Monthly Archives: November 2012
So, whilst watching “The Voice”… the only singing show I watch anymore, I thought about the different people who will be losing, because there are a whole lot of people with talent in the world who don’t win the competition. And I started thinking about what it means to lose. What difference does it make, as so very often it is the people who lose who end up persevering and rising to the top once the competition is over. So then I jumped to the things that I’ve lost in my life.
What difference does it make for us to lose? It seems like a bad thing. And at the time it’s devastating. But, like many things in life, the devastation (the hurt, or fear, or anger) has the capacity, if utilized to drive us. To push us forward. There are certain things in life that we can all taste. Things that are so close. They are tangibly elusive, and we are continuously driven keep working towards them. They are the things that make us feel alive. When we ignore them and suppress them or give in to the devastation, we find that everything gets harder. We become unsure of any goal. It’s confusing. But when we let those losses move us forward, and fill us with strength, desire, perseverance, we become filled with the things we need to survive and achieve. These are some of the most important tools any person can have if they are to ever truly succeed in achieving their goals. And a contest may be one goal, but it only lasts one night. The person we become, the person we choose to be lasts a lifetime and beyond. And THAT is why losing sometimes is something to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!
This is an old post, and actually from my book, but it is perfect for today because it begins to embody what thanksgiving is supposed to be about. Truly being grateful for those things that we have, even the most minute details. The walls of the homes, the streetlights that light our way home at night, the sheets, the bed, the food, the trees, the people, the love, and the potential that exists within all of us. It’s all there, it’s all real, it all matters. So here’s the post:
One day when I was driving home with my son in the back of my car, he started to cry. I tried music. I tried talking to him. I tried getting out and giving him juice and snacks. I checked to make sure he didn’t need anything else. I tried everything I knew to convince him that it was going to be okay. I gave him everything he could need. As he continued crying we began again with just a few more blocks to our house. I remember sitting at the stop sign and saying to him, “If you could only see, my love, we’re just a few minutes from being there. Just a few more minutes. It’s almost over. You don’t have to worry. Everything will be just as you want it to be soon. ”
In that moment I began to realize just how similar that sweet little baby and I were. I thought to myself:
How many times do I sit there wondering, crying, ‘God why isn’t this happening yet? Why can’t I see what’s going on? Why isn’t it the way I want it to be? What can I do to make things different? I can’t use what I have, I don’t even want this stuff I’ve got. I want something different, something better. Why can’t you just give me what I really want? Why is it like this? Why can’t I see the way out?’ and all the while God is sitting there saying, ‘It’s okay. I’ve given you everything you can possibly need. It’s all right there. Everything is waiting for you to arrive. You’re so close. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to worry. I promise it’s all right there. If you could only just believe me, it would all be okay. ’”
I spent so much time worrying about why things weren’t right, that I failed to understand everything that was right with where I was. I didn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t thankful for it. I just threw it aside thinking I didn’t really need it. What’s the use in all of this stuff? I let myself get to a point where I couldn’t see past the hurt, the worry, the fear. It consumed me. And so it consumed everything I did for the most part, as well.
When we got home that day, I turned on Oprah, and there was a woman who had survived the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As I watched, she talked about all of the things she goes through each day just to get up and going. She had been burned over a large portion of her body. She could no longer hold her children. Up until recently, she couldn’t even open the peanut butter jar to make a sandwich for her children’s lunch. While watching, I realized all of the things that I had to be thankful for.
I can hold my son. I can touch his face. I can hug him. I can pick him up. I can see him smile. I can hear his laughter. I can play with him. I can drive him anywhere he needs to go. I can feel him breathe. I can run and jump with him. I can teach him to play sports. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially when it comes to him. He and my nephews make me smile every day. They fill my heart with joy every day. They let me love them every day, and I feel so honored to be able to do so. And I am so thankful to have the chance, all day every day to try again.
Even when I get things wrong, I have learned to be thankful that I have the chance to try again. And one of the ways I try to show my gratitude is by trying to make the right choice after I’ve made the wrong one. If it is something that can be undone, then I try to undo it. If the chance has passed, then I make sure to try not to make the same mistake again. With gratitude comes the possibility for change. If we recognize that it is possible for us at any moment to show that we are thankful, somehow, some way, we can seize the opportunity instead of allowing it to pass us by.
Jack fell asleep unusually early tonight, and somehow I ended up watching Toy Story 3 alone, and not changing the channel. You can call me a sap, but everyone I know cried during the movie, so I’m comfortable with it. I normally don’t watch it, because it does make me sad. And today was a cleaning day so we were already cleaning up rooms and clearing out old toys and putting aside a few to save, so the movie came right on time.
Anyway, I was watching tonight, you know, 10 minutes ago at the end, and I started thinking about how hard it is to let go of those things that have meant so much to us. Whether it’s a toy or a trinket or something big, like a friendship or a relationship. We like to be connecting to things that make us feel happy. Things that give us a sense of knowing. We know who we are when we play with those toys… or with Jack I know who he was when I look at some of his old toys or outfits from the past few years. It serves as a reminder of something familiar. Something strong. Those things embody the things that we want to continue in our lives. And I think when I look back over today and I think of the toys I had when I was younger, I can remember my Cabbage Patch doll (I had a preemie newborn one, she had a crib and at Christmas time I would put her by the fireplace we used to have in my old house.) and I remember how happy I was. There was a lot of hopefulness for what would come. Even though there were lots of issues, the future seemed to hold a lot of possibility and that time when I played and entered into my own little world it was even better. I had an escape and I had a connection. And I think that’s what we hold onto. Those things that helped us escape or those things that hold the possibility for a future that we want. The things we were able to connect with in a way that gave us help and hope.
But the help and hope are always inside of us. And those things, even though they hold special memories are just things. Even when those things are friendships or relationships. Sometimes we really do just have to let them go and let them move on to a place where they can be more beneficial. Whether it’s donating toys or clothes or letting go of someone in our life, we have to let those things evolve. Our roles in one another’s lives grow and change. And even though it can be sad, it’s good to let go. It’s the only way we can move forward. And moving forward is something to be thankful for. 🙂
Today I’m thankful for this beautiful day. It’s truly stunning outside, even if it’s a little chilly for my taste. But I woke up really excited today to have the chance to wake up. I feel good and purposeful, which isn’t always the case, but is the way I try to make it. I like the thankfulness exercise, because it really is good to remember to be thankful for even the tiniest of things we have. And it creates a foundation of gratitude instead of a foundation of “I need.” And we all have so many things we do need to do every day and in our futures that the need can get to be overwhelming. And need is something that easily becomes skewed and lost in our quest to attend to need. It has a way of making us feel helpless while gratitude has a way of making us feel helpful. It reminds us that we have things, even tiny things that allow us the chance to move forward. We have the chance to grow and create and be who we are, and we are all someone with something to offer. Every day, even if we aren’t where we want to be, we have something to offer that can make both our day and someone else’s day a little bit brighter and bring us closer to who and where we want to be.
As a side note, I’m again thankful (but a little scared by) technology. Did you guys see this? http://phys.org/news/2012-11-invisibility-cloak.html This is a link to an article talking about how Duke University has created and “invisibility cloak.” You know, like in Harry Potter. Where they were able to effectively make a cylinder invisible by bending light around an object and doing, you know, other things that required mathematical formulas for mirroring light waves and working out copper’s reflective characteristics that we all hang out and do on a daily basis, so obviously I don’t need to explain any further. Which is good since I don’t really understand any of it. BUT this is really cool, and kind of scary. They made it disappear in a way that produced no reflected light, whereas previously done cloaks were “see through” but you could tell there was an object that you were “seeing through” because of the reflective properties of the cloak set up. Kind of like bubbles, I think? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said. Anyhow, you guys should read the article, because it kind of blows my mind that we can make things appear invisible through the use of technology and considering how all of that works what if you could make a whole country invisible? Or what if there are parts of the universe that are really close to Earth that are invisible and we just don’t know it? What if a previous group of Earth’s inhabitants figured this out and they walk around with us, but sometimes we see glimpses of their reflections but it’s too brief to know that’s what it is?? Or you know, what if it’s nothing. Points for the day: This cloak is cool (and not cloak like in the way I thought it would be) check it out. And being thankful is good. And buy my book 🙂
Tonight I am thankful, honestly thankful, that I did not punch the wall. I remembered that last time I punched a wall when I was a teenager… it hurt. And even though I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate it when a quarterback, more specifically my team’s quarterback, throws an interception in the endzone and the other team goes more than 100 yards to score. And I’m thankful that when someone said, “there’s no reason to get so upset, just remember the things in your life that you are thankful for,” I didn’t punch that person either. So tonight, that’s two things that I successfully avoided allowing my anger to overcome me on. I did, however, yell and turn off the TV. But I feel that it was beyond warranted. FAR BEYOND WARRANTED. It’s all because I got my hopes up. Which in reality is a good thing. It’s good to have things we are passionate about. That we hope in. Etc, etc, etc… Yes, that’s as close as I can get to saying something worthwhile. I am only competitive when I care. I have drastically decreased the number of sporting events and other contests that I watch because, well, by competitive I meant extremely competitive and a terribly poor loser, so it was for my well-being that I stopped. So in conclusion, I didn’t punch anything at all today. (I’m pretty sure the wall that one time is the only thing I’ve ever really punched. I’m really good at not punching things, so that’s a plus.) And I’m thankful that I have that control. Because there are some people out there tonight in the ER because they punched a wall and broke their hand. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.
I think back in May I might have posted an excerpt on being thankful from my book. I can’t remember if it included what I’m going to talk about today, so I’m going to say it again. Partly because I’m lazy and don’t want to look back through all of those, but mostly because it’s something that’s important and that I want to share again if I’ve already done so. A few years back when I was watching Oprah there was a show on about a woman who had been burned. She had been so severely burned that she couldn’t hold her child. She couldn’t open a jar of peanut butter. She no longer had use of the faculties most of us have on any given day. She wore compression stockings all over her body to keep her blood flowing and keep clots from forming. And when I saw this show I remember thinking how thankful I was to have my health. I had use of all of my muscles. My fingers and toes, my feet and hands, legs and arms. My body functions as it’s supposed to. I can sit and stand without issue. I can run and jump. I can bend over. I can paint my walls. I can clean my floors. I can pick up my child when he cries. I can hold him on my heart whenever he’s scared. I can push him on the swings. I can slide down the slide with him.
Every day I wake up I try to remember to be thankful that I can. I am able. And it is my responsibility to work to ensure that I remain able. And to not take for granted the little things that I do have, that are significant things when removed. Like the ability to hold hands with my son as we go for a walk. To have the stamina to play with him outside, even if it’s not as much as he’d like (I swear I’m going to start using him as a personal trainer for people. He’s quite the motivator for staying moving!). I have hands to wash dishes. I have eyes to see the road. There is a world I get to experience with relative ease because I am healthy. And I am incredibly thankful for that. And I say prayers of healing and hope because there are many of us who do not have the same luxury.
I consider this my first “real” post when it comes to being thankful. But I am thankful to live in a world where people come together to help one another the way we do when disaster occurs. I think it’s a bit hard to explain what it’s like to have the infrastructure you’ve known all of your life disappear in a matter of hours when a storm surge rolls in, but it’s absolutely mind-boggling. I remember after Katrina, I was staying at school taking care of my nephews, because their apartment had been washed away. I brought them back down three or four weeks later, and that was the first time I saw the extent of the damage to the coastline I used to know.
Sometimes when I had gone back home from school to visit I would note how much things were changing as new stores and shopping centers were popping up, new condos along the beach, new restaurants. And even though it was strange, it was a good change. To return to your home to see absolutely nothing recognizable is an extremely hard thing to comprehend. It’s hard to verbalize. The memories we make when we are young are memories that stay strong. The places we used to go, the houses we used to hang out at, they are the way we remember our youth. And when I returned after Katrina, we had to count the streets trying to figure out where we were at because there were no longer any recognizable landmarks half a mile inland. (I live in a city that was not totally destroyed, and in fact sustained considerably less damage than the areas just two miles away from my home where the water literally covered almost the entire city and entire cities just 15 miles away.) Travel was limited, the bridges were washed out. There were barges sitting on top of the store my dad used to own. It’s still surreal to think about, and the recovery more than 7 years later is still ongoing, with much of the homes still not rebuilt and much of the infrastructure not fully restored.
One of the greatest things that we experienced after Katrina was the outpouring of support from people all across the country, and even internationally. People send supplies, came down to help gut the homes that had sustained too much water to be salvaged beyond the studs, helping set-up housing and rebuild homes, bringing food, bringing water, bringing ice and supplies. (In the weeks after the storm, as people see, it takes a long time to fully restore power, and when you have no power, no grocery stores because there’s no power and most of them were damaged down here, the national guard provides you with MRE’s to eat…I was lucky enough to bring food down from school with me, and only ate a few of those.) So all of those little things make a huge difference.
It truly amazes me when I think about how many people came down here, to a place most people didn’t know existed beforehand to give, to provide support and love. And this continued for years. People continued to come down, on spring break, on Christmas break, on summer break. We have an amazing resolve and an amazing willingness to serve those in need here, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. So I am thankful that I live here. And I send thoughts and prayers every day to those affected by Sandy. For us Katrina hit in August. It was hot. It stayed hot. We didn’t have to deal with the cold. We didn’t have to worry about not having a heat source for the snow and freezing days and nights. I can’t imagine having to deal with that. I’m bringing Jack to donate some blankets tomorrow at one of the many donation areas we have set up down here. He said that was what he wanted to give to the little kids who might be cold. And I’m excited he has the chance to give and the heart to care for those who are in need. Recovery takes time, and we are recovering from a lot in this world. There was a powerful earthquake today in Guatemala. We had Sandy last week and a Nor’easter this week. We are still recovering in Japan, in Haiti (you can check out Justin’s work here, he’s about to go to Haiti to help in an orphanage there), in Mississippi and Louisiana, in Indonesia. There is so much happening in the world, and so much need just related to natural disasters where our basic needs hang in the balance. And I’m thankful that we live in a world where we can help and where we do help.
So as an update – Day 1: Thankful for the end of one class and a break for a week.
Day 2: My family
Day 3: My friends
Day 4: My son and my nephews – whose existence brought me to understand love without selfishness, without limitation, and literally changed my world in the best way possible.
Day 5: I posted on Monday
Day 6: Democracy (I deliberately stayed offline the majority of the day…and I know my post Monday was about voting, but I think it’s only appropriate. )
Day 7: I’m thankful for technology. And I mean that in the sincerest way. Technology, and specifically the internet has really helped enhance the world as a whole. It has given us access to people we wouldn’t have had access to before, at least not in such a real and immediate manner. We can look through cameras aimed at cities around the world. We can see cultures in full form and learn and appreciate one another in a way that wasn’t existent 20 years ago. We can find friends we wouldn’t get to connect with otherwise. We can talk to family members in different cities, states, or even countries. We can find the answer to almost any question in a matter of seconds, and with a few more minutes of research we can find the real answer. 🙂 We can connect to people who want to build each other up, who want to encourage, uplift, and inspire one another. We have places like this, where we can meet with each other, and see our goals, see our weaknesses, see what others are sharing with the world in way that never would have been possible otherwise. And we have the opportunity to help. To give of ourselves. To share what is unique about ourselves in a way that inspires. We have the chance to rise to the occasion and ease the burden by offering what we have. We can see people in need and find a way to help. And that’s why I’m thankful for technology, and specifically the internet, and more specifically this blog and places like it!
Well, I’m a little behind on here (I thought I had my posts set up for last week, because I knew I’d be away from the computer, but again, technology and I still have difficulties). But, I like the thankful posts for the month of Thanksgiving, so I’m going to do that.
And today, what I’m going to be thankful for is the fact that I live in a country where I have the opportunity to vote. And as much as I get angered over all of the negative ads, and as much social media political overload has happened, I very honestly appreciate that I live somewhere where this can take place. I think having the rights that we have get quickly overlooked. We feel like we aren’t making progress or are progressing in the wrong way, or that others are holding us back, but that’s a much better position to be in than in a position where it doesn’t matter what you think or what the consensus is. There’s no opinion taken into account in many places. Everyone is overlooked in many places. There is certainly no consideration for majority rights, much less minority rights in many countries. We have come a very long way as a country. We have a lot further to go. And though there are important issues that we need to work out, that need to be well researched, that need to have clear understandings and be presented in a way that shows what truly is best for the people as a whole, we, as the people, have the chance to do something important to contribute. We have the chance to live in a country where our vote does count. Where our understandings matter. Our opinions matter. And we get the chance to voice them. And for that I am thankful.
(I wrote the other posts, so I’m going to try to condense them and put them into one since I have them and they just didn’t post. Maybe I’ll do that for tomorrow, since I intend to stay away from social media as much as possible tomorrow, and however long this count lasts, because, although I’m thankful, I’m exhausted of politics on social media!!)