Marvel at the alternatives

?Cause if you?re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay. It?s okay if no one believes like you, all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses, can?t think like you…and it doesn?t mean you aren?t connected, and the community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.? ??How To Be Alone,? Tanya Davis


I can copy and paste it, but I?m not sure I can say it. It?s an Italian word meaning ?let?s cross over,? from the book ?Eat Pray Love? by Elizabeth Gilbert. She introduced this as her ?word.? ?Everyone has a word,? her Italian friends told her. Through her year-long journey of self-discovery, this was the one she claimed.

It?s hard to pick one, but I did my best.

Alternative. (As an adjective, not a noun.) It?s a good word. I like the limitlessness.

Alternative signifies unconventional. Variety. Distinctiveness. Even if we collectively share in it.

I was directed via Facebook to a quirky video short called ?How To Be Alone? by an unconventional poet/writer named Tanya Davis. (Queue foreshadow: a random tap on my shoulder.) It won?t speak to everyone, but it did to me. Davis does fall into an ?alternative? category, literally and professionally, as her first album was nominated for a Alternative Recording of the Year award.

Several years ago I went to a huge ?Oprah-fest? in Kansas City. It was sponsored by O Magazine, so the freebies?whatever we could stuff into our plastic I Pledge Allegiance to Oprah Winfrey draw-string bags?were flying.

I was bombarded with jewelry, coupons, make-up, and if I remember right, a cup of almond milk and a cup of warm wine. If I could have lifted him, I would have stuffed her interior designer Nate Berkus into my bag, but security was tight and my trunk was full. His loss.

At the end of the day Oprah gave a speech in sunflower yellow pants and a crisp white shirt. They must have sprayed her with unicorn dust. She was very shiny. As a matter of fact, she may have been a hologram. I can?t prove otherwise.

Her speech was all about ?you.? About ?me.? About how great I am. About how great you are. Her message was about listening to ?the whispers.? She calls it the ?universe.? I call it God. With touches of intuition and awareness.

In her case, she said, the whispers come softly at first. Then, if ignored, become a tap on the shoulder. Eventually, if needed and if you?re still worth it, a slap upside the head.

If it?s missed after that, it may be a lost cause. I do my best to listen, although I?m self-aware enough to realize how much I must be missing.

I?m not sure who?s winding the watch?well, I believe I know?but we?re all running on someone?s schedule. And it sure ain?t our own. But maybe this is what happens when we break open and let all the gooey stuff leak out onto the floor. The junk goes out, uncomfortably so, but with a hole big enough for some new alternatives to get in.

All this talk of self-awareness and soul searching could be seen as self-centered over self-aware. I think so sometimes. But then again, maybe not. The whole premise of ?Eat Pray Love? is about the author living for (and forgiving) herself for awhile. Shaken down, her desire was pretty basic. To ?marvel? at something.

Now granted, she had the luxury of being an unattached travel writer working for an editor with deep pockets, so her self-discovery was on steroids from day one. But resources aside, who doesn?t need to marvel at…something?

Once she did that, she had enough good stuff in her bank to give back more than she ever could have before. The alternative (as a noun) paid off. Sometimes they do that. I don?t think alternatives should be scary. It?s a legitimate category. They give awards out for that stuff.

(Column revised from original publication date of Aug. 10, 2010.)

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