It started when an old friend from high school invited me to like her new Facebook page, "Create Your Career from the Inside Out". I saw she had put up a link to this book: E-squared by Pam Grout. It looked very akin to The Secret which I had yawned and rolled my eyes through – although there were some good takeaways, the delivery was just too cheesy. But Grout’s book captured my interest, I’m not sure why, and since it was only $3.99 on iBooks, I downloaded it. Right away I preferred her delivery – a little more humorous, tongue-in-cheek, even slightly skeptical. And it was more a lab manual with experiments to prove the Universe is malleable and can be shaped with the power of thought. She kicks you off with Experiment #1, based on “The Dude Abides” Principle. Simply put, if there truly is a 24/7 energy force equally available to everyone, I can access it at any time simply by paying attention. Furthermore, if I ask the force for a blessing, giving it a specific time frame and clear instructions, it’ll send me a gift and say, “My pleasure.”
So that’s the exercise. The approach is: Universe, I’m giving you exactly 48 hours to make your presence known. I want a thumbs-up, a clear sign, something that cannot be written off as coincidence.
I took it a step further and decided to crowd-source:
So, here it is nearly 11:00 on Thursday, 48 hours later. Did I get my gift? Did I receive a blessing? A sign? A incontrovertible “Holy SHIT!” moment where there was no question that The Dude Abides?
Or did I?
In 48 hours, here are some things that happened:
**Last week Redman came home from his baseball game in tears, having struck out every at bat. He asked Jeeps to take him to work with a batting coach. He’s had two sessions at a local sports academy since then. Tuesday night, he stepped up to the plate and hit a double. And I was there to see it. The look on his face when that aluminum bat made contact with that *clink*, and that ball went sailing over the head of the second baseman, out to centerfield…that expression was priceless, that moment was unsurpassable. A blessing from the Universe? Well, if he hadn’t gone to work with a coach I would have said yes, wow, a miracle. But I’m more inclined to feel that Redman made that happen himself. He could have quit after last week’s game, but he chose instead to fight. Is this a gift of seeing what awesome stuff my boy is made of? I guess. But I already knew that.
**At the same game, I had a really great, uplifting, validating conversation with three friends, about parenthood and school and cooking and a whole bunch of other things. It was a very nice time and I would expect no less from the company I was in. Was it miraculous or cosmic? Not really.
**Wednesday morning I had a really deep, insightful session with my therapist. She is amazing when it comes to dream analysis and as we deconstructed two dreams I’d had recently, I was left with my jaw on the floor. I also left her office realizing that after a long, dark interlude (which is a whole other post), I finally was feeling better, feeling myself again. Things are going well. Very well…considering there was a short period of time during the spring, when I was sure I was dying. I drove home realizing that awful, foggy, depressed film had lifted from my brain, kind of like the Claritin commerical. But again, was that an out-of-the-blue gift from the Universe, or something I made happen? Under the circumstances, I take very fierce ownership of that process, thanks very much.
**Wednesday afternoon I took Panda for her sports physical, and it seems that in the past year she has developed a slight case of scoliosis. Nothing that requires action, merely observation, but it’s upset her. And I’m upset at seeing her upset. Is this a backhanded gift of perspective: it’s a slight case of scoliosis, not a slight case of cancer. This is a small imperfection, not Deenie. Anyway, I took her and Redman to the local diner afterwards. She picked at a tuna melt and I let her be. After a while, I started talking about the story I’d heard on NPR, about the recent death of Nadezhda Popova, one of the infamous “Night Witches”, an all-female regiment of Soviet pilots who flew over 23,000 sorties and dropped 3,000 tons of bombs on Germany. Panda looked up. “All women?” she said. Then somehow Eisenhower came up, and I told another story I’d heard once, about how, during the Allied German Occupation, Eisenhower came into HQ, accompanied by his female driver Johnnie Phelps. The esteemed General said to the secretary that he’d heard there were lesbians in the barracks, and he wanted a list of their names so they could be gotten rid of. Phelps turned to her boss and informed him her own name would have to be at the top of the list. The secretary looked up indignantly and said since she was typing up the list, then her name would be at the top of it. Eisenhower looked from one to the other, and after a moment said, “Forget about it,” and walked out. I love that story.
Then Panda asked if Eisenhower was married and this led to Mamie, which in turn led to the book and TV mini-series Backstairs at the White House, and I re-enacted for her a bunch of wonderful little moments that can still make me choke up (“Tell Mrs. Jaffray that Maggie is never to be on her knees again”). Point being that Panda cheered up and was interested, and she said, “You tell good stories, Mom,” and we all had a good time. A miracle? Or my own doing?
**Wednesday evening, the fall schedule arrived from Panda’s dance studio. Bad news: none of the classes she’s supposed to be in are at an attractive time during the week. It’s going to be Juggle City. Good news: none of the classes are on Tuesdays, which leaves me free to go to that Pilates-Jazz class I never could before. Is this a gift of “a window closes and a door opens”?
**The yellow paint that looked good in Home Depot but looked appalling on my bathroom walls, ended up looking good in my laundry room. A gift? I think I’m pushing it…
So what is a blessing? To everyone who participated in the experiment - what were you expecting to receive and what did you receive? Are gifts from the Universe subtle, to the point of being subliminal? Or are they in-your-face and unmistakable? Do you attract a certain kind of gift based on who you are or where you are? 48 hours later, are you filled with a petulant disappointment of “I didn’t get my present!” or a philosophical, “well, I’m no worse off than I was two days ago, and really do I need anything right now?” For me, honestly I have to say it’s a mix of the two; I really was looking for a “WOW” moment, but at the same time, I am grateful for what I have and proud of what I have done. They are no small things.
My takeaway is that when your life is already blessed, the Universe works in smaller, subtler ways. The gift I received was being more aware of the little things, the tiny, non-tangible miracles that make up a life, and noticing how many of them you actually make happen yourself.
Still, it would’ve been nice to win that $10,000 Arbitron sweepstakes or score a free Macbook Pro…
Update: just as I finished this piece, with 8 minutes left in the 48-hour period, my friend Julia texted me, saying she was in the area, could we possibly get together. We’ve been trying to get together for over a year now and it just never seems to work out. But in the course of just a dozen texts, we found a mutually free night during this week, and made a plan. A miracle? A blessing? A mitzvah? A sign? I'll take it. Thank you. Dude, you abide, and furthermore, you rock in small ways.
Update #2: Although I've found out that the story about Johnnie Phelps and General Eisenhower was subsequently disproved or debunked, I still love it.