Some life lessons linger like a foul odor in the air, a constant reminder of one wrong decision. On Saturday, my kids and I had the pleasure of selecting pigs for their 4-H program.
I am a city girl. Not really a city girl, so much as a town girl, but suffice it to say that the closest I have ever come to an actual, live pig is the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web. I read that book as a youngster, and when I had young kids, I read it to them and we watched the movie. Pigs are cute, pink and cuddly. At least that was my impression until last Saturday.
I have heard that pigs are smarter than dogs. I don’t want to debate the relative intelligence of my dogs, but I don’t think they are the smartest pets I’ve ever owned. So I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the pigs turn out to be smarter than the dogs. But I digress.
Saturday morning, the kids and I arrived early, along with nearly 90 other eager 4-H participants. Some of the pigs lay in a heap, trying to keep warm after their long journey from Texas. Others rooted around in the hay, and some played. I thought they were playing, until someone pointed out that one little piggy was an aggressive jerk who was attacking the others.
My good friend told me to dress “appropriately”. Whatever that is supposed to mean. I had on cute Capri pants, sandals and a Uinta County sweatshirt. It was my pig-picking outfit. She looked at me with a snicker. “That’s what you wore?” She had on boots, long pants and several thick shirts. When the pig picking began, I understood that I was not dressed appropriately.
First, the kids climbed into the pen when their name was selected. Yuck. Muddy. If I climbed in there, my sandals would definitely get ruined. Then, once the child picked out his project pig, a parent would scoop the pig up and haul it away. I nearly jumped out of my skin, when the first pig was selected. The dad strode to the animal and lifted it from behind, carrying it firmly in front of him.
The pig did not let out a gentle oink, as I was expecting. It screamed. I am not exaggerating. The pig was screaming all the way to the trailer. I stood astonished, wondering if he had accidentally pinched it or something. Nope. The next pig, and the next one, and every one after that screamed. It was actually bloodcurdling. I have never heard a bloodcurdling scream until Saturday. And then I got to hear it 90 times.
One of my kids selected a pig that turned out not to be properly castrated.
“That boar will be mounting those other pigs soon,” a wise friend informed me (we were buying nine pigs as a group). “If it were younger, I could castrate it now, but you can’t show a boar at fair, so you’ll either need to call a vet or put the pig back and pick another one.”
Of course, my child had picked out the one pig that had escaped castration. Unfortunately, she had to wait until the very end, to select from the remaining pigs. The other eight in our group decided to take the trailer and head to the farm, while Lexi and I waited for the end of the sale. My friend offered to head back with the trailer, once the other pigs had been unloaded.
I told her I’d call if we needed her to come back. We waited around as every pig was selected except “Mr. Boar” and two other pigs. One was the largest pig in the arena. The other was a tiny pig with a sway back. Lexi hemmed and hawed, and finally decided on the larger one. My son hefted it up, and it let out the customary scream. My son stood holding the pig, looking at me quizzically.
“What am I supposed to do with this thing?” Oh. Right. I had forgotten to call my friend back.
Sudden inspiration struck. “Put it in the back of the Subaru,” I suggested. After all, it’s only a short drive from the fairgrounds to the farm. Less than five minutes. How much trouble can a pig be in five minutes?
I was about to find out. The pig did not like the car ride. One hundred and fifteen pounds of pig snorted in the back of the car. Fortunately, once my son released him, Spidey (as we affectionately named him) stopped squealing. He started grunting and rooting. And peeing and pooing. The kids in the back seat were screaming. “The pig is peeing. Oh gross. Now he’s pooping. Oh gross. Now he’s eating my braid.”
Chaos ensued as Spider Pig tried to climb over the seat, his hooves now covered in fresh pig poo. He nosed the girls on the back of the neck, trying to eat their hair. The kids screamed. The pig squealed. I drove like a maniac to minimize the damage.
Five minutes can seem like a very long time when you are hauling a leaking pig. It leaked everywhere.
Pigs can’t jump. Once we reached the farm, I backed up through the gate, into the pig pen and lifted the hatch. “Okay, Spider Pig, jump out.”
The pig just stood there. He did not jump out. I waited. Spider Pig waited. We had a stare down, while I tried to coax him out of the car. He stood there and relieved himself one more time, before I finally got my son to lift him out.
As I pulled out of the pigpen and into the driveway, I wondered if the smell would follow me home.
Driving a pig around in my car was not the best idea I ever had. What I now have is a giant pig named Spider Pig and a peculiar odor whenever I get in the car. When asked why I would drive a pig in my car, I can only tell you that it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I can assure you, I have learned my lesson: I will never drive another pig home.
I was having a philosophical discussion with a good friend recently. It was the kind of conversation that could go on for hours, with no real resolution.
He wondered aloud whether we are born with certain characteristics, and whether we should surrender to them or strive to overcome our weaknesses.
I tend to be the kind of person who makes the best of things, whether it’s a job, a relationship, or my personality quirks. I don’t like to focus on my weaknesses, or the weaknesses of others. I try to encourage people to excel at what they are good at.
My friend argued that perhaps we should strive to be better at the things we aren’t good at, work harder at the things that don’t come naturally, and overcome our shortcomings.
While I do strive to improve on areas in my life that could use some work, I really believe we are all blessed with different gifts, talents, and abilities. I like to run, but I’m not very fast, so I’m not going to kill myself trying to be an Olympian. I do try to overcome my innate desire to curl up with a book by interspersing small bursts of activity into my reading time. I’m not much of a cleaner, so I exert great effort in maintaining a presentable abode. But I love to work in my garden and I could do it for hours.
This is the reason fish don’t fly.
We all have things we are good at. Fish are good at swimming. Flying? Not so much. If fish worked hard all day to fly, they would end up exhausted and frustrated. A few might get airborne, but they would be the exception rather than the rule.
We are like fish, trying to fly. We exhaust ourselves trying to force ourselves to complete tasks we hate because we think we should. Rather than try to force yourself to do something you aren’t good at, embrace those talents and gifts you have, and practice them with wild abandon. Birds fly! They love it. They soar high in the air, letting the wind carry them hither and yon. Birds don’t worry about the fish. They don’t worry about swimming, unless they want to. They execute their flight with vigor and enthusiasm. So too, we ought embrace our gifts. Rather than straining and struggling to do things that don’t suit you, discover those things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Do those things. We are here for such a short time. What is the point is trudging through life, dreading the morning. We could dance and sing our way through each day, energized by the things we love.
Of course, the house must still be cleaned. And I will clean it. But I will not let that ruin my day. I will clean it to suit myself, and then I will play in the garden. I will read and write, and sing. Those are the things that make me happy. Dishes must be done, but I don’t have to spend my life washing them. Clothes must be folded. Books must be balanced. The mundane tasks wait for attention. But what I find mundane, others derive great pleasure from doing. Some people clean houses because they like it. For all the tasks, there are people well suited to them, who enjoy the work they do.
Today, I encourage each one of you to find those things that make your heart sing. Look for the things that bring you joy and leave you feeling energized, rather than drained. If you can’t do it for a job, then do it for a moment. Our lives mustn’t be consumed by drudgery. There is fun to be had, if you know where to look.
Fish don’t fly, because their fun is in the water. Discover where your hope lies, then do things to bring you a step closer to that today. A small step, followed by another and another will lead you to the path of your greatest joy and heart’s desire.
You are a bird, so fly high!
I often wonder, what difference does it all make anyway? What difference if we go to work, if we raise our kids right, or go to church? What’s the difference if we are nice, mean, angry or kind? Does it even matter? Does anyone even notice?
Actually, your life makes a huge difference to the people around you.
Each one of us has the power to change the world, even if it’s just our own small corner. To change the world takes only small acts of a large number of people. It is possible to make a difference wherever you find yourself. You can leave your corner of the world better than you found it, and in that way, you make a difference.
Begin by making a positive change in yourself. It doesn’t have to be huge. Just a small positive change will have a ripple effect as it moves outward to those around you. You can decide to eat a healthy breakfast, or to drink one less cup of coffee, or walk an extra lap around the block. Positive change doesn’t have to be huge.
Another way to have a positive impact on those around you is to come from a place of love. When you are tempted to be judgmental, angry or harsh, take just a moment and reflect on the person before you. They are probably doing the best they can, at this moment in their life, just as you are. Take a deep breath and accept that whatever they have said or done has nothing to do with you, and is simply a reflection of where they are. Without saying anything, you can mentally extend feelings of kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance. While you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you can still be kind and accepting of who they really are. In that small way, you will make a difference to them.
Kindness goes a long way toward making a difference and changing the world. If you start with being kind to yourself, the ripple effect will again move outward, affecting those around you. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Simply do your best, and move forward. There is no need to berate or condemn yourself. Be kind and keep moving on.
Another way to make a difference in the world is to just show up. Be where you are. You might not like the place you find yourself, but if you show up to your day with a commitment to doing your best and extending kindness, you can change your world.
Show up every day. Do your best. Eventually you will find that you are changing not only yourself, but those around you as well. Show up and show those around you how much you care about them and about their lives. People want to be noticed. They want a chance to tell you about themselves. Just show up. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything more.
You are making a difference today to every person you meet. Show up and do your best. Extend kindness and forgiveness. Even if no one ever notices, your own life will be greatly enriched. And don’t forget to smile.
I feel as giddy as a schoolgirl. Admittedly, I don’t really know what that means, but lately I’ve been pretty darn happy. Lots happier than usual.
Candy canes, mistletoe and snowmen: what’s not to love about December? And tomorrow is the first day of winter. I have decided that now is the time to start having fun. I was waiting until I got older, but I decided this week that I will start having fun now.
It all started with the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some good friends invited the kids and I along to deliver gifts to area residents, alone on the holidays. Somewhere between watching the kids sneak up to one door, all eight of them trying to be quiet, and driving off without them, I started laughing. Watching them chase the Suburban down the snowy road, slipping and sliding and tumbling into the open door, it was just too funny. Maybe it was the full moon. Maybe I’m just crazy, but the sight of those kids running in the snow, with Lexi losing her shoe halfway to the car, trying to avoid being caught by the elderly woman standing befuddled on her front porch, I couldn’t help but laugh. And this was no fake laugh, no weak chuckle, not a titter, but a full-on belly laugh that had me red-faced and coughing.
I decided right then that I need to start having more fun. And then I decided to take piano lessons. I’ve always wanted to. So when we got home, I dragged out the piano books, dusted off the keys and began tickling the ivories. It was delightful. I didn’t mind the fact that I had to step over a zombie army of Lego’s to get to the keyboard. Nor did I mind the spaniel howling his protest. I was having more fun than I have had in a while.
The next day, I remembered that I want to be an artist. So I searched high and low for my tubes of watercolor paints and paint brushes, found an empty art book and started painting. I’m certainly no Gisele Robinson, but after watching a few videos on You Tube, I was splashing water and paint around the page. It was fulfilling and fun. The kids chided me for getting paint on the table, but watercolors clean pretty easily. Again, I was having more fun, and I’m glad I decided not to wait until I get old.
I have been putting off a lot of things, waiting for just the right time. Well, now is the right time. It’s time for me to sing. It’s time to finish my next book. It’s time to go sledding on the buffalo hill. It is not, however, time to ice skate. I’m not completely crazy. It is time to get some stamps in my new passport.
After deciding weeks ago to stop worrying about inconsequential matters, I have been enjoying every day. Now, I am having fun. There are so many fun things I want to do, if I wait any longer, they might never get done. I’m not getting any younger. A friend recently reminded me on Facebook that every year, we pass the anniversary of our death, unawares. Well, it’s coming folks. There’s no getting out of this world alive. So now is the time to have fun. By my calculations, I have only got 65 more years left to have fun. I will wait no longer. I’m starting now.
Singing in the shower? Check. Playing with the dogs? Check. Having fun with my kids? Check. All the fun I’ve put off for so long will be experienced with great enthusiasm, until I am 111.
Usually by this time of year, I am tired. Exhausted, actually. But after deciding to stop worrying and have fun, I feel energized. I feel ready to take on the world. It’s not that I’m not tired. I live a life of chronic sleep deprivation. But what I am is excited, energized and ready to live my life.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to start having fun, to start celebrating this journey we call life, and to meet the day with unbridled enthusiasm. Every day is full of unlimited possibility. Don’t wait, have fun. And I wish every one of you a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.
It seems I have already lived many lives. I’m not talking about previous lives as a dog, or a goddess, or the president. I was recently talking with a friend about our grown children. As we looked back, into those early days, she commented that it seemed like someone else’s life. Although she remembers doing those things, it feels like someone else lived that life.
And then, another friend said last week, that he would do something in another lifetime. Why wait? You can begin a new life today.
I have lived many lives, and plan to live many more before I die at 111.
There was my nerdy high-school life, during which I wore old neckties from the thrift store, kept to myself and read a lot of books. I still read a lot of books, but now I wear hats, rather than peculiar ties.
There was the life, albeit quite brief, when I was a cheerleader. I thought I would like that life, but the nerd in me cried out in rebellion, and I had to leave that life behind. It didn’t really suit me.
For many years, I lived the life of a meek, mild mannered woman, barefoot and pregnant. I kept my eyes down, my mouth shut and my bible open. While I learned a lot about God and discovered much about myself, my soul was bereft and unexpressed.
There was a life I lived when I wore lots of make-up, fake nails, and high heels every day. That life was a lot of work. And it was not a lot of fun. Most of the lives I lived, before now, were not fun. They were hard.
Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
You don’t have just one life. You live one lifetime with many different lives. You are not the same now as you were years ago. And you will be different again. There is one lifetime, during which you can express the song in your heart. Leave the quiet desperation and break free.
You can create the life you want. You can live the song. You can choose a different life.
In this life, I am a writer. That is something I only dreamed of in previous lives. During those lives, I struggled against the quiet desperation that threatened to stifle me. I sought my hearts desire. And one day, I remembered that little girl I had been, who was plucky and brave. That girl wrote a letter to Stephen King. That girl said she would be an author. And when Stephen King wrote back, do you want to know what he said? He said, “If you want to be a writer, then you have to write.”
I finally decided that if I would really be a writer, then I must write. And so I write because it makes my heart sing.
Each of us has a song in our heart. There is something out there, in this world that will make you smile. Seek it out. Your soul longs to express the fullness of itself. You can do this: you can express who you were created to be.
Life is more than quietly waiting. Life is grand. The song must be sung. We each have a different song, a different calling, and a fuller life.
Today you can decide to start a new life. Listen for the song, and let it play. Leave behind the quiet desperation and for a moment listen to your heart. You will know exactly what to do.
Deborah Demander: Writer,