Monday, February 26, 2007

Daring to Be You or Why Lime Green is My Black

If it hadn’t been for my lime green corduroy bell-bottomed pants, I’m not sure that I would have as many toddlers in my circle. Or strangers, for that matter. Nope. Most people expect to see blue denim rather than green corduroy on one’s legs and so when they see lime green, a conversation—or upturned nose—is usually the next step. (I actually bumped into the only other woman on the streets of New York City over the holidays who was also wearing lime green cords; we gave each other a high five). Yet these wonderfully worn-in pants are the mainstay of my at-home winter wardrobe…and an identifiable part of who I have become over the years.

I’ll turn fifty this week. So it’s a turning point. But hey. Fifty’s the new thirty. (And Thursday’s the new Friday.) And lime green is my black.

Turning fifty gives one pause. It’s time for reflection. Where one’s been. Where one would like to go. The world is a-changing, that’s for sure. And today, there seems little that will stand in the way of living life to its fullest when middle—or old—age settles in. We went skiing this weekend, and although I avoided the black diamonds, I managed some decent runs down the blues. Didn’t see a lot of older folks out there, but the diehards still do their own thing. Always have. Always will.

Daring to do your own thing—to be different—takes some guts. But it gets easier as you get older. You just don’t care what other people think as much as you used to! Sticking your neck out to express a dissenting opinion, wearing clothes that buck the industry standard, or rearing your kids in ways that make you seem like an odd duck are all part of living life creatively. Wearing green cords instead of blue jeans.

None of the world’s greatest leaders followed the crowd. Nor have its greatest artists. Or brilliant minds.

Each one of us is gifted with a birthright of virtually unlimited creative potential. Ability to leave your mark. You need to figure out how to tap into your potential and more significantly, unleash it for the benefit of others.

How to get started? Or move father faster? At fifty, here is how I see it:
Travel more. Taking a break from your usual daily scenery will free up your mind to enjoy different cultures, different accents and languages, different foods, different air, different smells, and different sights. It will inspire creativity in the deep recesses of your mind.
Expose yourself to the arts. Immerse yourself. Through museums or theater, the symphony or in a class: study the masters. Their works will motivate you.
Become prolific. One characteristic of creative people is that they produce. Geniuses never seem to run out of brilliant ideas. Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he didn’t feel like it.
Think like a child. Get in touch with the child inside you. Look at issues in life and ask: “How would I look at this situation if I was six years old?” It makes wearing green corduroys fairly easy.
Give yourself the freedom to act creatively. Let yourself act like a creative person, whatever that means to you. Buy yourself a pair of red shoes.

Or green pants. And wear them. You will feel more brilliant instantly. Trust me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Playing Hurt

When we got the call at 2 AM last Saturday, I hopped
out of bed with the thought that anyone faced with a
ring in the middle of the night would have: "Who in
the world would be calling us at this hour?"

I looked at caller ID and, not recognizing the
number—and seeing that it was not Nick, our son away
at college some thirteen hours from home—I yawned and
crawled back into bed, pulling the down covers way up
over my head.

Forgetting all about that middle-of-the-night-call, I
moved through Sunday morning as always: early morning
tennis, cherub choir rehearsal, church. I felt
particularly moved to go up to the altar that morning
to lift up little Katie, our 3-year-old friend who has
been in our hearts for the past couple of years. We
met in the same clinic where our son was treated for
leukemia. She was having a tough time and had been in
our family's near-constant thoughts and prayers.
Barely leaving the altar, my daughter ran up and
grabbed me, forcing her cell phone into my jaw: "Mom.
It's Daddy. He said it's urgent."

Heart pounding, I heard the news we had dreaded: Katie
had passed away last night. It was her mother who had
called us at 2 AM.

Last week was Super Bowl Sunday and it was my turn to
write my annual "Playing Hurt" newsletter. But I
couldn't move. Couldn't talk. Couldn't think.
Certainly couldn't write. I was playing hurt. And was
immobilized. Right in the middle of the field.

Monday took me to New York City to meet with the mom
and dad. I told them I'd like to be with them. Help
them do errands in preparation for the next couple of
days ahead. Visitation. Cremation. Could I be their
hands and feet? Walking eighteen blocks in the blazing
cold of the northeast last week, arm in arm the three
of us as we walked down First Avenue in search of the
florist who had come highly recommended, we began the
painful process of selecting the flowers for Katie's

Sometimes when we play hurt we understand what's going
on. We accept the hurt as part of the natural state of
affairs. A grandparent dies and we are sad, certainly.
But we look at his or her long life and we accept the
end. Sometimes accidents happen and we agonize over
the injuries sustained by a loved one. Yet we
understand that healing will eventually occur and that
bones will eventually mend.

And then sometimes we endure things that never make
sense to us. Will never. Crib death. Death of a
toddler. Childhood cancer.

Playing hurt this year finds many of us in the Katie
Camp mourning her passing, something which none of us
could have ever imagined as possible. The spunkiest,
brightest, funniest, cutest kid one could envision had
left us. We had all sensed that she would fight the
leukemia and go on to live a very long and happy life.
She brought each and every one who had ever come into
contact with her unspeakable joy! She locked eyes with
mine two years ago and crawled into my heart, only to
stay there forever. The sadness I feel over her
leaving us is, frankly, nearly unbearable.

I am trying to stay focused on Katie's spirit, and my
faith leads me to believe that she is in a better
state. Watching us from above, I know that she has
joined the heavenly realm and that she is dancing with
the angels. Staying focused on eternity is the only
way that I am able to get through the motions of these

Most of us are carrying around a burden or two every
day. Illness. Separation. Prodigal children.
Brokenness. It is not the playing hurt that separates
you from me. We are all playing hurt. Daily, to one
degree or another. Playing joyfully while playing hurt
is the most difficult thing in the world to do. It is
our ability to play hurt with some level of abiding
joy that marks us as victorious in this daily thing
called life. Being able to infuse joy into the
patterns of living—while playing hurt—is one of our
greatest earthly challenges.

I pray that you are well. And that if are hurt—like I
am right now—that you shall try to find joy in the
morning. As shall I.

Blessings on your week,