Here are two stories for you that I wrote after a trip we took to Europe this past summer. I thought to share them as their message helped me find some clarity this morning. Have a great day!
LIVING LOUD © By Alma de la Melena Cox
Hectic schedules with my two middle schoolers and a full-time art career
combined with the sun deprivation I feel during our long winters in a very small town in dry, Central
Oregon, all make me, a California girl, enormously GRATEFUL when we go anywhere
there is sun and a little moisture in the air.
While the words, “We need a vacation,” still linger in the air, my husband
and I run to our Mac and before Expedia loads, we are thinking,
let’s book this thing RIGHT NOW before the money goes to the HOGS.
You know, the Have to’s, Ought to’s, Got to’s and Shoulds in life, the inner adult that likes to
rain on my inner child’s parade. From the get go our last trip was different than our
usual instant gratiﬁcation trip to Mexico or a last minute Hawaii trip we justify by staying
with friends. The seed of our seven week Europe trip this summer was planted a few
years ago and it grew in delicious proportion to our visualizing what it would be. I
imagined time standing still on trains, relishing moments with my family, deciding as we
went along, where our next stop might be. I saw our faces pressed against windows,
awed by medieval castles perched high on hilltops and swooning to lyrical languages
dancing in our ears. All the conversations, debates about where to go, what our route
would be, to book hotels or to wing it, in hindsight, was really that this trip had the
promise of a unique direction and it had decided before I had a chance to see- that it
was wanting to be more so it could teach me something about BEING MORE.
On June 29th, 2009 our much anticipated ﬂight took off to Madrid. We spent two weeks
traveling around many cities in Spain before spending three weeks in Barcelona. Our
last two weeks were spent in Italy- ﬁrst Venice, then to the Tuscany region and ﬁnally
Cinque Terra. How we came to decide on these two cultures is probably stuff for
another story. I will say I don’t believe in accidents and knowing that our beloved Bruce
Springsteen was playing in Benidorm on the Mediterranean in Spain on our 17th
wedding anniversary was, to us, a sign that we had to be in Spain. And Italy? Well, can
one really be so close and NOT go to Italy? It seemed ﬁtting and markers along the
planning path directed us and set the tone for a trip that decided to take place in two
cultures that LIVE LOUD- just to make sure I was listening.
From the moment we landed, passion fueled an underlying narrative impossible
to ignore- from dramatic displays of ardor between lovers as we squeezed tight in
hot subways, to the volume people spoke with. Buildings told stories, I could
hear them, of artists whose greatness was measured by the span of their vision.
Ardent bedsprings in our hotel hallways made me think that during the quiet
‘siesta’ hours when businesses closed in Spain, this entire nation was
responsible for raising the degrees outside under blankets of heat. No wonder
people spilled into streets hungrily at 8pm, in line like ants, one Tapas bar to
another, all night long. It wasn’t just the fervent displays of amore, the food and
the entire food ritual kept up the seduction. Even my daughter who dislikes pesto
so much, in Italy ordered primi after primi of pasta al pesto because, as she said,
“Mommy it is just SO DIFFERENT here!” In case the message wasn’t reaching
me, the Universe was now channelling my 13 year old. I’m really not
overdoing! It seemed even the books I read had been dispatched by ‘something
greater,’ into my hands, to amplify the zest- Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell, Brida
by Paolo Coelho and the Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Funny, I hadn’t
remembered The Red Tent being THAT kind of a book 5 years ago, but in Spain
it was- page after page after page….well, you get the idea.
In Italy, hands danced in time to words, and no accident that women continually
brought their hands to their chests so that I could glimpse waiters hovering longer
over their wine glasses- it was an invitation, don’t you see? But I digress, it
wasn’t all sexuality, but yes, sensuality and the beaches in Barcelona
opened my eyes so I could know. It wasn’t the nudity, but the confidence
women of every shape, size, color and age exuded, comfy and content in their
skin. People were dialed-in- you know?
Heaven sent gelato and luscious lobster punctuated the five colorful villages of
Cinque Terra. I heard that farmers carved the terraces there with their hands and
shovels to grow grapes and olives. “Well, of course!” I said out loud. One MUST
teeter on cliffs, on the edge, unafraid to make exquisite wine and sumptuous
oil. From afar the farmer’s voices came close and whispered, “To what extent will
YOU go to make your dreams happen?” “How will you bring more pleasure to
Artwork left me silent but filled me with color and beauty and in tears I
promised Picasso to take my art further and like the buildings, I heard him
emphasize, “We paved the way for more greatness.” Fields of Sunflowers
against vivid blue skies in Tuscany, their smiling faces happily yelling “YELLOW!”
as we drove by them so I would not forget to use the color of the sun more.
All of it pointed to taking my life to a juicier level, to speak and create and do
with more ardor! I put my children’s mortification aside and I went topless in
Barcelona and something gave way….the sea breeze on my skin whispered
FEEL, ENJOY, LOVE…..more.
Life was doing what it does best. It was being abundant and it had my rapt
attention. In so loving what I saw, it expanded the possibilities of what I could
bring to my life. It handed me a gift, like it gives everyone every second we
breathe, every moment we share, everyday that we see beauty or love. In
paying attention and being grateful for it, it expanded my own life and generously
pushed me to see life through my soul’s eyes, to fill myself up with the wonder of
every moment so that I could be more of who I really am.
Soul Return© by Alma de la Melena Cox
To “live loud” had been my promise to myself as I returned home from a seven
week trip to Spain and Italy this past summer, filled with my best intentions to
bring more gusto into my everyday. Life has its own itinerary however, and as
resolute as my journal entries had been on the plane back to 1. Dream bigger, 2.
Get organized so dreams have space to happen and 3. Believe that they can,
along with other, more developed points, I got home and sunk into a funk I could
not shake. I hit the ground running with deadlines to meet and I kept telling
myself that I would soon be ‘feeling’ again, the enthusiasm from Cinque Terra
quickly becoming a memory. I suspected my soul was still playing in Venice.
Hadn’t I called it “Disneyland for adults?”
Thinking my soul had gone (Ah, perception!), the dark hole that remained was to
teach me something more about her friend, life. Life is really good about hitting
low when your up so high, say like, from a trip of a lifetime. I’m recalling some
Eastern philosophy pearl I read once, something like, to the extent that we have
joy we also have pain. Wisdom is so irritatingly crystal clear in hindsight. I’ll just
give you the events as they transpired.
Ego was stealthy. It was ‘in the house’ and perpetuating guilt, telling me I didn’t
deserve so much good, that it is just not possible to have so much and to want
more. Because that’s what Spain and Italy did- they made me hungry for
more. Under the quiet guise of a well planned trip that took three years to put
together, ‘responsibly created,’ with few credit card charges, life generously gave
me more than I could ask for so I could then learn how to ‘handle it.’ More good
awaited at home with artistic opportunity and my lack of enthusiasm now
screamed, spoiled! I took the bait. Two weeks passed and I tried daily to
appreciate my life, but could not. I dared not share this with anyone for fear that I
would be judged as an ingrate. No matter, guilt was my judge and old habits of
being hard on myself took hold. I posted photos to my blog hoping that the sweet
energy people usually offer me would pull me up and out. Even my husband,
who is my #1 FAN could not, would not give me the time to feel sorry for myself.
Why should he hear “I just feel bad I can’t get excited about anything,” on the
heels of a soul soaring adventure that dripped in pleasure and passion, for crying
out loud! There it is again….LOUD- and we’ve come full circle.
Life brings you up against yourself, you know? The passion could not speak with
the choke hold of guilt, born of poor programming, childhood messages, self-
inflicted doubt and judgement. Flailing in darkness, it is impossible to see the
why or how guilt spawns. It doesn’t even matter because tracing it to it’s
beginnings will leave you blaming, hating and really sad. In doing your best to
‘grow’ and ‘evolve’ guilt mutates, like a virus and rears it’s ugly head when your
guard is down. It manifests in new warped ways- better to stay quiet about your
joy lest your friends think you’re bragging, feeling the need to minimize how great
life is because it doesn’t seem right to be so happy when there is just so much
pain in the world. Or the big one- that it is all just too good to be true and holding
on to fear that at any moment it can be taken away.
Life is full of contradictions that can’t live without each other and ironically, we
wouldn’t have it any other way, beauty and ugly, dark and light, love and fear.
When my children were born I was at once filled with abounding love and soul
gripping terror too, that their fragile lives could be taken away from me. That is
our life package deal and to have that kind of love, we must boldly hold it up in
the face of fear.
The villain’s grip tightened and I cried big bucket tears that blamed me, (here we
go again), for my weakness. Shame and disgust (can I seriously move on?)
moved in for a second attack, but not before ‘the victim’ hit me low, where it really
hurts. Thoughts like… nobody has died here for goodness sakes, your life is a
life of privilege, just get over yourself already……why do we do this to our sweet
selves? And if there is a shred of compassion in the question, then life, with all
her contradictions, hands you her grace card and it shines a sliver of light under
the door that guides you in darkness, toward it. It takes courage to turn the knob,
a decision, a new perception, and I suddenly realize Sheroe (for my soul is
courageous), was never gone. Indeed, she was with me all along! I did what I
could not seem to do in the past, throwing open the door, I summoned bright,
shining, love light for myself at 7, and 10, and 18 and now at 41. I held us close
and whispered, “We’ve been running scared too long.” The little girl me, the
young woman me and me now, decided together that we deserve so much more
than we’ve been programmed to believe, and this filled us, in a new way, with my
promise of color and beauty. “Give! Share!” my tears sang. “With pleasure and
passion!” I answered back and they baptized me in the waters of clarity and
wisdom. Turns out, living is all about giving.
In the peaceful, raw quiet that follows, the lessons continue and there is always
more forgiving. I walk into the forest and press my heart to the earth, I give
thanks and feel the women of my tribe, my past and my present, breathe out the
burden of our collective unworthiness.
I restate my promise to live loud.
“Love Loud.” I say.
“You shouldn’t want so much,” says my old expectation.
I hear the breeze from the sea in Venice travel through the trees and
she is with me