I went to NYC for the first time in 2006. As a child I had decided since New York was cold and full of people, I wasn’t too interested in going there. I always figured I wouldn’t feel safe, and I would get lost. I decided if I had to pick a big city to live in, I would pick LA. A good portion of this decision was based on the fact that I loved sunny weather, and all of my favorite TV shows were filmed in LA. But, even so, when we were embarking on the trip I was a bit apprehensive.
We were only going to be there for about 48 hours. And my only goal on the trip was to make it to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. I’ve always loved Christmas trees, and when they are all lit up I can sit and look at the lights for hours. It’s calming to me. We drove into New Jersey, and made our way to NYC via the subway, and our train stopped in Grand Central Station. When we got out into the night lights, I found myself feeling unusually comfortable. There were people everywhere. It was three days before Christmas. It was cold and rainy but not freezing out. And the whole time I was there, I was continuously surprised at how at home I felt. There are more people in a two block radius than there are in my entire state. But something about it just fit.
When we got down to the tree I remember just thinking to myself, if it weren’t insanely expensive or I were a millionaire, or I figured out a way to get into Columbia to go to school, I could totally live here. People weren’t rude. They were simply on their way to wherever they were going. And we were as well. We didn’t get lost. There was nothing scary about it. When we went to the Top of the Rock and looked out over the city, it was a truly beautiful sight. We could see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The bridges were lit. There were red and green lights for the season. You could see life. For miles and miles. You just knew there was life all around. It was lively, and encouraging, and you could feel the energy in the air. You could see all of the different avenues of possibility that were right at your fingertips. They are simply waiting for you to stroll their way.
Sometimes it’s surprising what we find when we go places we never really wanted to go. I never wanted to go to NYC, yet it took one quick trip for me to fall in love. I never wanted to write a blog, but this has turned out to be one of the most encouraging experiences I’ve had in a long time. I never wanted to pursue my dreams, because there was a chance I would fail, and I didn’t know how to handle that, yet this journey of writing and publishing and reaching people with something I believe in has been the best experience I’ve had despite its frustrations.
Potential is what we continually seek in life. The potential for something new can feel exciting, if not unnerving. It feels like hope, and we need hope. We need the potential to reach our own potential. We want to feel accomplished and productive. We want to feel like we can achieve something worthwhile. All of life is tied to potential, and sometimes if we change our point of view, and we try new things – even those we really don’t think we want to, it can change our lives in the most wonderful way. Whether it’s writing a different type of story than we had envisioned, taking a job we didn’t think we wanted to have, traveling somewhere we aren’t really interested in going, there may just be something in those experiences that change our lives for the better. So don’t forget to be open, and try to envision what life could be like with a view from the top, where potential is visible all around.
More about potential and learning to utilize it.
and this is a different version, but one that I love:
There is a song called “Up to the Mountain” by Patty Griffin. She wrote it thinking of what it would have been like for Martin Luther King, Jr. to have seen what he saw – to have his dream. He had gone Up to the Mountain, and seen how wonderful everything could be. But the world had other plans. He faced opposition everywhere he turned. He had to fight and fight and fight from the moment his dream began. Nothing came easy. He got worn down, but he never gave up on seeing his dream come to pass.
We all have dreams. We all have those moments of clarity, where we are up on that mountain top looking out over and where we can see our dream come to pass. It’s like the world falls into place. We know at that moment in that time we have something worth offering. Something in us tells us that we have the capacity to achieve it. But what happens afterwards is often times not that easy. We’ve seen where we want to go, but it seems that no one else is interested in us going there.
We receive opposition from all sides. It’s confusing. It’s heartbreaking even at times. It wears us down. One of my favorite things that I’ve heard people say when it comes to religion is that “even Jesus wasn’t allowed to perform miracles in his hometown.” People in our lives know us in the way that they know us. The adults around us know us as the children we were. Our friends know us as the people we were when we met. Our family knows us as we were when we were little. And those things are very hard to break. People’s ideas of who we are tend to be quite strong. And in general, we aren’t interested in those around us changing. It’s hard to handle when the people around us become “unpredictable.” We have certain patterns that we all work in. We have roles for everyone in our lives. And we usually like for those roles to stay the same, whether they are good for us or not.
The thing is, if we are going to achieve our dreams, we are going to have to fight. And sometimes we are going to have to change our situation. We have to leave people behind who don’t understand and who aren’t supportive. Not necessarily in a way where there is no contact, though sometimes that’s the case. But in a way that allows us to feel free to go forth in our journey to accomplish the things we need to accomplish to live a life of happiness that is fulfilling. People will come in and out of our lives. Few will stay for the long haul. And even fewer will allow us to change and grow.
When that opposition comes against us, we have to be willing to fight. We have to go back up to the mountain, and remember that there is something out there worth fighting for. That our lives and our dreams are worth fighting for. We are worth fighting for. Our happiness matters. Our desires matter. And we are the only ones who can accomplish them. So keep fighting. Keep working. Keep climbing back up, no matter who tries to knock you down. You have it within you. So keep taking chances and grow!
I began this month trying to figure out what I could use this blog for. I decided since it was mental health awareness month to use it to write things that are related to mental health…but in particular posts that were encouraging to people so that the posts could help boost our mental health together. I hadn’t written in a long time, and I was trying to find a way back into writing. And trying to stretch my own capacity for creativity and writing.
And today when I was thinking about the challenge that I had put forth for myself, to spend a portion of each day doing something that was focused at helping others and helping myself by growing, I realized that I had accomplished more than I thought I would this month. This month was full of trials and tribulations that I hadn’t expected at all in my personal life. And this blog really has served to help me sort out those issues and helped me find people who have similar problems in their lives.
What I also thought about today is how important it is to reflect upon our challenges in life. I’m not sure that I’ve really reflected on things in this manner before. Normally if I look back on a challenge it isn’t usually with the notion that I’ve passed the challenge. I have a tendency to dwell upon the challenge as something that I wish hadn’t happened, and don’t look at the fact that I have made it through, and I am continuing to make it through. I am usually just frustrated by the challenge itself in general. In my head I know that we all have challenges and that we can and should learn from them, but when we look at our own instead of at other people’s it’s a lot harder to tell where the challenge begins and ends, and whether or not we’ve actually overcome or accomplished anything. But in reality we have all overcome and accomplished things because of and in spite of our challenges. And I think taking the time to look at them in that manner is necessary to our well-being. We have to be able to look at ourselves and see the good things, see the accomplishments (even if at first we feel they are minimal at best), see that we are survivors, so that we can remind ourselves that we are achievers.
When we know who we are, we can know where we can go. And I firmly believe that we can go anywhere we want to go. In fact, we will go wherever we want to go, because that’s the way things work.
(just a note, I’m not stopping the blog, just reflecting on this month)
Last night I watched “We Bought a Zoo.” And in it he says, “all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…” And that made me think about all the people I knew who had something to say about the movie. So many people said it was just what they needed. They were thinking about major changes in their lives and they needed something to happen. It’s funny how so many of us feel that way. That we need something to happen. There needs to be a change. We aren’t where we want to be, and we aren’t sure we are getting to where we want to be either. In life it’s quite easy to lose track of where we wanted to go.
Circumstance can be to blame much of the time, but it’s circumstance that we have created for the most part. We want to believe something can still happen. And when we see it happen for other people, we believe it again ourselves. But we need constant reminders. Most of us see something, get inspired, but never take the steps to follow through. We tend to look over just how much it takes to take a chance. To just go for it. To go for all that we wanted. A lot of times we opt not to because we don’t want to fail. Because if we fail at the things we really want, then what does that mean? What’s left from there? And it goes a lot deeper.
Unfortunately for us, taking the easy way has a tendency to become the hard way. Because easy has a tendency to couple itself right up with unfulfilled. And maybe it’s easy at first to live that way, because we still hope and there’s still time. But time moves much more quickly, and what we find when we look back is chances not taken. And the mundane of the everyday and unfulfilled gets wearing. We have reasons we do what we do. We have reasons for the things we don’t do as well. I’ve studied psychology for a long time. I’ve counseled people. I’ve consulted. I’ve spent the better half of my life helping people, even in a non-professional level. People have always come to me for help. I never understood why when I was younger. Even now, I’m not always sure. But it always seems to work out.
In life we have to have an understanding. We have to have a reason to believe in ourselves. We have to have the skills to look inside and understand ourselves. Because society has a tendency to tell us things that are untrue. The people closest to us, even our closest friends and family don’t always have our best interest in mind. That means it’s up to us to care enough about ourselves to learn how to get to where we need to be.
Today my book was “officially” released. In paper back and in e-book format. In certain book stores who were willing to take a chance. And at this point in time when I’m surrounded by chaos, and lots of bad news, I’m not sure what to do with that. I was told I needed to tell people it was out, so I guess I am right now. But I don’t know if this is how I’m supposed to do it. It’s hard, because I knew how important it was that I don’t waste anyone’s time. The reason I wrote the book that I wrote, and not a “quick fix” book as was suggested to me, is because the message that’s in the book is important. Transformation takes time. Changing your life takes time. But it starts with one day. It starts with knowledge. It starts with taking the moment to say, I’m going to try. I’m going to jump in. I’m going to have insane courage. And the book tells you why you should have that courage. It tells you why you are worthy of the things you need. It tells you how to breathe again when it’s dark and frustrating. It tells you why you should make it through. It tells you how to start changing your life, piece by piece. And why your life can and should become the amazing life you wanted, no matter what has happened in the past. It tells you how to forgive, how to let go, how to move forward. All the things that are too long to write in a blog. And it tells it well.
So what I’m saying is I hope everyone has the courage to try. Try to become the person you want to be. If the book can help, take a look. If you know someone who needs a life change or just wants an entertaining read, or needs a graduation gift, tell them to look. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the information. And it’s worth taking the chance to try. The read is easy. The information is good. Nothing I’ve ever done has taken more courage. And it’s terrifying. So even though you don’t have to, if you want to share the message. If someone needs help, lead them to it. We all have somewhere we need to go. We just need a little guidance sometimes in getting there.
And if you bought a zoo already, or have a story to share, let me know 🙂 We all have multiple things to contribute. We all have things to make life worthwhile. So why not share them? Why not have the courage to try!?
Barnes and Nobles:
Thanks to those who choose to be brave, who have stood up for the things they’ve believed in, and have been willing to give all they have to protect others. Thanks to everyone who is willing to try. It’s easy not to. Let the courage of others resonate with the courage that lives inside us all. Let us find the strength to be good people, to do good things, and to follow our dreams with courage and hope. Otherwise what’s the purpose in it all? Happy Memorial Day.
This morning my son said, “okay mom, I’m going to go by myself and be brave, because like you told me I could be brave.” This made me happy, because even though what he was doing was going in the dark room and turning the light on himself, he’s 3, and he really was scared. It made me happy that he is listening when I tell him he will be okay and he can be brave even though he’s scared. This is partly because I don’t ever remember actually being brave, just wanting to be. Because of that the post today explains how I spent the majority of my youth, and is an indicator of why I truly hope to be able to encourage strength and courage into Jack, especially in ordinary situations. The post is long, and I apologize, because it’s the majority of the chapter from the book.
I remember being a fearful child. I never, and I mean NEVER got into trouble at school, or anywhere else for that matter. I was always shy. I was scared to talk to people, even to make new friends. I was terribly scared of adults, because I thought they knew so much more about life than me. I assumed they’d be far too busy with important things to do than to actually care what I had to say or want to play with me. All of this is ironic, because the things I remember most happily in my childhood had to do with family vacations, games, and movie nights.
Nonetheless, I always felt less-than for some reason. The only times I remember ever not being afraid were those when I was singing, dancing, or writing. I did love to perform and make at least my parents watch. But singing and dancing were some of the only occasions I was willing to let others watch me, as well. And as you can imagine, I’m sure that all of the adults I performed for absolutely loved my renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” and “(Stop!) In the Name of Love.” At least I had good taste in music.
One of the biggest things that scared me as a child was the thought of eternity. I didn’t understand it. At 8, I remember something coming on TV that had this shot of the universe where the show or commercial talked about eternity, and I simply burst into tears in the middle of the den where we were all watching TV. I didn’t understand how anything could last forever or how if something did last forever there was really no beginning. It was something that truly made my brain hurt, and I had no clue how to handle it.
I remember my parents telling me it would be okay. They told me God loved me and because He did everything would be fine. I didn’t have to worry. But I don’t remember ever reconciling any of those feelings. That fear stayed with me. My desire to hang onto my family and my friends in this form was far too strong to allow any willingness to let go. I liked being alive. I knew how to understand a world with limits. It was a world without limits that baffled my mind, and created an uneasiness I couldn’t let go of.
About 3 years later, the most devastating event in my life to that point occurred. One of my family members was murdered. I remember during the period around this time, maybe the week or two before finding out, I could just feel a change in the air. I remember asking my mother if anyone in our family had ever been kidnapped or killed prior to my knowing anything was going on.
She told me no and asked what my brother had been telling me. He was 18 at the time, and I suppose had been informed that my uncle had been reported missing. I guess they decided it was time to tell me, and so they did. I remember seeing the news one evening. On it they showed that a set of remains, mostly bones, had been discovered in the woods a few towns away. At the end of the segment they showed a picture of my uncle and noted that he was still missing. I remember looking at my mother in her chair; we were the only two in the room. She started to cry.
To that point, I couldn’t ever recall seeing her do that. I knew something bad was going on. It didn’t take long for them to confirm the body was his. I remember fear immediately enveloping all of the areas it hadn’t previously.
As with any time there is a death, the fragility of life made its presence well known in my head. However, when the event that takes place is something as careless, as thoughtless, as disgusting, as completely unnecessary as these senseless acts are, the knowledge that the end of our journey may be up to someone else is the most unsettling part.
It does not matter what I do, if someone stands in front of me with a gun, he has a very easy means to stop my heart from beating. If someone is set on stopping me today, in the end, he has the capability to do so. And each person has the means to do so simply by virtue of being here. Every single one of us here has the capacity to do something amazing and something unspeakable. We all live in this paradox of extremes.
I didn’t know how to deal with that, so instead of talking to someone about it or finding some way to get help which can be difficult at 11, I chose to close off. I never went anywhere, or very rarely did. I had very few friends, although part of that can be blamed on the treacherousness that is middle school. I lost a way of understanding how a God that I was told loved me, therefore he’d protect me, wouldn’t protect my family. It seemed cruel. I was scared of life, mostly because I was scared of death. And I was scared of the power that other people had in my life.
When we stand on the edge of that platform looking through that barely veiled line that distinguishes between life and death, the presence of the ultimate extremes – love and fear – reveal themselves. They call out loudly and pull at us by what seems like a tangible force. And the tool that becomes the deciding factor on which side we’re really going to lean toward is self-worth. As I said before, even as a child, I always leaned toward the side of fear.
I don’t know what happened that I stopped believing I could be anything. I don’t know why I stopped believing I was worthy. Maybe it really did have something to do with my inability to comprehend the universe or the God I was praying to. But as I stood there to choose, I chose fear. And from that point forward, fear would lead my life.
Ironically, a good portion of what happens to us is likely due to our self-fulfilling prophecy trait. I wanted to feel bad, and in turn I did. Some of my friends were depressed, and I wanted to be too, so I chose it. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about feeling bad, which just made me feel worse. It’s a spiraling effect. Because, if I know that feeling bad is unnecessary, if I were really a good person, if I were really worthy of anything, then I’d go ahead and do something to change it, right? I was afraid, and I used it perfectly. It manifested itself through everything. I never had boyfriends. I wasn’t a good friend. I stopped trying in school, although I was competitive enough to make sure I did better than my siblings.
Most of the time, I just felt sad because my life wasn’t different. I never considered doing anything to change it. I sat happily in my misery, and never pursued anything that was a stretch. Who wants that disappointment? And I stayed just as I was the day before every single day. I didn’t get into trouble, but I didn’t do much of anything worth doing either. I simply was. And that was all.