Throughout my illness, a number of people have asked me how I can have--or how I've been able to maintain--joy. My answer is always the same--specifically, that it's a choice. But choosing joy didn't happen overnight. It was a process. Until I could own it, I tried it on for size from time to time. That means that when I faced a challenge, instead of defaulting to feeling sorry for myself, I looked for the lesson and/or blessing. Sometimes, there was neither, so I had to make a conscious decision to live beyond the circumstance rather than establish residency in it. I wasn't always successful. It takes time to change life's default settings. But like many things in life, I found that the more I tried, the easier it became. And then one day I felt joy in the midst of a difficult circumstance, and realized I had finally established a new default setting for my life.

Many people struggle with issues of low self esteem, fear of failure, negativity, an absence of joy, etc., and have difficulty changing the trajectory of their lives. As I always say, just take a step in the direction in which you'd like to go. Try it on for size. You can do it. Surround yourself with people who are already on the path you seek; go to counseling; join a support group; find a mentor. There are blessings in that new direction. There can be joy in that new direction. You may have setbacks, you may experience pain. But refuse to allow anything or anyone to discourage you from moving in a new direction. Commit to a new lease on life. Be patient, and be kind to yourself. And remember that it's okay if you have to rent it (keep trying) until you can own it.
 
 
I have a pet peeve. Well, actually, I have a few (remember, I'm still under construction), but one that has always stuck in my craw is when people don't say "thank you" in response to thoughtfulness, kindness, etc. Many years ago, a friend told me that whenever one does something from their heart, a thank you from the recipient should not be necessary. Deep down inside, I think that may be the right approach. But I'm not there yet. Clearly, there are some circumstances when a thank you isn't expected--for example, in the case of an anonymous gift to a known or unknown recipient. But when someone takes the time and/or makes an effort to show consideration to someone--and both the giver and recipient are known--I think a "thank you" should be given. Nothing extravagant is necessary, but at least an acknowledgement and expression of appreciation. For example, "thanks for opening or holding the door for me; thanks for letting me go before you in line at the grocery store; thanks for bringing me coffee; thanks for the thoughtful card and/or gift"; or waving to someone who allows you to move ahead of them in traffic, etc. Just common courtesy. Living abroad has made me more open-minded about many things, and I've learned a great deal about different cultures. But no matter where I've traveled or who I've met, a simple "thank you" in response to a gesture of kindness seems to be universal. Common courtesy. . . is it really too much to expect? Maybe. But I still have a ways to go on this one.
 

What If?

09/23/2014

3 Comments

 
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?


 
 
Have you struggled to accomplish something and attributed the struggle to an external source(s) or conflict(s)? Is it possible the struggle is, actually, within--for example, you feel inadequate, unworthy, fear failure, fear success, etc.? To determine the exact source of our struggle(s), it's often necessary to take time to assess and be honest with ourselves--to examine our patterns of behavior, our self-talk, whether/why we look for others' acceptance before acting, whether/why we allow others to limit us. And then we must garner the strength and courage to address the issue(s) head-on so we don't end up living our lives imagining what could have been if only we had faced the struggle(s) within.
 
 
Despite my best efforts, I continue to receive junk mail. The goal of those who solicit us with junk mail is to entice us, whet our appetite, pique our interest, sway our opinions, so we will accept or seek out what they're offering. If they can just get us to open the envelope or read the pamphlet, card, or insert, they may be successful in their pursuit. Some people appreciate receiving mail that solicits them for money, various products and/or services, participation in groups, etc. After all, it's possible something about which they weren't aware turns out to be of interest to them. Sometimes, it might be something they wouldn't be interested in under normal circumstances, but it reaches them at a time they're particularly vulnerable.

There's another type of junk mail we may receive--that presented to us via gossip, negativity, backbiting, discouragement, etc. Sometimes, we see it for what it is and immediately discard it. But what about when we're feeling vulnerable--for example, when someone hurts us and we hear gossip about them, or when we're struggling while pursuing a goal and someone discourages us? Acquiescing to this type of junk mail has a cost. It can permeate our spirit; cause us to make unwise decisions; and/or change the way we feel about someone/something. Personally, I try to treat it like any other junk mail and discard it. Otherwise, I'm allowing something worthless to distract me, and that has the possibility to detract from my joy.

 
 
We drink water to nourish and heal our bodies, run water to cleanse our bodies, and spray water to nourish our plants and lawns, grow our food, wash our vehicles, etc. And in the summer months, we often see people pour water over their bodies for temporary relief from the heat. Most of us have plenty of water at our disposal to use as we please. But how often, if ever, are we mindful of, and express gratitude for, the privilege of having easy and abundant access to clean, running water?

Last week, for the first time in my life, I thanked God for the water I was about to drink. I considered the blessing of having clean water at my fingertips for whatever purpose I choose to use it; and I realized I had been taking for granted its presence and availability in my life.

So many people around the world have limited access to clean water, and m
any have to walk for miles each day just to find water. So I'm giving thanks for water . . . a basic necessity for all, but a basic far too many have difficulty accessing.
 
 
Isn't it "funny" that when we can't manage to see ourselves a person or situation will come our way with a lesson that serves as a mirror? The key is to be willing to look.
 
 
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.
 
 
It's difficult to listen to the radio and/or television, or use the internet without being  subjected to something hateful, vitriolic, demeaning, and hurtful about someone or some group of people. Sometimes, we allow others' views to influence our opinions, attitudes, and actions towards others.

TODAY, what if we:

  • Have a conversation with, or say hello to, someone who differs from us in: age, appearance, culture, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual preference, political leanings, socioeconomic status, attitude, etc.? Try to understand a viewpoint different from our own? How can we understand others if we maintain distance from them? Why do we judge or criticize what we don't know or understand? Why do we paint others with our broad brush of intolerance based on our lack of knowledge or understanding, our fear, perceptions, assumptions, preferences, etc.? Why must we agree with someone, or be like them, to love or care about them or, at a minimum, treat them with dignity, kindness, and respect?

TODAY, what if we:

  • Lend a helping hand to a stranger? We're all strangers to someone and need a helping hand from time to time.

TODAY, what if we:

  • Show compassion to a homeless, or less fortunate, person in need? Why do we shun those we perceive to be "less than" or "beneath" us? Many of us live from paycheck to paycheck; are fearful of losing our jobs and benefits; have significant education, credit card, medical, and/or other debt, and know that it's nothing but the grace of God that we are able to keep our own heads above water.

TODAY,
what if we move outside our circles and our comfort zones and treat others the way we want to be treated? What if we loved--or tried to love--our neighbors (our fellow man/woman) as ourselves?


 
 
Love. Look for it. It's all around.
Joy. Look for it. It's all around.
Laughter. Listen for it. It's all around.
Peace. Look for it. It's all around.
Kindness. Look for it. It's all around.
Compassion. Look for it. It's all around.
Forgiveness. Look for it. It's all around.
Hope. Look for it. It's all around.

Did you find what you were looking for? If not in others, hopefully inside of you.