diaper, fed Ava, took naps. I’d have to hand Josie off to her father a lot.
To this day, we rarely spend one on one time together. But today, I offered to go shoe shopping with the girls and Ava wanted to stay home while Josie wanted to go with me. So off we went. She found a red pair of Keds with wide ribbons. We joked around a lot. We laughed and ate chocolate. We bought a gift for friends who are expecting a baby, a baby carrier that can be worn in the front or as a backpack. I held my babies that same way frequently, enjoying their little bodies laying against mine, while I dusted furniture.
Josie wanted to hold my hand as we walked through the mall, this twelve year old who is now a half inch taller than me. I reveled in it, for I wondered, “At what age will she find it embarrassing to hold my hand?” She wanted nothing more than to just be with me. I’m a lucky mom.
Our new neighbors were expecting friends from France.
Mr. B. came to our door. “We are expecting friends from France. They have girls your ages. Do you think they could play together?” “Of course!” I replied. “They don’t speak any English,” Mr. B. stated. “No worries!” I replied. Ava added, “We can always communicate via Google Translate.” Brilliant!
The girls came. They were beautiful and shy. I had prompted Josie and Ava to be prepared with some ideas and games. Of course, when I suggested board games, they wrinkled their noses and chorused, “Boring!” So I allowed them to plan it on their own.
The girls started by opening a laptop with Google translate on. They typed and communicated what they were going to do. First thing: origami. Josie laughed as one of the girls accidentally ripped her paper, looked at Josie and then threw it over her shoulder!
The play date continued, communication largely facilitated by the translating program, but occasionally by means of facial expressions and key words.
The French girls then suggested that they play dodge ball. They all went to the park a few blocks away and played, sharing an iPhone to continue their dialogue. Upon their return, they played a game of billiards and then joined us for dinner. The night ended at 10pm – way past their bedtime. But all the girls had a fantastic time. “I wish they lived on this block! It would be so fun!” Josie lamented this morning. The guests depart for France on Tuesday.
Josie and Ava are composing a letter (with help from Google!) and are assembling a farewell gift.