Back in the day, it was common to hear it said that someone sounded "like a broken record" if they discussed the same issue, circumstance, or problem whenever one saw or talked to them. The idiom--"like a broken record"--was apparently borrowed from the description of a scratched vinyl album that, when played, continued to repeat the same words and/or music each time it reached a particular groove. We sometimes experience ruts (scratches) in our lives--times we feel there's no forward movement, and nothing new on the horizon. In response to queries about how things are going, it's not unusual to hear/say the refrain, "same stuff, different day". As a result, interactions with us may come to be described as sounding/being "like a broken record". 

We don't have to remain stuck in our ruts. As with scratches on vinyl records we want to restore, we can seek solutions to get us to the other side of the scratches in our lives. While we may be tired and frustrated, it's within our power not to become resigned, discouraged, or complacent when we're in our ruts. Sometimes, we look for encouragement from others, but it's important that we learn how to encourage ourselves. It may not change our circumstances, but it can certainly change how we view our circumstances. Each day is a gift, and how we receive it and what we do with it are up to us.

It doesn't take much time to change how we handle getting to the other side of our ruts. It's sometimes a matter of deciding and committing to change our daily habits, our defaults--for example, not spending each day talking about what has us in the rut; not turning another's challenge into an opportunity for us to talk about our challenge. How can we see anything beyond our rut if our sole focus is inside of it day in and day out? We can use the time we would use focusing on our rut to try something new, such as take a foreign language class, try a new form of exercise, volunteer, etc. Or, we could create new habits of listening to music, reading scripture and/or daily affirmations, taking a walk, riding a bike, writing, etc. Doing something new or different, or creating new habits makes room, and provides opportunities, for interactions and conversations that have nothing to do with our problems. It may not change our problem(s), but it may help us feel better. And with better perspective, perhaps we can move beyond our rut and the broken record.
 
 
What does it mean to win? To be victorious or succeed at something in the face of a struggle or difficulty, right? Have you won at anything lately? How about today? Did you hold your tongue rather than wound another with your words? Did you see the positive in something that had negative implications? Avoid showing road rage to someone who cut you off in traffic? Begin an exercise program? How about offering an encouraging word to someone in the midst of your own pain? Volunteer your time/talent for something that didn't involve you or your family? Did you turn away from gossip? Did you show compassion to someone with whom you have issues? Eat a healthy meal? Make a connection with someone you consider difficult? What about taking a first step towards a goal or dream? These are examples of victories if our usual inclination may have been to do otherwise. Victories that may seem small and inconsequential to others who don't know where we've been, our history, our struggles. But because we know our struggles, we might consider these "small" victories significant. They may encourage us to appreciate each step on our journey; to continue on our path. Maybe we won't throw a party--or, maybe we will--but we can at least do a little joyful dance in our heads and hearts in gratitude.

Once we get into the mindset of celebrating the "small" victories, we may find we won't wait for the large victories to validate us. And that matters because it's often the small victories that lead us to, and prepare us for, the large victories. It's important to remember that a small win is still a win.
 
 
Her eyes sparkled like stars in the sky, her smile lit up a room like the sun, her heart was open, and her love unconditional. My friend, Gigi.  She was the kind of friend who supported and encouraged you when she was the one in need.  Gigi battled cancer throughout most of our friendship.  And battle she did.  She battled it with faith in God and joy.  It was difficult to believe Gigi was sick because she didn't look sick and spent as much time as possible loving, giving, laughing, and dancing.  She never hesitated to thank God for the many blessings in her life, and always counseled me to have faith--that "doubt is the thief of God's blessings."  I remember when Gigi called to tell me she had breast cancer.  And I remember years later when she called to tell me that her breast cancer metastasized to her bones.  Throughout this time we would attend church together and I would watch in amazement as she praised God.  I had no understanding.  Although I was a Christian at the time, my faith was weak and I was a "woe is me" disciple, so I did not recognize or understand Gigi's joy.  I found her circumstances depressing and could not figure out why she wasn't in bed cradled in a fetal position.  But Gigi had that fire on the inside.  She knew something I didn't--that you may not be able to choose whether illness befalls you, but you can often choose whether you suffer or live joyfully.  Gigi chose to live joyfully.  I had the pleasure of seeing her raise her children, find love and get married during her battle with cancer.  By no means was her journey easy, but she lived her life with a fierce determination to make it as rich and meaningful as possible.

I have learned that life's lessons are sometimes presented before we need them.  Rarely does a week go by when I don't think of Gigi and all she taught me about living joyfully in the midst of illness.  It has been seventeen years since Gigi died a physical death, but her legacy of joy lives on.  What a gift!

 
 
I had the pleasure of attending a jazz concert in Paris headlined by a band from New Orleans.  The band's goal was to show France that the music of New Orleans was not lost with Hurricane Katrina. During the concert, most of the French audience was very reserved, displaying little outward manifestation of enjoyment.  From my experience living among the French, they can be having a joyous time but are typically more reserved than Americans about showing it.  Well, needless to say, the Americans in the audience had no such reservations.  Initially, we tried to blend in with the French by mimicking them--we gently patted our feet.  But the band was asking for more.  Accustomed to playing for American audiences, they began clapping their hands, swinging their instruments from side to side, and gesturing for the audience to follow their lead.  Seeing the disappointment on their faces when no one joined in, the Americans gave them what they were seeking.  We stood, clapped our hands, and swung from side to side.  The band started high-stepping and swinging more, thanking us for joining in.  Meanwhile, most of the French audience watched us, smiling politely.  At the time, we were a little embarrassed given the setting.  We could just hear the French saying "those Americans!"  But then the band told the audience that the participation made them feel loved and boosted their spirits because many of them lost everything after Hurricane Katrina.  All was well.

After the concert, a few of us Americans walked to the metro to catch our trains home.  As we stood on the platform, a group of French people who attended the concert walked up to us and expressed how much they enjoyed the concert and our dance with the band. When we told them we thought they were offended, they said they were actually thrilled.  They said they wanted to jump up and dance with us, but did not do so because they tend to be reserved.  But then right there on the metro platform, they asked us to teach them how to swing.  Then and there, we made our own music, and they danced and danced.  And then we noticed that the people on the opposite platform were dancing along, too. It was a sight to behold.  The music of the night created joy that, in the end, united people.  Nothing else mattered.