Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Trails Bites the Dust

The crowd of jovial juveniles pushed in toward the retaining wall that separated the seating from the arena. A thousand hands stretched the expansion while a swarm of voices nearly drowned the melody of the theme song. 
Peanut inched her way closer, but she was not pushy. Watching for any minor break in the throng of boys and girls dressed in cowboys hats, fringed shirts, and western boots, she squeezed through. Finally, she was close enough to reach out. She waited a little impatiently, shuffling her weight from one foot to another and wished her mom was there for this exciting adventure. 

Born in her mother's later years, she was the distant baby of the family. One up from her was a brother fifteen years her senior, and before him a sister, a brother, and another sister. The age difference and being the last of five not only made Peanut the baby but also a 'lonely only'.

It was the younger of her two sisters that retrieved tickets to the show in Milwaukee. This was the sister that acted as mom and babysitter while her own mother worked a full time job. Peanut both deferred and despised the arrangement. 

Although her two nephews were her only playmates, many times the tussling trio got into blustery brawls over their relationship. The nephews  would yell, "You're our sister!" and Peanut would scream back, "I am not, I'm your aunt! I have my own parents!" and they would volley, "Uhn'ah, 'fraid not, they're your grandparents!"..."Are not!"..."Are too!"..."Are not!"...and on and on it would go on until her sister would hear and bellow out the window for the three of them to stop their fighting.

Peanut tried not to let it stick but she always felt embarrassed that her parents were older than other parents of kids her age. When people would ask her mother or father, "Is this your granddaughter?", she wanted to shrink away in shame. Ultimately, that was one of many times that her father would make his stabbing reference to her being the "afterthought". When she was old enough to understand the cruel tag, her feelings of being unwanted and unloved were cemented into place. 

Now, the famous cowboy on his big Palomino was just a hundred feet away. Slowly he made his way along the wall, leaning in toward the children, and shaking as many hands as he could. Some of the wee fans were lucky enough to get a fingers fumble of the horse's long silky locks. The theme song continued in the background, "Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then." 

Peanut's heart jumped the starting gate and raced around her chest. The pounding excitement echoed the hoof beats of the approaching Palomino. She thought about how she would feel, shaking the hand of the King of Cowboys. But, even more, she thought about the thrill of being just inches from his famous golden horse, and maybe, stealing a stroke of his fine flaxen mane.

Roy and Trigger were the stuff heroes were made of to a little cowhand like Peanut. Seated upon his metallic mount, Roy Rogers faced trouble with courage, lived on the side of right, and defended the weak. But the thing that drew her into the sliver screen scene was Trigger. 

Billed as the Smartest Horse in the Movies, Trigger, got his alias because, "He could turn on a dime and give you some change." Being quick on the trigger, the name stuck. That big shining stallion brought the brilliance of equine sunshine into her life and made a burning impression. 

Seeing him in the arena, rearing, dancing and hosting a seat for his owner was like a dream come true.  Now, here he was, in the golden flesh, before her eyes.

Peanut nudged forward a little more, reaching out like a beggar for bread. Just inches from her the couple came prancing forward. Closer! Closer! She stretched further toward the finish line; the grand finale. Then, her thoroughbred heart fell harder than most, crashing to the track, broken and crushed. The shakers before and after were a hand longer and easier for the king to kindle. In a flash he and his magnificent mount were past. 

Peanut dropped the disappointment into her bottle of bitter pills, and twisted the seal. She tightened her grip on the paper program, all that was left of the moment; a shiny comparison and mass copy autograph. Wrapping her arms around it, she hugged it to her chest as if  she were embedding the memory deep within. The stinging tears damned up behind her eyes and the burning in her throat were almost more than she could swallow. But, she forced it down with the water of will.

To Peanut, the experience  was more than idol worship. It was something deep down in the quiet torrents of her spirit that she longed to know. The genuine admiration for her existence as a child of worth, a child who was accepted simply for who she was, without the striving to be loved. But the One who would enter into that void and fill her heart was still the silent Stranger, who showed himself in the beauty of a golden stallion. 

*Note:   Recently, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans museum in Branson, MO closed its doors and items from the famous couple were moved to Christie's in Manhattan to be auctioned off. Among them were the remains of Roy's famous horse, Trigger. 

Peanut still admires the "Golden Cloud" that could rear high and lay low the worst villain, yet softly prance into a weak life and warm the timid heart of a child.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ABCs From a Steamed Mirror

FRUSTRATION! Have you been there? Have you been stuffed into that place where life, relationships, or circumstances leave you disappointed, annoyed or depressed?

Just this morning, I found myself in the flaring bulls eye of frustration. I pounded my desk and shouted the age old question, "Why?" But, the incident that fired my meltdown was only a spark in a blaze. The forest fire of distortion, differences and diminishes in my life are making heated transitions for me that are metamorphosing.

When life hijacks our expectations, and makes heavy demands; when delight turns to drudgery, stress levels elevate, and discouragement descends, we lose our focus, and frustration is funneled into the core of our being.

That frizzled feeling is well described by an American Novelist, "When life demands more of people than they demand of life, as is ordinarily the case, what results is a resentment of life almost as deep seated as the fear of death." 

Frustration stinks and the odor is putrid. A nauseating stench of decay that rots our joy and turns the stomach until the only option is to vomit out all the dissatisfaction and anxiety in tears, or an angry bout. 
A comedian once said of frustration, "Set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant, and rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual." 

But, when our anger diffuses, our tears dry up, and we've spent the last scent of foul frustration, how do we go about business as usual? More than likely the cause of our unraveling is still present, stitch ripper effects are still tearing at us, and we feel like we're coming apart at the seams. 

If you're housebreaking a puppy, the solution may be as easy as mopping the floor. But what if the little teether just chewed a hole in the middle of your brand spanking new carpet and there is nothing left anywhere in your budget to repair or replace the floor covering? 

Or, what if something more serious, more transitional, drags you to the edge of sanity and stress?  It isn't so easy to simmer down and go about business as usual when your whole life is changing. 

After setting the timer, and a teary rant, I was saved by the bell. Banging my head on a firm surface must have knocked some sense into me because I started to think about the control that my life circumstances were having over me. It really was disconcerting to see myself as an emotional tossed salad acting like a fruitcake. I imagined myself dying in a fit of frustration. My gravestone would read, 'Here lies Peanut. She was nuttier than a squirrel turd.'  
I'm convinced frustration is much like the Act of God designation on an insurance policy. I can not be insured against what life is most likely to throw at me, and I can get hot and steamy over it, or I can try to see the healing in the heat. I find it is always easier to write on a steamed mirror, so here are my ABCs on frustration.
Accepting frustration  as a normal human response helps us to own it and take responsibility for it. Instead of asking, "why is this happening", the better question is "what can I do to meet or override this challenge".

Before giving vent to an outburst of emotion, move toward the frustration and see what life lesson it offers. Take a good, honest look at the culprit. Ask yourself, "Am I doing too much, expecting too much, spending too much, taking on too much responsibility?"

Create a belief system that is based on gratitude. Be thankful for the good things, and control your thinking. 

Next time you are tempted to run a muck through the forest of frustration remember: It only takes one match to start a forest fire, but sometimes, it takes a whole box to start a campfire. Name your matches true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. 

Summing it all up friends, I'd say we will do best by filling our minds and meditating on these. Think of the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; and things to praise, not things to curse.  
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