When buying a bunch of flowers, I’m always happy when – peeking out – are the pinky green buds of an oriental lily. Over the next few days, I love to watch each unfold its sinuous leaves and relish their heavenly fragrance. I thought of lilies as I found myself planted in a cozy suburban living room with this year’s Washington, DC cast of Listen to Your Mother. We had been invited by Stephanie Stearns Dulli and Kate Coveny Hood, director and producer respectively of the yearly, live celebration of the grit, gripes and glories of moms in particular and parenting in general.
After enjoying a spread of cheese and artisan pizza artfully prepared by cast member and host, Lara DiPaola, we sat down to read our essays. One by one, we bared our souls, each offering her or his contribution to a diverse bouquet of stories: many were funny, some surprising, and a few could break your heart. Through the evening of tears, tissues and hugs, we created something beautiful together, born of our durable human traits of curiosity, creativity and compassion.
Next morning, as luck would have it, I happened to catch the NPR radio show, “On Being.” Host Krista Tippett was talking to Kevin Kling—a joy-filled author, speaker and playwright who is also physically disabled. “Wisdom’s not cheap, you know,” I heard him say. “We pay for it.” A lot of us wrote about wisdom, or lack thereof. Others spoke of loss.
Later on, Kling read his poem, “Tickled Pink.” Grateful to him, I reprint it here as a thanks to my wise LTYM buds for opening up to me and, soon, the world:
“Tickled Pink” by Kevin Kling
At times in our pink innocence, we lie fallow, composting waiting to grow.
And other times we rush headlong like so many of our ancestors.
But rush headlong or lie fallow, it doesn’t matter.
One day you’ll round a corner, your path is shifted.
In a blink, something is missing. It’s stolen, misplaced, it’s gone.
Your heart, a memory, a limb, a promise, a person.
Your innocence is gone, and now your journey has changed.
Your path, as though channeled through a spectrum, is refracted, and has left you pointed in a new direction.
Some won’t approve. Some will want the other you.
And some will cry that you’ve left it all.
But what has happened, has happened, and cannot be undone.
We pay for our laughter. We pay to weep. Knowledge is not cheap.
To survive we must return to our senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, sound.
We must let our spirit guide us, our spirit that lives in breath.
With each breath we inhale, we exhale.
We inspire, we expire. Every breath has a possibility of a laugh, a cry, a story, a song.
Every conversation is an exchange of spirit, the words flowing bitter or sweet over the tongue. Every scar is a monument to a battle survived.
Now when you’re born into loss, you grow from it.
But when you experience loss later in life, you grow toward it.
A slow move to an embrace, an embrace that leaves you holding tight the beauty wrapped in the grotesque, an embrace that becomes a dance, a new dance, a dance of pink.
If you are in the Washington, D.C. area on April 28, I hope you’ll join me as we perform “Listen To Your Mother” at the Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia. You can buy tickets here and/or watch the show later on the LTYM website.