How My Parents Taught Me to Walk at Age 47.

In 2012, I spent the summer with my parents in their home in Santa Fe, NM.

Most mornings and evenings, they headed out for walks. They had to get their little coyote-looking dog Ginger out, but the walks saved them from life’s daily stresses.

Most times, I was invited. Often, I joined them on the streets winding around adobe homes, dirt paths, and arroyos. I learned “a little walk,” unless it was dark, typically took an hour. So, sometimes I declined in honor of time and solitude.

Often, I heard my stepmom say, “I’m a little tired. I’m going for a walk” or I could see her emotional edge (we all have one) sharpening. Those moments called for solo walks with Ginger.

They both returned brighter and kinder. The desert air, the smell of dirt and pine, and the expansive skies covering the Land of Enchantment can clear the blues. 

Back in junior high, my stepmom introduced me to running by entering a ten-mile race through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado on the day she married my father.

At 14, my skinny legs and thick willpower carried me through the course.

Mary Jo was a runner. So, I became one. Not a jogger. Certainly, not a walker. In my mind, walking was what old people did in malls.

I ran through my teens, 20s and 30, but by my forties, my body wasn’t as forgiving. Yet, my mind couldn’t imagine the power of walking, except for wimps. I’m not a wimp!

Neither are my parents. Now in their 80s, they’re big time drinkers—of water. They’ve travelled the world, and ridden bicycles across the country on serious trips: across the Great Divide, from New Mexico to my dad’s high school reunion in South Dakota, and one summer they rode 4,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon, covering over 50 miles on most days.

So, it shouldn’t have surprised me when, the summer of 2012, my dad met my offer to join him on a bike ride with, “I need to get a real workout in.” Ouch. Hey, old man!

He was right, though. I couldn’t keep up with him mountain biking on the trails, and though I intended to, I never made it up the vertical-as-a-wall killer hill he took like a 12-year-old.

Between bicycle rides, walking served as my parents’ constant. Like water, it’s the simple, almost unnoticeable key to health and longevity.

As Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron states, “You might walk out with a problem, but as you walk, you come into a solution.” She added walking as a third tool for writers, after morning pages and artist dates.

Between Ms. Cameron and my parents, walking became my secret weapon.

Even if walking doesn’t bring me to a solution or resolution, it transforms me. When I’m angry, I must run, but when agitated, irritated, or tired, walking offers revival. It can be medicine, but it’s best taken daily like vitamins.

After that summer in Santa Fe, I returned home to Minnesota, but not to my husband. Yeah, I’d learned to walk in several ways.

Anyhow, in my next chapter, I took up walking with my new neighbor Michael and his German Shepard Jessie. As Michael and I walked among the Victorian homes of Cathedral Hill, St. Paul, we discussed men and women and relationships.

Each step dropped our defenses and forged a friendship I doubt would’ve happened over coffee or meals. Walking made talking easy.

I also walked alone, slowing into the pace of poetry.

Later, when I moved to Worthington, OH with my sister Jayne, our evening walks tamed workday stresses and unraveled the threads of grief, relationships, and childhood memories matched with our adult perspectives.

During winter, my sister and I long for and lean into spring so we can get back to our synchronized steps.

Up until a year ago, my Labrador Phoenix joined us. There’s nothing like a dog to get us out for walks. She’s gone now and it’s more of a chore to drag myself outdoors during the cold days.

Still, every time I go, especially stepping into the woods and letting nature return me to mine, I’m better for it.

On my most recent visit with my parents in their new small Santa Fe apartment, I said, “I need to get out for a walk. Would either of you like to join me?” They both declined the cold. The wind of their aging blew through me.

Of course, we shared many walks that week: down Canyon Road by art galleries, along the downtown arroyo surrounded by glistening yellow Aspen trees, and a drive out close to my folks’ old neighborhood where Ginger could run free as Mary Jo and I plunged up and down hills and through sandy arroyos where she lost her hat and we had to go back.

Walking carries us back and forward, to reflection and perspective of beauty that a drive, or even a bicycle miss.

Ginger is slowing. My parents are growing into what, despite their health, is old age. My companion Phoenix aged out.

I try to pick up the habit of running again, but I’m thankful my parents passed onto me a new constant to carry me through life’s daily joys and challenges.

So, when you’re feeling lost or blue, I encourage you to get out and experience the magnificence, simplicity and magic of walking. 

How to Break up with Perfection.

Dear Perfection,

I’m breaking up with you. I already talked to God about this and he said, “Go for it!”

In fact, he said he never understood why I pursued you in the first place.

Well, I won’t go that far; You’re so attractive! So ideal for me! I desire you. Unfortunately, you’re like a mirage. The closer I get to you, the more walls you put up.

You ghost me. Then, just when I’m at peace in my life, you come courting and seducing me with sweet gifts. You give me books. You know my weakness!

One Minute Organization, You Are a Badass, You Are a Badass at Making Money, Big Magic, Spontaneous Transformation, …

I read the pages and imagine you and me making things work the way you want. It’s what I want, too. But, you make it too hard. You don’t let me enjoy myself.

You’re like the opposite of my bad boyfriend who made all my money disappear. I once told him, “I bet if I had a million bucks, you could turn it into a -$1,000,000!”

With you, Perfection, if I earned $1,000,000 today, you’d say, “How about $2,000,000?”
You’re never satisfied. Plus, you’re kind of a stick in the mud, a dud.

When it’s time to celebrate, or even just sit in the sun, you pull out a to-do list.

Well, let me ask you this: what part are you doing? Because in this relationship of ours, I don’t see you doing a lot of heavy lifting, but I sure do hear you b*tching.

Like when I completed my Intentional Blog course and felt proud—because you know that technical sh*t brings up my childhood hurdle of feeling stupid—but I did it!
You said, “Yeah well, isn’t there another course you need to complete?”

When I balked because I wasn’t being lazy, but just acknowledging one step forward, you said, “My God, Alice, it’s not like you ran a marathon. I really care about you. It’s just that I know you’re going to feel better about yourself when you have 5,000 followers.”

Perfection, here’s what you don’t get: I was already feeling good!

You and I have different values and belief systems. You say you love me, but you don’t even respect me.

You invalidate my feelings, especially when I’m happy. How can you call that love?

You don’t appreciate me for who I am, but some fantasy of who you want me to be.

You’re trying to get to some destination down the road and when you catch me relishing my life, laughing with my sister, reading a novel, enjoying time with friends—you act like I’m doing something wrong.

No, Perfection. You’re wrong!

You’re wrong in your attitude. You hold up your ideals, but make no room for the path to attainment or fulfillment.

What you don’t get, Perfect, Perfect you, memories are made from running all the miles of the marathon. There are aid stations along the way and it’s ok to stop. Not everyone has to be a world champion.

You make everything like there are two choices: either you’re perfect, like you, or you’re a loser. I’ve got news for you. There’s a whole lot of in between.

There are thousands of writers earning a living off words who’ve never been on Oprah or the New York Times Bestseller list.

There are songwriters whose success is solid, but whose names we wouldn’t know and faces we wouldn’t recognize in public.

Perfection, you’re also a snob. If someone uses the wrong word—your for you’re, a less-than politically correct term, says “honey” or “babe” when they don’t know you, or mispronounces Guadalupe, you act as if they should be banished from earth.

Come on! Give people a break! Like me.

I’m better off without you. See, I want to enjoy my life now, not someday.

I’m not an idiot. I’m no fool. I know I’ve got work to do. It’s not like I’m going to totally screw up my life without your constant supervision.

I need a partner, a lover, a friend, maybe even a coach, but not a parent.

You know me; I’m antiauthoritarian a rebel and. So, what makes you think I’d be drawn closer to you by your control tactics disguised as loving advice and encouragement?

Sometimes, I resist doing things simply because you tell me I must. Perfection, you don’t own me and you sure don’t determine where I find joy in my life.

You want us to do all these things. You plan and plan, but then when we get there, it’s never good enough for you and you head off on the next plan.

Geez! You wear me out! I just need to be away from you for a while.

I’m done chasing you trying to make something work that was never meant to be.

By the way, I’ve been hanging out with God and he said something interesting. It reminded me of my first summer selling books when my sales manager noticed my sales plummeted on the days after I talked to my boyfriend back home.

God said he noticed whenever I’m trying to win you over—and haven’t I tried?—you try to make me feel like less-than. It’s true, although I know you’ll never admit it. It’s always cloaked in “trying to help.”

I’m not mad at you, Perfection. I get it. You don’t know another way to be. I shouldn’t ask you to change. I’m not. I’m just stepping away.

So I can be me. So I can be free. So I can pursue my passions without constantly worrying about how they might play in the marketplace or measure up to your standards.

I don’t want to measure up. You think I can’t make it without you just because you’ve been around for so long?

Wrong again. Sorry, but it’s often when things fall apart (according to your standards) that I find my greatest fulfillment.

My life often comes together in the most imperfect and unplanned ways.

I promise, Perfection. I’ll be fine without you.

I’m walking my own path. You may not like it, might disagree, can even laugh at me.

It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to be manipulated by you anymore, Perfection.

You’re the one who’s missing out. You’re missing the messy party called life, cloud watching, sunshine sipping, ducks landing in the driveway, 30 minutes of a one-hour meditation, budget vacations, and showing up late only to find you’re right on time.

You want life with straight edges, but baby I was born for riding the curves.

Perfection, our paths will cross again, maybe when I sign my book contracts and on Christmas, but don’t plan it. This just isn’t working for me. And in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been giving you what you want either.

Besides, I like hanging out with my other friends: Peace, Solitude, Serenity, Joy, Fun, Music, Poetry, Sister and Yoga. Oh, and Laughter, Hugs, Writing, and Conversations.

You’d hate our parties. We just sit around and bliss out. Not your style, I know. That’s why you are I are done.

Please don’t think it’s easy letting you go or that I won’t sometimes fantasize about you, but I will never chase you again.

So, go be you. I’ll see you in the movies and on TV, in pharmaceutical commercials and political campaigns. Get out there and tell them how it’s going to be, Perfect—tomorrow.

I’ll be here, basking in this magic moment.

 

How Kansas City Johnny Rekindled my Soul. #bloglikecrazy

 

One cool thing about people dying is it invites you to cherish the living.

Johnny said, “Is this really happening? Are we really going to see each other?”

It’s surreal. He was my boyfriend after I left my first husband and fled to Tucson 27 years ago. Then, I left Johnny and broke his heart—because he was a bit broken at the time and patience wasn’t my forte. I was in a hurry to get to success.

So much has happened since then—for both of us.

On a recent road trip from Columbus, OH to Santa Fe, NM, I met Johnny in Kansas City in front of the Hilton Hotel, where I stayed with my Black Lab, Phoenix. The three of us walked around the back of the hotel and sat on a bench. Johnny and I drank beer as Phoenix played greeter to guests entering and exiting the doors.

I stared at Johnny—full beard and long dreadlocks, everything on him heavier with the years. I searched his eyes for the young man who decades ago ravished my body day after day as if we were trying out for the sex Olympics.

Before arriving in Kansas City, I worried I might leap into bed with him as I’d done the night I picked him up in a bar and took him back to my Tucson apartment.

Instead, I now studied the man. I said, “Did you always walk like that?” I missed his youthful bravado. I wanted it to summon mine.

“No,” Johnny said. “I’m a man beaten down.” Disappointment found its way to the place where my white woman’s heart witnesses the emotional scars a black man carries by living. Of course, he didn’t say it was about that.

I remembered a day before either of us cracked 30, when Johnny sat on the edge of my bed crying. He said, “You don’t know.”

Back then, he was a clean-shaven, suit-wearing, bright-eyed young man. But, that day a woman crossed to the other side of the street when she saw him coming. Most days, trivialities like that stood undiscussed. That day, Johnny cried.

I held him. I loved his tears as much as his laughter and the jazz he introduced me to. He had deeper reasons for the sadness, but sometimes a stranger could hit his hot button and awaken me to my ignorance.

All these years later, we talked about what happened the time Johnny visited me in Louisville, KY in the early 90s.

I travelled for work and had gone with a co-worker to a bar that was several under one roof: country, rock, jazz, big, winding, crowded and loud.

As I led us through the people, Johnny said he wanted to leave, but I couldn’t hear him. He grabbed my arm, no more forceful than the moment warranted, but in the snap of a finger, five cowboys surrounded us, apparently prepared to fight for my protection.

Johnny turned and left. I followed, trying to grasp what had happened.

In the parking lot, he screamed, “Are you trying to get me killed?”

I said something like, “You can’t love me because I don’t consider race and be mad at me for it, too.”

I was new to the nuances that are a part of a black person’s normal. I was unaware because I walk in the world as a white woman. I didn’t know my privilege; I simply relished it.

On that same trip, I took Johnny on a dinner cruise I’d gone on earlier in the week with my (white) coworker. I wanted to share my cool experiences with Johnny.

Instead, I got a taste of his. We were seated in a corner right next to the kitchen, then ignored. I’d never been so brushed off by a wait staff. We did get food, finally.

Who knows if the less-than-stellar service had anything to do with the color of Johnny’s skin, or the contrast to mine? I only know how it felt.

I remember Johnny telling me I could escape racism just by breaking up with him, but he didn’t have that option.

I did break up with him—not because of his blackness. I was desperate to get somewhere and young enough to believe love like ours lived on every corner.

Now, Kansas City Johnny—the man beat down by life—seemed to revive as we reminisced about old times and how I got him addicted to raspberry coffee.

I heard his deep masculine voice, his undeniable pride for his children, and his refreshing laughter.

We talked late into the night, hugged, and said goodbye like we needed to part to process these precious moments.

I saw him again the next day. I played him a mixed cassette tape he once made me. I don’t know what’s more amazing—that I still have it or that I have a cassette player in my 2007 Nissan Murano.

That mixed tape used to play on my boom box while we got ready to go out on the town. Now, Toni Toni Toni takes us back to Tucson and our 20s, watching Johnny shave and dancing in my undies.

I glance at Johnny sitting in my passenger seat smiling the kind of smile that bubbles up from within and paints a man’s face with light. It was one of those moments where goodness wins.

Nothing else matters and I remember how much I love this man, still.

It wasn’t the sexual ecstasy I imagined before we saw each other or the unrequited feelings he might’ve feared. I didn’t have that power over him anymore.

Listening to the music seemed to remind Johnny that nothing has the power to take him down and encourage him to stand tall again.

I’m standing stronger myself. An enduring friendship, a long-awaited visit, cool conversation, and some old songs made my soul sing. My mind reawakened.

My path rolls out on the road before me. I’m grateful Johnny reconnected with me in the wake of my boyfriend Kevin’s passing in 2016, and all the 2 am phone calls he took where I told him I just didn’t give a f*ck because it hurt too damn much. He acknowledged my pain and said, “I know Alice, but you’re going to be ok.”

Now I am, mostly. As I continue on my trip, another lesson from my deceased boyfriend echoes: “I know good people and I make time for them.”

 

Let’s Restore Peace to the Playground of Life.

“When we turn on light, darkness disappears.” ~ Marianne Williamson

We want black and white, good and bad, light and dark. We want to choose sides, draw lines and know we’re right—in the church we’ve chosen, the political party we’re affiliated with, and the side of the law “our” people are on, as if DNA hasn’t exonerated hundreds of falsely convicted.

It takes courage to examine the gray.

Personally, I like to draw a line and call Donald Trump the devil. Maybe, but maybe he’s the wake-up call our society has served itself. Maybe there’s some good there.

That thought is quite a stretch for me, but I actually like trying to understand, even when I disagree with other sides. I’m curious how people come to their conclusions.

While I’m a thousand miles from sharing certain ideologies, I can sometimes see, stretching into openness, how someone arrived. Sometimes I can imagine maybe if I was born to those parents, with that DNA and raised in those circumstances, with their challenges (or wealth and opportunities), I might conclude things that given my particular path I can’t fathom.

Curiosity is a start. Not just what do you believe, but how did you get there?

Maybe if I understand another’s journey, I can simply honor—for them—the seductiveness of a philosophy that’s foreign to me.

And yet, this consideration scares me, due to the rhetoric and bullsh*t I like believe I’m immune to. How many of us like to think I’m smarter than that?

Well, I’ve seen intelligent women fall for deceiving men (and vice versa), smart businesspeople fail, and good family members and friends vote for a charlatan.

I myself have been manipulated, multiple times. Then, I awoke.

Things I believed in my 20s and 30s no longer serve me. That doesn’t mean I was wrong. I was on my path.

Maybe that’s the best I can do—respect each has a path and invite light on mine. What I can’t do is become so understanding of darkness I go there.

I cannot condone hate. I cannot stand idle to the fall of our democracy, to mistreatment of children, animals or marginalized groups.

But, maybe I can say, “Yes, I see you there” because people want to be seen. I see you in your darkness. I won’t make you defend it.

I hope and pray with everything I’ve got that I may shine light. Not me alone, but together with other women and men walking in the light.

The truth is I’m afraid of the dark: violence, anger, hatred, judgement, self-righteousness. Screaming is enough to shake my soul. I’m a peaceful warrior.

For so long, I’ve been walking the path of peace and believing that was enough. Now, it’s time to awaken the warrior and spread the light.

I’m little in a sea of opposing forces. But, still I swim here. I live here. I love here. Collectively, I’m part of a new path. I’m walking in spite of my fear.

Why show up at all? For one, I have a beautiful little niece named Madeline who’s dancing in the light of childhood and innocence. Life will teach her many hard things. My hope is she doesn’t have to grow up into a world welcoming her with proof that darkness prevails.

Second, my mother fought for women’s rights. I witnessed that fight and naively believed it had been mostly won. No, the baton has been passed. I’m called to continue.

Third, my stepmom marched for civil rights. Doesn’t the name say it all? What happened to civility?

We, as a country, have turned cruel. We’re not embodying the basic principles most parents teach their children—kindness, fairness, decency, respect, showing up, not being bullies.

My God, I saw a group of middle-aged adults engaging in fist fights at their children’s high school graduation, over someone saving seats. Really?!

This is the playground of life. Some swing on the swings happily oblivious.

But, there’s a bully beating others to a pulp while a crowd chants, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Someone runs to tell a teacher/leader, but they don’t want to jeopardize their comfort. So, they hang in the lounge pretending not to hear.

We must walk through the crowd of instigators and pull the bully off our democracy. We must say: Stop. That’s enough.

We don’t care who threw the first punch. We care about stopping the fight and restoring peace to the playground.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Or is it?

A New Language

Speak to me, entities
Beyond the clouds and trees,
Those who live in the other
Room and alternate realm.
I yearn to learn
Your language.
Whisper secrets
Into my soul.
Shout truth beyond
The human struggle.
Help me dance my
Days on earth, and
Be of benefit
Where I can.
Show me color
In darkness,
Life in death,
Humor in seriousness.
Overcome me. Overwhelm me.
Rearrange me. Introduce me.
To light. Sway me like
The ocean waves. Take me
Under. Throw me into new
Waters. Tumble my yesterdays
Into something that shimmers.
Let me see anew.
Limitations be gone.
Expectations expire.
Hope renews.
Mind ignites.
Body moves with grace.
Gratitude seeps from
My very being.
I am here. I am there.
I am aware and willing,
Open, steady, rocking my
Way into something more.
No plan. No demand.
Soaring like an eagle.
Unquestioning.
Prevailing.

 

Winter of Grief

In this time of grieving
May our hearts remain open
When we are tempted to close them.
May our vision clear,
When we see only clouds.
May we give in to our tears and
Laugh when things are funny
Without thought to social permissibility.
May we move forward, yet
Sit for some time with our memories
And the flood of feelings,
Knowing we will not drown
In the cold, dark winter of grief because
Spring will come again.
Spring will come again.

 

How I Exercise my Introvert/Extrovert Status

If someone says, “She’s high maintenance” referring to me, I’ve got one thing to say: You’re damn right.

I don’t understand low-maintenance, high-functioning folks. Sometimes I see people maintaining themselves by sucking on other people’s energy.

I sustain my own energy by tending to the two sides of me.

I envy extroverts who get revved up by hanging with others.

For me, these are my required maintenance procedures:
1. Writing—morning pages, journaling and writing with purpose for publication.
2. Yoga or stretching. My body gets physically knotted up and I’m in pain if I don’t find a way to untie the knots. (Massage works, too.)
3. Walking in nature. It’s the act of movement, and nature kisses my skin and whispers to my soul if I go it alone.
4. Reading—expands my mind and heart.
5. Prayer—to God, angels, guides, Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, and my loved ones on the other side. It can take a while.
6. Meditation—without it I’d come undone.

These are solo pursuits. When I take these steps I’m better able to connect with the world.

Also, I love being alone. I’m not bored. I’m not lonely.

Extroverts, I love you with your eager invitations and how you can’t fathom my time alone is your competition. It is.

Introverts, I’m with you in the magnitude of solitude, silence drawing out peace and presence for ourselves in order to invoke any magnificence we may hope to possess.

Extroverts, you drag me from the dark depths of myself—beyond the blackness. Some days and nights, I stand at death’s door begging for entry into something beyond. You entertain me and keep me awake to others’ laughter, dancing, voices and stories.

You make me come out and live. Thank you.

Introverts, we know our time alone can be where we feel most alive, authentic and valid. They may think we’re hiding, but it’s here where we face life head on. We’re not afraid of darkness. Or light. The sacred ignites our souls. We see stars intimately. We speak poetry as if it’s our first language. We dance with music because it becomes us. Alone, we’re more than we care to explain, show or present to the great pretenders running the world we run away from.

Extroverts, I adore your laughter and our connections. Yet, I can’t comprehend your apprehension toward solitude. How can it not soothe you?

Don’t you dare to dance with your one true soul mate—you?

We introverts don’t quite understand the loneliness you speak of, for others tend to engulf us in emotional claustrophobia.

Me, I dance between the world of people and parties and my full-on presence. Too much out there invites pretense, lest I speak truth most don’t care for.

Truth—I kiss her and let her seep inside my soul alone on quiet nights and precious days. She allows me to return full and ready, capable of conjuring words, not to hurt but ideally to awaken and elevate.

I’m two sides of the personality coin: introvert/extrovert. I must spend them equally. And so I dance—in the world and in my kitchen.