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Life is a Banquet

Affirmation:  “The world is an amazing place and the more I learn about it and its inhabitants, the more I learn about myself.”

If you’ve ever been to Disney Land or Disney World you’ve probably been to the Small World ride that plays the song “It’s a Small World After All”, over and over and over.  My children always seemed to enjoy the ride but after going on it just once, I found the song to be very disturbing.

While traveling out of the country I began to think about living in a small world.  I had a tour guide hand me extra passes to the Pope’s Wednesday morning audience and say “You never know who you’ll meet.  It’s a small world, especially in Rome.”  In this instance, even with a million people there I didn’t meet anyone I knew.  I must admit I have been very far from home when I’ve been stunned to meet someone from my local area. But, for the most part, I rarely meet an acquaintance when traveling.  Mind you I meet a lot of new acquaintances, just not a lot of old ones.  And, isn’t that one of the reasons to travel? 

I traveled with Owen, my thirteen year old grandson to London to visit with my adult daughter Ellen and her fiancĂ©, Adam.  Then Ellen, Owen and I headed to Rome.  Two years ago I took the same trip with my granddaughter, Isabelle.  She too was thirteen at the time.  After visiting London on that trip we then headed to Paris.  Yes, I feel blessed to be able to share the world with them.  I feel blessed that they want to come with me.  As Isabelle and I deplaned in Raleigh and were heading towards customs, she asked me where we were going next.  “We need to go through customs, Honey.”  “Oh no, Grandma, that’s not what I meant.”  And she smiled.  Throughout this trip, Owen has suggested I adopt a “travel buddy.”  He has suggested himself. 

When Ellen, Owen and I were in Rome, the tour guide mentioned in passing that one corner shop had “the best gelato in Rome” and that “the line for the gelato is sometimes longer than the line to enter the Vatican.”  When we finished our Vatican tour I was ready to find our way back to our hotel and rest for a while but that wasn’t Ellen’s plan.  She whipped out her trusty iPhone and located that shop.  We walked this way and that way and what did we find, the best gelato shop in Rome. So there we stood in line with a group of nuns from Albania who had also discovered the shop.  When they told us where they were from, Ellen surprised them by announcing she’d been to Albania.  The nun told her to come visit the next time she had a reason to go there.  We would have missed out on that whole experience if it wasn’t for her desire to experience it all and to have the “the best gelato in Rome.”

I have friends who have traveled all over the world.  They aren’t the least bit concerned with safety or even worse, Montezuma’s revenge and if they are concerned, well too bad, the adventure is more important than the worry.  I think of them as having a huge appetite for life.  They want to experience it all.  They don’t care if they encounter challenges along the way.  In fact, they relish the challenges.  Remember the movie Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell? She says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  I don’t want to starve to death.  I too want feast from the banquet of life.

What happens when one travels?  Your world becomes larger.  It’s true, life is a banquet.  There is such diversity, so many delightful flavors.  I think that’s why the Amazing Race is one of my favorite TV shows.  In it a dozen or more people travel around the world engaging in the local traditions and customs of the country they are visiting. What is of the greatest interest is not what they see or do and I certainly don’t recommend racing through any worthwhile experience.  What is of the greatest interest is what happens to one’s thinking when one steps outside of their box.  It’s what happens inside us that’s so amazing.
We get to choose whether or not we want to live inside a tiny little box, the known world or expand the box.  The world can be a scary place but at some point we will no longer be a part of it.  While we are here we should embrace the concept of living in a big space, of learning about our planet and its people and therefore, about ourselves.  It’s too easy to stay safe and comfortable and to let our world shrink to our size.  Maybe one doesn’t really need to hop a plane or a train in order to stay green and growing.  I see how small our world can become every time I visit an assisted living facility.  We get to choose if we want to eat from a buffet or have the same food over and over.  If travel is beyond your means, go to the library, go to the theatre, and borrow some travel videos.  There is no reason in this day and age to miss out on all that’s available in the world that can nourish our minds, hearts and our souls and help us to live a life of abundance and adventure, even if we’re confined physically by old age, illness or finances.

Because of Ellen’s sense of adventure we got to meet Albanian nuns.  How many people outside of Albania can claim that?  Because of my sense of adventure we got to go to Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and view the Pieta and see Pope Francis.  Owen’s interests took us to see some of Banksy’s London street art.  Each of us journeyed to a new place.  We discovered new people, new visions, and new appreciations and therefore, we discovered more about both our outer and most important, about our inner worlds.  I’m pleased my grandchildren and I have had the opportunity to travel together.  This trip certainly wasn’t the first but the trip to Europe was the farthest, not however, the longest. The longest journey is the one we take to know ourselves better, the one within and by spending time together, especially in a foreign location, we learned a great deal about each other and about ourselves.  We not only created some amazing shared memories but we ate from the banquet of life and it was great!

Embracing Adventure

Affirmation:  I am a bold adventuress.

This is a
very clear example of creating an affirmation to change the way I want to
think.   I want to believe with all my
heart that I am not afraid of most things, especially an “adventure.”  There are all types of adventures some we
choose and some which are chosen for us. 
I don’t care; I want to embrace every one of them.  I want to embrace every aspect of life and I
think most of life is that which happens between our plans and usually that
requires a sense of adventure.  Perhaps
being a daring adventurer requires all those skills I’ve worked on over the
years and have in my “tool box?”

It seems
to me an adventurer or adventuress needs to be flexible. My husband and I were
on our way to a vacation and it required us to fly there.  We were meeting our daughter and future
son-in-law in the Caribbean.  I’ve come
to believe anytime flying is involved, some sort of adventure will present
itself and all the survival skills I’ve been practicing over the years will be
needed to finish the journey.  On this
particular occasion I was right.  It
seemed anything that could delay a flight, delayed our flight from a malfunctioning de-icer to a sick passenger, to mechanical difficulties.  There we sat going nowhere.  After a three hour delay, we took off.  If there were a miracle we would make our next
flight.  There might have been one but we
weren’t aware of it.  We missed the next
flight by 20 minutes. All of the flights the next day were full.  They could send us through Puerto Rico and
then onto our final destination.  We’d
arrive, hopefully, 12 hours after our original time.

The
greatest loss I experienced with cancer was the loss of my intuition.  I always trusted I knew, without reason, what
was going to happen.  I had had many life
experiences when I knew ahead of time how things were going to work out even
when no one else could see it.  When the
word “cancer” was first mentioned to me, it didn’t register.  I had no forewarning.  I couldn’t imagine what they were talking
about.  I didn’t believe them.  The poor physician who first uttered
“breast cancer” to me, I just about attacked him.  What did he know?  That was ridiculous!  I knew he was wrong.  They weren’t wrong and there I was going on
an adventure I hadn’t chosen and of which I’d never even dreamed. 

I’d
always worked hard to be healthy.  I
exercised, I gave up smoking, I only drank alcohol periodically and I really
did try to eat healthily.  After the
cancer treatments were discontinued I began to look at more modalities I could
enlist to stay healthy. I’ve spoken with many people who go searching for those
things that will keep disease at bay.  It
doesn’t have to be cancer.  It can be
heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure.  The list is long.  Sometimes I hear about ailments that only a
tiny portion of the population ever experience and hope that I never have to
deal with something so rare but rare or not, there’s always that tiny,
sometimes not so tiny, voice that is questioning what is going on inside my
body that I have no knowledge of and of which I have no control over.  Oh, I’m trying to control it.  That’s what all those extra measures for
staying healthy are all about, vegan eating, no alcohol, exercise every day,
take my vitamins and have my yearly screenings. 
It’s my attempt to keep illness at bay, to trick myself into believing I
have control over what’s going on but I don’t really, do I?  Certainly, I can do all within my ability but
after that, who really knows?

My
husband handed me a short story about a young man who was so anxious about his
health that he had stopped living.  It
revolved around an older professor and his assistant.  After the professor listened to his young
friend’s concerns, he went to tell him about his great-grandfather.  His great grandfather had had all sorts of
health ailments, including losing an arm in one of the wars but he wasn’t as
concerned with disease and death as he was with living.  He had a zest for life and it couldn’t be
dimmed.  He wasn’t going to go quietly
into the night and if he did, he was going to go with the vast, colorful
memories of a life well lived. 

Balance
is another skill I’ve worked on over the years. 
In yoga you normally have one or two balance poses you practice in every
session.  There is a balance between
living recklessly and living so small that you might as well already be
dead.  That’s where being an adventurer
or adventuress comes in.  It’s deciding
to embrace the experience whatever it is or whenever it presents itself.  

As we
boarded the second plane to Puerto Rico a petite blonde women came and sat in
the window seat next to me.  I don’t
remember how the conversant started, probably with just a nod and a hello, like
so many casual meetings.  We exchanged a few
niceties about where we were going and why. 
I on vacation with my family, she returning to one of her two homes, one
in Majorca and one in Antigua.   She
lived on a ship.  It was being restored
in English Harbor, Antigua.  It was a
classic and she invited me to come see it. 
The name?  The Adventuress. 

We took
one day from the delights of the resort and headed out to see some of the
island.  We finally reached English
Harbor.  I guess I wasn’t really thinking
about how to find her ship, I thought I’d just ask.  There were hundreds of ships in the
harbor.  After a while and a few
questions a delightful young man offered us a ride in his Zodiac.  He thought the ship at the very end of the
other side of the harbor might be the one we were looking for.  Off we went. 
Yes, it was her ship, The Adventuress. 
No, she was nowhere to be found but with the mention of her name, we
were invited aboard for a short tour.  It
was stunning and certainly something far removed from my realm of
experience.  I’ve not been on a lot of
sailing ships.  In fact the person who
gave us the tour was the “sail master.”  I didn’t even know there was such a title. 

I kept
thinking about my intention to be grateful for all things at all times.  If we hadn’t missed our flight, I never would
have met the owner of The Adventuress. 
Once again I was faced with the belief that if I’d just relax, trust and
rest in God’s infinite care, I’d be so much happier, so much calmer.  Perhaps I’d even begin to trust my instinct
again.  Perhaps I’d be able to see the
adventure thrust on me with the onset of breast cancer.  Maybe if I could embrace that aspect of the
diagnosis, the one that lets me see all of life as an adventure, maybe then I
could finally fully claim the intention I’ve had for so very long, “I am a
bold adventuress.”  I’m not afraid
to fully live life and with that, perhaps, like the old man in the story, I’ll
go to my death with the vast colorful memories of a well lived life.