You Will Become A Better Person By Doing This

There was a time in my life when I avoided any one who was suffering.  Ironic for someone who chose nursing as a career.  I didn’t last long as a hospital nurse.

I stopped watching the news.

I became tongue tied when I did try to offer condolences to a friend.

The thought of going to a funeral or wake triggered panic, dread.

Until one day I was sick of avoiding, ignoring, pretending.

That was not how I wanted to live my life! Bad things happen, and that’s never going to change. Kids die. Planes explode. Buildings collapse. Accidents happen. Spouses cheat. Cancer spreads. Evil destroys. We all die.

And I can’t do a damn thing about it.

Except…

I can accept it, and share the pain.

So I did.  And it didn’t destroy me. Actually, the opposite happened. My spirit became stronger, and my own heavy load seemed lighter, so much less important.

Somehow the act of sharing another’s hardship freed me from my own suffering.

Now, I see burdens everywhere I go. P1070618The traffic of my daily encounters reveal so many who suffer.

Whether it’s a headline tragedy, or the quiet grief of a neighbor you hardly know, there are people who are lonely, broken, despairing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our burdens become more bearable when we help carry another’s.  We become liberated. Our purpose becomes clearer.

Lifting the burdens of another, making the road a little easier – it’s the cure for suffering. It makes you a better person.

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People in the midst of terrible, heavy suffering tend to hide it. They want you to think everything is fine.  Maybe that’s you right now, you go to work, do your shopping, show up at functions with a smile on your face and the whole time you’re thinking,

I have to do this again tomorrow??? I can’t. God help me. I can’t take it anymore!

The secret for overcoming hopelessness, grief, fear, tragedy? Lose yourself in the service of others. Share the burden. Give some of yours and take some of theirs.

When someone asks you,

 What can I do?  Is there anything you need? Anything at all? 

Say yes.

There is something you can do for me. You have pain. I have pain.  If you let me have some of yours, I will give you some of mine.

That’s the miracle of healing. It makes us better.

There will never be a shortage of suffering in this world. None of us truly know the right thing to say or do when tragedy strikes.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

It’s ok. Don’t say anything. A hug, a nod, a comforting shoulder to cry on.

Start small. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

charles dickensYou suffer. I suffer. And life goes on. And it is through that suffering we find life.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

There was a time in my life when I avoided any one who was suffering.

Not any more.

And I’m more than Ok.

He said What?! Einstein’s Best Quotes

Albert Einstein, the most influential physicist of the 20th century was born with a misshapen head to a middle-class German Jewish family.  He didn’t talk until he was nearly four years old. His first sentence was…

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Einstein hated school, especially rote learning and he refused to study anything that he didn’t find interesting.

He dropped out of high-school, but eventually graduated from college. You know the rest of the story.

Einstein is known for many things: the theory of relativity, cavorting with ladies, absentmindedness, crazy hair, and some really cool quotes.  Here’s some of my favorites.

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God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

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Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.

Never memorize something that you can look up. (I think he came up with that because he was so absentminded!)

mysteriousLogic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.

Thanks Al, for everything. Except those ridiculous rules of marriage. No wonder Mileva divorced you.

Technology is the Devil

Bobby Boucher: Mama, when did Ben Franklin invent electricity?
Mama Boucher: That’s nonsense, I invented electricity.  Ben Franklin is the Devil!

I learned lots of lesser known facts about life after watching Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy.  Foosball, girls, electricity, and poor Ben Franklin is the devil.

Can you imagine what Mama would do if Bobby brought home an iPhone6+?

NO SON OF MINE IS GOING TO BE PLAYING WITH NO EYESPHONE! EYESPHONE IS THE DEVIL!

Does Mama, even with her overdramatized, overprotective, and outrageous behavior, have some wisdom for us? Is technology wicked? Does it rob us of love, relationships, and even take our soul?

What are the costs of technology, of living in a digital world?

Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY
Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY

We watch concerts, see sunsets, live life through phones. What used to be face to face conversations are done online.

I do it too! I text friends who are sitting across from me. I Skype my kids instead of yelling upstairs to tell them dinner’s ready. I hardly even use the “landline” phone anymore.

It’s great to have this technology, but have we gone too far? Interpersonal communication with a physical human being that includes touch, facial expressions, inflections, tone – remember that?

I don’t  believe technology is the devil.  But it can be a baneful influence if we let it. If you want to be healthy and happy there has to be balance and moderation in everything.

How about you? Do you need to pull the plug on your technology, even a little?

Why not give it a try? Turn off your phone. Shut the computer. Take a walk. Read a book. And when your break is over, grab some clean, cold, high quality H20 and watch The Waterboy.

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Would My Dad Know Who I Am Now?

Father’s Day is a happy day for some, and a sad day for others.  And then there are those like me who are happy/sad.  My dad is gone, but I have a husband who is a wonderful father to my three boys. Now we celebrate the day spoiling him with presents, good food, ice cream, and miniature golf.

My father died when I was twenty.  I have spent more years living without him than with him.  The hardest part for me now is realizing he never got to know the grown up me.  He knew me as a child, his youngest daughter.  I was daddy’s little girl, but my heart aches when I remember how mean I was in my later teenage years.

He knew me when I was bratty and terribly moody.  I have one vivid memory of a sunday afternoon when he drove me back to nursing school. I don’t know what he said or did, but I clicked my tongue, rolled my eyes, and said something horrible to him.  Did he shush me, or lecture me about my behavior? No.  He just looked away and watched the numbers change on the elevator.

He died shortly after that. Why is it on Father’s Day I have to remember that stupid day?

If I had a magic bean that could grant me one day with my dad, would he know me when he saw me? Would he recognize my face, my voice? It’s been thirty-one years and I’m not who I once was. I’ve changed in so many ways.

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I would know him.  His deep brown eyes, his big, toothless smile.  He loved popcorn, country music, horseshoes, and staying up late to watch John Wayne and Kung-Fu movies.  He was most content reclining in his lawn chair in our backyard, smoking his lucky strikes while listening to the birds songs and the scratchy buzzing of the locusts.

I would know my father.  He is etched in my memory, cut into my heart. I’d recognize his voice, his walk, his whistling.  He’d smell of old spice and Wisk laundry detergent.

My tall, kind, patient, long-suffering, always there till he wasn’t, dad.

I think he would know me. I imagine him saying,

Sweetie, I saw it all.  Your career, your wedding.  I was there when your boys were babies – handsome kids. Will reminds me of myself when I was his age.  I saw them walk across the stage to get their diplomas.  I saw it all.  I’ve watched you all these years, and you have made me so proud. I love you.

Of course he would know me – he’s my dad. He would always know me.

I love you too dad. Miss you. XO

Me and my dad.
Me and my dad.

Originally published June 16, 2014

Change: (part three) Action!

Action is a great word. It invokes feelings of anticipation, excitement, and a now we’re finally getting somewhere mindset.

The actors who take their places – The runner poised at the start line – The traveler boarding the plane –  and now you, ready for change.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz

Isn’t a relief to finally be doing something? The hardest part is done, here where you are, in action, is where you were meant to be.

You’ve thought about it, planned for it, and now you are living it.

Mixed with the excitement you have a bit of fear and if you’re like me, a lot of urgency.

Ready, set, action!

I found this video on slo-mo cat physics that struck me as a sort of analogy for this action phase. From the startled eyes to the landing on her feet – I loved it.

Change is really a growth process with periods of rapid development,  low dips, high points, and maintenance (which I’ll talk more about in part four).

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. Anatole France

I wish life/behavior changes were as easy as a free falling cat landing on its feet.  It just isn’t. That explains why people drop out of college, quit going to the gym, start smoking again, rack up debt, or go back to jail.

Lasting change requires motivation, a sensible plan with attainable goals, and persistence.

You want this, you’re set, now do it!  Don’t worry about later, tomorrow, next year. Keep focused on here, now.

Ready, set, action –  start the process of change.

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If you are working on changing a behavior or habit, listen to this NPR broadcast, Habits: How They Form and How To Break Them.

Need a recap? Go here to part one: why we resist. Be sure to come back next week for the final part four: maintenance.

Change (part two): Preparation

Bob Dylan said there’s nothing so stable as change.  Pre-Dylan philosopher Heraclitus put it this way:

The only thing that is constant is change.

Stable, constant.

Permanent, certain.

Whether you like it and seek it, or hate it and run from it: everything always changes.  Most change is out of our control. Consider the weather, someone else’s attitude, road conditions, home/car repairs, illness, accidents, and layoffs as some of the stuff in life we can’t change.

There is still a great portion of stuff we can.

In part one of this blog series on change I discussed why we resist change and challenged you to think about one area in yourself you’d like to change.  Go back and reread it if you need to.  You should have written down one thing. If your thing is “big” like these –

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break it down into smaller, more defined short term goals.

If your desired change is to “get healthy” (good choice!) what are the smaller steps that lead to good health? Write them down and circle one.

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Start with that. It’s good to have high aspirations, but don’t set the bar too high. Think of change as a muscle.  In order for muscle growth you have to begin with a weight you can actually lift. You add on as tolerated, allowing the muscle to adapt to grow. If you start out high and hard, you will likely get injured or give up.

What it is it that you want to do? Define it. Imagine it. Put it in writing. Organize it. Gather the knowledge you need, enlist help, start equipping yourself with the tools to help you be successful.

changeYou have now entered the action phase of change. I’ll talk more about action in part three.

Preparation is key to successful change. Know what you want, and educate yourself on how to get there. In between here and there establish clear, manageable steps.

Until we meet again for some action, here’s a little Dylan inspiration…

Gonna put my good foot forward and stop being influenced by fools.

Remember. You got this.

Change (part one): Why We Resist

What makes us resist change? Why would we rather stick with a job we hate, stay in an abusive relationship, keep smoking despite illness, and endure unnecessary hardship rather than do something to make it better?

Why do we?

Is it fear of failure? Uncertainty of the unknown? Apathy?

It’s D. All of the above.

Change can be hard.  It can also be easy.  One thing is certain: change is inevitable.

change

If you don’t like something in your life, change it.

If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

Let me give you an example.

I’ve had a chronic pain condition (burning mouth syndrome) for over three years. I am reluctant to blog about it because I don’t see the point in giving something so afflictive any more attention than it deserves.

I hate it. It can be all consuming and at times unbearable. Presently, I have exhausted all management therapies.  I’ve stopped googling it as I can’t bear to read other BMS sufferers lament about how poor their quality of life is.  It makes me feel hopeless.

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Somedays I do crawl up in a ball and go to sleep.  Sleep is sometimes the one thing I can do to escape the pain.

I can give in to hopelessness.

Or,

I can change the way I think.

I can redirect my attention to something else.  Take my focus off the problem and put it somewhere else.

I can do that.

Instead of putting a spotlight on the pain and allowing it to have control of how I live and what I do, I can put it in the background.

Accept, but not empower.

That has been the one thing that has helped me deal.

It has taken me 3 years to figure out I needed to change my thoughts.

What about you?

Is the problem the problem? Or could it be how you think about the problem?

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There are at least two views.

A rut or a grave?

Half empty or half full?

A mountain or a mole hill?

Lemons or lemonade?

A weed or a flower?

All changes, even the ones we crave can be sad. We leave behind something that was a part of us, our life. We knew it well. Kind of like an old shoe.

Remember, If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change. If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change.

Is there something you need to change?  What’s stopping you?

Today, I only ask that you think about one area of yourself or your life that you need to change.  That’s the second step to change (contemplation).  Pre-contemplation is the first step – you already experienced that when you felt the nudge to read this post.

Think about how your life will be better after you make a change.

Whatever it is you need to change trust me when I say, you got this.

We all need change.

Jim Rohn, American Entrepreneur and motivational speaker said so well,

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Next week: Preparation

7 Tips (plus 1 bonus) To Make Your Wait Times More Productive

Are you good at waiting? Not me. I have been known to abandon my handful of stuff rather than stand in a long line at the grocery store.  Redbox pains me. Even when I reserve online there is always a couple in front of me browsing and contemplating like it was a major decision. C’mon people – this is Redbox.  Aren’t there only like two movies worth seeing?

Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.

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As I write this I am waiting with more than fifty other women (yes I got up and counted) to get a mammogram.  I wait to get it, then wait to have it read, then I usually get called back for more images. Wait again for second reading. Three hours later…I’m home.

I get that waiting is a part of life.  I am prepared for today’s wait.  I can take it. Otherwise, waiting for me is torture.

Restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, drive-through banks, 1-800 customer service, airports, free delivery option, slow Internet, amusement park lines, traffic – we are always waiting for something.  Instead of  complaining or leaving, why not put that wait time to good use?

According to Ask.com,

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My fellow Impatienatos, I give you

7 tips to make your wait time more productive.

  • Play cards. Keep a standard deck of cards handy. This is my secret for making restaurant waiting tolerable. There are so many quick, fun games to play you may be disappointed to see your food finally arrive.
  • Read. A magazine, book, or newspaper. Truly, there is nothing like leafing through the latest issue of Forbes or People. Or reading a chapter of that book you never have time to read. Perfect for airports, doctors office, car shop.
  • Learn a new language. Try Duolingo. You can do this in traffic, in line, really anywhere.

Aprender un nuevo idioma es bueno para el cerebro.

  • Clean out your wallet. Throw out old coupons, organize your cards, and find that loose change at the bottom of your purse.
  • Strike up a conversation. You’re both in the same predicament, why not chitchat and maybe make a new friend?
  • Write.  If I didn’t have to wait, I wouldn’t have written this post. Write a letter, a poem, an essay, or a list of things you need to do.

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  • Relax, breathe and just wait. Finally, an opportunity to do nothing.  Waiting can be a beautiful experience if you think of it as a welcomed time to slow down, put away your stuff and just be present.

I have a busy life and I know I’m impatient.  But waiting doesn’t need to be a chore.  It can be a welcomed change of pace.

Well, my wait here is over. Just under three hours and I almost (remember where I am) enjoyed myself. At the very least, I was productive and I did something good for my health. I am happy to say I got a normal result.

Do you have any suggestions that can help make waiting more tolerable, or productive?

I didn’t forget…here’s the bonus.

Bonus tip: Feed your brain with useless knowledge. This will come in handy for a game show or the next trivia game night.

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3 Ways To Get Noticed

You can write a better than great blog post, but if you only get a handful of readers, are you ok with that? Of course not. The point of blogging is to share your opinions, experiences, and knowledge with the world.

With a potential 3 billion people audience and 150 million bloggers worldwide, getting people to read your content is a challenge.

It starts with an intriguing headline.

Ask a question. Solve a problem. State a claim. Make a list.

Your reader has clicked in, now you need to deliver what you promised.

BAM! Get to the point.

We all scroll and skim. Trim the fat and get to the meat or we are off to the next headline before you can say, Tic-Tac Sir?

Dumb-and-Dumber

Next,

Give me eye candy.

Break up your text with cool-with-attitude pictures and images that invoke my emotions and make me want to stay awhile.

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Then,

Teach me.

Life-hack me. Tell me something I didn’t know. Give me a short cut or a brilliantly unique perspective.

Make me come away with thinking, finally, after so much digital time suck, I have found you.

There you are!
There you are!

Plus!

Give me a bonus.

Something I wasn’t expecting whether it be a tip on free stock photos or a link to Starbucks secret menu.

Most of us bloggers are small satellites in cyberspace.

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To get noticed don’t be run-of-the-mill average. Stand out even once, and your audience will keep coming back for more.

How To Tell The Difference Between a Poser and a Real Friend

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

Do you agree with Mark? So do I. Then why would you or I, or anyone else seek out people who belittle their ambitions?

That’s the five hundred and seven thousand dollar question.  Maybe because you didn’t realize until now that a certain person was making you feel small. There are many passive-aggressive and other damaged individuals in our lives that pose as our friends.

How do you know if you have a poser verses a genuine friend?

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How do you feel after you spend time with this person? Lifted up or crushed down? Posers use you to make themselves feel better.  They don’t care about you because they are the center of the universe. Fake friends say things like,

You always. You never. What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with me?Nothing. Oh, something came up. Of course you can trust me. I won’t tell a soul, cross my heart. Who’s side are you on? I can’t stand her (Oh hi Angela, we were just talking about you! How have you been?!) 

I know you didn’t seek out this person who makes you feel small.  It just happens sometimes. And you certainly don’t deserve to have your nose rubbed in your mistakes or your flaws constantly pointed out. We are all flawed.  We all make mistakes.  We are the same. We all have thoughts that would shame the devil.  No one gets away with I’m better than you attitude cause it ‘aint true.

You are a nice person, and that’s why you haven’t said sayonara to this freak yet. Life is short even when you don’t think it is. Free yourself of toxicity! If it’s family, free yourself emotionally and learn how to deal with these difficult people.

Now seek out people who build you up, who make you feel important. Genuine friends don’t place conditions on your relationship and they definitely don’t pack a knife for stabbing you in the back.  You know the pure of heart because of how you feel when you’re around them. Do you feel loved? Encouraged? Happy? Accepted for who you are?  If you do, then that’s evidence you have got yourself a real friend, and a treasure!

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As the philosopher Balastar Gracián once said, True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.

As you travel through life may you know the difference between the impostors and the real deal. And in turn find good fortune, and be blessed.