Purple dust. Rest easy kind reader, it is not the latest designer club drug. It is, however, the fundamental element in the latest round of television commercials to capture my simple attention with their mind-blowing charm.
The first jet.com commercial introduced the concept of barter during a roadside conversation between three Olde English villagers. Trading a coat for a toy? Who knew? What other outcome could there be in the face of such conceptual overload then to see their heads explode in a cloud of purple dust?
Another of my purple favorites is set in a beauty salon where several woman, all sitting in a row under their respective hair dryers, have their own purple dust blow out and down – all at the same time. I should be sorry, but I can’t help laughing. I know it’s sad, but at this point, I think no further evidence of my simplicity need be brought forward.
News flash: Purple dust is not confined to advertising. We so often think of epiphany being some majestic mountain-top experience accompanied by the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir softly swaying as they hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the background. Au contraire mon ami.
Yes, I know I just spoke French, but stay with me here. In a non-gender specific way, I contend that Blogging is a mistress. As a muse, she can be as aloof as she is mysterious. Is she habit or hobby? If Form follows Function, I recently found myself asking what purpose was I serving if I was feeling obligated to write? And why so weary of writing? With my own preoccupation at wanting my contributions to the blogosphere to be worthy, I wasn’t seeing the point of doing what I was doing. Luckily, the calendar intervened and it was time for my annual break from the quill. I welcomed December.
Yes, I had set down the pen on purpose, but what perplexes me is why I hadn’t felt much pull to pick it back up. December moved into January and tomorrow is February.
It came rocketing back to the same fundamental questions. Purpose vs. Point. Form follows Function. What defines Burden? Has Epiphany and her sister Muse followed Elvis and left me in the building? What is the Cosmos trying to tell me?
I could really use some purple dust right about now.
I bought several PowerBall tickets, on purpose. But I’m still waiting to hear back from the State of Illinois about getting a refund for tickets that didn’t win. Grasping for mountaintops wasn’t proving very helpful.
So in a rare display of intuition, I decided to shift my focus and rely on the first adage of writers everywhere and go with what I knew. What was around me, here and now, in this moment. After some silence and then, a little silence more, a few purple candidates slowly emerged, rising out of my haze.
Training Day. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d come to regard my daily trek from Union Station to the office as a burden. The culprit in my paradigm shift wasn’t the walk. It was the weight of the laptop. By the time I’d suited up in my arctic snow-ranger gear, loaded my bag with lunch, the other supplies I’ve come to carry on-board and the lap top, I think I must have added 15+ pounds to my fighting weight. And then the walk! Ice and snow. No wonder I was weary. What I hadn’t seen coming happened the day I decided to leave the laptop at work. The next morning, I was suiting up as usual when I hoisted the bag to my shoulder. It flew, nearly touching the ceiling. I’d used the same amount of muscle, but the burden wasn’t nearly what my routine had conditioned me to expect. Surprise.
On the train ride in, it struck me. It wasn’t like I’d wasted time, gone to a gym and picked up some extra weights on my way to the treadmill. I was walking to work…like I always did. No wonder I was losing a little of my bothersome winter weight. All of the sudden, the practice of walking several times a day transformed back to having a point; being purposeful instead of burdensome. Purple Dust. Whoosh.
Readers. Despite feeling younger than my birth certificate says, I have written in the past of my increasing reliance on reading glasses. In a refreshingly grown-up move, I recently took advantage of my insurance and went for an eye exam…a real one with a real doctor. You know, the whole deal. I needed to know what the real situation was with my vision.
Good news. Outside of a slight astigmatism in one eye and spending an good deal of my day in front of a computer, I was A-1. No need for prescription lenses…Readers at 2.50 were perfect. “You are now free to move about the country”…a joke the woman at the DMV counter didn’t appreciate as much as I did when I renewed my drivers license.
But doubts persisted. If my eyes are fine, why does the right one seem sore at the end of the day?
FAST FORWARD to the other day when Rick and I were shopping at our local membership superstore – the one whose name rhymes with Ham’s. There in the middle of the book aisle was a bundled deal for four pairs of reading glasses for less than $20. Being a math wizard when it comes to being frugal, I heard myself saying, “That’s less than $5 a pair…and they’re new!” Sold. But avast there matey, we’re not quite to the purple dust part…
When I got them home, I decided to conduct an experiment. After first spending 23-minutes getting the new readers out of their childproof packaging, I put them on and headed straight for the desk without even stopping off at the mirror in the bathroom. I was a man of science and I, was on a mission.
After a few hours of typing and associated web surfing in preparation for today’s missive, the results were in. My eye wasn’t getting sore. What gives?
Flexing my own home-grown version of the scientific method, I held the old favorite pair up against the new ones. There, in the light of day, I saw it. It wasn’t what the new glasses had; it was what they didn’t. Scratches.
When wearing the old glasses, formerly known as ‘my good ones’, the one eye had been working much harder than it needed to. Even at a short distance, no scratches now meant my eyes weren’t trying to simultaneously compensate for near and far in the same field of vision like some auto-focus camera running it’s lens barrel in and out, unsure of where to fix its’ range. But there’s more…there is always more.
Truth be told, the heart of the soreness sourced back to my own frugality blinding me from doing anything about the scratched pair. “They’re glasses and they still work”. Being cheap with myself, I had lost sight of even considering the possibility I might have a problem in need of being addressed. Sound familiar? Yep. That’s right.
Purple Dust. Whoosh.
But not all burdens are of our own choosing. Sometimes they lie in the cards we’re dealt and what they can do to us.
Having a child battling Cancer or caring for a parent who is slipping into dementia is a heavier burden than suffering from either malady yourself. Same is true when your kid just doesn’t show any signs of ever moving out of your basement six-years after he graduated. Maybe your burden is having spent your career becoming a snap-crackle-pop book-keeper and even though the economy has reportedly improved, you’re working 3rd-Shift making doughnuts. You don’t even like doughnuts. Or how about another crowd favorite; driving to the grocery after you’ve just finished paying most your bills when your car starts making new sounds you’re fairly confident are not in the owners manual.
Is this all there is? Is this it? Where’s the purple dust?
Burdens’ point is not found within the hardship. I’ve been reminded anew that even when I think of things in the past that aren’t as I would like them to be, I can’t rewrite them. They’re in the past. They’ve already happened as they did.
I can however, redefine them.
I’ve mentioned him in prior meanderings. In college, Bobby was one of my dearest friends. As roommates, we were both headed to the ministry. We took a lot of the same classes, saw each others lives in intimate detail and generally had each others backs. Even though we were the same age, he was much shorter than I was…he was strong and fit, but didn’t measure much more than 5”4. Me? At least a foot taller, but I loved him like my little brother.
One afternoon, he closed our dorm room door and lowered his voice.
“There’s rumor that someone on the floor is gay.”
My heart stopped. Going to school on the campus of a deeply entrenched conservative church college made being gay a dangerous proposition. So I wasn’t gay. Couldn’t be. Even if I wasn’t the holiest guy around, there was no doubt I was going to burn in hell. The door of the closet I was in, made the Federal Reserves’ vault door look like a gumball machine. With deep regret, I sadly remember the best response I could offer him at that moment in time was trying to come across as cool and collected in my denial and misdirection.
“Really? Who? Do you have a guess”
“Nope. But I think he’d really like to talk if he thought he could.”
Now, I’m terrified I’m about to be outed. Walking to my death on the cultural gallows suddenly loomed very large in my thinking.
“Wow, I’m glad you said something. I’ll keep my eyes open. That’s got to be tough…”
“Yeah, well like I said, it’s just a rumor…don’t even know why I said anything”
That was it. The subject never came up again.
Eight or ten years after I had graduated, an old friend from those days sought me out – which was not easy. “Just thought you should know. They found Bobby out in the woods behind his church. He blew his brains out with a shotgun”.
I’m stunned into silence as I hold the phone and feel my breathing stop.
“I don’t get it. Bobby?”
“He left a note. He was gay.”
Ever since puberty, I too had peered into much the same chasm, blaming much the same reason for my misery. But for one reason or another, I made it through, found my Truth and never quite slipped back over the black edge of Forever again.
But Bobby had. I’ve mourned him for years. I’ve even wondered if I could ever find out where he was buried and visit…the whole nine-yards. And in my sadness, a constant refusal to forgive myself since Bobby wasn’t around to do so for his own reasons. For as long as I’ve grieved, I’ve only recently had the realization he wasn’t talking about me. It was him, in pain I remember better than I do my own name.
Are you picking up what I’m laying down here? What if we’d just confided in each other?
Not all cancers have tumors…turns out some of the worst grow all on their own with nothing more than some help from us. There is little as deafening as the whispered rumor ‘should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’. It’s a slow death no chemo can defeat.
I don’t know what your burdens are. I don’t know how many of them are ones you’ve created or how many of them have found you whether you wanted them or not. But this I do know. The last year has had me bearing my own unique burdens. So many in fact, I had drifted so far I wasn’t even bothering to ask what was the point.
I was being emptied. I was weary and even though it was all around me, I didn’t even have the energy to pick up my head and look Love in eye.
Mindlessly walking to work a couple of weeks ago, shifting my burdens from one shoulder to the next, I suddenly had this flash of imagination and saw Bobby through the trees, riding up a sunlit stream at full gallop and grinning from ear-to-ear in that determined set of the jaw kind of way he had when he was in the zone.
“You’ll be OK. You’ve got honor. You’ve been here before. No matter what they throw at you, act with nothing but class.”
And I did. And the burden has been removed from me. No heavy lifting. No agonizing nights tossing and turning about what I was going to do. Just Peace.
For days I couldn’t get the picture of him out of my head. So last week, during my quiet time in the morning, I went with what I knew from watching Theresa Caputo.
“Bobby, why did you come?”
“You needed me.”
“But I didn’t do that for you…”
“You just did.”
And as sure as I’m sitting here in front of my screen with eyes that aren’t sore from all this typing, I asked him to forgive me.
“I already have.”
“I love you Bobby.”
I knew it was him. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Logically, I can’t explain it but I haven’t felt this good in years. I knew it to be True.
Whether it’s a winning lottery ticket, finding your soul mate, undergoing chemo or enduring radiation, Love does what none of them can. Love is a bottomless source of Courage. It informs our Character and gives us the Grace to both ask and grant genuine Forgiveness. It is available to all who approach it honestly. It is free, but it will cost something unique to you. I don’t know what that is or if you’re ready to lay your burden down.
What I do know is all for all that time, all I ever needed to do was to look Love in the eye when I cried.
Travel well and I’ll see you back here in two weeks time. It’s good to be back.
270 Chicagoans have been shot since January 1st, 2016.
I’m remembering Ms. Hadiyah Pendleton. She was shot to death in Chicago three years ago – day before yesterday. Ms. Pendleton would be now be 18 and old enough to vote.
“Three years after the shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, her father wanted Jan. 29 to represent something positive.
Chef Nate Pendleton opened “The Next Level” at 2544 E. 83rd St. in the city’s South Chicago neighborhood after following his long-time dream of opening a restaurant.
“I wanted to bring good, home food to our neighborhood,” said Pendleton.
Friday’s grand opening coincided with the third anniversary of the death of Pendleton’s daughter, Hadiya. The teen was the unintended target of gun violence, shot and killed blocks from her high school and just one week after performing at the White House during President Obama’s second inauguration.”
Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Father-Opens-Restaurant-on-Anniversary-of-Hadiya-Pendletons-Death-367047421.html#ixzz3yspZ92Bu Photo Source: This undated family photo provided by Damon Stewart shows 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago. Pendleton was shot and killed Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. AP Photo/Courtesy of Damon Stewart. Original Source: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/two-gang-members-charged-murder-hadiya
There are plenty of somber songs that could illustrate what I’m feeling. But instead, I’m going another direction. There’s Truth inside the lyric (and it’s a lot of fun to check off some boxes whenever I jump in the Wayback Machine). This one really jump-started me this week. Mulan, Steve Wonder, 98º and a worthy message inside the beat…does it get any better? So go ahead. Get up, find your purple dust and dance for a few minutes. No one’s watching. Be true to your heart. It’s good exercise.
Banner: Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Inaugural Mind-blowing Commercial by R/GA for Jet.com: http://creativity-online.com/work/jetcom-mindblowing/43164; Color Explosion: Joshua Scott, Lola Perfume, Color Explosion, L’Wren Scott, Perfume Bottle, Marc Jacobs, Still Life Photographers, Colour Explosion SOURCE:https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/23/3b/34/233b34fa8867cb7f761d2689a174a3d0.jpg; Charles Dickens Quote: Recently seen as opening quote on the television show GRIMM (“Eve of Destruction” Original Airdate: January 29, 2016). Attribution to http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/245586-i-have-been-bent-and-broken-but—i-hope; Bandit Blowing Purple Dust: Jet.com by Simon Chaudoir SOURCE: http://www.simonchaudoir.com/ AGENT: ANDREW NAYLOR +44 0203 214 0899 ANAYLOR@UNITEDAGENTS.CO.UK | US AGENT: PEGI MURRAY +1 310 652 8778 PEGI@ARTISTRY.NET ©2014 SIMON CHAUDOIR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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