My history is littered with remnants of unforgettable encounters.  Briefly written chapters with people who had a moment inside my four walls.  Some simply opened the door and glanced in.  Others seemed interested enough to stay awhile. A few abruptly entered without a welcome, and remained inside my sacred space longer than the fortitude of my comfort.  Some left far earlier than I imagined.  And then there were those who I pushed out, without really meaning to.

Who they are and what they mean to me are, at times, obscure notions; but in reality they left an impression upon me that is more consequential, and influential, than I give credit.

My grade school teacher with her tie-die skirts, unkempt hair and earthy nature; a boy named “King”; Matthew, a brooding sophomore with James Dean allure and his ‘wrong side of the tracks’ hands under my freshman bra; the Air Force-bound high school wrestler who had my abiding affection through four acne-plagued years; the homely girl up the street whose deeply religious family politely ignored her pregnancy like a crude smell in a crowded elevator; a self-absorbed motorcyclist in love with my mother almost as much as himself; my college friend from a callous foster home who was the first to teach me about courage; the Southern Comfort-addicted disc jockey in Washington DC with eyes sadder than a kenneled dog; the elderly lady and her over-weight cat in the picturesque white Colonial across the street; the married ‘suit’ with daring blue eyes who was clandestinely pursing affairs; the California blonde surfer with an unmatched kiss; the ego from Chicago whose façade was brittle and attitude biting; my homeless friends on M Street; the Texas Catholic boy and his Jars of Clay sexuality; the Hispanic hairdresser and her theatrical girls who embezzled my heart; the Vietnamese girl at the corner café with her surprisingly deep eyes and delicate smile with whom I never shared a spoken word despite in our many delightful, gestural conversations; the tortured comedian in Dallas with his dueling pleasure and pain emotions barricaded inside his conflicted soul… I could go on for pages… unfolding each obsolete name tag which no longer bears a name, only a faded memory.

Our paths intersected and we shared an experience that may or may not remain in the confines of their treasure chest.  As I think of them, I wonder…  who are they now?

Do they live with ease or upset?

Has someone held their heart or harmed it?

Is their dream alive or forgotten?

Are their chapters long and meaningful or brief and uninspiring?

Who has made them a victim and who has set them free?

Likely their story, as are most, is told someplace in the midriff of life’s garb, in the ‘safe’ zone that does not expose one’s skin to unsettling, outermost extremes.

Still, it could be that a few may have reached a penetrative demarcation beyond which there is only malaise, forcing them to face, and survive, acute, life-changing happenings.

A consuming disease… an unexpected death… the destruction of addiction… recklessness that leads to financial ruin… facing danger without admonition. It is quite likely that, whatever the devastating event, it had a defining effect on their life… shaping much of their character and convictions.

I wonder, too, if any one of these fascinating souls that I have harbored in my memory has liberated their spirit.  Have they traveled capricious waters on a voyage to unexplored, exotic destinations which only their own imagination has mapped? Have they ventured inward to take privilege of their elements?  Are they on a powerful quest, in perpetual search for their passion?  Have they gained awareness of their purpose?  Do they sleep in the placidity of grace?

Never mind the placidity of grace, are they sleeping, period. Or are they awake past the local watering hole’s last call, watching past episodes of CSI, eating yesterday’s pizza from a cardboard box with the words ‘supreme’ and ‘mega meal’ plastered across the top, ignoring the clogged sink in the upstairs bathroom, losing pride in their fading good looks, and drinking up way too much 7-11 coffee… and way too much time.

I have come to realize that the mass American population, distracted by its pre-occupation with money, shopping, sex, acceptance, appearance, love, more money, buying stuff, even more money, hobbies, the latest tech gadgets, and celebrity… does not go out of its way to sign up for the expedition to profound places inside the soul, where one’s perspective on life and people are surely altered.

Even when on board, many pack lightly.  Nursing the complexities of the unchallenged mind and tapping the intricate emotions of the furtive heart are not what most would consider a day at the beach.  Someone get me a margarita and a lounge chair!  Lest we forget, this life will be lived just once- may as well toss back as much indulgence on the rocks and amusive moments with a twist as one can consume in an awesomely inebriated existence.

The sun, sin and sweetness of life will always tempt us, and they should.  It’s the dance of life that requires balance (and some fancy foot work). A little jazz and a little rock n’ roll. Wearing an eclectic attire is a must- one day in well starched, sensible styles, another day scantily dressed in flimsy fashions that illuminate our whimsical side, and those rainy, subdued days in earthy designs reflective of our bond with nature.

Being ‘whole’ requires a north and a south… two separate directions with substantive experiences occurring in both lanes.  While there must be searching, sacrifice, study, and solace, it must be counter-posed with equal doses of silliness, savory, surrender and simplicity.

As for the journey within, for those who seek the apex, and for those willing to withstand the interference and travail bound to occur on that ultimate trek, it’s an extraordinary find. Acquired is a certain grasp on what truly matters, a recognition that had been previously lacking.  An insightful espousing of principle takes place; and, as an added bonus, one is then able to seize it all- everything we are given unconditionally and free of charge- with a genuine appreciation which had been elusive at the start of the trail.

Finding Beautiful comes about when you drink in life’s true essence. Just be sure to  include a few Slurpees along the way.