Prince and Gratitude for Today

Vitoria_-_Graffiti_&_Murals_1238

Graffiti in Vitoria – Gasteiz (Spain)

Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.  -Prince

The first live rock concert I ever attended happened December 20th, 1984. Prince and the Revolution.

I fell in love with Prince on the radio, before I ever saw him perform on American Bandstand or in a myriad of MTV music videos.

Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, and that classic Prince mashup of a carpe diem speech and stirring spiritual Let’s Go Crazy. Great songs. Like many, I was drawn to Prince’s vibrant beats and emancipated, envelope-pushing lyrics that stood out on the ballad-heavy pop radio of the early 1980’s. Sure, there was Blondie, Madonna, The Clash, The Pretenders, or Queen for young rebellion anthems, but Prince sparkled bright even in that musical crowd.

When I found out Prince would be making a stop in my hometown, I saved up from my job at a shoe store to get tickets with a friend and made sure to ask off for that date months in advance. I didn’t have the greatest seat, more nosebleed than front row, but when Prince stepped on stage, the energy was palpable. Nobody cared about seat location. We all sang our lungs out and danced our feet off. Whatever our troubles or differences, we forgot them in the Prince universe.

The show fulfilled all my expectations. The lights, the band, the costumes, the music, and Prince.

Prince was a man full of contrasts. A stylistic showman, flamboyant on stage, yet humble and even shy in interviews. A mysterious persona, but revealing much of his inner thought life in his songwriting. Sensual, seductive, over the edge song lyrics, but a devout spiritual person who tried to get people to think past the sensuality to the spiritually sublime. He believed his talent came from God, and strove to tap his genius to the uttermost, and encouraged others to find their talents to help the world be a better place.

Prince_at_Coachella_001

Prince performing at Coachella 2008, photo courtesy Micahmedia, Creative Commons

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life.  -Prince, “Let’s Go Crazy”

Prince continued to impact the music industry, make his creative visions reality, and help others behind the scenes to achieve their dreams, until he suddenly passed away on April 21st 2016 at the age of 57. Immediately praise began pouring in for his achievements, his talent, his genius, how he impacted the music industry, and how he would be missed. His movies, concerts, and interviews filled the airwaves and social media over the days following his death.

2016 has been a crazy year for losing cultural icons. Besides Prince, some of the famous artistic folk who have left us are as diverse a group as David Bowie, Jimmie Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Leon Haywood, Glenn Frey, Pat Conroy, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Earl Hamner Jr., Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, Vanity, Umberto Eco, Otis Clay, Alan Rickman, and we haven’t made it halfway through the year yet. Very sad.

Why do we suddenly declare our admiration for someone when they are no longer with us? Why do we feel the need to list the ways we have been influenced or impacted by someone we never even met, and probably never thought about on a daily basis? Why do we bemoan the fact that a person with artistic talents like singers, actors, and writers have died, when death comes to millions daily?

I think the reasons are more complicated that this humble writer can fathom, but I’ll take a shot.

I think we take it for granted that our lives will stay generally the same, what we’ve come to allow in it will always be around, what we deem important at any season of our life will always be there when we want to access it. That way we don’t have to think about change, and the biggest game-changer of all, our mortality.

The ephemera of our lives has a soundtrack running in the background, and particularly in our youth, which we believe will forever be available to transport us back to those times. But the reality smacks us in the face when we realize it actually won’t. We may be able to replay the music or the movie, but the symbols of that soundtrack, the artists, won’t be here forever.

When we face that fact, gratitude, as well as grief, is a common by-product for what was, but can never be again.

I acknowledge someone else’s life by being thankful for what they deposited in my life.

But I wonder what would happen if we didn’t wait until people were gone to acknowledge their contributions to our lives? What if we thanked people, famous or not, for how their lives have made our lives bigger, brighter, happier, stronger? What if we embraced our mortality by appreciating the present?

I have a personal stake in thinking about mortality lately. Today marks one month since what should have been a normal preventative medical procedure turned into a four day hospital stay because I aspirated under anesthesia. After a scary time, I’m still here, my lungs are healing, and I’m regaining strength.  It’s not been the best two years or so for me, and I’ve probably been angry and a bit of a whiner about it, but coming close to a fatal situation has really got me more focused on taking stock, being present in the moment, and being content with God’s blessings in my life.

Who are you grateful for? What words have impacted you? What music? What talents? Your grandmother’s baking? The pop star’s music who got you through your teenage bad breakup? A book that helped you feel like you weren’t the only one who felt that way? A teacher who told you that you could do it?

What if we made a mission out of sharing our gratitude to those who enrich our lives? What would that look like in practical terms? A letter, an email, a phone call, a gift? A blog post or a tweet? A dedication of some type? The motivation to succeed at what we set our hands to do? Encouraging and helping others in our sphere of influence?

It’s easy to let time and opportunity pass, because making human connections takes effort that we don’t have the energy for. Still, I think taking the time to share our gratitude with those who bring art, knowledge, or even a little bit of kindness into our days would be a beautiful way to spread more joy in the world. And Prince would probably be cool with that, too.

More thoughts on Prince’s influence:

Laura Lee Carter’s How Prince Made My Life Better

‘Isn’t This Funnier?’ New Girl Creator Liz Meriwether Recalls The Making Of The Prince Episode

USA Today, Tavis Smiley: The Prince I Knew

How will you show gratitude today?

Write Anywhere #67

This post continues my August travel adventure and personal inner journey. If you’d like to start from the beginning, click here. I hope you’ll come along and discover like I did, that you can find the fuel for creativity anywhere, in any situation, if you choose to keep your heart open and make room for it.

Musician Daughter’s voice broke as I listened on my cell phone. She stumbled with the words emergency room, blood tests, and ultrasound. No medical explanation, they told her.

Then the loneliest of words: miscarriage.

“Should I come now?” I asked, working to keep my voice steady.

“No, wait. I think we’ll be okay.”

I called her each day for three days, wanting to offer love and support, but also not wanting to intrude on this most intimate of wakes between husband and wife.

For three days I grieved, I cried, I prayed, I prepared. I lamented the 441 miles between us, which might as well have been a million. I imagined how they felt, and cried some more. I grieved for life lost, for hope crushed, for hearts broken.

Then,'”Could you come now? We need some help.”

“Of course. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

Write Anywhere #67: Rest Stop

Mural, Missouri Rest Stop

Mural, Missouri Rest Stop

I packed my Prius and headed out first thing in the morning. The drive from Oklahoma to southern Illinois, six hours for the normal driver, takes me over eight hours because of my back issues and all the stretch stops I have to make. I didn’t mind. It gave me time. I needed time to empty myself of myself. Musician Daughter, Musician-in-Law and Destined To Be A Musician didn’t need someone else to worry about, care for, or be uncomfortable around. I had to button down my own emotions to be able to let them release theirs. I needed to think about the words. What words could I say?

My first rest stop on the trip was just over the Oklahoma-Missouri border, about 90 minutes into the trip. It’s a nice rest stop, with clean bathrooms, cozy couches, fresh coffee, and rows of travel brochures. I walked several laps around the sidewalks and did my physical therapy stretches where I could, to a few quizzical stares. I walked into the visitor center, and a welcome hostess asked me where I was headed, and if I needed help finding a travel brochure.

“Thanks, I know where I’m going.”

The rest stop had a Route 66 theme, and offered weary travelers picnic tables, each covered with a nostalgic diner or gas station-designed gazebo.

Rest Stop, Missouri Interstate 44 photo by kristin nador

I strolled through the empty shelters, watching eighteen wheelers pull in and out of the parking lot, and reflecting on my own nostalgia: Musician Daughter when she was a baby, a toddler, a young girl. When I could soothe any hurt with a band-aid, a hug, or a cookie.

I felt empty and helpless, her pain now beyond a mother’s consolation. I sat down at a picnic table and got out my notebook, and wrote words. Words to the heavens, words to darkness’s depths, words not to be shared, but words to wash the debris of grief from the wound in my heart.

I had the liberty to grieve later, now I needed to help them with their grief that couldn’t be postponed, each time they passed a nursery never to be used. They didn’t need another person asking questions, wanting details, offering polite sympathies.

I watched an old man get out of a car and make his way to a picnic table. A scruffy three-legged dog hobbled behind him. The dog sat at the man’s feet while he lit up a cigarette. The man began to cough, and the dog put a paw on his knee. The man rubbed the dog’s head, and he relaxed and laid down across his feet.

rest stop interstate 44 missouri photo by kristin nador

I realized they didn’t need to hear any more words. They just needed someone to be there, when they need a hug, or a hand to hold. Or when they didn’t. Someone to let them cry. They needed a safe ear to listen to their words, if they chose to memorialize with them, when words are so inadequate, but all we have.

I headed back out to the interstate, wedging my car among tractor-trailers, and moving towards the next rest stop, and the next. As the sun settled behind me in the West, I reached my destination. Arms ready for any and all hugs requested.

Where did you write this week?