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Your Name in Lights

Text by: Penny Orland

You've probably heard the expression, "Life's not a dress rehearsal." Unfortunately, many of us unconsciously act as if it were. Like an actress just going through the motions in order to conserve her creative energy and focus for opening night, we hold back. Perhaps you save the pretty china for when company comes; perhaps you're like me and rarely dress up when you're home alone. If we're not playing to an audience, does it really matter? [Yes], it does take more effort to set an inviting table, but it enhances our enjoyment of eating. We all feel better when we take those few extra minutes to fix our hair and put on makeup, but what's more, we act different. Every actress knows the magic power of props and costumes to create special moods both onstage and off.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance
You may not remember, but you were born a leading lady.

Have you ever seen a baby who wasn't the lead actor in his/her own production? My fifteen-month-old grandson knows what he wants, when he wants it, and most importantly, how to get it. Everything he does he does with passion… with gusto. When he's hungry, he lets you know it. When he's had enough of the mac and cheese he's eating, he tosses the rest of the macaroni on the floor. Now that he's beginning to walk, he opens his mouth (it must contribute to balance) and every step is deliberate. Until he falls. But instead of caving into a feeling of failure, he's up immediately with more determination, attempting the steps again.

My five-year-old granddaughter is excited when she's awarded $1 for folding laundry. She thinks she's rich. She has big effervescent plans for her stash.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

My seven-year-old grandson stands on the pitcher's mound in Little League making funny faces, trying a few dance moves, and looking less than stellar. He's in a different show than his coach scripted for him. His forte is not sports. He knows it, and he's okay with that. He's the star of his own production.

When do we stop experiencing the thrill and exuberance of opening night? When we're not performing in front of a sold out crowd? When we ignore the choices we have? When we forget that what happens to us and around us does not control our destiny?

A life lived in endless dress rehearsal loses the rush we felt when we graduated, experienced our first kiss, married, gave birth, saw a beautiful sunset, tore down a shower and retiled (not necessarily all in that order). Live fully involved in the act. Live for the beauty of life itself, not for a particular result. What matters most is not what we do but our level of involvement while doing it. In other words, focus on the NOW.

Acknowledge that living passionately does not mean life will be easy. There were times when I would have liked to opt out of my contract as a mother. My teenagers did not go gently into adulthood. I daydreamed. I avoided. I disconnected. "You'll never get an opportunity to do these days over," my mom advised. "Remember the really bad ones won't last forever. It just seems that way." There was that little wink, but still, I heard the wisdom. I chose to be there for all the days. Some nights that meant sitting outside my son's bedroom door, passionately, but quietly, sobbing to make sure he didn't escape.

The true gift from living passionately is sometimes off in the future. Know that, and believe that. I now have an extremely strong bond with this grown, once wayward, son. I believe it is the furor we shared during this time that solidified the relationship we have now.

This is the moment, the one we are living now. Don't miss it.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

I once canned peaches. The best peaches ever. I wanted them to last, so I waited to open the jars until the perfect moment. Then one day I looked and the jars had fogged over. I had to dispose of the once-delicious peaches. Since that day, I may run short of canned peaches before the next season, but I have never tossed peaches down the garbage disposal again.

As a single mother, I have trekked across the United States with four children under thirteen, encompassing twenty-two states and ten thousand miles, while camping in a Volkswagen Vanagon. I have bungee jumped at the Balboa pier as an inwardly frightened, outwardly fearless grandma. Moments… lived exuberantly.

Erma Bombeck said it best…

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day, because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's"… More "I'm sorry's"…

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it… live it… and never give it back.