A recent night on the town found me next to the bars of yesteryear, at the Orpheum Theatre’s staging of Beautiful, a “jukebox musical” highlighting Carole King’s prolific songwriting and singing career. Before long, I was transported to the green shag rug and purple and blue stereo of my junior high school days, and the image of a young girl flopped on the bed, listening over and over again to the strains of the Tapestry album and imagining what life had in store.
The power of Carole’s music, at that time, at that place in my life, was pivotal. Her lyrics were deep and thoughtful and struck a chord in my young, angsty, heart that was magically awakened at the Orpheum with each song presented —“So Far Away,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and “You’ve got a Friend.”
Ends up — and no surprise here — that King’s music sprang from her life’s journey — the falling in love with Gerry Goffin, a fellow songwriter, at 17. Her pregnancy around that same time and her marriage with Goffin. Not coincidentally they co-wrote “Will You Love me Tomorrow” for the Shirelle’s and it immediately became a #1 hit. And then came Goffin’s philandering and drug use, and their ultimate divorce. King moved to LA and produced Tapestry, full of mournful prose and robust get-up-and-at-it attitude.
“She’s got such a gift,” I commented to my theatre companion, for a minute forgetting that the singer on stage was not Carole King but rather someone depicting her.
We left the Orpheum, filled with nostalgia and good-will, proud of giving ourselves the gift of getting out on a weekday night and indulging in our city’s cultural offerings. That moment of gratitude led, in turn, to us reflecting on the gift of our 21-year long friendship, and the understanding, honesty, and trust that’s been a constant throughout.
As we so often say, the best gifts are the intangibles.
One of the biggest gifts of my recovery is reflected in the above night-out anecdote: Gratitude. It’s the flip side of stinking thinking and negativity. It’s the ability to find the beauty in the beauty, and the beauty in the beast. I’m not always there – by a longshot. But I know that I’ve made forward movement when I can breathe and sometimes smile through unexpected construction zones when I’m late for a meeting, rude encounters of the nasty remark kind from perfect strangers, and old family hurts and resentments.
Here’s your fall challenge; and it might be a handy one coming into the holidays. Think about a person or institution you have a difficult time understanding or getting along with. Then find one positive aspect of this person or place. Just one. Do it now, then pause and read on…
You’ve just practiced three-fold giving. You gave that person or institution some grace – a smidgen of understanding, acceptance, or empathy. Secondly, you gave yourself the gift of benevolent thinking, which helps nourish the positive neural pathways in your brain. And thirdly, an attitude of gratitude just plain gives to the world. It’s infectious. When we each practice the fine and sometimes difficult art of extolling kindness and understanding, we are all elevated to a more positive collective consciousness.
Like a good old winter cold, gratitude and kindness are contagious.
Gratitude, combined with a little Andy Williams, Beyoncé, or holiday hip-hop? Ah, now we’re talking about the true depths of giving and receiving.
For more ideas on holiday giving see our centerspread for recovery related items. And please remember to support our advertisers — they and our readers are what keep this paper going.
Also in this issue is an important and intelligent article by The Phoenix Spirit co-publisher Jen Shepherd on the use of Narcan to help save opioid addicted lives. Mary Lou Logsdon is back this issue talking about her Venture into Vulnerability during some health concerns, on page 15. John Driggs continues to explore the ways in which parents and other caregivers can influence the moral development of children on page 14.
Our Holiday issue is kicked off with a spotlight on the gifts inherent in volunteer work, by local writer Pat Samples. And Olivia Pannelle’s article examines unconditional giving, and the concept of agape love. Please enjoy at your leisure.
Peace, from all of us at The Phoenix Spirit to all of you, everywhere.
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