I used to complain like it was a badge of honor. Life was bringing me down, and I wanted everyone to know. I couldn't see it at the time, but being a constant complainer was a drag; it only served to make me feel worse about my life and, in the process, bring down others around me--at least those who did not also have complaining spirits. But as the adage says, "water seeks its own level", so I spent plenty of time with others with complaining spirits. Tragically, we were our own support group. Being around others who weren't in the group--you know, the grateful, joyful folks--was uncomfortable and annoying. What did they have to be "happy" about? They, too, had problems, so they were just faking it so everyone would believe their lives were great, or their problems weren't as bad as mine. That's how I used to think before I found, and committed to, joy. Back then I seemed to be more interested in complaining than taking action(s) to change my circumstances. I sometimes took "comfort" in bad circumstances rather than taking the risk of stepping outside my comfort zone to make things better. That was too scary. Have you ever been there? I should have been afraid of killing my soul because that's what was happening. No doubt, there were some circumstances that were beyond my control. But if I couldn't change my circumstances, what about working to change myself? Nope. I was mired in self-pity, so that option didn't occur to me at the time.

Now, I'm in a different support group--one for grateful, joyful folks. Some think joyful people don't need support and encouragement. To the contrary, we need it like everyone else--maybe more--since there is always something or someone trying to steal our joy. Don't get me wrong, I still complain from time to time, but it's no longer my way of life. As I've written in a previous blog post, joy is now my default mechanism. I've got more blessings than problems.
When I focus on my problems, I overlook my blessings--all that's good in my life. And even in my problems I can find blessings if I'm willing and able to look beyond the immediate. Honestly, if I found benefits in having a complaining spirit I might regain an appetite for it. But there's no value in it--not for me. So, I'll stick with being one of those grateful, joyful folks. The rewards are great!

 
 
We are ofttimes myopic in our thinking when we've set a goal(s), and march full force ahead in the pursuit of it. We know what we want, we know when we want it, and we know how we plan to go about accomplishing it. But sometimes in our quest, we overlook the beauty in the process. There's beauty in deciding to do something we've never done; trying something new or different; stepping outside our comfort zone; taking steps to improve ourselves. What about the joy of taking the first step toward reaching your goal? There's beauty there. Did we learn something new? There's beauty there. Did we meet new people who are making the same journey? There's beauty there. Did we learn something about ourselves we never knew? There's beauty there. Did we inspire or encourage someone else by beginning our project/moving towards our goal? There's beauty there. If we take the time to look, there's beauty to be found right there in the midst of our journey. And it's important not to miss it. Because in the event it takes longer than we planned to reach our goal(s), or the goal doesn't fulfill us in the way we thought it would, it just may be the beauty we found in the journey that helps to sustain us.
 
 
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Many of us are fortunate to be able to affirm ourselves, and have people in our lives who affirm us. But there are many who have no one to affirm them and, for whatever reason, are incapable of affirming themselves. Perhaps they feel lost, broken, wounded, rejected, dejected, worthless, hopeless, etc. Some don't even have the strength or ability to seek affirmation. They may fear rejection and/or embarrassment in doing so. What a difference we can make in the lives of others if we take a moment to affirm them. It can be as simple as offering a smile, saying hello, offering a hug, a compliment, a word of comfort or encouragement--letting people know they are seen, worthy of love, respect, support, compassion. Whether it's a stranger, a co-worker, an acquaintance, etc., we don't know what battles people are fighting on any given day. We often judge what we see, but the truth often lies in the unseen. We don't know who or what people go home to each day, assuming they have a home. We make assumptions based on limited knowledge, but we don't know. What will it cost us to affirm others? A little time and effort.

But what if we're presented with an opportunity to affirm someone we don't particularly like? What about someone we know doesn't like us? Or someone who has hurt us? Challenging, indeed. Will it cost us? Maybe. We may need to let down our guard, overlook our pride, our anger, our perceived need to hold on to a grudge or to be right, offer our time, effort, etc.--even if only temporarily. And there's always the possibility our efforts may be rebuffed, and we may suffer embarrassment. But if we are able to overcome those potential obstacles and make an attempt, we may find it is a salve not only for the person we affirm, but our own souls as well. And what if the person does rebuff our attempt to affirm them or continues with behavior we find offensive or unacceptable? As for me, if I've done what's in my heart, I'm learning to leave the rest to the person and God. That doesn't mean I won't have feelings about it, but I can only control my actions, not how others respond.

Whether affirming a stranger or someone we know, our act might just bring a ray of sunshine into the life of someone in need of a respite from life's rains. It could be the difference between someone holding on and giving up. While the gesture may seem small or inconsequential to us, it could change the course of someone's life.

Can you imagine your life without affirmation?

 

Rain

10/04/2010

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Is it raining where you are? It seems like it has been raining everywhere lately.  Of course, the rain has been heavier in some places than in others.  Some got drizzle, some got a steady rain, and some got torrential rains. I don't know about you, but I used to dislike rain.  It's wet, and things look dark and dreary in the rain.  Driving in the rain can be treacherous, dirt becomes mud, and so on, and so on.  Plus, I'm a Black woman who has hair issues when it rains.  One of my aunts used to call rain "God's liquid sunshine."  That sounded cute, but it didn't work for me at the time.

What a difference time and life circumstances have made in my appreciation of rain.  To say I like rain now would be a stretch.  But sometimes, when it's drizzling, I purposely delay putting on my rain hat or opening my umbrella until I feel a few drops.  Yes, even with my Black woman's hair issues.  Why?  Because those few drops have the ability to jolt me into the moment and remind me then and there that I'm alive.  Of course, I know I'm alive since I'm breathing, but sometimes I am so focused on what's going on in my life or what I must do that I need a reminder to be in the here and now.   And since we need rain for things to grow, it's difficult not to appreciate the steady rains--as long as they don't last for days, right?  Also, I think some things just look better in the rain.  For example, I think San Francisco and Paris are more beautiful and romantic when it's raining.  But torrential rains are quite another matter.  Recently, we've seen the damaging effects in the US, Haiti, and Pakistan, among other places.  It's often difficult to find anything redeeming about torrential rains when they leave death and destruction in their wake.

I find that the figurative rains in my life often have the same effects as the literal rains.  The drizzles get my attention.  The steady rains stimulate growth--that is, if I'm smart enough to learn the lessons.  And sometimes when life's rains make things look dark and dreary, with time I am able to gain better perspective on things.  Although the torrential rains may wreak havoc, sometimes it's because I haven't learned a lesson from the steady rains.  Or, sometimes it has nothing to do with something I have or haven't done, but is meant to take me to another level--to strengthen me for new opportunities.  When I was growing up, I used to hear older people say, "There's never been a storm that didn't end."  That's true.  And while I can't tell you I have grown to like the rain, I can tell you that I certainly appreciate the sunshine more after the rain.