"Spring has … SPRUNG!!!"
My roommates and I at UCLA shrieked this jewel at random intervals throughout the month of April, especially during my sophomore year. We'd walk through the doorway of the condo and start caterwauling.
We even had something we referred to as the Peruvian fertility dance to accompany ourselves. It involved much shimmying and gyrating.
One night, on the way to the beach, Mike Stroh teamed with Gail to clean out Spot, my ancient VW bug, so named because of the primer splashes dotting its shabby dark-blue paint. Together, Stroh and Gail tossed two or three feet of Diet Coke cans, beer cans, Marlboro Light boxes and candy wrappers.
Ah, the four basic food groups of college: caffeine, nicotine, Tylenol and alcohol.
Stroh was a missionary pilot, last I heard. Gail now has three children and lives in Maryland.
Spring, the official start of seemingly endless decluttering.
I lost twenty pounds in two years, back in the late '80s when I started running. I don't drink or smoke anymore; it's been almost a decade since I did either. I've had one Diet Coke in the last two years and it was disgusting. Heck, I rarely even eat candy.
But I'm still decluttering.
For me, it is consistently a matter of one reflecting the other. When I practice bad habits physically – letting the paperwork pile up, spending the always-scarce funds on fast food, wallowing on the red couch -- my emotional, mental and spiritual health suffers too.
Take last month, for instance. Forgive me for not submitting a column; I could not think, paralyzed with sadness after breaking the connection with … someone who has been an integral part of my life since shortly after I was diagnosed with the cancer.
But it was selfish of me to not write.
So now spring has arrived. Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to love, while my insides feel as though they've been hand-grenaded. Shakespeare, I'll see you in hell.
Sometimes everything has to fall apart in order for things to come together again.
Author Ann Lamott wrote a wondrous book, Traveling Mercies, about spirituality – specifically, her own quest for such. Lamott, referencing those who hang with the Dalai Lama, wrote that "…they believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born – and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible."
Think about this for a minute. Maybe when we experience big and scary and painful things, it is so whatever needs to appear can have the space to do so.
My friends and loved ones keep telling me what a terrific thing I've done, severing that one alliance. They say now there's a clearing for something tremendous to show up in my life.
But all I have is the emptiness.
That's when it feels overwhelming.
When I don't run, when I don't reach out and connect with others, when I stop writing and smiling and singing – I'm in a dangerous place.
I sit on the red couch in my messy apartment. I can't throw stuff out, I make less than $900 a month. I can't get rid of anything, I have nothing to replace it.
And then there's the only child syndrome. I sometimes allow people in my life even if they're mean to me, even if they're sucking the energy from my spirit. I keep the soul-stealers. Because there were so few around me when I was young.
Now I am learning to discard the things I don't use. And to weed out those who – what did Baz Luhrmann say when he told us to Wear Sunscreen? – are reckless with my heart.
Because otherwise I'm in what Dr. Seuss referred to as a most useless place. The Waiting Place.
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go/or a bus to come or a plane to go/or the mail to come, or the rain to go/or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow/or waiting around for a Yes or No/or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite/or waiting for wind to fly a kite/or waiting around for Friday night/or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake/or a pot to boil, or a Better Break/or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants/or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.
Don't. Don't wait for your ship to come in. THIS IS YOUR SHIP.
Veronica A. Shoffstall, who just may be poetry's One Hit Wonder, wrote of love and loss -- "…and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child …
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers…"
What are you waiting to do? What is holding you back from bettering your personal record, from achieving your dreams? Is anything – or anyone – occupying too much of your essence?
It's time to tidy.
When I was in second grade, my parents and I erected Solomon's temple using sugar cubes. We spray-painted empty toilet-paper rolls a horrifying gold for the gilt columns flanking the Holy of Holies.
This was for the Arts and Crafts Festival at Brethren Christian Elementary School, by the way; we weren't just being creative one afternoon.
The extraordinary structure won Most Superior. I still have the blue ribbon.
In lieu of an explanatory 3x5 card, I pasted a cutout magazine picture of tulips on a piece of yellow construction paper. In the neat, careful, shaky printing of a 6-year-old, I copied Song of Solomon 2:11-12.
"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle(dove) is heard in our land."
Rejoice. Spring has sprung.