Do Better December 29th 2014 How I Intend to Live

29 Dec

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The holidays are winding down for most. Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice have all passed. Kwanzaa is half over and the New Year is only a few days away. Some people are hanging on to the last moments of 2014 and savoring them. Some are eagerly anticipating the New Year for the fresh start it promises, and some are praying next year will be better than this one because if it gets worse, they’re not sure they can handle it. I’ve been in all of these situations at one time or another, but I have come to understand that no matter how bad the year might seem, when I look at the reality of it, my life has always been more good than bad. Even the year both my father and my father in law passed within months of each other and someone dear to me had a nervous breakdown was filled with more joyful moments than sadness because one of my sons was born and brought joy to everyone with his sweet and loving demeanor. Even the year I spent eight weeks in the hospital before my youngest son was born with a lifelong medical condition is filled with memories of birthday and Fat Tuesday parties in the nurses’ lunchroom at the hospital that they so graciously let us use. It’s filled with memories of the fierce love and bond we developed with our son, despite his five week stay in the hospital after he was born and the countless doctor visits after he came home. We’ve weathered financial loss, personal loss and even the loss of our healthy bodies, but one thing stays the same. We choose to focus on the blessings rather than the loss. We choose to live consciously, authentically and in gratitude as much as we can.

I understand that many people are suffering, but what I’ve noticed is that most suffering, not all, is self-induced. We worry about what might happen. We complain about what has happened. We justify our negativity and victimhood and wallow in the emotional muck of it all. Think about it. When we feel bad, we want everyone to jump on our pity train. We want people to say how justified we are in our negativity and maybe we are, but why stay there? It makes me cringe every time I hear or read that someone refuses to “get over” a tragedy. One of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard on that subject was on Dr. Phil’s show. I hardly ever watch the show, but for some reason I was drawn to it one day. The story was about a woman whose daughter was murdered. Her daughter’s brutalized body was found naked on a trash heap in a landfill. The mother only had a single earring that her daughter was wearing to hang onto. The mother was in a deep depression and refused to move forward because she was so sad about how her daughter had died. She could not get passed the idea that her daughter was murdered and was thrown away like a piece of trash. As she said, no one deserved to be treated like that, and worse yet, there were no suspects, so it was likely that her daughter’s murderers would be free while she was tortured by their actions. Who wouldn’t feel compassion for this woman? The loss of a child is every parent’s nightmare and the way her daughter died could not have been much worse. If anyone was justified in her grief, it was this mother.

As I said, I rarely watch Dr. Phil, but I know his reputation for being straightforward to the point of brutality on occasion. I wondered how he would handle this lady and what I saw was amazing. Dr. Phil was kind and understanding. He validated that no parent should have to suffer what she suffered. He looked at her and told her that he understood her sadness and grief, and then he asked about the woman’s daughter. He asked what she was like, and like every parent she began to talk about the best qualities of her daughter. She talked about her daughter’s laugh and love of life. You could see and hear the love she had for her daughter, and then Dr. Phil said something that rocked her world. He asked her if her daughter would be proud of the way she was handling her death. She said she knew that her daughter would want her to be happy and not mourn and would be angry with her for being sad and depressed. Dr. Phil then asked her why she was focusing on the worst moment in both of their lives instead of all of the beautiful moments they had while she was alive. You could actually see the shift in the woman’s face and the realization that she had a choice in how to handle her daughter’s life and death. You could almost feel the weight being lifted from her, and when she returned to the show six months later, she barely looked like the same woman. On the original show, she was dressed plainly, wore no makeup and looked like a woman in pain and grief. On the follow up show, she was dressed nicely, had her hair done, wore a small amount of makeup and actually smiled. She had lost 20 pounds that she had put on after her daughter’s death and best of all, her other daughter, who was still living at home, said she had gotten her mother back. Before, the living daughter said she felt like she lost both her mother and her sister that day. Now she had hope that they could both live a better life. You could see the changes and the mother looked years younger than she had before. It was a moment of great clarity for me and a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Because of that woman and her family, I whine less and focus differently. I know that when people come looking for sympathy I can appear uncaring, but I’ve chosen to adopt a way of being that looks for the good in everything, and I can almost always find it. Am I always happy? No, but I am always looking for a brighter moment after I have my moment of anger, doubt or sadness. In our father’s cancers, we found the gift of being able to talk, to heal and to let go with grace and love. Through my son’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I have become an advocate, not just for him, but for anyone who needs my help. I ask the difficult questions, not with malice and accusation, but with a genuine concern for all involved and to find the best solution for all. When I am living this way, I feel connected to the best of the Universe, and I feel a deep connection to my Divine path. I see that there are horrors in this world, and I know that they are opportunities for people to follow their own Divine paths. I see suffering in this world and know that I can dive into it or encourage others to rise through it. I read about others’ trials and tribulations and send them as much love as I can because I know that diving into the abyss with them does no one any good unless I bring a ladder and a rope for us to climb out together.

I used to try to hide my negative feelings. I used to think that people should change. I used to struggle against what is and what was, and I suffered, a lot. I still fall into those patterns now and then, but I’ve spent years teaching myself to think differently. Now I mostly realize that my negative feelings mean I am resisting the way life is or the way someone is, and I can choose to release that or do something to change the world. I can speak up or keep quiet. I can be at peace with whatever choice I make, and it is up to others whether they are at peace at the same time. When you choose to live this way, there comes a moment when you realize that every negative reaction to anything you do or say has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. You can choose to remain calm and loving when your child melts down, you tell your boss something unpleasant, or you broach a difficult topic with your spouse. You can train yourself to be calm and centered and think rather than to react and spew emotion all over the place. You may not be successful all of the time, but the more you practice, the better you’ll be at it, and the more authentic you’ll feel as a human being. I’m not talking about stuffing your emotions because that isn’t healthy for anyone. I’m talking about examining your emotions, especially those that make you feel bad, and seeing them in a different light. I’m suggesting that you stop putting people down or living like a martyr and instead choose to elevate yourself. The results are life altering. For me, learning to focus on living and acting intentionally made me feel like a grown up for the first time in my life. It was like finding the answer I had been looking for to every question I have ever had. It was bliss, and in those moments I live those intentions fully, my life is the best it’s ever been. I live better. I love better, and I am better.

That’s what I want for all of you as you wind down 2014 and set your sights on 2015. Figure out what your intentions are. Figure out who you would like to be in 2015 and how you would like to feel. If you are feeling negative emotion, ask yourself what you can do to feel better. If the answer is that something needs to happen that you can’t control, ask a different question. Ask yourself what you could do in this moment to feel just a little better. You don’t jump from the bottom of a mountain to the top. You take it one step at a time. The same is true with creating a life you love to live. Decide what is at the top of your mountain and begin to take the steps to get there. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself there quicker than you think and then you can take the big leap to the next mountain or maybe even the stars. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to live? It does to me. It feels authentic and Divine and empowering and I wish that for all of you. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.


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