Commusings: Are You Surviving or Thriving? by Laurie-Beth RobbinsNov 14, 2021
Hello Commune Community,
This week’s missive written by Laurie-Beth Robbins rings of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, in which she writes,
Tell me, what else should I have done?
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?
Lately, I have been in anticipated mourning over my daughter’s departure for college. Schuyler and I will have done our jobs preparing her. Now, the world will get the best of her – in every sense. This is the last November 14th that she’ll be sleeping snug in her own room, just like when she was 4 or 8 or 12. It’s late and I am tired, but I lug myself out of bed and trudge up the stairs and gently whisper, “good night.”
Eventually in life, there will be the last time you do something. It could be quite quotidian – like the last time you drive a car or make a cup of coffee. It could be the last time you play a sport that you love or go see your favorite band. It could also be the last time to talk to a friend or a parent.
If you knew that it was the last time, you would likely take care to fashion the best cup of coffee you’ve ever made. The grind would be just right, the water filtered, the tamp the perfect pressure. You would be completely present to the process of making it. And, of course, you would savor every drop. If this is true with something as banal as coffee then superimpose this attention on the next call with your mom or dad or sister. Notice how present you are for them, how grateful you are to be on the call, how interested you are in what they are doing.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”
Always here at [email protected] and follow my stoicism on IG @jeffkrasno.
In love, include me,
• • •
Are You Surviving or Thriving?
by Laurie-Beth Robbins
Chopping and cropping up my t-shirts, sweatshirts, and any long-sleeved cotton tops was a signatory and compulsory ritual of mine that began at age eight.
Grabbing any scissors available – serrated kitchen shears, hedge pruners, it didn’t matter – I fervently slashed away necklines and thus loosened that restrictive and suffocating extra material.
Next on my tailoring crusade was to sloppily cut across the middle of the fabric as to create a midriff-revealing design.
And then to complete my couturier mission, I’d snip off each wrist cuff. It was my firm belief that no one should have to suffer the unbearable fit of tapered sleeves.
With keen specificity and intention, this became a devoted protocol for me whenever receiving a new article of clothing: first cut out any tags whatsoever (they itched me to an unacceptable point of aggravation!) and then “fix” the garments with my scissors as to make them wearable and just right.
I still do it today.
Not only did I prefer the look of the tops hanging loosely off my shoulders and revealing a bit of clavicle, symmetrically balanced by the shortened style around my ribcage and waist, but I had to be free!
You might say I have a natural gravitation to openness (through design, exotic food, theatrical expression, and communication), and to emphasize this tendency I’ll also reveal that my biggest pet peeve in life is wearing socks.
Accordingly, I don’t own any.
To conceal and bind up these precious feet with which I am to stand on in this big beautiful world is to me something so unpleasant that I cannot let it come to pass.
Being both comfortable and authentically me is a priority of mine — complying to social convention vis-à-vis dress codes is not.
Yes, I was the girl sent home (from school and too many jobs to count) and gawked at and gossiped about at many an event.
And lest we forget when I was kicked out of Brownies (at merely six!) for refusing to wear the sash. I thought it annihilated the outfit.
Granted, I’ve also fielded numerous compliments for my attire and fashion flair, for which I am flattered and of course grateful.
But let us take this beyond the mere surface example of my own chosen style. Paramount to my core principles is a commitment to “quality of life.”
To slug unhappily through a fighting and biting romance, return each morning to a workplace one cannot stand, wear a “pinched shoe” – literally and figuratively – or hibernate miserably through entire seasons, (becoming a hermit as a result of despising one’s climactic surroundings and hating to go outside), does not ring as authentic to me in any way!
That we have choices regarding the cherishing and celebration of our life is something too many of us don’t recognize until it’s too late.
Crawling through our existence with the disheartening belief that our dreams and desires are impossible and off limits can hold us hostage to the most unhealthy scenarios. Scenes that we would never remotely write into the script of our lives if we had the honor of directing and producing such a film.
Yet we have those creative liberties right now!
And we have indeed possessed this capacity and powerful ability all along on our multicolored journey to this point.
Or as Glenda (the “good” witch) with the iconic Wizard of Oz movie wisdom helped Dorothy recognize, “You’ve always had the power, My Dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
Activate and in turn access the freedom you are gifted with. Surge forth and commandeer what is meaningful to you. This is exciting and moreover, essential!
A stunning 30-year-old singer going by the moniker “Nightbirde” – recently receiving a gold buzzer for her audition on “America’s Got Talent” while also navigating an escalated stage of cancer – did spiritedly school millions as she looked into the camera on her phenomenal performance night and say, “You can’t wait for life to stop being hard to decide to be happy.”
Ergo, we owe it to our own health (in the way of stress levels and peace of mind), to be ourselves and to grow and glow due to a lifestyle – which we create and uphold – that’s conducive to us emerging as our best!
For each of us, those things are mighty different.
Designer clothing, face creams, high end cars, lavish homes, boats and VIP tickets to sporting events may represent “living well’ to some, while eschewing and avoiding chemicals, opting for non aluminum pans, and cultivating a home off the land may exemplify “quality of life” to others.
The COVID lockdown sent some individuals inward in search of what such an almighty “reset” collectively could in turn mean for them personally yet certain sects of people viewed that time “cooped” inside as the single worst curse thrown upon humanity and have since flocked to restaurants singing praises about alas having their “quality of life” back.
There isn’t a right or wrong here, as I see it, in that we each are alive with a much different dance to deliver and the music and tempo therefore shall differ appropriately, too.
What’s merely “getting by” or going through motions without righteous fulfillment to one echelon of people, is perfectly acceptable and “enough” reverie and experiential living for another indeed.
Such choices are ours, across the board, and should be!
How we celebrate life (or choose not to) and even how we view, arrange, or manage the repercussions of our exit from this world is part of that wild and keen “quality of life” defining conundrum.
Yet we each have our limits, our passions and our genres of interest and investment that are intrinsic to who we are and what a sparkling life, full throttle, means.
This “tango” that we call life is brief and fragile. At what point of disarray or decay, mentally or physically, would each of us individually choose to stop living?
If sentenced to a rapidly declining and quite fatal health prognosis, in tandem with learning of the invasive and highly debilitating forms of attempted treatment for that condition, would each of us choose to fight and flood ourselves with pharmacology, chemotherapy, radiation, machines, tubes and lengthy intervals of “time down” intentionally while we’re still here?
Is it “kind” to prolong the life of our loved ones – human or animal – past a point of comfort or “quality of life?”
Who determines (and for whom) what that “quality” is?
Is each person who crafts a living will entirely cognizant while doing so what their resuscitation, vividly and specifically, could yield as far as their remainder and caliber of life (or lack thereof)?
And before we reach that point of “goodbye,” will we have vibrantly lived and are we doing that right now?
Are we tasting our food, appreciating it to the hilt (and letting the chef know, even if that is us!) or are we picking up the fork and knife and pushing the pieces down our gullet without any true joy derived from any of it at all?
Are we making it a point to find out what color eyes everyone has?
Yes, are we actually LOOKING at people when speaking with them or when blessed to take in their sacred presence?
Have we told the people who matter to us that we love them today?
Should we tell them again, BECAUSE WE CAN?
Are we seizing the vast illuminating opportunities we’re presented with 24/7 or wasting time on minutia and nonsense?
Are we coming from a place of heart or fear?
Are we genuinely proud of who we are?
Would we want to date ourselves?
Are we just checking a box and getting our perfunctory obligations met in order to “get through” a day, month, year, decade or lifespan — or are we imbued with a caliber of gratitude that cannot be suppressed!?
Does this even matter to us? Or is the bare measurement of “survival” enough?
That choice is ours.
Emerson so astutely said, “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.”
Hence there is courage to be found, and rewarded (I believe) in living strongly, facing the music and rebuking the urge to sheepishly “sit this one out” or let our enthusiasm and zeal leave our bones.
We are here for a reason, after all. Our beingness is proof of that meaningfulness. Yet I cannot fathom that it is to swim amid a mundane current of mediocrity without ever sharing from our highest potential.
Whether we cut up our clothing, or sculpt artwork, or carve out a vegetable garden in the name of harmoniously and peacefully promoting our inherent whimsy and inner bon vivant; we shall be listening authentically to what “quality of life” means to each one of us, and genuinely so.
Hug yourself and don’t let go. Make each taste, sip and step forward count, from this precise moment on.
This is how we THRIVE.
• • •
Laurie-Beth Robbins (“LBR”) is a writer, chef and raconteur. A passionate zealot of life and living authentically, she shares her joie de vivre and gratitude in each room she enters! Follow LBR on Instagram @LBRISHERE or contact her directly at [email protected]
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