Friday, October 26, 2012

Playin' Hooky

I never used to need much of an excuse to play hooky.

But with age and responsibility, I’ve gotten rusty at it.

I had ample opportunities in High School. One advantage of sticking it out in the Deep South public school system during the late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s was the constancy of uncertainty. By that, I mean you never knew when a spontaneous Race Riot might combust and create chaos. On more than one occasion, there was enough chaos to warrant calling home and exaggerating fear for one’s safety. “We’re all going over to Maggie’s house to wait out the storm,” we might tell a worried mother, as she listened to updates on the radio.

But we didn’t go to Maggie’s. We high-tailed it to a place called “High Shoals” and celebrated our escape with a (thankfully archaic) beverage known as “Hoppin’ Gator.”

In college, I didn’t even need that much of an excuse. Late night? Oh well, sleep in and get the notes from someone more studious later.

Then came marriage and children. It’s hard for parents of young children to play hooky. After a while, it’s just not worth the trouble. With teenagers, it’s well nigh impossible unless you want them to make the same mistakes you did.

So the art is gradually lost.

At the current stage, with multi-generational care-taking, it doesn’t even seem like a possibility.

But is that really true?

Or have I just lost my spunk and spontaneity? Have I unconsciously fallen into the fallacy that fun is somehow selfish? That I’m not allowed to take time off from the daily duties and to-do lists?


My husband has owed me a bike ride for quite a while. (The story is way too long to go into.) 

Finally, after years of pleading, he agreed to get my aging bike repaired and accompany me on a ride down the greenway beside the river that flows through our town.

First, we had to follow his normal Saturday schedule, and visit the local organic farmer’s market. We ambled around sampling the products. Engaged in good conversation with interesting people. Inhaled tempting aromas in the crisp morning air. Listened to the live indie-folk music.

It made me step outside of my box. Forget about my worries. Live in the moment.

After loading up on fresh greens, gorgeous, fat pumpkins, and aromatic, organic (locally produced!) skin products, we drove to the starting point on the Greenway. Husband forced me to wear a helmet. And then we just started riding, no end-point in mind.

He asked if I wanted to turn back a few times. (I admit the hills were hell.)

But we finally got to the end of the beautiful path.

We started to turn around and go back, but something made my usually time-conscious, goal-oriented spouse ask if I didn’t want to explore a little more. The end of the trail was at the entrance to a local nature park. We kept riding, having flash-backs of the last times we’d been there: birthday parties of our little girls in the ‘80’s.

Then we ran into people we knew. There was a grand opening of the new nature center. We were coaxed into a tour. (I kept wondering when he was going to say, “Okay, I need to get to the office now,” but it never happened. We stayed for the party.

The ride back to the car was exhausting for me. But at the end, I felt as great as if I’d run a marathon.

Surely, now was the time I’d be dropped off at home so that said spouse could do something constructive with what was left of the day.

But, no:

he asked what I wanted to do next.

Walk around our fun and funky downtown? Look into some new shops? Eat a late lunch atop the theatre where I attended Saturday matinees as a young child?

Yes, yes, and YES!

Listening to good music, sipping a cold beer as we waited for our order, looking out over the city from a bird’s eye view, I felt as if he’d taken me on an overnight trip to Europe.

Later, we went to spring my mother out from the Retirement Home, and grilled steaks overlooking the lake in our backyard.

We wanted to share something of our escape experience with Mother, so we all went to the State Botanical Gardens and absorbed some more beauty after church the next day.

It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. The most freedom I've felt.

Sunday afternoon, I surveyed the piles of junk lining the walls of the upstairs hallway. I groaned at the mountain of discarded clothes in the closet. I thought of all the things on the List I have to get done before retuning to L.A.

But I didn’t regret playing hooky all weekend for one single second.

Duty is always calling. Sometimes you need to turn a deaf ear, and run away.

Spur-of-the-moment. Do something unexpected.

Go on. I give you permission.

...for in losing ourselves in the spontaneous joyful moments, we savor a taste of heaven.


“…It is only in our “hours off,” only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for “down here” is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

(C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm)


Does anyone have any creative ideas about how to play hooky? Want to share a story?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Subliminal Messages

Racing thoughts and racing heart.

Interior monologue something like this (purely fictional) reinactment….

“omg, omg, help me, help us, please…

Granny May is off her rocker and walking down Main Street in her panties… Suzy Q.
fell off the wagon… Tina Mae’s husband left her for that conniving witch…  Little Danny boy’s fighting in Afghanistan… Mindy Lou’s headed to jail… Cousin It was just diagnosed as schizophrenic… I am going blind and…

What should we do? What should I do???”

Worry, worry, fret, fret.

Rats in the belfry. (They are even nastier than bats.)

Okay. That was (at least partially) fictional. But I constantly find my mind hyperventilating with worry. Spinning round and round and round in a conundrum of “what if?s and what next?s.”

Roiling, churning anxieties that defy any of the promised peace.

Everything stinks, stinks, stinks, and stinks, I think and think and think and think.

(Sorry. Been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss this year.)

In spite of this, something very strange has been happening lately. In the middle of one of those inner tirades, I noticed something bizarre.

There was a soundtrack. Background music.

I caught myself actually humming along to it. While I was agitating. In the middle of an avalanche of negative thoughts.

Maybe I’m the one who is schizophrenic.

There was a major disconnect. These were the words I was humming:

“Praise the Lord, oh my soul

Oh my soul…”

Please listen to them here. 

On another occasion, I was railing against the universe in a hundred different ways, and discovered myself humming this:

“…my God is mighty to save, mighty to save…” (Listen here.)

While fuming about how evil evil is, I heard myself humming (outloud)…

“a mighty fortress is our God…”  (Here is a version by Sandi Patti.)

Have I finally gone over the edge?

Or could it be an answered prayer?

For years, I have prayed for my mind to be “renewed.”  After Katherine’s brain explosion, I read countless books about the brain and it’s amazing ‘elasticity.’ I have been intrigued by the idea that one can reprogram one’s brain. 

Intentionally re-wire it.

And so, I have tried.

When demons of depression and defeat have attacked like an invading army, I have turned on loud praise music in defiance. I've filled the house with it, even when I felt more like crying and cursing than praying and praising.

Evidently, it has been delivering subliminal messages to my spirit, even as my mind has rebelled.

It is absolutely shocking.

The most dismal, negative thoughts are being drowned out by joyful, hopeful praise and worship. In spite of myself.

Trust me: This is not just the power of positive thinking. For me, there is no such thing.

This is supernatural. A gift not earned.

I am in wonder. Disbelief.

There’s a song of love and hope that flows through the universe like a river underground. Sometimes its exquisite melody breaks through the din and clamor of the weary, warring world. One day, the chorus will swell into a crescendo that drowns out all other sound.

Can you hear it? 

I intentionally subdue the doubting mind in order to receive gifts that are given only to an open, humbled spirit.

Yes, despite everything, I do praise the Lord, oh my soul.

(And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well… day.)


"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."  
(Romans 12:2)