The Sweet Ephemeral

…you’re the author of your own story, honey, so take your time telling it. revise. revise, and revise some more. oh baby, be your own happy ending!

Rosetta Peters
Joy and sorrow are all of one piece, part of the sweet ephemeral of life.

These last few weeks, as Richard and I build a voice recording booth and I gently spread my wings to check the size of this new space in my life, I’ve felt the most hopeful I’ve been in months. I’m giving talks on my hikes. I’m writing and voicing. I’m playing my flute. Things are going to be ok.

And then I go ahead and put myself out there. Just like my old self, I hosted a concert last week, microphone in hand in front of an audience, enthusiastically interviewing performers and trying to offer the concert a sense of flow and interest. I feet good. My jokes get a laugh, the performers give lovely insights and I hear myself sparklingly clear through the speakers assuming everyone else can too.

Never assume.

Afterwards, as the audience crowds towards the exits, one lovely man tells me he couldn’t always hear me. I apologize and assure him we’ll tweak it next time. Right behind him is another, shall-we-say “not so lovely” man, backing up the line so he can share his opinion on the topic. He takes not being able to hear me to a whole new level, pointing out I have no idea what I’m doing and his parting shot as he pushes out the door, “Next time, practice.”

Wouldn’t it be radical if we showed gratitude for everything, even the yucky stuff?

Let’s just pause here to thank the goddess he didn’t add “little lady” to the end of that piece of advice. I’m speechless, then angry, then a puddle of tears, my spirit shaken to the core as I shuffle up the hill to my home, feeling unskilled, irrelevant, pathetic.

Success and failure, these days, take the shape of sharp-edged, either/or, black and white definers of my person. Even as I challenge this shallow thinking, I slip into poor habits of self-talk, useless, really, and far harsher than any mansplaining concert-goer could be. The truth is there’s no hope of success without risk. Sure, I can fail when I strive for something great, but without risk, it’s not failure I’ll experience. It’s mediocrity.

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about the spirit not as a word, but as a verb. You might call it the living word. My dad was struck by the positivity in my voice in that post and shared this with me –

For all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be: Yes!

Dag Hammerskold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. – Ephesians 4:1

It occurred to me that it might actually be a radical shift in my thinking to show gratitude for everything. Even for that boob at the concert. His behavior teaches me about myself and how I choose to handle words that sting.

One step further beyond gratitude might be to see the humor in everything. Later in the week, when I finally crawled out of my bleak mood, I attended another concert with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was sharing my current situation with her when she blurted out, “Oh my god, are you going to live out on the street?!” I was so bowled over by her honest reaction and the boldness of naming out loud my biggest fear, that I started laughing. I told her I suppose it’s possible, but probably not. We’re smart people and this is just a puzzle we have to figure out. 

I have not failed and I do not need to practice with a microphone – well, maybe a little, but not because of an incorrect diagnosis of a sound issue, but because I want to widen my vocal range and improve my storytelling ability.

The book of Ephesians tells us to “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” One calling dried up for me, but another is so pregnant with possibility. For that, I feel gratitude, hope and a little amused at what it took to get me here. I fill my days with creativity and it gets me closer to the life I want to live, the life I’m called to live, the one that makes me smile.

An audio narrative from the first weeks of the PCT reminds me that sorrow serves a purpose.

Reader Comments

  1. This reminds me of something; let me see if I can get it right…
    An old guy was sitting in front of the TV and called his wife who was in the kitchen. He waited and got no response. He moved to the middle of the living room and called her again. There was no response. Finally, he moves to the doorway of the kitchen and hollers, “Woman, I’ve called you, you need hearing aids because you haven’t responded.”
    The woman calmly turns from her breadmaking and shouted, “I’ve answered you each time. Turn your hearing aids on!”

    Think of those old geezers this way.. it’s not you, they needed to turn their hearing aids on.

  2. Hey Alison. I think the hardest part of achieving any goal is dealing with negativity from others. I don’t think I have ever done a single trip where I didn’t have at least five people warn me that I was crazzzziiiiiiiiieee…

    Thank goodness I never listen to other people.

  3. I’ve been waiting for you to give talks on your hikes. How do I find out about dates and times? I haven’t seen anything on the blog. I don’t want to miss them.

  4. Hi, Alison – Your experience with the not-so-nice “boob” at your presentation reminded me of the times I conducted interactive workshops with teachers and school administrators, back in the Pleistocene Era. Inevitably, there would be “evaluation forms” dutifully turned in and then forwarded to me. Also, inevitably, the “ratings” would be, for a twenty-person workshop, something like seventeen 4s & 5s and three 0s or 1s. Of course, I, yes–inevitably, would be crushed that 15% of the participants thought I wasted their time. Eventually, I talked to a colleague about this, and her response was, “No, you wasted your time on them.” Bingo! Clarity. “Consider the source.” Some song somewhere says, oh, I know, “Garden Party,” by Ricky Nelson, when he was long past being Ricky Nelson, “You can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.” And that’s that. So there, Mr. Boob and your relatives who can’t find anything of worth in what someone else does or says . . . perhaps because there’s nothing of worth in your own life? Oh, that was petty of me. I’m so sorry (sotto voce, “BOOB!) Namaste, one and all!! And once again, thanks for sharing . . . .

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