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.
 
 
It's been said that what others think of us is none of our business. But many of us spend a significant amount of time worrying about what others think and/or trying to please others, many of whom mean well and/or want the best for us. As a result, some live in bondage, full of fear and insecurities, unable to make decisions on their own. While there are times in life when we need guidance, support, and encouragement, it's important that we learn how and when to forge our own paths, without seeking validation/approval. We're all unique. How can we find our life's purpose or forge our own path if we don't learn to appreciate and rely upon our own faith, gifts, skills, strengths, values, talents, sensibilities, creativity, etc.? Always concerning ourselves with what others think may result in others dictating our life's journey. That makes it their journey, not ours. If we follow their path, anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction may result.

When we forge our own path, there will be mistakes, setbacks, and challenges. They are part of life's journey, and I don't know anyone who hasn't experienced them. Even if we're not successful on a path we take, it's the path we chose. That means we must accept responsibility for it, and the lessons are ours to learn. Is there the possibility of hearing, "I told you so", and "Oh, well", if the path we take turns out to be a bad one? Absolutely. And is it possible we'll need help? Yes.
But it's important to bear in mind that just like we chose one path, we can choose another. It may not be easy, but we shouldn't allow that to deter us. If we want to accomplish something, we should take as many paths as necessary to get there. Many successful people experienced some of their greatest successes after suffering disappointments and defeats on a path they chose. They succeeded because they stayed focused on their end game, and changed or corrected their course as necessary to get there.

In my own life, I've found it's easier to swallow the bitter pill of mistakes, challenges, and setbacks when I'm minding my own business--that is, forging my own path. Truth be told, those who may offer opinions have been there themselves.

 
 
A fictional conversation:

Overcomer: I'm pursuing my dream to [fill in the blank].
Fear: You know you've had some issues in the past, my love. Don't you fear failing?!
Overcomer: Everyone has had issues. What I fear is living a life of regret for not trying to fulfill my dream.

Fear: But what if you fail?!
Overcomer: What if I succeed?

Fear: Let's talk about that. Don't you fear what success can bring?
Overcomer: I'll let you know when I get there.

Overcomer: Fear, there's something I need to tell you.
Fear: What is it, dear? You know you can tell me anything. And you can count on me to point out your weaknesses so you don't get beside yourself. I'll always be here for you.
Overcomer: That's the problem. I've been in bondage because I've allowed you to keep me focused on my weaknesses. While I'm mindful of my weaknesses, I've decided to no longer be controlled by them. Instead, I'm focusing on my growth, my faith, my strengths, and the lessons I've learned. To that end, I need to tell you that your lease has been terminated, effective immediately!!! I took the liberty of packing your bags.
Your stuff has been taking up way too much space in my life. Bye, bye.


 
 
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LIVING MY JOY
Recently, I saw a little girl around the age of 3 dressed as a princess, waving a wand. She looked at me and said, "I'm on my boat." Clearly, she was using her imagination as we were standing on the ground. How wonderful it would be to one day learn that she owns a boat and/or a company that builds or sells boats. And it made me wonder, when do we lose that--our sense of imagination; our ability to envision things in our minds that don't [yet] exist? That's the stuff dreams are made of, right?

For the longest time, I thought everyone had dreams. It wasn't until I started speaking mine into existence and asking others about theirs that I discovered that's not the case. Some never had dreams; some had their dreams dashed; others believed their life circumstances made dreaming futile. But there are plenty of us who do have dreams. Those who think in terms of possibility rather than futility. In other words, that it's not over until it's over.

Having been blessed to realize most of my dreams, I know it's not easy. If you've been following this blog, you know I realized my dream to live in Paris, France as a result of illness. The dream existed many years before my move, and never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned making the move while ill, let alone because of illness. That wasn't in my DNA. I didn't take such risks. Who in their right mind (some, I'm sure, questioned mine) would move to a foreign country, speaking little of the language, and wing it while ill? Me! Yes, indeed! Because that's where I needed to be to get the help/blessing I needed. And, honestly, when I moved it wasn't about living my dream, it was about getting help. But when the clouds began to lift, I saw a rainbow--the beauty in my journey. I was living my dream. Illness was a major blow to many aspects of my life, but it never occurred to me to let go of my dream. It felt like it was slipping away, and the journey to get there was far different than I imagined, but with the help of God and lots of love and support, I got there.

For those who have dreams and might be discouraged, I challenge you and encourage you to hold on. Don't lose your sense of wonder. Dare to imagine. Dare to dream. Speak your dream into existence, and take steps consistent with realizing it. Your path may be different than you envisioned--detours may be necessary. It may take longer than you imagined--life often brings delays. The ride may be bumpy. But hold on. Even when it's dark, hope can provide light. You never know what's on the horizon.

 
 
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.
 
 
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Living My Joy
Conventional wisdom says we should live below our means, specifically, our financial means. Makes sense, right? Because living above our financial means can have repercussions that ripple throughout our lives.

I've been living above my means for years. Not my financial means, but my life's means--my own personal capabilities to make things happen. When confronted with circumstances I cannot handle on my own--for example, forgiving what seems unforgivable, mustering the strength and courage to handle serious health issues, dealing with life's various setbacks, living my dreams, etc.,--I find it necessary to tap into my faith line of credit. Sometimes, the amount available is very small. But I've found that each time I access the line, my faith balance grows. My repayment plan consists of regular deposits of gratitude for what I have and what's on the way, as well as sharing my journey (the challenges and the victories) with others to provide encouragement. Living beyond my means is recognition and acceptance that winging it is sometimes/ofttimes necessary. And through it all, I'm still standing.
 
 
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Living My Joy
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Living My Joy
We often face circumstances in life where we believe that if we can direct, or gain control of, the situation, things will get better. Sometimes, this is, indeed, the case. But I have learned that many of my challenges are best resolved when after doing all I can do, I throw up my hands--not to give up--but in surrender to what is beyond my control, having faith that it's fully in God's control.

 

Today!

05/14/2013

2 Comments

 
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Living My Joy

1) Am I grateful for today? Yes.
2) Do I intend to give today, and all with whom I interact, my best? I do.
3) Will I continue to work on not letting my past dictate my present? I will.
4) Will I stop procrastinating and do (or at least begin) the things I say I want/need to do? I will.
5) When will I begin? Today!

As we know, tomorrow is not promised. We must live today, cherish today, and act today.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Theresa.

"Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games." Babe Ruth

"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." Will Rogers
 
 
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Do you ever view life through the lens of bowling? Sometimes (ok, maybe just today) I do.

Strikes and spares. (Living my dreams) It's awesome when I roll a strike--meaning things turn out the way I planned. What a euphoric feeling and tremendous confidence booster. But there are times I roll the ball and it looks like I'm headed for a strike, and at the last minute the ball curves to the left or the right. What?! Desperate for a shift, I lean in the opposite direction of the ball (sometimes with the other foot lifted) and wave my hands in the direction of my lean, thinking that somehow the ball can detect my energy and miraculously turn in time for me to get the strike. (Those of you who bowl are familiar with this maneuver.) While things like this happen from time to time (i.e., just when I think I've lost out, something shifts in my favor), many times I have to be content with trying to pick up the spare--Plan B. If successful, at least I'll get something for my effort. Later on, with some distance, I find that Plan B was just fine.

Splits. (In the midst) There are other times in my life when it looks like I'm about to throw a strike, and lo and behold it's a split--right down the middle. In those cases, I have to decide whether it's worth trying to throw a curve ball to pick up the spare (outside my comfort zone), or just concentrate on getting whatever I can. It's a difficult decision, and sometimes I don't know what to do. But whatever decision I make I've got to be willing to live with it. So I reach into my arsenal of experience and step outside my comfort zone knowing it's a growth opportunity. And even if I get nothing in addition, I'll be grateful for what I have.

Gutter balls. (Baggage) Finally, there are those dreadful times in my life when I throw gutter balls--sometimes in succession. I don't mean to, but some things just don't work out at all. I go in to each situation believing (at a minimum, hoping) I'm going to roll a strike--especially when I know I'm giving it my best. But sometimes there are lessons I need to learn, which may only be presented through the gutter balls. And after throwing gutter balls, I may be so disappointed, frustrated, or devastated that I fall on my knees--especially depending upon what is at stake. In those instances, I have to examine and address the issues that caused the problem to avoid the same result in the future.

Lesson learned. Don't get too comfortable with the wins, or discouraged after the losses. Whether I throw a strike, spare, split, or gutter ball, it's important to remember that until the game is over there's always another frame.