Recently while on a trip to the beach I was on a walk, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the sea that always captivate me. Although it was early morning, there were others on the beach. Some were running; some sitting; some walking or riding bikes; others, like me were lallygagging in awe. Out of the periphery something caught my eye and pulled my attention from the beautiful sights and sounds that held it moments before. I found myself staring at an object some distance away and growing closer. I could tell from far off that it was a person walking beside a bicycle. There was something largish on the the back of the bike. And something about the apparent engagement of the the walking person with the largish, squarish thing that was “sitting” on the back of the bike drew me in. It was a mystery. Thinking back now, the most captivating part of this unfolding scene was that I had no neat brain-file to put it in. It did not seem to me as someone “just” exercising, or someone “just” strolling, or someone “just”engaging with another someone. There was a qualitative difference, an “oddness,” about the scene that was hard to identify in those early curiosity stirring moments.
As the figure grew closer I could make out that it was a man. As the bicycle pushing man drew closer I could make out that the largish squarish “bike-rider” was a animal kennel or carrier…and as it drew still closer I saw that there was a cat in the carrier. I saw too that my perception of engagement and passion was accurate…well sort of. The man was engaging with the cat, and not the largish squarish thing (carrier) that I’d been able to see from a distance. I saw him gesture to the sea and bend over to speak to the cat in the carrier. I heard pieces of a conversation… “look… beautiful… amazing!” I heard sweet coos of adoration and comfort. Soon the two, engaged with one another and the sea, passed by without much, if any, notice of this happily inspired gawker.
Curiosity had grabbed my awareness and tenderness was holding it. Later I pondered those moments and something else emerged. As I recalled my brief encounter with a bicycle, a man and his cat at the ocean, I smiled and thought of the refreshing taste of freedom. You see this encounter still makes me smile because it was…well, it was odd. Odd in the best sense of the word. While I’m not advocating that we all take our cats for a bike ride on the beach (though that thought makes me smile!), I do think that we’d all be a good bit happier if we’d free ourselves from the strangling tangle of convention…If we could care a little less about both the uninspired and inspired gawkers…If we were able to listen less to the stories we tell ourselves about “what people do and don’t do.”
Odd too often gets a bad, undeserved rap…”Odd: different than what is usual and expected.” Synonyms like: unusual, quirky, offbeat, curious, zany, unexpected, uncommon, extraordinary, atypical…yes please! May it be so! May I (and may you!), at least some of the time, be brave enough to show up in our lives in ways that are authentic and genuine to our hearts’ call…even ways in which others (or our own internal critic) find quirky, curious, unexpected, offbeat and zany. So often we imprison ourselves with “shoulds”, “musts” and “have tos.” So often the key out of our self-inflicted prison is the willingness to be seen, in all our glorious samenesses…and differences. We must be willing to feel fear or discomfort and to show up authentically anyway.
When I was a kid and did something strange (pretty common), my Dad would say, in as loving a way as he could muster, “Kid, you’re a curious heart.” I think it’s a kinder, gentler, more southern version of “you’re an odd-ball”. Probably because it was said with love it often made me smile. And now, at least most of the time, my being or having a “curious heart” makes me smile too. It rings of a blessing…“May my heart be curious…may your heart be curious…and may we more often choose to follow our own curious hearts.”
One of the things that made me rejoice and ponder this man with his cat on a bicycle is that I KNEW he was not just going through the motions. He was not behaving in a scripted, habitual way. He was NOT engaging with the cat “because everyone knows when you go to the beach you must take your cat and you have to share your excitement about the sea and you should coo lovingly to him.” When we follow our own quirky selves we get to be fresh and unscripted and fully present. We get to make it up as we go. Those around us get to see us and we get to see ourselves, masks down for a minute, following the beat of our own drum.
It’s so often freeing for us…it’s so often freeing for them. Let freedom ring and echo inside our beautiful and curious hearts!
“ I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever only rejoices me, and the heart appoints.”
Today may you breathe more deeply, smile more often and feel more at home in your own quirky life…