Years Come and Years Go

It’s been a while. So, pardon me while I get some thoughts out. It’s time to clear my head.

Years come and years go, and I think we can all comfortably say that some are better than others. But good or bad, once they’re over, we don’t have the power to change anything about them. And because we can’t change what’s been, we use each new year as an excuse to start again – whatever that means for each of us.

When bookending a year, we’re compelled to reflect on what was – evaluate our past, if you will. And in all honesty, when appraising my own, there were times I felt a little “less blessed” than others. The good old primitive “inequity of God” debate comes to mind. But I quickly remind myself that “fair” was never a promise that was made in life, and as sad as it is, injustice is a key theme in our world. In one way or another, we are all challenged – certainly some more than others. So, for me to believe I am less blessed than anyone else is a criminal thought and a mindset I need to shift. I am blessed – just in a different way than you.

Let’s get into 2019. I’m late to the party. I mean, it’s already February! I’d imagine last year was the greatest for some. For others – maybe not so great. For me? Was it my hardest year? Not by far. I have a few of those under my belt. I’m sure they’ll be topped. I just hope it isn’t anytime soon. Did 2019 have hard times? Yes.  I lost my grandpa and another childless year went by in a flash. Did 2019 bring good times? For sure. There were the usual friends and family. There were lots of smiles. We celebrated my husband’s 40th in a big way and my nephew’s 1st.  So, yes. 2019 bestowed many gifts but also demanded many sacrifices, and in those ways, it was like all the other years. But we didn’t just close out a year. We sunsetted a decade. So, what was that like?


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Every decade is owner to crisis. Thankfully, during our first decade on earth, we’re usually too young to recognize the scope of one. So, while we are all certainly affected and molded by what happens to us as children, there is some sort of protective forcefield surrounding us at that time, and we are temporarily rescued from some of the harshnesses of reality. Not to say those wounds don’t reveal themselves later on or deepen as we get older – because it’s likely they will.

Decade two I’d categorize as wild, unruly, awkward and dysfunctional. As my husband points out, it is the one decade where you go from a child to a teenager to an adult. This transition is fast, disorienting, and weird. But at the time, we’re surrounded by others who are just like us – allies in discomfort – and we somehow plow through.

Then there are our twenties. The time when we are learning so much yet think we already know it all. It’s a time of insecurity, constant comparison, excuses, regrets – but also freedom and fun. Sometimes, I’m unsure how my friends and I survived half of those years, but here we are. We live to tell (or to not).

And now, here I am. Crawling toward 39 (basically 40) at what sometimes feels like a snail’s pace and at other times seems faster than the speed of light. I’ve come to realize that when you want something, life can torture you with its leisurely pace. And when you want to slow things down, it can torment you with a sudden shift to the fast lane. The thirties for me held some of the hardest “adulting” ever. Some dark times. The first half was chock full of adulting and hit me like a ton of bricks. No forcefield. No army of awkward clones to protect me or make me feel supported and understood. No control. No pause. No exit. Just plenty of confusion, surprise, sadness, stress, and angst like none I had ever experienced. But I struggled through those tough times and survived to use their lessons, learning slowly that each brick thrown can either be an element of destruction or an invaluable coping mechanism for the future – tools to add to my big bag of tricks. If you have enough experience (albeit hard) to afford you what you truly need in life – wisdom, patience, resilience, humility, compassion, gratitude, knowledge, and acceptance – don’t be angered by it, be thankful for it. Be content.

With all that said, these are the things I am thankful to know and happy to share…

  • We have no control over many things in life. Determine what you can control and focus on that.
  • You can and will be surprised by the same things over and over again. Try not to be surprised. 😉
  • No one escapes unscathed. Be kind to those you know nothing about.
  • Silent battles are the hardest fought.
  • There is always something gained from something lost.
  • Social media can be the devil – hindering growth and diminishing self-worth. But it can also help in many ways. Find those ways.
  • You will never be as young as you are today. This is a good one and something I never truly thought about until recently.
  • Regrets are truly a waste of time.

We know what we did with the past years of our lives. What will we do with the next ones? Remember, we aren’t promised a fair life, and no one owes us a thing. You could be the kindest person, the brightest student, the hardest worker, or the sweetest friend, and still, life owes you nothing. Don’t await payment or reward. Stick to your path of goodness. Take time to recognize your shortcomings and try to improve, but be very proud of your achievements, no matter how small they may seem because it’s important to be proud of yourself. And most importantly, never believe you are less blessed than the next person. We are all blessed in our own ways.

 

Another Ball Falls. Pick it up.

Keeping new years resolutions is hard. For that reason, my 2017 resolutions were simple:

Be happy.
Stay Strong.
Love.

I can confidently say there were points all throughout the year where I accomplished all of those things, but there were certainly times when I did not follow those rules–and that’s okay. It’s too damn hard to keep it together all the time and if I’m not okay with that, well then that diminishes my happiness and strength and I’m back to square one.

We all need to find a way to keep ourselves mentally strong and the above resolutions were developed around just that–my emotional stability. I also snuck in a resolution centered on my physical ability:

Learn to juggle.

I began my juggling journey eager and with a great deal of confidence until I realized what a challenge it would be, and as with most resolutions, I slowly but surely gave up, moved on, and pushed it to the back of my mind. That’s to say, I forgot about it until about three weeks out from the new year.

Being someone who hates to fall short of physical goals I set for myself, I panicked­–hard-core panicked. I was determined to meet this goal come hell or high water. From that moment on, I spent time each day practicing–uncontrollably bouncing balls (or fruit) off walls, counters, floors, and my face, but even with all that practice, December 31st showed no progress–just the sound of limes smacking the floor, which annoyed my husband to no end.

Halfway through the day, I switched to spiky dryer balls and about 15 minutes before the clock struck midnight, for the first time (and with much encouragement and help from my husband), I was able to keep two balls in the air for seven to ten consecutive rotations!!! I’d found success–one marked by limited time, growing pressure, dents in the floor and my face. The greatest kind.

Although mission accomplished, it taught me (or reminded me once again) that even goals that seem attainable, (like 365 days to keep two objects in the air for a very short amount of time) can fall short of success if one is not resolute. More importantly, we humans never reach our full potential by cramming. I’m sure with a little practice each day (slow and steady) I could have joined the circus or at least met my goal with more confidence and pride. My speedy shortcut certainly got me to my goal but in no way did it represent perfection.

To wrap up:

In 2017, I was happy for moments. I stayed strong as best I could. And I certainly loved. I also learned to juggle–maybe not as defined by Barnum & Bailey but certainly as defined by Siri.

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Since all of that worked out so well, I have chosen new challenges for 2018.

My goals to strengthen my emotional stability are:

Recognize good moments. (There will be plenty of them.)
Do not be paralyzed by sadness or pain. (It will come but it will pass.)

My physical ability resolution will remain a secret unless of course, I succeed. If my character and determination prove strong, you will find out next year. Until then, slow and steady my friends.

God bless you all in 2018!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some stills of some of my many failed attempts…

 

To Dad.

70 years seems like an incredible feat, especially since I oftentimes question how I’ve survived for just over half of that. But your 70 years of life experience, is probably what has gotten me through my mere 36. You’ve taught me so many things—things that have carried me through some of my best and worst days. From teaching me how to ride a bike to helping me navigate the stock market—you prepared me for life’s little and big tests.

I understand how important it is to believe in myself, to show up, to not take anything personally, to be fun and to have fun and to “not stand on the boards”—a reference only my former skating friends will understand, but that everyone should. It means to understand the value of time, to use it wisely in order to uncover its worth. So DAD, happy 70th birthday! Thank you for using your time wisely—to make my life better but mostly thank you for loving me for more than half your life and for all of mine.

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Hungry for more.

Recently, I felt sadness for a complete stranger. Maybe it was timing more than anything else. Perhaps I was unusually fragile that day. Or maybe it was purely selfish, having suddenly realized I had missed an opportunity to learn all I could from one member of a truly important generation. No matter the reason, empathy had hit me hard.

As I’ve had more time to reflect, I find myself wondering if the importance of those who came before us has been lost on my generation and even more so on the generation who follows me. I’m terribly afraid that we’ve taken the wisdom of those who preceded us for granted, brushing them off as old, out of touch or unreasonably sad and angry. Had I capitalized on all of the free life lessons that came directly from real life experiences? Just how many of these opportunities had I missed? And why had I not questioned myself until now?

Prior to this awakening, I would have undeniably omitted myself from falling into the category with those who didn’t think twice about this – with those who cared more about their own life than the lives of those who helped shape it. But now, I wonder if their significance has been lost on me as well.

Let’s back up. Last year, I started volunteering with the organization Meals on Wheels. I had seen the TV commercial many times and figured that I was plenty capable of “dropping off a hot meal and saying a quick hello” but after just a few deliveries, I learned that it was so much more than that.

Combating senior hunger (initiated through the loss of independence due to declining health) may be the foundation of this organization but combating other forms of hunger – hunger for companionship, for conversation, for friendship, for love – those are what continue to drive it. It truly is about “taking care of those, who once took care of us”.

For me, the experience has been priceless. I have some humorous stories that I could entertain you with. I’ve seen and heard a lot, some of which is forever burned in my mind, including moments like the following:

  • Being greeted by a senior in just his underwear who seemed confidently unaware
  • The time I felt supreme guilt for possibly being responsible for an escaped cat
  • The few times that I’ve been treated as a thrift shop representative and was gifted many undesired trinkets
  • The countless, unsolicited, reports I’ve received of ailments and escaping bodily fluids

I’ve certainly gathered a strange combination of happy and sad. I’ve listened to many “woe is me” narratives and truly feel I’ve been witness to deep depression onset by old age. I’ve had a quick glimpse into the life we don’t consider when we’re praying for a longer one. We don’t fully understand what is connected to such a wish. We don’t realize that we’re asking for a life that could be full of insurmountable odds – a life that may be pretty darn sad and lonely.

I quickly learned that behind many closed doors lies physical and emotional pain. There is sickness and loneliness. I was shown a clear picture of loss of life within life. Many of these people sit under their own dark cloud in secret until forced to open the door and then they either hide that sadness and pain or display it in plain sight.

I promise it’s not all sad. I’ve seen the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Some client’s are content or seemingly happy enough and they all have been grateful and kind. Some still have their companion or at least someone who helps them maintain the “pep” in their step and love in their heart. But many don’t and on this particular day, I realized that we all have someone, until we don’t.

That day, an unfamiliar face opened a familiar door. She was a somber faced woman, dressed in black. “We’ll be cutting down to one meal. Did they tell you?” At first, this didn’t strike me as strange. I had always secretly wondered if the man who lived there had requested two meals just for himself. Today, I was ashamed of my assumption, which usually made me secretly smirk. As strangers, we sometimes do that. We imagine other people’s lives. We wonder. We speculate. But seldom do we put in the effort to seek out the truth or learn a stranger’s story. I wish I had asked. I wish I had asked where his wife was every time I did the drop off. He would have likely told me, “She is sick in bed.” Instead, today his niece told me that she had died. I’d been to her home countless times and never knew she was there.

In that single moment I was harshly reminded of my real duty. It wasn’t just to feed. It was to care. Bringing this newly widowed man food wasn’t going to heal his heartbreak, his sadness or his loneliness but maybe our next conversation or the one after that, would.

Food is important. It’s a basic human need but it’s not the only thing that feeds the body and it won’t feed someone forever. Stranger’s stories are just as important as mine. These bodies and souls were once like me, and one day, I may be just like them. They paved my path, your path. They saw things I may never see in my lifetime – some of which I’ll yearn to, other’s which I pray I’ll never have to.

So the next time you cross paths with an elder, stop to ask them how they are. Ask them where they’re going. But please, ask them where they’ve been. One day, you may be them. They (I) may not tell you they are (I am) sad and lonely and would like to talk but I promise you, they (I) do.

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Subscribe to happy.

How many thoughts pass through your mind in a single day? How many times do you find yourself paralyzed by doubt and uncertainty? For me, the answer to both of those questions is, “too many”.

I would categorize myself as a self-doubter, an over-thinker. I have always struggled with indecision. It’s plagued me since I can remember – always fearing that I would make the wrong choice and once I made one, I would torment myself by questioning my decision.

I’ve read that sometimes uncertainty can be beneficial. A certain amount of self-doubt is healthy and can serve us well. It generates questions that force us to review all options, from all angles and this close examination places pressure on us to make the best decision.

But if you’re like me, self-doubt can become debilitating. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize my own disabling, self-scrutinizing patterns. Options and “what if’s” are my greatest adversaries and create a lot of mental resistance. And it’s not just having to choose between A or B, it’s my internal debate of wondering if I’m good enough, smart enough or capable. It’s wondering what others may think. At times, I agonize over the little things, making mountains out of molehills (as my mom would say), putting me at capacity both mentally and physically. It can be exhausting.

I know I am not alone. We all question ourselves from time to time. We all lack confidence, once in a while. We all fill our minds with trivial, negative thoughts. It’s human nature. But we need to remember that our minds and bodies can only handle so much. Our fears, coupled with constantly overflowing thoughts, can stop us from accomplishing what we want. They can and will interfere with our happiness and personal sense of freedom.

When I’m lacking confidence or questioning a decision, my dad always asks, “Did you do your best?” When I’m grumbling to him about being stressed, he asks, “Is stress real?” Those are such simple questions but they are not asked as such. To him, they are rhetorical. He knows I always do my best and in regards to stress, he believes if you cannot touch or see something, it does not exist. One can argue the latter, however his point is that stress does not exist on its own. It’s something we create. Either way, both questions fulfill the purpose of reminding me that my worry and negative thinking, is needless. They are two simple reminders that have a profound effect on me. They provide me with the reassurance I need to clear my mind and move on. In reflecting on this, I wonder…can it be that simple? Is it that simple?

In keeping on the topic of my dad…he gave me a book years ago – The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Miguel Ruiz. As I recall, it was during a time when I was (surprise, surprise) hounded by worry and “stress” (which I have placed in quotes because remember, it does not exist). For a relatively “quick read”, its message is powerful. Ruiz alludes to domestication (learned behavior) being the main detriment to our “journey towards spiritual transcendence” or more simply put, freedom, love and happiness. It sounds complicated but post-read, it will make all the sense in the world. It will encourage you to pause and re-evaluate your habits and priorities in order to live a life devoid of stress, worry, gossip, anger, self-abuse and anything else that holds you back. After I finished the book, I memorized its four principles (supposedly derived from ancient Toltec wisdom) and vowed to apply them to my daily life. It’s obvious, however, (in writing this) that I forget to refer to them from time to time.

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Although up until this point I have lacked in my commitment to them, I strongly believe that practicing these principles can help remove much of the doubt and uncertainty we face on a daily basis. If we use them as a guide to living, it’s possible to achieve the confidence that is required to uncover peace of mind and move forward with conviction.

It’s best to read The Four Agreements in its entirety for extra guidance and context but its four main principles can and should be learned and applied without delay.

I present them here;

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Even when advised against it, we remain our own greatest critic but if we can retrain our minds to minimize our negative thoughts by way of this advice, we will be one step closer to personal freedom and true happiness.

As for me, I think it’s time for a full “re-read”. 😉

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*Relatable song of the moment: Heavy by Linkin Park

I Will.

I woke up on January 1st (along with the rest of the world) forcefully pushed into that brief period of reflection – angry with myself for once again focusing too much on the “has beens” and the “what if’s” of life – wrapping myself up in the past, as if it were my inescapable future.

The few years leading up to 2016 was a mix of good and bad and so I headed into the year expecting the worst, hoping for the best and based on my standards, ended up falling somewhere in between. I suspect someone who fell victim to hard times would say that my year was a good one but for me, the gap between where I am and where I want to be seems to keep growing and the very thought of that throws me into a downward spiral of negativity. But just as I’m about to count my adversities one by one, I hear one-year-old giggles coming from the next room followed by the cute swishing sound of my nephews chunky thighs, speedily rushing towards me and suddenly, all is right in the world. If that’s all it takes, then surely things can’t be so bad!

There are always things to be grateful for and to be happy about. Sometimes, we just need that perfectly timed reminder. 😉img_7322

In 2017 I will:
Continue wishing.
Remember & appreciate the past but won’t look back too hard.
Envision my future.
Keep things simple.
Be happy.
Stay Strong.
Love.

Thank you.

It’s that time of year again! The streets have gone eerily quiet as we adults try our hardest to wrap it up, while secretly trying to stretch it out  – all while the brutal, end of season heat sucks out whatever life was left in us. The kids on the other hand have obviously gone into hiding in hopes back-to-school will not find them. Welcome to pre-Labor Day September.

As I near my 35th birthday I find that this time reminds me more of being an adult and working in a school than it does of being a kid and going to school. That means one of two things. Either I’m getting old and the closer things are, the better I remember them OR my teaching experience had a truly profound effect on me. I’m certain it is the latter.

Thirteen years ago (wow), I worked in an integrated preschool for Autistic and typically developing children. I stepped into a world I never knew existed and unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a world I would never fully depart. I’ll be candid and admit that I had never been more surprised, saddened, confused, frightened, frustrated and discouraged as I was on that first day. I had also never felt such joy, pride and love as in the days and years that followed. And it was not until I left, that I realized I had fallen so completely in love with those kids and that I was forever changed. I miss them so much and for what they did for me, I owe them some recognition.

Autism is still a mystery. To some, it is viewed as a complication, a misfortune – a puzzle as the infamous symbol depicts. And it’s hard to argue against any of those negative characterizations. But let’s take a second to say those words out loud and hear the sadness in them as they relate to children. As confusing, frustrating, exhausting, sad and unfair as Autism is for the child and their family, my time spent around those children, allowed me to see it differently and in a more positive light. Through their daily struggles (that also became my own) and their small but simultaneously monumental achievements, they opened my eyes. They taught me to be thankful for my own blessings and empathetic towards others hardships. They made me stronger (emotionally and physically) and taught me true patience. They simplified and evolved my definition of the disorder to slowly become this;

Autism – noun: A gift of an unusual but special kind. One that is impossible to guess the contents of, just by looking at it. A gift that must be handled with care due to its fragility. A gift that must be carefully studied and cautiously, slowly opened. A gift that must be loved at all times – before opening, while opening and after opening. And in some cases, it must be loved well after one has discovered the possibility that there may be nothing more left to open.

We talk about Autism as a mysterious, sad, unfortunate disorder, which it no doubt is. But I will always remember the children behind it.  I will remember their amazing differences. Their quirky habits. Their tremendous pride in a single accomplishment. Their need and content for simple, repetitious days that simply are not good enough for anyone else. Their love for exploration and discovery. Their ability to love and their need to be loved back. Yes, they are all different – each one their own puzzle, but with time, patience, love and a little luck  you just may find the child hiding behind the mystery. And there is no greater feeling than rescuing a soul (even if only for a moment) from the entrapment that is this mysterious disorder.

I’ve long since moved on from that job (in both professions and in miles) but that part of my life is forever with me. My biggest fear has become that they will never know the gift they gave me, that was simply them.  So although it’s unlikely they will be reading this, they should know that what I learned from them has carried me through many of my days and I’d like to thank them for that.

Thank you…

  • for confirming that life will continue to surprise me but hope can carry me.
  • for teaching me dedication, how to have patience, how to be accepting, the importance of forgiveness, the meaning of self-worth and the value of humility.
  • for showing me that a smile is worth a million words and proving that one word is worth the whole world.
  • for showing me you can love what you once feared until you love without fear.
  • for proving that you can’t learn human behavior or anyone’s story from a book.
  • for teaching me that an intentional and mutually understood hug, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
  • for teaching me how uncomplicated my life really is and how in the scheme of things, we really are all so small.

I’ll never forget you. xoxo

“Her voice is a gift alone that brings tears of joy to us.”
Autism thx