Beware of bells that don’t serve you.
The song Silver Bells, serves me. It transports me back to my childhood Christmas faster than my stepmother dashes to a Black Friday sale. Suddenly, I’m propped up on my elbows on grandma’s living room floor, the green shag carpet itching my forearms as I pluck tinsel from the tree and wonder when I’m going to get to lick the bowl of batter from the cake grandma’s baking.
Soon grandma’s announcing dinner’s ready, and I’m ringing the monkey-shaped brass bell, the vibration from it making me feel powerful as I summon the entire household to the table. I cherish the memories that clink in with Silver Bells.
The song, Michelle My Bell, by the Beatles, however, makes me cringe — especially on the last verse, “I will say the only words I know that you’ll understand, my Michelle.” It offends me to think that a girl by any name couldn’t decide for herself if she loved the guy without him “dumbing” it down for her. Sometimes a random person serenades me with a verse of the song, and I just smile, humming softly to filter the lyrics from my mind. The person means well, but their rendition resonates a yucky feeling in my gut, not happiness. It doesn’t serve me.
Grandpa rang the church bells every Sunday. He’d remove his suit jacket and grip his calloused hands around the rope to the belfry, tugging until the vibrations echoed throughout town announcing that the service would begin in five minutes. Grandpa enjoyed his duty. It served him.
My head has its own bell that alerts me when a situation doesn’t serve me. Often the situation is my state of mind — my own negative thoughts that tell me I can’t do something like stand one moment longer in warrior pose at yoga or edit one more page of a writing assignment. Hearing the ding of my own bell startles me into recognizing the self-defeating thought. I find it comforting to acknowledge the “I can’t” thought didn’t serve me and watch it drift away as a balloon on a windy day.
Other times, it’s another person’s criticisms, their words like fire, send smoke to my brain and set off my interior alarm and yet, again I find myself releasing balloons full of hurt or anger. As I’ve practiced listening to my bell, I’ve attuned myself to heed its warning and learned to prepare the launch of letting go of what doesn’t serve me. This practice of letting go has served me well.
I’m not sure if an angel really gets its wings every time a bell rings, but since, as John Donne says, the bell tolls for me as much as it does for any man who dies, then I want to ring my own bell — to identify my own reality-creating thoughts now while I’m alive and able to do so.
When I’m dead, someone else can ring it for me.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.