Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lighten up. Be easy.

I was fretting the other morning. Making mountains of molehills and creating stress where there really wasn't any. "What about this?" I asked Harry. "What about that?" I pressed between mouthfuls of toothpaste. Harry kept responding with reassuring one-line answers designed to get me out of my fretful do loop.

Since my car is in the shop, I decided to lament about that, too. Harry drove me to work while the kids chattered in the back seat. I went from the expense, to the inconvenience, and to what this would mean to us replacing that car. "It makes no sense to get all this work done to this car and then trade it in. I guess we'll keep it a few more years instead of getting a minivan."

Finally, he'd heard enough. "Babe? You need to lighten up."

Yes. This was his tender-hearted response. And it was okay that he said that because it was true.

I let out a big exaggerated sigh. "I do need to lighten up sometimes, don't I?"

"Just sometimes you do," he replied with a relaxed smile. "Sometimes you just have to decide to be easy and just go with the flow. Especially when it's not the end of the world."

So I put those words on a post-it note in my head as I leaned over the console to give him a kiss before jumping out of the car.

Lighten up. Be easy.

I saw this Grady elder in the clinic later on that morning. He was walking through the hallway and appeared a bit lost. Not lost in that way like where you don't completely know where you are, but more in that way where you know you're right near where you're supposed to be.

"Hey there, sir. Can I help you out with something?" I asked.

"Look here. . . is this where the nutritionist have the group class?" He said that while staring at this little blue index card that obviously served as his treasure map.

"X marks the spot."

I pointed to the open door that was right behind him. He swung around and then threw back his head and laughed.

"If it had'a been a snake, would-a bit me!" He erupted into that same joyous chuckle once again and I immediately felt glad that I was the person standing in the hall with him to enjoy it.

Joy was emanating from this man. He was a big man, both vertically and circumferentially. His skin was like sun-baked tobacco leaves--a warm hue of creamy brown with valleys pressed throughout. Years of that happy expression and laughter had permanently embedded an outline of glee into his aging face.

It was perfect.

"I think they don't start for a few more minutes, sir."

He nodded and smiled once more. "Long as I'm in the right place, I'm alright. Thanks, hear?"

"You're welcome," I replied. For some reason I didn't want to walk away from him. His presence and light brought me joy. "That's good that you're coming to the nutrition group."

Again came an outpouring of fluffy laughs. He grabbed this midsection with both hands and shook it like a bowl of gelatin. "I sho' need it, now don't I?"

I offered him a playful scowl. "Now, see? You trying to get me to put my foot in my mouth."

He gave his belly another pat which seemed to tickle him even more. Just then, I noticed that three finger nails on his right hand were painted. With nail polish. Three different shades -- blue, yellow, and pink.

He caught me looking and didn't look the least bit embarrassed. In fact, he splayed his fingers apart extending his hand in front of us both. "How you like this handiwork my great-grandbaby put on me last night?"

His eyes twinkled as the tricolored manicure reminded him of someone who surely was the apple of his eye. My heart melted right then and there.

"Awesome," I replied. "I think it's just awesome."

And I said that because I meant that. I surely did.

"You thank they'll mind if I just sit on in this room and wait for them to get started?" he finally asked.

"I'm sure that's fine."  I was still smiling at the image of his "great-grandbaby" painting his nails.

"Alright then, sugar. Take care, hear?"

"Will do, sir."

And just like that he was gone.

But not his image. Because this man embodied exactly what Harry was talking about. He was "lighten up" and "be easy" personified. Right down to his blue, yellow, and pink fingernails.

So I thought of him and thought of Harry often for the rest of that day and the days that followed. Recognizing that there are big things going on in the world right this very minute that warrant fretting and angst.

But none of those things were a part of my do loop.

And no, that doesn't mean that the things in my own life don't matter. Nor does it mean that for every issue that a person frets over. . . that someone else should come along and remind them of crazed gunmen opening fire in theaters to put them in their place.

Instead, it just means that sometimes. . . . it's good to just lighten up. To let yourself get lost. To let yourself look a little ridiculous. And just be easy.

No matter what.

Happy Saturday.


  1. "Circumferentially" made me smile. What a cool use of the root word and one that would have never occurred to me ~ I'm going to look for a chance to use it in a conversation!

    I just love this post and the joy-filled man with sun-baked tobacco leaf skin and glee etched into the lines of his face. And, of course, the nail polish! I also would have wanted to pause and bask in his presence. Thanks for sharing this snippet of your day.

    Your BHE is one smart dude.

    1. Hey lulumarie! Thanks of that kind observation. Honestly, narrative writing is the only thing that I don't over think. I think that's why I love doing it so much. I am able to just write forward without too much emphasis on backing up and rechecking it and redoing it. I'm glad you appreciated that use of "circumferentially." Your compliment made ME smile.

  2. I swear to you, I just sent an e-mail to a friend which reflected many of these same thoughts. I said to her that one of the things that pisses me off about so many religions is how they glorify suffering when life itself gives us plenty and that it is in our best interests to stop and notice the glory that is always here, even amidst the suffering.
    It's good to remember that.
    Thank you for giving us the image of that happy man, that sweet granddaddy who let his beloved grandbaby paint his manly fingernails. That is a glory. That's what I think.

    1. I wish you could have seen that big ol' man with those neon finger nails. He was as sweet as pie and so . . .ZEN.

      And yes. That is a glory. That's what I think, too.

  3. Once upon a time a very wise person told me "It's not what you say, but how you say it." So when Harry tenderheartedly told you to lighten up, you were able to accept it with grace. It gave you the room to make a change for the good. What a blessing you have in the people you surround yourself with.

    1. Yeah, Lisa. The BHE is something special. He keeps it "one hun'ed" -- that's slang for ONE HUNDRED PERCENT real.

      Thanks for your insights as always,

  4. I need Harry's advice in my mental post it note too. I've never been a relaxed or Zen person, but I sure admire it and covet it when I see it in others. Your description of this happy man made me smile and I'm going to be thinking about his easy way and neon nails today. It's been hard work pushing the thoughts of the world out of my head this weekend. So I appreciate the help.

    Thank goodness you're walking around out there with your eyes and heart wide open, and with the gift to tell us what you see and feel. xo

    1. Mel, thanks. That's why I call that man "The BHE." He is also the best friend ever.

      And that man with his nails and his lovely laugh? It was perfect.

      Thank you for being here with me.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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