What If?



What if we:
  • spent as much time connecting with each other in-person as we spend on email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?
  • sent handwritten notes to each other to express our gratitude, concern, love, sympathy, good news, etc.?
  • said hello to anyone with whom we come into contact--including strangers, and those with whom we have strained or no relationships?
  • made more deposits into others' lives than withdrawals?
  • offered to others the mercy and forgiveness we seek?
  • were kind to those who are unkind to us?
  • lived our lives without fear of failure?
  • lived our dreams?
  • practiced peace in our daily living?
  • remembered that charity begins at home?
  • focused on what we have rather than what we don't have?
  • lived lives that set good examples for our children?
  • lived lives in which our words and actions were consistent?
  • treated our elders with respect and compassion?
  • listened more than we talked?
  • spent time each day nurturing our minds, bodies, and souls?
  • treated each other the way we want to be treated?

Yes, what if?

I've found that life is a lot like sticky glue. We often become attached to, and leave traces on, the things, people, places and circumstances we touch.
Have you seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"? It's broadcast on television during the Christmas season, but I sometimes watch it at other times of the year as its messages resound throughout. In the movie, the life of the protagonist, George Bailey, is challenging--to say the least. As a young man, George dreamed of college and traveling the world. Those dreams were dashed when George's father died and George had to take over the family business. After that, George did what he could to make the best of his life--a great deal of which included helping others. And just when it seemed things were going well, something happened that shook George to his core. Having endured one setback too many, George got tired. He was at the end of his rope, and believed things would be better if he wasn't alive, or had never been born. But before he was able to act on his despair, George was sent a guardian angel who showed him the blessings he had and how his life made a significant difference in the lives of others. In the end, George saw that despite his challenges he had a life worth living, rich in love. It seemed like he was so accustomed to making sacrifices and being there for others that he didn't realize they would be there for him in his time of need.

Some of life's greatest lessons are learned in the midst of our trials and tribulations. We may be devastated or discouraged along the way, but it's important to hold on. As older people used to say when I was growing up, "just keep living . . . chances come around." Nothing good or bad lasts forever, so we must make the best of our circumstances and allow our blessings, our faith, our hope, our joy, to cushion life's harsh blows. One thing from the movie that really resonated with me was that George didn't reach out to his family and friends to say he needed help. He suffered in silence. Many of us do so, thinking no one will understand; no one will be there for us; others will criticize us; we can handle it on our own, etc. I've been there. But like George, I have learned that when we have others who will love and support us in the midst of and through our pain--and allow them to do so--we'll find that it is, indeed, a wonderful life.
Have you ever written a check you know you should not have written? I mean figuratively, not literally (that's a conversation for another day). I'm talking about taking on too much. Being afraid, not wanting, or not knowing how, to say no. Giving so much of yourself that there's nothing--or very little-- left for you or anyone else. It's very important that we recognize if/when this is an issue for us. Because when we're depleted, we jeopardize our health, our quality of life, and our joy.

We should be cheerful givers, which is difficult when we're overextended. When folks know we're willing and able to give, they ask us to give. Why shouldn't they? But rather than recognizing the importance of "spreading the joy", some come back to us time after time asking for more. We wonder why we need to say "enough" or "not this time". Don't they know they're always at our door? Sometimes they do, but ask nevertheless because "nobody can  ________ (fill in the blank) like you do." Heard that before? But sometimes, people don't realize they're always at our door. So we must tell them, and/or learn to garner the strength to pass on a particular "opportunity". This in turn may provide "opportunities" for others. It may provide opportunities for growth and independence; opportunities for appreciation. Because even if giving is in our heart, is our gift, our purpose, or our passion, we must make room for deposits--that is, take time to replenish. Otherwise, we'll find that our account is overdrawn.
Are you giddy with excitement? After all, you've done it . . . you've realized your dream. It's time to celebrate! Your dream has come to fruition, and it's now time to live it. Give yourself credit for your vision and making the journey. I hope you took time to enjoy the journey. In my case, the journey was as important as--and at times more important than--the dream itself. The journey helped me learn my capabilities and who I could count on for encouragement and support.

Living my dream helped me learn more about what I'm made of and who I am. Because living your dream makes you deal with the realities of the dream in context. And reality can bite. Sometimes the bites are nibbles; sometimes they create wounds that require stitches. Don't get me wrong, my life in Paris is rich--full of diverse experiences. I have wonderful friends, there's a rich culture, a diverse population, great food, art, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, Louvre Museum, Opera Garnier, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, and so on and so on. But, like life, it's not always sunny. As a matter of fact, it rains quite often. And the only time birds have pooped on my head (and face) has been in Paris. It's become fairly routine. I mean, really, is there a message?! There are issues with unbelievable bureaucracy, daily life, etc. And my life in Paris revolves around my illness. Unfortunately, the realities of life don't take a vacation because you're living your dream.

What I've learned, however, is that it's all in how you cope. If/when the tough times come, it's paramount to be more focused on living (enjoying) your dream than surviving it. For example, when I'm faced with challenges unique to being in Paris, I take time to walk along the Seine River, look up at the Eiffel Tower if it's near and, more often than not, savor a macaron or other yummy pastry (that I ordered in "Franglais"--my combination of French and English). I've been through the fire and had to wing it in the midst of struggles while living my dream. But it's been worth it. I have no regrets. The Paris I see now--my Paris--is more beautiful than I imagined because it's touchable, relatable. I've learned to appreciate it despite its imperfections, which I see more clearly now. While it's often true that you can't know what you're getting until you get it, what you see when you take off the blinders and the rose colored glasses (the fantasies of your dream) can be a beautiful blossom. It may require a shift in your thinking, but learning to see things, people, and situations for what they are rather than what we want or imagine them to be, is one of the greatest lessons we can learn in life. Living my dream has taught me as much about life and myself as it's taught me about life in Paris. No matter how difficult, it's been a joyous, enlightening, and enriching experience.

Very few things in life are as perfect as we imagine, right? With that in mind, you may need to remind yourself a time or two that this dream is what you asked/worked for. As with anything else, you must take the good with the bad. And no matter how living the dream turns out for you, bear in mind that it took a lot of effort and courage to get where you are. Even if it turns out to be something less than you envisioned, don't overlook the blessings/advantages. You now know you're capable of doing something of this magnitude, and you'll always be able to say you lived your dream. No one can take that from you. And you don't have to live this dream forever. There's no shame in deciding you've had enough of the dream. Others may view it differently, but it was your dream and you fulfilled it, so you've succeeded in what you set out to do. And that means that if you're so inclined, you can plan and live another dream. You are strong, capable, and courageous. And even if you don't know it, you have inspired others. I applaud you. Bravo!

One of the greatest blessings of living my dream has been the ability to use the experience to help others. It would be a hollow victory if I were the only person served by realizing my dream. I pray that sharing some of my experiences has been a blessing to you. It's been a joy for me.
A bird pooped on my face!!!  Are you kidding me?!  I'm in Paris, France taking care of business and living my dream.  And it's like the bird said, "dream this!"  So here I was walking down the street with a friend, looking up and taking in the beauty around me.  And out of nowhere (I promise you I could hear it coming as it was quite the load), there was a huge green deposit of poop on my face.  It ran from my forehead, down behind my glasses into my eye, and down into my mouth.  Talk about nasty!  And my friend was of absolutely no use to me.  She was too busy howling with laughter.  So much so that I thought she might have a deposit of her own.  And each time I tried to ask if she had a tissue, she laughed harder.  Once the initial shock wore off, I noticed the stares and heard the snickers of those around me who witnessed the deposit.  But no one, NO ONE, offered any assistance.  So there I was trying to act dignified with green poop running down my face, squinting through one eye looking for something to clean myself up.  What a disgusting, humiliating experience.  (Unfortunately, this was not my only bird deposit experience, but that's for another post.)  No doubt, the deposit was a mood changer, but I was determined to shake/wipe it off and move on.

This experience makes me think about the deposits I leave on others' lives.  Are they always positive, or do I sometimes leave behind something that requires cleaning up?  And what if that person has nothing with which to clean off the deposit, and has no source of help--no joy to fall back on--to wipe/shake it off?  I read something powerful the other day--"Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."  So no matter what I may be going through, I want to be mindful of the kinds of deposits I make.