Friday Favorite: Day 33 of 365 Days of Motivation

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Whether your dream was the picket fence and 2 kids with the mini van and the handsome husband or the urban dream of living in Manhattan with  your lawyer wife or even living off the land after marrying a cowboy–this was never part of your dream.

Husbands and wives are supposed to raise children  and grow old together until old age silently steals one away from the other. This reality is far from that dream. It isn’t what you planned, but it doesn’t have to mean a life wasted.

This life is different, and probably harder than you had ever imagined a life could be. This life might be more of a challenge than you feel you can handle. Humans are resilient–able to meet intense challenges through dedication and hard work. Using their experiences, especially the difficult ones, to come back better, stronger, and more amazing than they knew possible.

This is where you are now: You can hold on to the life you had planned–the perfect life. Or, perhaps, you can accept that life is different, and allow yourself to see the new life that is waiting just beyond the fog.

Friday Favorite: Day 23 of 365 Days of Motivation

“God never intended you to go through something and get nothing out of it. He intended that every time you go through a test, for you to come out of it with something else on your boat that you never had before, so that when you run into your next test, you will say, ‘If God did that…'”   –T.D. Jakes

Every moment, good and bad, are meant to give us some tools–tools we didn’t have before. You might not learn these tools on purpose. You might not seek out these tools. Or you might do both of those things. Either way, you will learn. You might learn compassion or strength. It might increase your faith, break it, or both, respectively and then bring you back once more. You might gain wisdom and see the world in the different light. Even if you learn nothing else other than you can make it through something you once thought impossible– you have learned something impressive.

Now, like T.D. said,  if God can help you though this–if he can bring you out the other side of this–imagine what else He can do. If you can get through this, alive and happy once again–imagine what else YOU can do.

Friday Favorite: Day 12 of 365 Days of Motivation

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

–Thomas Merton

 

When something terrible happens, we want to know why.  That question occupies your days and your nights. It’s hard to have a thought without that question taking over.

It’s hard to understand why things happen. Why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to seemingly bad people. It is a question that is beyond the scope of our understanding. Life is a series of event and memories– many storms and celebrations. One event does not, tell the whole picture. One event could never tell the whole story.

The fact is, some things will never make sense. Chances are, you will never understand why this happened. Instead, focus on doing the best you can with this particular storm. As devastating as this is, these single events are meant to shape our lives. This event might be the event that confirms your beliefs, ignites your passion, or solidifies your strength.

Losing your loved one is not the total of who you are; losing your loved one is not your legacy.  It is another piece in the puzzle of life. Let it plant something on your soul.


Friday Favorite: I’ve Learned…

Preface: This was written just over a year ago. I have always liked this piece. For me, it is simple and to the point. When we grieve, we go back and forth between emotions (stages) and we get sort of lost and stuck. We have to take a little time to remember how to redirect ourselves. This is the way I stayed on the right path–this was my roadmap of sorts.
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I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Friday Favorite: Day 16

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” — Bern Williams

Life can’t be lived in reverse; we can’t change history. All we can do is the best we know how with what we have been handed. It may feel like you are completely broken and you don’t know how to fix it. Though you may feel broken, you are not. You are wounded, so deeply wounded–the wounds will heal.

This is a process, a journey. Give yourself time to go through the process fully. Life will never be the same, but it will get better. One day, when you look back at the day your life was shattered, you will see how far  you have come. There will come a day when life will be good again.

Friday Favorite: Mantra, War Cry…Same Thing

Most who know me, and many of you who read this blog, have noticed I find, create and live by different words, poems, or quotes. I don’t go around looking for words to live by. Instead, they seem to find me. They find me when I am unsure how to make the rain stop or the wind subside. They jump out of movies and books. Sometimes a friend’s story or blog makes me think in a way I never thought before. Those are words to live by.

I have my favorites. Typically, it is what ever got me through the most recent storm. There are storms so deeply personal or intense that no one else’s words seem to fit. In those moments, one has to look deep inside and muster some sort of reason or logic to survive. See, in times of trouble, I often do a lot of thinking and analyzing. I run through scenarios and possible answers to my problems. It’s in those times, I create my own mantra. It’s my war cry.

It’s the words that say, “You will get through this.” It’s the words that remind me this crisis will not last forever. There will be an after. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people. Good people see plenty of trouble, sometimes more than their share. And, often, when good people suffer, there is no logic or reason to the suffering. No way to explain it away or change the outcome. It’s those times that I know I couldn’t make it without my mantra, my war cry.

Until recently, I have always kept my mantras quiet, my war cry more of a whisper.  I protected myself because I was afraid. Afraid people would view me as stupid, simple, or naïve. I am not afraid anymore.

I realized long ago, I am average. If something has benefited me, chances are it will also benefit someone else.  No one gets through this world unscathed. No one can effectively navigate the rough seas alone. People need other people to survive. People need their own ideas to fill in the gaps where logic and reason fail to explain devastation. Everyone needs a mantra. When life leaves us feeling like wounded soldiers, we need a war cry.

Be listening for those unexpected words. Often, they are as much as one knows how to give. Allow them to seep into your heart. Let them be the mortar, holding the pieces together until you can heal. Find your mantra, your war cry.

Friday Favorite: Courage, No Better Friend (early edition)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

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Courage is an ever-changing, ever faithful friend.

Courage is always admirable, yet sometimes, remains elusive. Its form may change to fit each situation, but if you are dedicated, it’s always a perfect fit.

Courage can be loud. Courage is the tears military wives shed as they send their husbands to unknown parts of the world. Its Rosa Parks on a bus. Courage is the soldier who faces war.  It is the police officer who draws his weapon to protect you. It’s the child who seeks help for a friend. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage isn’t always loud. Sometime is a soft whisper or an inaudible murmur. It’s the struggle to put one foot in front of the other when adversity surrounds you.

Sometimes, life leaves you shattered; courage picks up the pieces so you can move forward. Courage is a child who sits in a hospital bed, sick. It’s the aged person who continues to get out of bed every day even when though they can’t remember whose house they are in. After an awful day, courage is the voice in your head that says, “tomorrow will be better.” Courage, if we are lucky, sits at our side as we hang off the edge of a cliff. Courage is heaven-sent.

Courage can roar or come as a whisper. It comes in all different sizes, shapes, and ages. It knows no color, pay scale, or sexual orientation. Courage, can never be underestimated. Whatever form, you will find no better friend. There are times in our lives that we lose our courage. There are even times when we fall so far down that we don’t care where it went.

You aren’t alone. It happens to the best, and the worst, of us. It’s okay to live in that moment. There will come a time, hopefully sooner than later, when you hear courage knocking at your door. Let it in. It will stay at your side. Courage will hold your hand and give worthwhile advice. Listen. It can re-build your spirit.

When you are ready, courage will help you put one foot in front of the other until  you can do it on your own. It will guide you, back to the person you once were. I know it is hard to hear all the cheery kinds of do-gooder ideas people give you. Don’t worry, they don’t believe it either. It’s just something nice to say when you have no idea what to say. It’s what you tell someone when you have no experience, ideas, or education that can help the situation.

You should know: They are right. It will get better. Eventually, it will be okay. It might never be the perfection you had imagined. It probably isn’t what you deserve, but it is what it is supposed to be, by divine design. And one day, it will be better. It will definitely be different, but different doesn’t mean terrible. It means different.

It doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen as easily as they might make it seem. There is no exact path. No right or wrong direction to travel. You might feel better one day and falling apart the next. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Live in the moment, don’t pass up life because it gets hard. Whatever it is, as much as it hurts, it’s worth living. Your courage, will help you.

Because of courage, you can accomplish anything, even the things that once seemed insurmountable. Please don’t give up. Whether it is money, kids, family, illness, career, or even death of a loved one–it will be better one day. Your friend has your back.

Take a deep breath, and say hello to your best friend, courage.

Day 56: 365 Days of Motivation

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”   –Anais Nin

I think we all want to crawl into a little ball when tragedy strikes our heart; sometimes our desire outweighs our courage–at least in the beginning. Facing life after your course is suddenly, unwillingly changed is difficult. Shrinking into the smallest space we can exist somehow becomes easy.

What isn’t easy, is finding out way back to the surface. Taking steps, moving forward, being willing to face life is a challenge, maybe the most challenging task yet. Get ready, because living life again, to its fullest is even more challenging.

Perhaps life once held you hostage in a box, when courage couldn’t be found–no more. Stand tall and walk with courage. If you do, you will feel fresh air in your lungs, sun on your face and a drive to move forward.

Relentless Replay

Loss is powerful. Whether the loss is the loss of a lifestyle. Or maybe it is a spouse or a child or an aunt or a grandfather. It could be the loss of the family pet. Perhaps you are mourning the loss of a close friendship. You could even be mourning the loss of your health as you face a medical crisis. These are just some examples, the list is expansive.

All loss is different, even if it is the same type of loss, and they aren’t comparable. Many people lose their grandparents. None of our experiences are the same because my grandparents were different and I am different. Even two people who die from Alzheimer’s are not the same and their families loss is not the same. No other widow shares my exact experience either.

Even so, loss is a great equalizer. We all hurt when we lose something or someone precious. No person’s loss is greater or less relevant that someone else’s. In that sense, loss is the same–it hurts. 

It’s also true that while our experiences with grief are different, there are parts of grief, regardless of who you are or what you’ve lost, that are the same. For example, people who are grieving, tend to be rather disorganized and forgetful. This can make people feel almost crazy. Rest assured, you aren’t crazy (there is one thing you don’t have to worry about)–in fact, you are quite normal.

It is hard to do everything you need to do in order to tie up loose ends as well as remember to help kids with homework or drive the correct route home from work (we have all done it) and buy groceries. Which is probably why so many of us grieving are typically rather exhausted! There is an emotional and mental stress far more powerful than any set of exercises at depleting energy. And, a little nap probably won’t do much good. Be patient; keep working at keeping up with the routine. As you heal you will get there.

That brings us to another piece of grieving–lack of motivation. Chances are things that normally would have sent you rolling in the aisle laughing, now leaves you with only a little smirk. Or special nights out used to make you giddy with excitement now make you want to climb back in bed and just forget about it. Once again, it is normal. Keep fighting the urge. Where the smile anyway, try to get out even when you don’t feel like it. Staying inside and wrapping yourself in grief can be (ironically) comforting and facing the world very uncomfortable. If you don’t slowly start to face the world, it might turn into a habit that could be more life altering than your grief. It can take you to inwardly sad state quickly and it’s hard to turn it around.

I can deal with all of those things. The one characteristic that gets me the most is the relentless replay in my brain. This memory and that memory. Sadness and happiness. It is really hard to stay on task or sleep when your brain constantly heads back to the good times before your life fell apart.

Just like a broken record, here it comes again. It interrupts your thoughts, your music, and even dominates your conversations. It fills the space meant for dreaming. There is no escaping it. Every time it creeps in, unwelcome, and the tears flow. It’s hard to sleep through tears. It’s hard to focus through the haze of memories. It’s hard to feel rested when images constantly run through your head.

No surprises here, with these things going on, people who are grieving can be rather quick to lash out. A once patient person suddenly loses all desire to baby someone else when their own life is crumbling. Comments that never would have given you a second thought before are suddenly fighting words. Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

These things are challenges that nearly all of us grieving feel. You may feel some or all of these. You might be feeling them but had no idea what was going on. Now that you are aware, you can take some steps.

Be patient with yourself and with others. If this is hard for you, imagine how hard it is for people watching you. See, for them, their lives have gone back to normal and all fairness, you look normal. So, when others see these characteristics of grief shining bright, they really might think you have just turned into the meanest person on earth or a sudden air- head. Grieving being what it is, you have zero desire to baby them along and open your sadness to share with the world. I understand, oh boy do I understand. And, maybe you don’t have to do all of that. Maybe you just say, “I am still struggling, I might need some time to adjust.” and leave it at that.

Here is a big one that is oh so hard to do–rest. Get yourself on a regular schedule. At night you lay awake because you can’t sleep and there is not time for naps because of kids or work and you are so tired, but when it’s time to lay down at night all you can think about is what you should have done and how things used to be…the list is endless. Try to set a regular schedule and stick to it. Even when you don’t feel like you have had enough sleep, don’t hit the snooze, get up and get moving. It will make going to sleep at night much easier. If you feel like taking a nap, talk yourself into a relaxing walk instead.

Go the gym. It feels great to run your tail off or slam a punching bag. It helps you sleep, empties some anger, and the bonus of a stronger tougher you will emerge. Believe me when I say, you won’t regret it.

Lastly, and maybe the most important, seek outside support. Find a support group or find a counselor to talk to, or both.  Be honest. If someone asks how you are doing, don’t feel obligated to give the ‘good’ or ‘doing okay’ answer. If you are having a crappy day, say it, maybe you need to just get it out. Things are so much heavier if you carry the load alone. If you share it and allow someone else to carry part of the burden, you will be surprised how much easier the rest of the day or week can be.

All of this is from either my own experience or watching others along the way. I am not an expert. It doesn’t mean everyone falls into this box or follows a certain pattern, but it gives you a great place to start. Accept where you are and work on ending the relentless replay. This grief will creep in every now and again probably forever, but it won’t be in the front of your mind day in and day out and you will be able to live again. It will feel so good!

 

 

Day 55: 365 Days of Motivation

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
                                –Richard Bach

I have said this before, and I will say it again, this isn’t the end of you. It is the end of this chapter. This may be the end of the life you were living. It probably will be the end of you that existed before this event, but this is not the end of you.

Just like the caterpillar, chances are you have locked yourself away in your own cocoon. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we all need that time. We need time to weep uncontrollably to the depths our lungs will allow. We need to lay still, nearly lifeless–feeling nothing but the pounding in our head. Lets be honest, we are no good to anyone in that moment anyway. Like the caterpillar, there will come a time when we need to emerge.

We need to be ready to grab our new station in life and figure out our place in the world. It’s a difficult and bitter moment that we leave the safety of our broken heart to face the new world we were thrust into. It’s easy to be angry, unsteady, and even unwilling. I can’t imagine it being anything other way than challenging–a challenge we never asked for–and certainly never agreed to take, yet here it is, staring us down.

When caterpillars emerge from their cramped cocoon, it takes them a little while, but they spread their wings and fly. Decide to take that challenge right now. Take a step out of that dark space and when you feel the fresh air, spread those wings and look at the colors you bring to the world. They’re there, I promise.

It is true this is different and something you never wanted–it isn’t going to be easy. People will look at you differently than before. Living alone is harder than you ever imagined. Not being able to share those day-to-day moments with your best friend will be one of the hardest things you will ever do–do it anyway. If you are open to living again, and committed to the process of rediscovery, you will have made the full transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Possibilities are endless when you have learned to soar.