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Today is What We Got : Writing Excerpt

(photo taken at the world famous International Car Forest in Goldfield, Nevada. The words on the art behind me read, "Your actions when you're alone determine your destiny.")

I have been slowly but surely creating a collection of writings that

I intend to publish. This is an excerpt where I write about how Today is What I Got

became a mantra and north star for my life


His name was Gary. Her name was Betty. Their booth was on the same row from mine just a few spaces down.

           Betty was a fused glass artist. She decided to do this show, same as me, even though it was  brand new holiday market. New markets are unproven and often sluggish and slow. The organizer had done a good job getting the word out.  Not only was there a great turn out of vendors like me, there was more importantly a good turn out of the community. We were steady and humming with customers.

            “Do you want help moving your table?” I asked Betty and Gary. They were too far set back from the sight line of the row. They had been placed on a curve and had misjudged their set-up. The table was laden with her beautiful glass work. I did not know which one of them was the artist, so I asked, “Who made all of this? Who is the artist?”

            “She is,” beamed Gary as he smiled and pointed at his  demure and glowy wife.

            They were an older couple, retired, something I see often in the markets I work in : an older retired couple where almost always it is the wife who is the artist and the husband there to help and support. I always found such couples endearing, just like these two.

            I helped guide them to getting help from the staff to move their booth set-up more forward. It always feels good in the vendor community to help one another succeed. This has been my experience over and over again from the many art markets and shows I have done. Community rather than competition has been the norm.

            Later that afternoon there was a team of medics at Betty and Gary’s booth. He had a heart attack. The EMT’s worked on him for a long time, but he did not make it. He died right there, not even 100 feet away from me.

            There were customers still milling about oblivious to what was happening. The EMT’s had created a curtain of  privacy around the couple’s booth. There was no wailing or crying or anything. A man died while people went about their business unaware of the sacred thing happening.

            Me and the other vendors nearby me who knew what was going on found ourselves having to tap down the great emotions that wanted to collapse us into mourning for a man we just met that morning.  I had to hold it together. I knew once I allowed the tears to flow that there would be a river of weeping. I held it back.

            Right then, within moments of Gary’s passing, my friend Kirstin showed up. She does this to me from time to time. She will show up to one of the markets I’m at and surprise me. I love surprise visits and am always charged up when she turns up.

            “Hello there love,” she says as she rolled in with her usual wild child playful energy. Kirstin is one of the most authentic people I know. Our friendship grew slow, but once it took root, we began to spend time together and have phone calls to keep each other company. We once pinky swore that we could call each other any time when we feel the lonelies and need human contact for we are both solo women who live on our own. That’s the kind of friend she is to me. So her showing up right then and right there was like  a God Shot as people in recovery would call it.

            I told her what had happened. She had her long arms wrapped around me before I could finish getting the words out as I choked up.

            “Well fuck, I wondered what was going on when I saw the ambulance in the parking lot,” she said.

Kirstin is like a rough-around-the-edges  angel with a rusty beat-up halo. She has a warmth that is undeniable as well as an unfiltered way of speaking her mind that sometimes makes people uncomfortable. 

“Gotta live your fucking life,” we said to each other, “today is what we got.”

I thought about Gary for a long time. His death shook me up pretty deep. I sat on my sofa and cried most of  the evening. I felt his loss, and I felt my loneliness more than ever with no one beside me to comfort me.  I was alone with my thoughts and pain. I decided to make a video and tell my audience what had happened.

People have a thousand million reasons why they share their lives in public forums like social media. I have a thousand million reasons of my own. One of the driving reasons I am active on social media is to nurture connection with those who follow me. One  of the ways I nurture that connection is by being open about my life, all of my life, not just my artist life. It is an art of wisdom and common sense as well as sincerity of what to post about and what to keep private. I have been sharing about my life through blogging and social media for over fifteen years. I’ve learned along  the way that there is a thin veil between emotional exhibitionism which can be cringy and unhelpful versus  being authentic and  vulnerable which can be empowering as well as healing with community  invited in to witness life being lived with all her joys as well as all her sorrows.

So I posted about the loss of Gary with my hair a tangled mess and my eyes swollen from crying. I decided to be soft and vulnerable with my audience who often get to see the Boss Woman I am as a fulltime creative. I wanted to tell others what had happened, how I was affected… I needed my people to comfort me as I sat alone in my studio.

And they did.

Comments poured in,  DM’s were received and in the days to come people reached out to check on me. I cannot emphasize enough how healing this is for me, for I am one of those hyper-independent women who will drown while you are safe on shore and I will not yell for help. I will just drown trying to save myself.

With age and personal growth, I have learned the sage ways of showing my need and allowing others to help fill that need. It is part of what builds trust and nourishes relationship. In her book, The Art of Asking for Help, musician Amanda Palmer who is a goddess of community building with her fans, says that demonstrating our need or asking for help allows us to experience the care that people hold for us.

This man’s sudden passing within feet of me sobered the dumb drunk I can be caught up in the minutia of the mechanics of making my life what it is.

Death is the great revealer.  Death reminds me to assess myself and be honest as fuck.

How then shall I live with this one life that is mine to live?

Death is one of the highest forms of motivation to live true and authentic. In order for me to live true to who I am and to be authentic in all that I do requires a steady practice of stillness. It is in reflection where I declutter the million things that are pulling at me. With this man’s death, I felt the urge to get to the forest and go on a good long walkabout to allow my mourning for this man I did not know … which was also a mourning for those I’ve lost and the impending deaths of my own life and everyone I love… death is a fact of life I try hard to ignore.

My retreat to my favorite woodland gave me space to breathe. I walked slow and sure beneath the towering cedars who are like old friends who welcomed me in with their long verdant arms full of grace and strength.  I began to talk out loud which is a longtime habit of mine. I am a verbal processor.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do with my remaining days?” I asked aloud to whatever trees might care to listen.  Step by  step I made my way down  the winding path that soon turned a corner to a lush wonderland scene of a wild ocean of green.  I paused to drink it all in, my eyes filled like empty ponds as I was wonderstruck by the unbridled beauty. The  natural world inspires me again and again to Be in the Moment. Everything else disappeared. There was no death. There was no mourning. There was no fretting about purposeful living or bold next steps. There was just Now.

Be here now.

I was in the now-ness of my life, completely immersed in this one moment of time as if the entire universe had come to a stop. My body relaxed while  a river of electric feels  surged through the part of me that is neither flesh nor blood. 

This moment was like a reset.  It helped me lean into the  truth that I have known and embodied  my entire life without even knowing it : Everything is going to be ok. I am right where I am supposed to be. 

Death and her jarring body slam into my life by taking that man in  my presence  had me  on a mission of wanting to  pick apart my life into meaningless piles. The beauty of life bursting in the natural  world centered me down. Life in all of her forms  is not meaningless. I get to decide how to make meaning of my life in whatever pleases me.  What lights me up?  How then do I want to live and move and have my being?

Each day that passes is one more day closer to my exit or the exit of someone I know and love. The agonizing mystery of that is I do not get to know how many days I have or anyone  else. 

Today is what I got.

Today is the day before me to live as full as I can whatever that means for me in this gift of Today.

Today is what I got became embedded in my brain and heart beneath the canopy of trees that seemed to wave their boughs like banners declaring their love for existing. My body pulsed with their rhythmic life dance.

Everything is meaningful. There is no wasted time.  

Today is what I got.

Today is what We Got.

If death is the Great Revealer than Time is the Great Currency. How then will I spend the time that I have? How, where, who, what… the jolting reminder from Death as I walked the path through the woods was to choose with great ferocity to  spend my time well (yet also reckless for allowing only the good use of time means I only let logic drive my life when often I need  to put logic in the backseat and let my heart do the driving, and we all know that when my heart is in the driver’s seat I will make illogical reckless decisions yet they are right and true and lead to more fulfillment even when such decisions can be rather disruptive.)

Time cannot be hoarded.  It is spent one way or another. My walk in the forest with the burden of death on my heart became a portal of transforming that ache into a sense of childlike wonder and gratitude for this one  wondrous life I possess. I get to choose over and over again every single fucking day how then to live for Today is What I Got.  

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  {Mary Oliver}





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