Thursday, January 19, 2017

     My close friend who sent me the video I quoted yesterday about “walking with giants” agreed with me that we both need to aim for a 2017 that will be “epic” and “legendary.” So how do we do that? Hmm. Good question. What do we need? money? time? energy? grit? confidence? courage? I would say, we need all of these, not the least of which is courage to risk—to face failure and say, so what? Why not? Let’s do it.

     “Epic” to me doesn’t necessarily mean I have to accomplish some incredible feat. That would be my first thought, however, and I do plan to do that. “Epic” can mean that we touch lives in a way we never imagined like volunteering for an organization that truly helps people or running for an office where we can do good for the common man. One trap I tend to fall into is wanting to see the results of my giving instantly. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes an investment of time and selfless action won’t show results for years. As a teacher, I hear from students sometimes 20-30 years later who say that something I said or did still resonates with them. Teachers touch lives daily regardless of why we chose that field. I continue to say “hats off!” to my colleagues who are still giving 200% in the classroom every day. 

     So how will I achieve “epic” in 2017? I will focus, reflect, improve, dig deeper, work harder, sacrifice more for the goal and raise the bar. To do that I will need energy, time, grit, courage, confidence. I will have to remain resolute in my purpose: to touch lives. So how many lives do I have to touch to feel successful? One. One is enough Just think if you could do or say or create something that could change one life for the better, wouldn’t that be awesome?  What if that one life you changed became a life changer? What if that person became a world leader or a spiritual force or a social activist who would be the inspiration for thousands? Yes, one life is enough to work toward “epic.” 

     Am I too old to take on this challenge? No one is too old to live a life of purpose helping others. If that means writing a beautiful piece of music, crafting an inspirational piece of literature, training a service dog or raising money for a worthy cause—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we use some part of each 24 hours to realize the power we each have to make our world a better, more gentle place. What will your “epic” be? Are you ready to start today? tomorrow? when?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

     A dear friend of mine sent me a recording last night of a motivational speaker talking about how to make your new year the best ever. He used terms like “epic” and “legendary.” I have to admit that although I don’t read self-help books anymore, I was inspired by those two words. I just said the other day, “I don’t know how many healthy days I have left, so I need to make every day count, and this year’s one-woman show has to be the best ever.” Not much pressure, nope.
But when I saw those two words, I thought, “Yup, the best ever.” As a result of two little words, I am now counting minutes to get to my piano and script. But that wasn’t the strategy that struck me as much as the one he called, “Walk with Giants.” This one validated a concept I’ve thought about occasionally and now am convinced is true.

      Walking with Giants means spending time with people who enlighten, inspire and encourage you. It means avoiding toxic relationships that leave their marks on our hearts, our egos and our faces. It means negative and sad are contagious, but so are joy and excitement. If you leave a friend feeling energized like I did the other day (the one who sent me the video), you are walking with a Giant. Giants can be 4’8”, blond, bald, white-haired or dressed in jeans and a muscle shirt. There is no mold for a Giant, and any of us can be one or find one. It’s just a matter of looking and listening.

     Recently, I have decided to let go of some toxic relationships in my life. These people make me feel less, and there’s no reason to frequent those who need to buoy themselves by diminishing others. I’ve spotted Giants here and there in our new home town, but I am cautious because sometimes the ones that seem like Giants are really small people dressed up big.

      This morning I celebrate a Giant who is undergoing radical surgery. I toast a friend who gives night and day and never asks for anything in return. I salute a friend who is not afraid to reveal parts of herself that are unflattering to make me realize that she is human and vulnerable despite her financial and social success. I take off my hat to a man who has suffered discrimination, unwarranted criticism and oppression but who has never lost his dignity or humility. This morning, I congratulate parents who work night and day to be role models for their children, despite the pressures they must endure in their work and personal lives. Today, I will work harder to be someone’s Giant.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

      Today I have several female friends on my mind. One is sitting on edge waiting to hear about her sister who just got out of 11 days in ICU. My friend is very spiritual, and my prayers as well as those of all who love her are helping her deal with this crisis. My friend has endured her own health crisis, so she knows the pain and agony of waiting. This friend is always there for me, and I am happy I can reciprocate.

     I have another friend who is grieving the loss of a parent as well as worrying about the health of another loved one. She waits too. She knows well the agony of waiting as she has been through devastating crises before. She is one of my strongest friends, and she is my rock when I get anxious about such things.

     I have another friend, a former colleague, who is a day away from surgery. She is scared, but she, too, has endured physical pain and tortuous waiting as she suffers from a disease unrelated to her surgery. She has found strength and support by reaching out and sharing. I know she will get through this, and I am confident that her followers who love her will be there for her in many different ways. She has included me in her support circle, and that means a lot.

     I have another friend who is undergoing treatment for a disease just recently diagnosed. She, too, has endured and played the waiting game in years past with other health crises. She is strong--always distracting her mind and going forward. I have never heard her say, "Poor me." She will beat this, I believe, and I will be there in her corner. I call to ask about her, and she turns the conversation to me.

     I have another friend who was diagnosed with a terrible form of cancer several years ago. She wasn't supposed to last one year, and she's thriving more than 5 years later. She is my role model of strength and endurance. She apologized to me last year for not sending me a thank you card for my prayers. Amazing woman!

     Today, I salute the strong women in my life and the strong women in the world. Watch Hidden Figures, and you will see three women who endured and overcame. Strong women are all around us, and if we look in the mirror, we will probably see yet another one. The best way we can honor such women is to raise our own. I'm proud to say, I have two that are way stronger than me.


Monday, January 16, 2017

     It’s a new day. A gift. How is it that some days we rejoice in the rising sun and eagerly embrace the day’s challenges and offerings, and other days, we want to hide under our pillows? I have no answer other than my own. I rarely face a day with less than 100% enthusiasm, but there have been some in my past when I was afraid to put a toe on the floor. This morning, as I look out at the blue sky, the sun shining on the pond and I feel the excitement of the day’s gifts fill my soul, I bow my head in prayer for those in my circle who are suffering or scared. I pray for a former colleague facing cancer surgery. I pray for a friend whose sister is in ICU. I pray for a friend undergoing cancer treatment, for my loved ones who have challenges of their own. Mostly, I pray for strength to share with all of them and for myself as we never know how our lives can change on a dime, and we will be the ones needing the prayers.

     Martin Luther King’s prayers seemed to be at least partially answered, but as I read the paper and listen to news reports, I wonder. Have we come a long way? Yes. Is it far enough? Of course not. Simmering under the surface of many are waves of racism which rise and threaten to drown all the good that has been done in the blood of so many. In recent months, those waves have spilled into many conversations and confrontations. Dialogues cloaked in prejudice and hatred disguised as party preference or loyalty threaten friendships and divide us. How can this be? The elephant in the room has reared up on his back legs and is roaring in households all over our country. 

      Watch the movie, Fences, and you will get a feel for the rage that can fester over years of frustration and rejection. Watch the movie, Hidden Figures, and you will recognize the quiet hysteria that has been bubbling for years. Is there really inclusion and diversity, or is it all for show? Politicians throw around terms that promise positive change, but are we really living it?

      I have a dream. In my dream, I see a world of kind citizens who respect one another. I see friends of different political leanings, faiths, color having cocktails at football games. I see children of all nations holding hands and singing. I see congregations saying thank you prayers. I see headlines touting kindness, forgiveness, compassion and collaboration. In my dream, I will no longer worry about revealing my political preferences with new friends for fear that they will reject me for my beliefs. I will no longer worry about bullies who want to push their ideas and beliefs on me, for they will respect me and my opinions. Dr. King would be there in my dream realizing his own. What’s your dream?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

     Last night, we saw an incredible play at one of our local theaters. The subject was dark, but one of the lines resonated with me. The lead character said, “I don’t know who I’d be if this hadn’t happened to me.” It made me wonder what events in our lives shape and define us? What has defined you? If whatever your answer is had not happened, would you be a different person?

      We all have wonderful and horrible things that occur, especially by the time we reach middle age (what is that, btw?). It could be the birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, a tragic event of some magnitude—anything that changed you in some significant way.

     My friend said to me last night at dinner, “I used to meditate, but I don’t feel I need it anymore. At the time I did it, I was in bad shape.” I said, “Maybe you internalized the process, so when things get dicey, you automatically get calm.” She went through a tough stretch, like many of us do, and for her, meditation helped her deal with it. When you go through tough times, what gets you through them? 

      I read recently, and I’ve read this before, that when we’re dealing with those difficult times, we should look back at others we’ve endured, and do two things:  1) ask ourselves how we got through them and repeat the process and/or 2) remind ourselves that we did get through them, and we will survive again.

     Sometimes we catch a flicker of that dark time. We cringe, and we push it away and move on. Sometimes, we experience something that feels like it will thrust us into the abyss, but we know how to stop it before it gets out of hand. Sometimes we are blind-sighted, and we are thrust into the darkness with no defense. Those are the times we need to pull out our emotional arsenals and fight back.

     The play last night was one of the most powerful I have ever seen. The audience was spellbound and completely silent as the drama unfolded. The topic was dark, but the messages were clear and positive. The beauty of live theatre is, for me, seeing a real life situation from a new perspective and asking myself how I would deal with it if it were me. 

     Our lives can go from light to dark in an instant, so while we’re in the light, I believe we need to be grateful and learn from others what resilience tools they use, and then store them along with our own in a safe place so when we need them, they are there for us.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

      When I was in my teens, I thought 30 was old. When I was in my thirties, I thought 50 was ancient. When I reached 60, old age became “relative.” Now that I am even older than this, I look at aging differently. I consider myself wise, mature (most of the time), “active,” spirited and young at heart. The “Seven Dwarves of Old Age” see me differently, and, unfortunately, so does most of society. We don’t revere or even respect old age in this country. In some countries, like Japan, the elderly are looked at as almost heroes by their families and friends. Wouldn’t that be a welcome luxury? 

      I would like to defend the little guys below. So here goes:

Nappy:  Taking naps has proven to rejuvenate, even improve the brain’s function and make people more cheerful. I take a nap to shut off my creative juices. If I don’t, I will drown in them.

Wrinkly:  There is nothing one can do about the condition of one’s skin by the time they are 60+. So the best we can do is accept it, and try to stay fit. We can minimize the wrinkles by smoothing out our dispositions.

Squinty:  There are cool glasses now, and cataract surgery that will restore our sight to 20/20. I have never worn glasses, and I still don’t. Some people even look younger in glasses. Furthermore, sometimes it’s better to see less.

Rocky:  If we enjoy a rocking chair, that means we know enough to slow down and relax. It takes some of us a lifetime to do this, and if a chair helps, I say, “Go for it.”

Saggy:  The simplest remedy for saggy is good posture. Some people can’t stand up straight due to pain or stiffness. Those who can, however, often don’t just out of habit or laziness. Walking tall tells people we are confident and secure in our skin. Yes, gravity pulls hard after 50, but staying in shape is a choice for most of us. 

Farty:  This is not an old age problem. This is a condition encouraged by mothers of boys from age one.

Leaky:  ??

I would add a couple of elves to the Old Age Equation:

Smarty:  People who have aged gracefully can teach others what not to fret about, how unimportant certain “problems” are and how a perspective of years lived can lower stress. The problem is that people don’t want to listen. 

Hearty:  Most people who have lived long lives have learned that a compassionate heart will heal much better than drugs or alcohol. They have learned that relationships of the heart are more valuable than things and that connection is everything.

Humbly:  People who have gained wisdom through the years know that humility is the most important quality to teach one’s children. 

Giggly:   Old people know the value of laughter. They know laughter heals, it soothes, it keeps us young, and it connects us with people who don’t even speak our language. It is a universal language which always brings a smile to even the saddest face. 


“la vieille”

Friday, January 13, 2017

     People are fascinating. Occasionally, I don’t like people until I remember that I am people.

     Last night at the theatre, I observed such weird behavior. I find myself shaking my head so often these days, marveling at what people do and say without batting an eye.

     Bottom line:  manners are apparently passé, and you can do whatever you want wherever you want with no questions asked. Rules are made to be ignored, and maturity doesn’t assume common sense.

     During the intermission of the play last night, a woman was lying down in the lobby doing stretching exercises on the floor. Are you kidding me? Ok, so maybe she had back issues, but wouldn’t you want to do that when half the audience wasn’t present? I was waiting for some Yogi to start chanting next. The four grown women behind us talked aloud at the beginning of each act, and the woman down the row who shushed them was shaking her head just like me. These women were dressed in designer clothes and expensive jewelry, so It wasn’t like they didn’t know the finer things in life and the behavior that goes with them. Another woman began coughing during the last act. She was coughing so long and so loud, I wondered when the EMS guy was going to show up and haul her out of the row. Wouldn’t you think that if you had a cough that bad you would stay home, or at least remove yourself from the audience so others could hear? And what about the actors? Don’t they deserve some respect? And, of course, there is always some moron whose cell phone goes off. That happened too. These are not scatter-brained children; these are grown adults who know better. 

     The only word I can think of to describe all this is “decorum.” “Decorum” is defined as behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety. Apparently, “decorum” is out. How sad. 

     Lord, give me the strength to understand ignorance, to feel compassion for narcissism and forgiveness for disrespect. I’m spending an inordinate amount of time praying these days. How about you?