Life is a Banquet.
When my Aunt Spoonie (Dr. Phyllis P. Hayes) received her PhD a few years ago, she asked me to speak at her celebratory dinner, in place of her father, my grandfather Mr. Harold L. Hayes Sr. Her request touched a place in my soul that I had buried, because my grandfather has always been a hero of mine, someone I admired and hoped to somehow emulate. I was humbled by her request, and my first thought was to write a speech, but that place of hope and creativity in my soul whispered, “Speak from the heart.” I listened.
As everyone seated looked at me, waiting for me to speak, I was almost overcome with emotion and pride as I looked at my relatives gathered at the dinner table. My Aunt Spoonie, educator and consultant, now a doctor. My brother Brian, genealogist, schoolteacher, and master’s degree, even after dropping out of high school. My Mama, beaming at me, a single mother who fought the good fight for her boys, both of whom are leaving a legacy. Then I thought about me. My struggles, my regrets, and my overwhelming triumphs. I smiled and the words flowed from me like a deluge of summer rain.
I toasted my Auntie, and I went further. I talked of how we dwell in the dark parts of our lives for so long, that we don’t applaud the coming of the sunshine. I promised on that wonderful day that I would celebrate every victory and achievement of mine from that day on, because if I don’t clap for me, who will?
In an old movie, a favorite of ours (my Mama, me, and my Uncle Donnie), the heroine Mame Dennis uttered the words that have become my mantra. “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. Live, live, live!” Absolutely.
I love to travel, and trips are my personal rewards for being the best version of myself. Or at least that’s the justification I give myself. Every time I finish writing a book, I’m going on a trip. That’s a celebration of staying the course and completing my task. Writing is easy at times, and difficult at others. The difficulty lies in the fact that my wonderfully gifted brain has a hard time concentrating on only one thing at a time. I can have a main project, yet I’m thinking of other ideas for even more projects. Today, I’m supposed to be writing in my second novel (eighth solo book!) ‘Singing to Butterflies, which is in the home stretch. I wrote two paragraphs, then my brain went fishing.
I outlined a short story ‘The Aftermath of the Pig Roast’ (a World War Four story for Zombie Pirates Publishing), reviewed my contract with Scoutmedia for my short story ‘The Chrome Dream,’ submitted another story ‘The Deuce 225’ (which is about friendship and a Buick Electra 225), wrote an article for my sports blog ‘Voices from the Bleachers,’ and I wrote this article. Clapping for myself for always being productive and creative. Tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll go back to finishing my second novel (which I already have a contract for! Applause), but… there’s a story needling me to be written about two older ladies and how marijuana is the catalyst for the bonds that tie them together…
When I finish the first draft of ‘Singing to Butterflies,’ I’ll take my wife out to dinner to have a celebratory meal… and then I’ll purchase plane tickets to someplace I’ve always wanted to go. My travel stats are kind of impressive, especially for a man who was told that he’d never amount to much and was “a waste of talent.” Oops, guess not. Anyway, I have three states left to visit (ND, AK, and MT), to hit my personal goal of fifty before fifty. I only have six countries, but those will increase dramatically in the next twelve months.
I’m all about paying attention to the silver linings in life, the dangling carrots which help us get through our struggles. I started writing a weekly list of cool stuff I’d seen, heard, or experienced during the preceding week. It’s called ‘This Week’s Cool Shit List’ and it’s gained quite a following on my Facebook page. I receive messages of thanks from other people for giving them inspiration and hope with my list. I am glad to be of service, because the lists encourage me as well.
Do I celebrate this life of mine? Absolutely. I laugh wholeheartedly, I love fiercely, and God has allowed me to live abundantly. With each experience I grow and evolve, and my capacity to dream increases. I have my wife Traci in a constant tizzy because she never knows what I’ll come up with next. I send her houses to look at via email as a reminder that we are moving down South in the next couple of years. Porch swings, boat docks, swimming pools, and windows that allow the sun to pour into the house. I send her messages about flight deals, tours, excursions, restaurants, and vacation ideas. I do all of these things because life is more bountiful when there’s someone to daydream with. There’ll be pictures of us parachuting out of airplanes, in front of international monuments, and holding hands on beaches. She gets it. She understands that I’m happy and blessed to still be here, chasing my daydreams and making them into realities.
Every day is a new opportunity to explore the possibilities, to find God in something beautiful, and to fill ourselves up with the awe-inspiring things that are present in this world. My life is truly a banquet, and I celebrate it every single day. My birthday is coming, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, two getaways, and the arrival in February of my first grandson. I’m celebrating all of these events, and I’m applauding myself for recognizing how wonderful my life is. Eat up…