Family Portraits

I remember that polaroid photo like it was yesterday. I hated how I looked. It was the early nineties; I was pudgy, my hair pulled back in a pony tail and wore a faded yellow t-shirt. I never liked how I looked in photos then, though what bothers me still is more the look on my face.

It was Christmas time and somehow Mom had managed to get all three of her living children together at her house in New Hampshire, so of course we had to take a photo.

From left to right: my brother Dana’s fiancé (newly announced), Dana, my mom at center with her arms stretched long enough to pull everyone in. Funny: I know she couldn’t really reach that far – my sister Kelly and then me flanked her left – yet I remember it like Go Go Gadget arms that could somehow reel all of us in.

The thing is, we were already too far gone. The fish had flown.

Dana’s eyes were glazed, his expression serene. His lady was looking off to the right; it was still day before Mom lost it an exploded at her, a restaurant scene that left all our jaws on the table, our eyes wide, dumbfounded and silent.

Beside me Kelly glared with the old annoyance that had become her standard with Mom. Me? I worried my face into an anxious angst of frowning fear. Not only isn’t this going to end well  – it never did – there was already enough unspoken tension to bridge the Hudson. 

It’s my mother’s face that brought this story from me to you today though. You see, not only did her arms magically extend to pull us all in, if only for the instant of the click, the momentary attempt to chronicle that which never happened, her face positively shone as if all that she wished for – which was really as simple as a happy family, her happy family – was real.

It wasn’t. Nonetheless the smile, the crinkles at her outer eyes, the glitter in shining from them – completely real. She’d actually got herself to believe it.

Why am I telling you all this?

Above all I value authenticity. In Sanskrit it’s called Satya: truth.

Wait, not above all. It’s a the pinnacle of my values, though only when it stands arm in arm with kindness and love. Ahimsa.

Mom wished so hard, clung to her fantasy so tenaciously, that she managed to fool herself – if not the camera or anyone else – for the space of a photo. Reality soon infringed, and with a vengance for it did not like being disregarded so.

Thoreau famously counseled that if we’ve built castles in the air, wonderful. That’s where they should be. Then it’s our job to build the foundations under them.

I don’t fault my mother for her vision. I share it. I bet you do too. On some level it’s simply enough expressed by the name of my company: The Art of Vibrant Living. She believed in love, family, happiness, living with passion, taking care of each other. Are you down with all that?

Neither do I blame her for not being able to erect the foundations to support it. She didn’t know how. Like everyone, she was doing the best she could with the little modeling and learning she had available to her in this realm.

Me though, I’ve got a higher responsibility (ability to respond) with so much more awareness, teachers and information at my disposal, in my experience.

That’s how it should be: we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

My message to you in this season of seasons?

Dig the possibilities, tingle with the fantasies and glow with rich potential that is in your heart and head. Truly anything is possible – and we even have the science to prove it now.

But don’t stop there – do the work to create the groundwork to support all that you imagine and more. I’m not saying it’s easy – that which is new, different and extraordinary is rarely facile, at least not at first, not while it feels ‘wrong’ to our survival nature that’s wired to keep everything the same.

What’s the picture you’d like to snap this holy daze season? A freaky family filled with ferocious and free love? A thriving business that shines light and joy into the world, shapes you into your best and truest self, while also providing the abundant income to live the life you know you deserve? Travel? Enlightenment? Time to read, write or dream?

Whatever it is, it matters. It’s yours. The simple fact that you can sense it makes it real, and really achievable.

My mother’s smile and reach that day says to me: yes you can! She didn’t make it. When she died (18 years ago) I felt peace, for it was clear she wouldn’t realize what she most wanted in this lifetime. I also felt gravity – the gravitas of sharing her dreams – albeit that they are on a bigger level – that the family that is full of joy, passion and love is one that includes all beings. It’s big: the family and the vision.

You know how sometimes holding some weight feel good, reassuring, grounding? It was (is) like that for me. We’ve got the tools. This is our time.