Transcript Episode 20: One Theme to Rule Them All

Introduction

Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we seek out new ways of seeing things so that we can bring more hope, more joy and more love into our lives.

The podcast in which the Venn Diagrams that make up the blueprints for our lives become clearer and clearer the more we study them…even putting on special glasses if we need to, that will help us take in all the stunning, glorious details.

The podcast in which we are willing to look for unlikely ways to honor those we love through meaningful gestures. 

My name is Lily Fields, and I’m going to be your Fairy Godmother for the next half-hour or so. 

Objections

Now now now, Lily Fields, Oh–that’s you. You sound like a Southern Belle to me…like Melanie Hamilton Wilkes from Gone With The Wind. 

When are we going to get around to the dancing part?

The dancing part?

The part where you start giving us dancing lessons. I mean, the name of this program is Sing with your Feet…I’ve been following you for twenty episodes now and not once have you mentioned the Cha cha or the waltz…

Oh, you are so so sweet. You know…That is not what we do here. We don’t actually dance. The point of what I call “singing with your feet” is to make our lives more pleasant, more joyful, more hopeful, by being willing to do things differently or think differently about the things that are making our lives less pleasant, less joyful or downright hopeless.

Singing with our feet is like thinking on our toes. Only with longer-range implications. Whereas we might think on our toes to get us out of a jam, we sing with our feet so as to keep ourselves out of future jams altogether.

Housekeeping

The Ideal Life Exercise is a habit of answering four questions about one different theme each day.

The themes are one of nineteen different themes, over the course of three weeks. Now, if that doesn’t work out mathematically for you, that is because it shouldn’t. Unless you consider that one of those themes I repeat once a week. So there are 18 themes that I cover once every three weeks, and 1 theme that I cover 3 times over the same three weeks. It so happens that I repeat that one theme on the same day each week, that day being Sunday.

And that theme is Spiritual Life.

Just as a review, here are the four questions we ask for each of the themes: 

Oh, let me do this, Lily: What is working? What isn’t working? What do I need to think about? What do I need to do?

The Theme at the Center of it all

The Ideal Life Exercise I am going to propose this week does not demand that you be a believer in anything, although believing in yourself, or at least having a desire to believe in yourself and your potential will be helpful.

Now that the disclaimers are over:

The single most important aspect of my Ideal Life is a vibrant, connected relationship to God. Today I want to go into some detail about what I think that looks like and how I use my Ideal Life exercise to get me closer to that relationship.

This relationship is not reducible to “going to church,” nor “singing in the choir.” It means that I get to see miracles in my everyday life, provision from resources that go beyond anything I can imagine and experience moments of clarity and wisdom in decision-making that are not of my own conjuring. This means that I spend time every day reading my Bible and listening to the little whispers in my heart which demand attention and prayer. 

There are a lot of metaphors out there for a relationship with God…father and child, watchmaker and watch, sculptor and clay…

But the metaphor that I like to imagine as representing my Spiritual Life is a professional wrestling match. 

Maybe I should give a little context here. When I was very young, my father and I used to watch wrestling entertainment on TV…back when it was still called the World Wrestling Federation. Back in the days of the Ugandan Headhunter, or Ricky the Dragon Steamboat or André the Giant. 

From there, I got my high school letter in wrestling. I wasn’t a wrestler, mind you. My friend Kate’s father was our high school wrestling coach. So Kate and I traveled around with the wrestling team as their scorekeepers. 

When my boys were littler…like when the eldest was 3 and the youngest 2 (did I mention that they are very close in age. Right. Well, they are) I was absolutely astonished to discover that, without ever having seen an image of a Greco Roman wrestling match, my boys instinctively would get into their wrestling positions before rolling around on the rug. 

So it should be little wonder that the Bible story, in which one of the patriarchs is said to have wrestled with God and survived, marked me for life. This to me, for as long as I can remember, has stuck with me as by far the most relatable depiction of a relationship with God.

First of all, I like this because I like to believe that both of us, both God and myself, are active participants. It wouldn’t be any fun if one of us just walked away from the match. It wouldn’t be a match if one of us gave up on it. That would be a forfeit. And both of us seem determined to have a go at this.

Secondly, I like to imagine that I, the novice at this whole professional wrestling thing–am one of those bland, no-name fellas they throw into the ring with a seasoned veteran, to get the crowd riled up. I agreed to this match-up, however, because my sparring partner is someone who has been a hero for a long time and I want…like you do with any kind of celebrity you admire…just want to be around him and learn everything I can about him.

Thirdly, I know that the outcome of the match is already predetermined, although, and this part is very important, I don’t know what the outcome is. I showed up knowing that I would be just a tiny, insignificant little mid-morning snack for this star pro wrestler, and that our time together in the ring would be a kind of improvisational sketch from which I had a ton to learn from my hero. 

Fourthly, I really believe that while my opponent knows that he could destroy me at any point, by some, strange mercy, he has chosen not to and instead has chosen to go head to head with me at my level, always pushing me further than I think I can go.

Now, I’ll admit that for this metaphor to hold up, you have to believe in God, and have to believe that God would be willing to engage with us on a human level. 

But I like it because it represents the struggle that has been my experience of spirituality. I believe in a God who doesn’t allow my doubts to disrupt our relationship, but engages with them and won’t walk away from me when I start harassing him with questions about things I don’t understand. I like this metaphor because it represents intense intimacy between the two parties, intimacy and knowledge that grows the longer we wrestle together. It is both physical and mental. 

It’s a wrestling match that I don’t get tired of, because my opponent knows me well enough to give me a break when I need one, and will even offer me a glass of water when I’m thirsty.

All right. If that weren’t enough of an odd introduction to this topic, let me share with you a few of my “in my Ideal Life I am a person who…” statements

  • I am a person who experiences miracles.
  • I am a person God is proud of.
  • I am a person who lives by faith.
  • I am a person who delights in God’s provision.
  • I am a person who is not afraid of God’s silence.
  • I am a person who makes God laugh (in a good way.)
  • I am a person who will never be perfect, but won’t stop trying.
  • I am a person who asks for forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong.
  • I am a person who is at peace with not having all the answers.
  • I am a person who is not afraid to share my faith struggles.
  • I am a person who reads my Bible every day.
  • I am a person who is not afraid of dying.

Have I ever actually seen God with my two eyes? No. I haven’t. But have I ever seen the fruit of my struggle and wrestling matches with him? 

Yes, I have. And I do. Daily. I gave birth to two miracles who were only possible because God tag teamed with me to wrestle my doubts and fears to the mat, knocking them out for the count. 

It isn’t because I haven’t seen something that it isn’t real.

Point One: Life in Hypertext

It’s not because we can’t see something that it doesn’t exist.

Washing our hands during the pandemic…or wearing a mask. We did it because we understood that the virus out there killing people could not be seen. 

Have you ever tried to watch a 3D movie without 3D Glasses? Isn’t it awful? I mean, you can kind of figure out what’s going on, but it’s truly unpleasant. 

Just a few weeks ago, my boys saw a 3D movie for the first time. We were at our favorite little theme park, Le Parc Du Petit Prince, here in Alsace, France, which is themed after the St Expuéry story of the Little Prince. In upcoming episodes, I will be talking more about this theme park, so I just want to bring this place up now, so that it can become part of the lore of our podcast. 

They didn’t understand why they were being handed these cardboard glasses with strange lenses as we walked into the movie theater. 

I absolutely adored watching my boys watch a 3D movie for the first time. My youngest would reach his hand out in front of him, as if to touch what he was seeing on the screen. My eldest would lower his glasses, then put them back on his nose all cool, as if he were trying to not be impressed by the illusion.

They had questions by the time the movie was over. “Why couldn’t I touch it? How does it work? If I used the glasses on a different movie would it turn 3D?”

Obviously, I had zero answers to any of these questions–even the last one, about using the glasses on something else. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…

What I did know was that a movie isn’t real, but somehow these glasses made it look like something we could touch, and darn it, that is pretty cool.

While 3D glasses can create a really cool illusion that isn’t actually real, and honestly, there is no ultimate life-changing potential beyond a few minutes of entertainment, this got me thinking about something I had seen which did have life changing potential.

It was a home video of an older man, standing on the deck of his house. It was his birthday, or father’s day, I can’t remember. In any case, he was given a gift, which he opened. It was a pair of glasses. He seemed perplexed at the gift, and is encouraged by the people around him to put them on.

So he does. The video gets a little bit long at this point, the videographer never leaving the man who is now wearing these glasses. The man just looks around, seeming somewhat astonished. And then he starts to cry, and I mean cry. 

You see, the man had been severely colorblind for his entire life. These glasses had a kind of new-fangled, technologically advanced lens that compensated for colorblindness and somehow made it possible for this man who had never seen the colors red or green in his life, to now see them for the first time.

It is not because we can’t see something that it doesn’t exist. The fact that today there is technology that can help a severely colorblind person see color is something that even a hundred years ago would have seemed unthinkable. 

These two examples, the 3D glasses and colorblind-correcting glasses, got me wondering:

What if someone handed me a pair of glasses that allowed me to see the spiritual world? 

Is that what it would take for me to believe that it’s real? 

Would I want to see it? 

Hypertext

I remember my first experience with the internet…I was at the University Library, reading an article with words that, when I hovered over them with the cursor, changed colors. I remember discovering that if I clicked on that underlined word, it would take me to another article. This could go on forever, if I wanted it to.

This thing, which I learned was called hypertext, meant that there was always a layer deeper than what I was actually looking at…and that I had a choice. I could either click on that link or not. 

I became obsessed with the idea of hypertext. At the time I was studying Art History, and I came to view the visual language an artist would use to represent what would have been, at the time he was working, widely recognized symbols, as hypertext. Like for example, the lily represented the idea of purity, or a skull represented a reminder of death (also, incidentally called a Memento Mori, something I know LiElla celebrates on Instagram every week with Memento Mori Mondays!)

Learning to recognize those symbols meant that what might have appeared to be simply a still life actually held much, much more meaning. It became like a game, a challenge to try to interpret the symbols in a piece of artwork. I found it intellectually stimulating, absolutely. But it also made the whole work of art more beautiful to me, as I came to share a little secret with the artist…as if, through the whirlwind of the centuries, the artist was winking at me.

This is also how I like to view my spiritual life. I like to believe that everything happens for a reason–however easy or pat that sounds. But I like to believe–no, I choose to believe–that the beautiful details of my life, and even the struggles I go through in my life are a kind of hypertext, that, should I choose to interrogate them, would lead me back the one who created me and wrote the story of my life. I like to believe that my curiosity and willingness to engage with God at this level is as stimulating and life-enhancing as it is to share that secret with a Renaissance artist whose work I am trying to interpret.

There is a reward to this kind of curiosity: a sense of purpose for my existence. In this, I find hope.

Again, I’m aware that all these metaphors I’m using have dozens of flaws. But they are the only way I can find to express why, to me, Spiritual Life is not about going to church or singing songs.

To me, it’s first and foremost about finding meaning and purpose in the tiny, insignificant details of my life by pursuing a relationship with God. 

Point Two: A Pocket Full of Posies

LiElla Kelly, Death Doula and your wicked stepsister has a bit of a history lesson for us today, and it ties in with the idea of hypertext.

LiElla, in her work as Death Doula, helps people walk through end-of-life issues. 

Bringing meaningful ways to remember people we love and have lost often relies on small, symbolic gestures, which others may or may not understand: but what is important is that we understand them. 

LiElla, I hope I set that up all right for you…the floor is yours.

Ring around the Rosie. Pocketful of posies.

The folklore surrounding this rhyme is much debated. Naturally, the interpretation that I find most fascinating relates to the black plague. Surprisingly though, inflamed buboes of plague victims is not the topic of our discussion. I’m sure I’ll bring it up in the future, the black plague really is a favorite topic of mine. The part of that perhaps deathly little poem that I want to key in on, is the word ‘posies’. What is a posy and what does it have to do with today’s spirituality theme?

Spirituality. I’ve been asking around and my casual research has revealed that for many, spirituality encompasses beliefs, finding purpose and meaning. That’s much too big of a topic for today, so I’m not talking about the grand scale, the meaning and purpose in life. On the contrary, I want to bring this concept of meaning down to a miniature scale. I want to talk about meaning in small, intentional actions.

So, about that posy in the nursery rhyme. What is a posy? In the Victorian Era, a posy, or a little bouquet of flowers was given to convey a secret, perhaps clandestine message to the recipient. Specific flowers, rich with meaning, were gathered into a petite bouquet, and given to express a sentiment of one sort or another. This is called the Language of Flowers. Here’s how it works. A potential suitor plucks sprigs of lavender to convey his admiration, he adds sweet peas to praise his beloved’s beauty, and anemones to signify that he is impatient to see her. Last, he tucks in a single, risqué, red tulip to declare his love and desire. She receives this posy and is simply, scandalized. A red tulip! How dare he! She sends a message in return, yellow chrysanthemums and a basket of plums. What was her reply? Well, basically she said, Ya…I’m not into you. So it goes, with the language of flowers.

Perhaps, you’re wondering, where is the death spin? Afterall, I always have a death angle and today is no different. In September, my friends lost a cherished family member to Covid. As with so many deaths during Covid, the illness and death were isolating, both for the woman who died without her family and for the family who was present only on the screens of smart devices. Tragically, this scenario played out time and again, all across the world. Normal funerary traditions were disrupted and so many people were left without a meaningful sense of closure. In the case of my friends, there was a funeral, a zoom funeral but unfortunately, the funeral home that directed the event, was not adept at the process. The camera was poorly placed at the far back of the room and it was behind a disruptive child. Viewing the funeral was quite simply, frustrating. As a spectator, there to offer support, I found myself saddened by how distant and impersonal this goodbye felt…and it wasn’t even my goodbye.

Covid brought this situation to the forefront but there are any number of situations in which a death occurs and we are unable to play a part. Perhaps it’s due to location, our health circumstances or maybe the deceased didn’t want a memorial and we’re left with a gaping hole and very little acknowledgement of what we’ve lost. It’s heartbreaking.

I have an idea for those of us who have had this experience. Grief is individual. Posies are individual, personalized expressions. The metaphorical posies, that are our relationships, all look different. Our bouquets are all made up of unique and varied connections. I am suggesting that we take time to explore the meaning that those we grieve have brought to our lives and find small, intentional ways to honor that meaning.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started…and they’re all based on the language of flowers.

Do you have a green thumb? Do a little research to find the flowers that represent the qualities you valued in your loved one. Plant and tend a posy pot or design a silk version that will beautify the entrance to your home.

If gardening isn’t your thing, maybe art is. Create a botanical drawing of the plants that signify your loved one or find an artist on Etsy who can combine the floral elements for you.

Maybe you’re more of a culinary person. Have a small gathering, perhaps a dinner with others who are also grieving your loved one. Eat foods that remind you of them, drink their favorite cocktail, tell stories, wearing their favorite color or a piece of jewelry they gave you. And of course, you could create a posy as a centerpiece.

You get the idea. And of course, you don’t have to speak the language of flowers. Whatever medium is significant to you, whatever appeals to you and feels intentional and meaningful when you think of your loved one, that’s all you need. Just add a little imagination and run with it.

Thank you LiElla. You know, one of the hundred some virtues that my husband and I defined as being the edge pieces of our lives is the virtue of “Memory”, meaning, holding on to important events and people and keeping their legacy alive in our family. Thank you so much for sharing this history of the “posy” with us!

Point Three: The Meal (It’s about priorities)

The meal, in France, is an artform. A full-blown meal starts well before the first dish is placed on the dining table: it begins with an apéritif, which is usually some kind of alcohol, like a whisky, or champagne or a cocktail, and hors d’oeuvres. Let’s be honest, exquisite little hors d’oeuvres, while holding a glass of champagne in your hand can feel pretty darn amazing.

The apéritif can last for a long, long time before a meal actually starts. There can be any number of appetizers, often each with their own wine, then there might be a salad, wine. A soup, more wine, then the entrée, wine, then cheese, more wine, then dessert, a different wine…then coffee, then a digestif…

I for one can not sit still long enough for a meal of this caliber. I wish there were a kind of seventh inning stretch, but, woe is me, there is not.

What in the world does a meal like this have to do with the Ideal Life Theme of Spiritual Life? 

Well, it has to do with priorities. You see, there is a progression to the meal, and no one in the know would ever serve a dessert wine with an appetizer, or gasp, for the apéritif. This would be a faux pas and would definitely get whispered about by the guests when their host was not around.

Each part of the meal has its place, always culminating in the entrée that is the pièce de résistance. An hors d’oeuvre is for before you are at the table. The appetizer is before the salad. The cheese comes before dessert. 

 If our lives were one of these finely choreographed meals, each individual part of the meal is one of the circles of the Venn Diagrams of our lives…each part of the meal is one of our Ideal Life Categories.

Knowing what order each part comes in is critical to living our Ideal Life. Being able to prioritize the categories means that…for example, when we start getting ultra busy and distracted, there are certain activities that will get dropped…like, for example, someone might not serve both a soup and a salad at a meal. On the other hand, cheese is super important and no meal is complete without it. 

But there is one element that is present throughout each course, that elevates all the others. That element is…you guessed it, the wine.

For me, in the Venn Diagram themed meal that is my life, it is my Spiritual Life that serves as the wine. It is present for each and every course. The meal would not be complete without it.

It is the one thing that, if I could serve nothing else but bread and chicken broth for a meal, I would still make sure was on our table. 

That is how I view my Spiritual Life…yes, I treat my Spiritual Life with the same passion the French reserve for their wines. That is why I repeat this theme each week, while the other themes only get their day in the sun once every three weeks.

There is another thought that I want to bring to the table, so to speak, and it’s this: sometimes, when the hors d’oeuvres or appetizers are beautiful or delicious, we might fill up on them before we get to the main course. When we do that, and it comes time for the pièce de resistance, we can often feel pretty miserable. No matter how delicious or beautiful they were, if we didn’t moderate ourselves well, we aren’t hungry any more. But we eat anyway.

And we live to regret it. This is to say that, there are aspects of our lives, categories of our Ideal Life that, while incredibly important, can make us miserable in other parts of our lives if we don’t have our priorities in place. 

The one category I can think of off the top of my head is Sexuality, which, incidentally, we’ll be talking about next week. Sexuality is amazing, fantastic, delicious…but, just like a crème brulée isn’t served before the main course, Sexuality as a priority probably won’t come before certain other themes.  

Sometimes, though, we let that happen, and end up regretting it.

I’m not sure how I ended up on a tangent about Sexuality but… Like I said, I’m not here to convince you of anything, but I’d humbly like to suggest that wine is delicious. So is crème brulée. So is a vibrant spiritual life.

Conclusion/Peptalk:

So let’s take a minute to review the four questions we ask for each of our Ideal Life Categories:

What is working? Are you feeling connected, are you finding it easy to pray or meditate right now? That’s awesome!

What isn’t working? Do you feel like God is ignoring you? Are you having doubts? That’s okay! Just state the facts. You don’t have to feel guilty about doubting. You just have to be willing to admit it.

What do you need to think about? Have you heard anything lately that has you curious about spirituality? Maybe a conversation or a book you’ve heard about or some thoughts you’ve been having.

What one small thing can you do today to get you closer to your Ideal Spiritual Life?

I’ve said this a dozens times before, but seeking to live your Ideal Life is an act of self-love. Pursuing and cultivating your spiritual life is an act of self-love. Taking a few minutes each week to consider these four questions is a way to pursue your Ideal Spiritual Life. 

You are a phenomenal human being, a person with a purpose and a gorgeous Venn Diagram that is unique to you. Being attentive and curious in your Spiritual Life is a way to bring more joy and more meaning to your life. So get curious. This world needs more joy, and you can start by providing it for yourself.

Closing

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe on your podcatcher, and please, if you enjoy something you’ve heard here please share it with someone you think could use a fairy godmother, too!

A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

This is your Fairy Godmother signing off. Just remember, it is never too late to start singing with your feet.

Show Notes

Episode 20: One Theme to Rule Them All is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories, this week’s theme being “Spiritual Life.” The series began back in Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up!

Talking Points: World Wrestling Entertainment as a metaphor for Spiritual Life; A Divine Early Internet lesson; A Pocket Full of Posies. 

Links:

Man sees color for the first time: Man Sees Color For the First Time

Learn more about LiElla Kelly, Death Doula, on her website, https://leavingwellmt.com/ or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leaving.well.death.doula/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=leaving%20well%20end-of-life%20planning

You can contact Lily by email: lily@lilyfieldschallenge.com, or find her other work here: https://linktr.ee/lilyfieldschallenge

A great big thank you to Seven Productions, https://7prod.fr/,  here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

Episode 32: Environment and Ecology Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: “Not on my Green Parenting Bingo Card,” LiElla is back!; Geeking out and going out green. Episode 32 is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories, this week's theme being "Environment and Ecology." The series began back in Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up! Links: Learn more about LiElla Kelly, Death Doula, on her website and blog, Leaving Well…The Blog. or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leaving.well.death.doula/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=leaving%20well%20end-of-life%20planning You can contact Lily by email: lily@lilyfieldschallenge.com, or find her other work here: https://linktr.ee/lilyfieldschallenge
  1. Episode 32: Environment and Ecology
  2. Episode 31: Mental Health
  3. Episode 30: Contentment
  4. Episode 29: Commitments
  5. Episode 28: Lucidly Ever After

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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