Martha's big adventure - You can't take your couch with you - Martha Randolph Carr

OK, so if you've been following along with my recent adventures, it's been about a month since I placed everything I own in storage somewhere in the Bronx.

Since then I've been doing what the kids are calling, "couch surfing," staying with a couple of different friends, and there's just a little more of that to follow.

One moment I was in a concrete garden and the next I was in the woods listening to tall pine trees creak and wondering what was moving around in the brush. It's as if I was thrown into the transport machine on the starship, Enterprise. I can only hope I'm not the unnamed extra who always gets killed off right before the last commercial interruption.

There have been a lot of changes from the inside out as well, because this breather from having a regular life wasn't something I had placed on my to-do list, and yet here it is. There was a moment when I was sending out some thank-you notes to people who helped me to quickly rearrange my life and I wasn't sure what to put on the return address, so I left it blank.

Even more perplexing was how OK I felt at not being able to pin down where I am fastened to the world. That used to be so important to me, and I'm not sure when it was that it slipped away.

Maybe it was after listening to my friend, Susie Hamway, who is completing her studies to become a minister and was struggling with one of the last academic duties. She was supposed to be writing a eulogy, but somehow, it just wasn't getting done.

Of course, that got all of us thinking about what we'd want in our own eulogy. There were a lot of character traits thrown into the mix, like compassionate or creative, but no one mentioned anything they owned. That's not going to be surprising to anyone else. We know we're not supposed to appear as if our bedroom set meant that much to us.

However, stop and think about what it would feel like if all of those furnishings suddenly disappeared, and a pang of fear usually grips most of us. That's got more to do with a big competition we've set up with ourselves and measuring progress in the race by how much stuff we've accumulated. But by the time a eulogy comes up, we're done with the contest and it's much easier to take a step back and size up what really mattered all along.

We can do that for ourselves now, instead, and then use it as some basic guidelines for how we see others. That would change all the usual questions in our head as well. Instead of scanning the inventory and taking note of the new car or the down-filled couch, we can see if we have a job that we look forward to on Sunday.

Or we can try and recall our spouse's eye color, favorite food and secret ambition and if we don't, go find out. We can write down our own secret ambitions and share them with the people who would encourage us, and we can ask for help working toward accomplishing the list.

Don't forget to also include an overview that answers the question about how many times your life intersects with others in both giving and receiving, so that a certain balance is always maintained. Then, when that last eulogy is finally given, the hall will be standing room only and become a celebration of a life well-lived. More adventures to follow.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together, we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.