“Hi Guys,” says Shal, coming through the gate. “Gosh, I’m excited about today.”
“Hi Sal, Hi, Hi’s,” echo around the group. Laffy, the coon hound ambles over to give Shal a greeting. “Hi, fellow,” he says, scratching the dog behind the ear. “I’ve hit on something really fascinating.”
“Great, Shal,” says Ollie, “We can move on from sex, lies, and videotapes.”
“Did I miss something?” says Harvey, “I thought we were only talking about lies.”
“Whoops, I padded it,” says Ollie, “Want an iced tea Shal?” She holds out a frosty glass.
“Indeed, thanks.” He takes the glass and sits on the one vacant chair.” Sally, you fixed Bruschettas?”
“Yeah, I just toasted them. They should be hot.”
“Oh Sally, I’ll love you forever.” He picks up a slice of a toasted baguette smeared with olive oil and topped with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, and vinegar and takes a big bite.”
“Hurry and chew, Shal. I want to hear what you came up with.”
“Mumble, Yum. First things first, how do you make something so simple taste so good, Sal?”
“I’m grateful for you, Sally. I’m grateful for this Bruschetta. Where do you get your tomatoes anyway? I’m grateful for all of you.” He washes down his Bruschetta with tea and says, “Here’s what I heard from Dr. Joe Dispenzia:”
“Yeah, I know of him,” says Harvey, “my daughter went to him when he was a Chiropractor in San Diego. He’s become quite a scientist with a grand audience.”
“He’s into healing and genes, and physiology and all that. Did you know that genes are like Christmas tree lights in that they turn off and on? It rather negates the old idea of mixing a blue-eyed gene with a brown-eyed gene, and viola’ you get a brown-eyed person—dominant and recessive, brown wins.”
“Maybe some don’t turn off and on.”
“But some do, and here’s the rub: they are affected by stress.”
“No wonder people are running hot or cold. Their genes don’t know whether to be on or off.”
“And how we think affects them. When we’re stressed, worrying, and thinking the same dismal thoughts day after day, our body is operating in survival mode. Cortisol, the stress hormone, pours into the brain.”
“We have flight or flight for survival, a built-in system,” says Harvey, “Get the heck out of there, or fight it.”
“That works well in the short term. Even herds of antelope settle down after a lion kills one of their herd. They calmly graze until a lion gets hungry and antsy again. Then all hell breaks loose. But people can’t settle down. Most live under constant dread of something: financial worries, relationship worries, world conditions, political conditions, health conditions, and if that isn’t bad enough, we worry about dying. Even us. Last week, we were stewing over what to believe and how people manipulated us. We just don’t let up.”
“And then there is that chattering brain,” says Ollie, “You drop something, and your mind says you’re clumsy. You say a wrong word, and somebody corrects you, and then you add to it by berating yourself for being stupid. It’s constant.”
“Yeah, like we’re never supposed to muck up,” says Simad,” Do it right all the time.”
“You guys, see how easy it is to get into the ‘Ain’t it awful game?”
“Shal, we did that, didn’t we? I fell right into it.” Says Simad. “As a writer, I deal with rejection all the time. How are we supposed to manage in a competitive world?”
“Give yourself some wins, Simad. Celebrate those milestones. You know when you have written a good chapter. Acknowledge yourself, then write another. You know you can do it. You are getting better. So what if it doesn’t appeal to everybody. It never will. That’s the name of the game. It’s only a game, Simad. Stop comparing yourself to others.”
“Tough love,” says Ollie, “sometimes hard to take, yet often meant in the kindest way.”
“I feel better already,” says Simad. “I know I’m being too hard on myself. I need to be reminded to lighten up. Thanks, Shal.”
“Yeah, we have this minute time on earth. Let’s live it gloriously. Even if you believe in reincarnation, don’t wait for another lifetime to get it right. Or wait for heaven where you will be happy.”
Here, hear. How shall we do it?”
“Back to Doctor Joe, he says to take time every day to have an elevated emotion. Do it three times a day. It is like dropping a pebble into the water, and another and another, keep those rings going.
“Energy affects matter. The more energy, the more matter can be affected. Without positive energy, we are shoving matter with matter, and you know how stubborn that rock of matter can be. Fire it up with grateful thoughts. Doc Joe found 10 minutes of gratitude daily is better than a flu shot. And it only took three days for his subjects to become measurably better. He says you can heal yourself that way.
“Stop thinking the same thoughts you thought yesterday,” Twinkie ruminates. “Why do we have such talkative brains anyway?”
“It’s narrating our lives,” says Ollie. The reason to meditate is to stop the mind chatter. It gives our poor little thinking brain a breather.”
Shal asks, “Would anyone like to join me and spend at least 10 minutes a day in gratefulness or meditation for the next week?”
“Sure, I’ll do it, Shal,” says Twinkie.”
“Me too,” says Ollie.”
There followed unanimous agreement. Six people would meditate for 10 minutes three times a day, or 30 minutes total, until next Tuesday.
“I’m coming back 40 pounds lighter next week,” says Harvey.
“Isn’t it strange how committing to 30 minutes seems immense? Thirty minutes. I spend more time washing dishes than 30 minutes. I’m more important than dirty dishes. ‘
“Leave’em until next week, Ollie. I’ll wash them for you.”
“You’re a doll, Shal,” says Ollie, pushing herself out of her chair and rushing into the house.
Soon, music booms through the speakers on the porch, with Joni Michael singing Both Sides Now.
Startled to hear Michael’s voice, Twinkie gives a “Whoop! This song has gained new popularity recently. Come on, Harv.” She stands and offers her hand to pull Harvey to his feet. They all stand, join hands, and sway as Michael sings her 55-year-old song that is as pertinent that day as the day she penned it. Harvey has tears flowing down his face, remembering clouds from both sides. Now he knows that those clouds of Michael’s song rain and snow on everyone, not just him. And he can choose his sides.