When I Become Queen of the Universe….


I find myself using that phrase often. “When I become queen of the universe, we’ll do it my way…. Until then, we have to follow these other rules….” I’ve never been very good at following somebody else’s rules, especially when I think they’re stupid, which explains the numerous visits I had to the principal’s office when I was a kid. So today I like to entertain myself by thinking of all of the dumb rules I’d change if I were in charge of everything.

Think about this. What would you change, if you became king or queen, if you had the power? Here’s part of my list:

1. No more stuffing energetic, imaginative, joyful children into square box rooms all day long every day for school. It may as well be jail. Let them roam, explore, experiment, and get dirty. I remember thinking my body was going to explode if I had to sit still for one more moment in school. I wanted to be free! That was so long ago you’d think that by now school systems would be more advanced. Some are, but too many still are not. And why on earth does school start so early? Please! Let’s be reasonable.

2. No more dull duds at work! We’ll be able to wear whatever we want. Steampunk if you’re a teller at the bank? Sure. Why not? Let’s be individuals instead of sheep. A tee shirt and shorts in the office? Okay by me. Sneakers wherever you are? That makes it easier to take a walk for exercise during break time. I remember a long-ago boss telling me he didn’t like my shoes. (They were fabulous platform wedges.) I told him that was okay because I didn’t like his, either. He wasn’t impressed. But no matter what you wear I would require cleanliness. I like things to be clean. Oh, one more change at work: Nobody has to be there before nine a.m. Ten if you want.

3. Internet access for everyone, for the sake of reading and researching. Social media, messaging, and games, etc., are okay, but everyone needs to have access to books and resources. Good books. My books, too, of course.

4. Every town will have a library that is liberally funded so that, as well as books online, we’ll have lots of free resources. Best of all, there will be no late fees when you forget that one that fell under the bed. There will be plenty of librarians to offer workshops and classes on subjects of interest, like book discussions. And exciting storytellers will come and perform our favorite tales, even for us adults. Then we’ll all join in and learn the art of enchanting storytelling. Family dinners at home will once again come alive with everyone wanting to gather to hear the latest tales of intrigue, humor, and love. (Okay, a bit yippy-skippy. But, hey, it’s my fantasy universe.)

5. The old Celtic Brehon law for marriage will be reinstated. The first year of living together will be a trial union. Then, if it doesn’t work out, February 1st is the day that the wife can stand on the top step of their doorway and announce, “I quit you.” The guy has to leave. It’s over. No divorce. No questions asked. In all fairness, the husband can do this, too. If they like each other, the husband can stay but is required by law not to be “listless” in bed. So there.

My list goes on and on including building safe communities; life imprisonment for child, spouse, animal, or any other kind of abuser; and world peace. (Imagine me waving like a pageant participant on that last one.)

What about your list? What would you change?

Go ahead. Finish this sentence: “When I become queen or king of the universe, I will….”

Let’s go out there an make a better universe.

Strike a Balance

Balance-640x360Every time I read the phrase “life balance” I’m amazed that it even still exists. The first “Life Balance” seminars I conducted were thirty-five years ago. It was a hot topic in the late ’70s and early ’80s with books like You Can Heal Your Life and The Feminine Mystique being big hits. My own book from 1983, The Saga of a Superwoman, about not trying to be all things to all people all of the time was bought by corporations in bulks of hundreds to give to their female employees.

So way back then I assumed that by now everyone would be so informed we’d all be as good as Olympic gymnasts on the balance beam of life.

Me, too.

But the endless popularity of the topic is evidence to the contrary. That evidence is all around us with frantic parents, droopy-eyed commuters, and store clerks who can’t stop texting. Do you see yourself in any of those? Too many people are mired in what writer Nancy Forbes calls “the cult of busy-ness.”

I used to spend an entire day in my seminars doling out advice about how to streamline our days and find that elusive life balance. I’ve since decided that it isn’t all that hard.

There are some obvious tips, like start saying “no” to your kids every time they ask for one more activity to join. Sometimes teaching them that they, too, shouldn’t get caught up in busy-ness is the best parenting you can do.

Apart from that most obvious tip, there are three things that you can easily do to begin tuning down your lifestyle. The first are free and the last will cost a nickel or two, but is well worth it.

Firstly, take a walk. Yup. That’s it. Get out of your house, apartment, office, gym, classroom, shop, car, bar…. and walk somewhere. Look at what’s around you. Touch a tree or two. (Hugging not required, but feel free if so inspired.) If you’re in the city, look at the people on the street. The key is not only to get your body moving but to get your mind moving, too, away from the ordinary. Let yourself take in nature, clouds, people, animals, and uncirculated air. As corny as it sounds, reconnect with nature.

Secondly, read a good book. Let your mind escape to new places and your thoughts encompass new personalities. Use your imagination. Get lost in the book. Leave your life behind. You don’t need to buy books or own a Kindle or even search too hard. Just go to your local library and ask for recommendations.

Thirdly, try yoga, if you don’t do it already. If you do, make sure you let yourself leave your daily schedule, mental reminders, family harassments, work woes, and everything else on the other side of the door. Let your yoga mat be your place of peace, your escape from the rest of the world. This is a place and time just for you, just for renewing your soul. Remember your soul? It’s that part of you that so easily gets lost in the chaos of daily life. Get it back on the mat.

Don’t worry if you think you can’t do yoga. I’ve done it for years and am still quite  clumsy at it. I don’t care. I love it. My instructor, Sue, is marvelous at doing a basic pose and then saying we can stay there or go to the more advanced version that she demonstrates. Ha. I usually “stay.” At age sixty-six, the stretches feel fantastic and smooth out this body after other workouts during the week and far to many hours sitting at a computer. Go ahead; give it a shot. If I can do it, you can, too.

Best of all is that I have to focus so hard to do the poses that there isn’t one moment to worry, fret, or bitch in my head about anything. For one hour my entire existence is focused on not falling over. It’s a great metaphor for life.

Strike a balance of your own. Do whatever it takes to stay out of the morass of busy-ness that consumes so many. Take a walk, read a good book, and try yoga. Let your mind and body belong to you, not the rest of the world.

The Story of a Storyteller

lindaEverybody has a story. What’s yours?

I’ve loved telling stories ever since I was a little kid. It was an inherited skill. As Linda Ellerbee once said, “My family believes that telling one story when two will do is a sign that someone isn’t really trying.” With my Irish and Scots-Irish heritage the legacy of seanchi tales seemed to be imbedded in the marrow of our bones. My parents and their twelve siblings rivaled each other in telling tall tales. I heard about my own birth so much I was stunned to eventually learn that my mother had been in labor for only nine hours. I thought she’d broken the world record for prolonged birthing agony.

Truth is many of us baby boomers grew up with stories being bantered about over the dinner table, long before we had outside entertainment drowning out our own voices. A favorite for us kids was Aunt Jane’s rendition of her neighbor Jeb’s “unfortunate” run-in with the police on the night he forgot to put on his pants before running out to the gas station for a tin of snuff. He’d been schnockered, of course. We’d titter and roll our eyes every time we heard it, embarrassed at hearing about a man’s bare ass at the same time it filled us with naïve glee. I loved writing up that one when I was a fledging writer!

So with my childhood love of writing, and my twelfth-grade teacher and college English professor both telling me to never stop writing, it might seem a conundrum that I chose to get degrees in sociology, counseling, and education. Why did I quit writing?

Why did any of us women in the ‘60s and ‘70s choose our careers? We didn’t see a lot of options. Nurse. Teacher. Stewardess if we were really outrageous. New career paths were opening up but for too many of us they had no connection to our everyday lives. I couldn’t figure out how to make a living by writing.

Was there something you loved to do that got lost for you, too? It could be anything that completes your life story: writing, poetry, painting, swimming, business, orienteering, baking, sculpting, joking, singing, performing, architecture, tatting….

If so, here’s the exciting part: Now is our time. Now is the right time to rediscover your hopes and dreams. I’ve rediscovered my desire – indeed need – to write. Now is the time of my life when I can draft words into stories without worrying about what others will think because I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, young or old, wise or wising up, this is the right time for you, too. No more waiting. No more cogitating. Now.

Is there something that you once loved doing that you want to revive?

Go ahead. Find your story and live it out.

Make it worth retelling!