Could you give someone a little (or big) thrill?

For it is in giving that we receive…(Saint Francis of Assisi)

 I am not entirely sure that the Good Friar had the gift of a Harley ride in mind when he said this.

However, I’m inclined not to rule it out.

Gift giving is tricky business, as you know–especially if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a perfectly hideous offering from a well-intentioned giver.

And giving the gift of adventure is no different, since adventure, remember, is relative.

A significant rush for one person might be changing toilet paper brands. For someone else, it could be base-jumping off a cliff.

So if you have a friend who’s going through a bit of a tough time right now, offering this person an opportunity to find her thrill (whatever it is) just might help lift her soul out of the mire.

All you have to do is pay attention.

What has your friend wanted to do but has never gotten around to doing?

What’s rumbling around in his restless soul?

What has she talked (and talked and talked) about doing, but has never quite found the time, or worked up the nerve?

Several years ago my friend Sue told me that one thing she wanted to do someday was to ride a Harley–just to feel the wind in her face, hear the “potato-potato-potato” rumble of the engine in her ears, and experience the power of the ultimate Hog. Not knowing anyone who owned one, she put that little wish away on her “to do someday list” and went on with the business of life.

I, however, stored it in the vast file of my mind under “when the time is right.”

And the time got right in the midst of a “crisis” of sorts. As our fiftieth birthdays approached (just a couple weeks apart), we were both in a bit of a squinch because…well, fifty seemed like such a very big-sounding number, and we certainly didn’t feel like such a big-sounding number.

Anyway, Sue and her husband were coming to our house for a visit one weekend, and as we prepped for their arrival–very close to her birthday–I had an idea that I thought would inject a little mojo into her funk: I remembered her Harley dream from a few years before.

So I searched for and ultimately found a willing Harley guy.

As soon as they walked through our front door that weekend, I told her that I had a special surprise for her, at which point she panicked just a teensy bit, because she knew how “out there” my surprises could be. About fifteen minutes after they arrived, when I saw Harley Guy blow into the neighborhood, I cranked up Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild till the windows rattled.

Then she really freaked out.

“Oh my gosh,” she later confessed to thinking, “what’s she gonna do to me? Something life-threatening? Something illegal?”

But I was so stoked I could hardly stand it.

When Harley Guy rang the doorbell, I dragged her to the door, opened it with a flourish and announced, “Girl! Here’s your birthday present! Enjoy!”

She looked positively stricken.

Mainly because she thought I was giving her a man for her birthday.

So I had to say, “No, no, not HIM! Look out in the street!”

She nearly fainted with delight when she caught sight of that Harley. Then she laughed. She screamed. She almost cried.

To suit her up, I gave her a Harley shirt to put on, plus a fringe-sleeved genuine black pleather jacket.

Then Harley Guy fixed her helmet, and she threw her leg over the side of that bike. Honestly, I had never seen anyone so excited in my life. You’d have thought he was Harrison Ford carting her off to raid the lost ark.

As they roared into the sunset, she flung her arms out, yelled, “Woo Hoooooo!” and away they went on a cloud of exhaust and adventure.

And my own “turning fifty” soul grew wings, and rode off with them.

So if you know someone who’s going through a crisis, big or small, and inside that someone beats a restless heart–one that, because of too many cares and responsibilities needs to feel more alive right now, and would love a shot of adrenaline–

Oh friend, stop and listen.

Listen for that heartbeat in the people around you. And consider giving a gift that just might bring their aliveness back.

Because even if joy has been dormant for a while, hauling it out to play for the sake of someone else just might resurrect it in you.

Strap it on and ride like the wind, Adventurers…

 

Want more where this came from? Check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…

 

 

What’s left behind?

This post may or may not be for the neat freaks amongst us.

And for all you slobs out there, consider it a permission slip to celebrate your authentic self, and join me in this liberating declaration:

Cleaning up is highly overrated.

Because I’ve found that leaving a mess to sit around for a while can increase the shelf-life of your joy. I figured this out one time when I saw two pairs of wet shoes drying out on our front porch swing.

My first thought: “I really need to get those things out of sight.” Smelly and ratty looking, they definitely would have given visitors the impression that the people who lived in the house were maybe slightly tacky and even a little bit gross.

But my second thought: “I don’t want to move them.”

They reminded me of a great time we’d had that weekend, rafting with our daughter at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. They reminded me of smiles and laughter mixed with adrenaline, wet clothes and people I love.

So I left them there. For two weeks.

Not because I was too lazy to move them, but because every time I came home and unlocked the front door, I’d glance to the left, see that nasty looking (and smelling) footwear on the swing, and smile. And believe you me, being able to smile at nasty stuff is a rare and beautiful gift.

Ever since then, I’ve been paying more attention to what’s left behind, and thinking about ways to celebrate the good time or the exquisite moment I just enjoyed.

What’s missing?

Well, now.  Couldn’t we all just have a field day with this one?

Because something is probably missing from everybody’s life.

Consider, though, that there just might be an adventure hiding in there somewhere if you risk making the effort to restore what’s gone AWOL.

Years ago, my husband, Ben, and I were struggling with infertility. It was taking us on a heavy-hearted journey, our days filled with endless doctor’s visits, lots of poking and prodding, reports of “there’s nothing more we can do,” and prayers that were not answered the way we thought God should be answering. And the nights–oh, they were the worst.

During the day, we could at least be distracted by noise and work and busyness. But when nighttime came, we would lie in the darkness, nothing more to say to each other, on pillows wet with our tears, on a bed that used to be a refuge, a place where we would love and dream. But that bed, the house…even our love often seemed empty at night.

Somehow, the joy and laughter had slipped out of our lives when we weren’t looking. And as Ben’s birthday approached one year, I decided it was high time we brought it back.

Of course, I had a brilliant idea–risky, but brilliant:

I decided to send myself to my husband.

Where does it hurt?

Pain = no fun ever.

But maybe you can use yours to help someone with theirs.

A while back in Boston, my daughter, Jamie, had two extensive surgeries, one on each hip. The procedure, called a periacetabular osteotomy is as complex and painful as it sounds. They break your poor dysplastic hip, reposition the bones, wire them back together, and send you off on crutches for four months. The first surgery was traumatic enough, but the second time around, for some reason, unknown to people who ought to know, she had a harder time of it.

More pain. More consistent pain. Pain in weird places.

Which meant more medication. Which meant more medication-induced brain-doodling.

Which may explain the crazy dream that she had one night: She and I were on a reality show called The Real Housewives of Boston Children’s Hospital. Apparently, we were in a competition with the mother and daughter in the next room.

Exactly what this competition entailed, we weren’t sure, because she woke up before it got to the good part. I can imagine though, that there were probably a bunch of cat fights, quite a few augmented body parts, a number of meltdowns in the bathroom, and steady evaluations of the attractiveness of her attending health care professionals.

Perhaps most disturbing is the thought that this was all brought about by the hours and hours of reality TV we’d watched together during the healing process. The Toddlers and Tiaras marathon was especially traumatic. And I’m certain that we saw every episode of The Real Housewives of Every City in the USA.

That all this would show up in Jamie’s subconscious could possibly give us the creeps.

But right in the middle of the worst of it—during the days of bedpans and bad food and wanting to hurl each and every physical therapist into the Charles River—Jamie announced that, once she recovered, she wanted to come back and volunteer at the hospital.

“I don’t care what I’d be doing,” she said. “I’d scrub floors with a toothbrush if they needed me to.” Which proves that she was under the influence of God above, folks, because as I recall, she never scrubbed anything with a toothbrush but her teeth when she was living at home.

It makes no sense, I thought, going back to the place of your pain after you’ve healed.

Or does it?

What do you need right now?

Those times when your happy little umbrella of optimism has blown inside out, and you find yourself face down on concrete.

Then what do you need?

Your first response to this question might involve a change in circumstances, such as,

” I need for [Person Whose Life Is Currently Affecting Mine] to [change some behavior that is making me crazy].”

or

“I need some basic law of nature (gravity, phases of the moon, weather) to adapt to my current activities.”

Good luck with those.

The chances of your need being met under these circumstances may not be impossible. God can do anything, I am convinced.

But for those times when, for whatever reason known only to Him, He chooses not to change a situation, let’s say that this is not an “I wish” kind of question.

Instead, it’s  a “What’s my need at the deepest level?” thing.

Because sometimes the greatest adventure happens when we investigate what we need within the circumstances we can’t control.

Who wants to know?

Certain members of my family give me endless grief for starting way too many sentences with “I wonder…”

And I get it. The quest for knowledge–aside from sounding like an Indiana Jones knockoff movie–is a phrase that may not turn your crank at first glance, but here’s the truth:

It can send you on all kinds of escapades, practical and frivolous, exciting and thought-provoking, significant and trivial, physical and intellectual, fun-loving and life-changing.

And who can resist an adventure that might begin with something as simple as thinking, “Yeah, I just want to know…”

Not long ago, Ben and I decided that since we were sleeping on a 25-year old mattress, (yes, really), it might be time to get a new one. And since we’d inherited our old one, we needed to know about the positively dizzying array of choices at our disposal.

As it turned out, we also learned a lot about tacky sales techniques.

What if you look stupid?

Remember 1992? If you don’t, then you are super-young, and will not understand the ensuing nonsense.

However, if you do remember 1992, you probably remember the phenomenon of Glamour Shots–when people actually paid money to a business that purported to make you more glamorous (at least in a photograph) than you have ever been or will ever be again in your life.

Since we are close friends, I will admit to you that I fell victim.

One year, I thought it would be fun to surprise Ben at Christmas by getting my picture taken at one of those places. I made an appointment, and arrived at the studio in the mall, ready, willing, and really looking forward to a temporary ultimate makeover.

They were very busy that night, and training a new photographer—a girl who had, up to that very evening, been a makeup artist only. This made me nervous right out of the gate, because I am a bad study for even a great professional photographer.

I wear glasses, for one thing, and I discovered long ago that I have some kind of quirky thing going on with my left eye. Without fail (even in my wedding pictures), my left eye shuts just as the camera shoots. Also, I have hair with a mind of its own.

Well, a hair stylist tamed the wild beast the best she could, the makeup artist shoveled cosmetics on, and the wardrobe lady gave me several binding, sequin-studded denim numbers.

Then I very carefully (so as not to break, lose or fall out of anything) took a seat in front of the camera, where the photographer-o’-the day immediately made a terrible mistake.

What’s on your playlist?

You probably know that the power of music is mighty and mysterious.

It can make your spirit blast off, move you to tears, take you back to a memory you thought you’d forgotten.

It can make you feel young…or old,

inspire longing, move you to action, compel you to dance,

light a fire, set a mood, get you pregnant,

help you grieve, remind you of someone you love (or someone you can’t stand),

toss you into a pit of despair, and usher you straight into the presence of God.

You’re probably already thinking of songs that have done all this and more in your own life.

Go ahead, name one…or a bunch.

And know that all the music that’s worked its way into your soul can also unwrap an adventurous heart if you let it.

Why are you so weird?

Has anyone ever accused you of being a little bit “different” from normal people?  Maybe you have a small quirk that, according to your friends, makes you slightly weird.

Or maybe someone you love (or not) has a behavior that makes you shake your head or look confused…

When I first met my Virginia-native husband at Purdue University, I had to ask him to spell quite a few words that I couldn’t understand. His “really Richmond” accent was a major mystery to my friends and me. He couldn’t even order at a restaurant in Indiana, because the wait staff were alternately baffled and amused by that accent.

Then we got married, and I left the land of my birth to learn the language and customs of his people. I realize that this sounds easy, since we were both speaking English, but believe me, it wasn’t. Here’s a small sample of this foreign lexicon. For your convenience, I have included a video pronunciation guide (click here), because if you don’t live in these parts, you will need it:

Would you want a young person you love to follow your example?

If you’re like most people, your answer is…sometimes.

In some ways.

And if you’re like most people I’ve asked, your face is slightly pinched right now because you’re thinking of the negatives first. The “I’ve dones” that you wish you could turn into “undones.”

Join the club, pals. We all have our stories.

Back when I was young and foolish, my husband, Ben, and I went to a costume party dressed as John Travolta’s character, Danny, in Grease, and Mickey Mouse. (I just couldn’t pull off Olivia Newton-John’s look.)  We had a great time, and came home with some extra un-consumed refreshments from the party, most notably an enormous jug of cider.

As we pulled up to our house, I grabbed the cider, and Ben said, “Now don’t drop that.”

Let’s pause right here.