How Did We Get Here?

Like quicksand under our feet, we’ve been sinking into a dark, dank abyss. Many have drawn attention to this slow, yet steady slide, but their cries for help have mostly been ignored, even dismissed. How did we get here? The list is lengthy…

A lack of common courtesy and respect

The fracturing of our two-party system

Inability to disconnect from devices

Shrinking of the middle class

Improper care of the elderly

Dismissal of climate change

Living beyond our means

Ageism in the workplace

Unaffordable healthcare

Lack of a living wage

Overcrowded prisons

Unhealthy lifestyles

Mental health crisis

Displaced veterans

Frivolous lawsuits

Human trafficking

Animal extinction

Harried lifestyles

Opioid epidemic

Corporate greed

Unemployment

Mass shootings

Discrimination

Homelessness

Pay inequality

Working poor

Animal abuse

Hate crimes

Materialism

Hurricanes

Tornadoes

Wildfires

Addiction

Pollution

Bullying

Drought

Poverty

Racism

Fraud

Virus

I’ve often pondered the questions, “What can I do? What can one person do?” The answer, I believe, lies within the lyrics, co-written in 1955 by the husband-wife team of Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller. (Thanks, Brian, for the reminder.)

“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

We are at a critical juncture in time. Do we continue our downward spiral or do we grasp the lifeline and begin our ascent? I say we take this unprecedented opportunity to save ourselves, our planet, our creatures, our humanity.

We have the power to turn this around, and the time is now. Will you do your part?

 

 

Moving Forward

I’ve been aware for quite some time that our thoughts, words, and actions have wings. That is, everything we think, say, and do makes its way into our world, our consciousness. We need to be mindful, now more than ever, of this universal force.

There will come a time when our restrictions will be lifted. Businesses and schools will reopen, restaurants will have dine-in options, and grocery stores won’t be stripped bare of their wares. People will say, “I’ve gone back to work,” or “Things are returning to normal.”

I think we should refrain from using terms like “going back” or “returning to normal” as this dismisses much of the forward progress that’s taking place as we speak. We’re experiencing a new way of life, making use of time many of us have never had. People are creating and embracing new ways of engaging with their families, friends, and neighbors—family game night, spending time in nature walking, playing, or just sitting, singing from balconies, checking off to-do list items, using phones for chats not scrolling.

If we go back to our harried and often self-absorbed way of life, we’ve missed the lessons that have been placed right in front of us. What’s happening now is so much more than a virus. It’s a wakeup call. It’s an opportunity to restructure the way we live, reprioritize our daily agendas, and increase the time spent enjoying one another.

It’s our chance to do and be better.

Rahul Gandhi says it this way:

“It is the time to move ahead and bring the change.”

Gratitude

My message today is about adopting the “attitude of gratitude.” Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful: thankfulness.” If you aren’t a regular practitioner of expressing gratitude, now’s the perfect time to start! Instead of dwelling on what’s been taken away, put all of your time, energy, and focus into appreciating and being thankful for what you have.

I started a gratitude journal years ago when Oprah was preaching about it on her show. Over time, I fell out of practice. I returned to it last summer after reading Melody Beattie’s book, Make Miracles in Forty Days. There’s no right or wrong way to practice expressing gratitude. You can jot down a list in a notebook or journal, or simply take a few moments to make a mental note of the people, places, and/or things you’re grateful for. Try to come up with at least three items. (Ms. Beattie suggests ten.) Do what’s best for you—just take the time to do it. Oh, and this exercise can also be done with children, even fairly young ones.

I’m grateful for our connection, which enables me to share this unprecedented time with you. I’ll end with a quote from Zig Ziglar:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

 

Planting the Seeds for Growth

We are currently living in unchartered territory. Our way of life has changed drastically, with little time for preparation. We’ve literally been turned upside down, which means our view has changed. What will you do with this new view?

We’ve been given the chance to restructure our lives, and these changes need not be temporary. They can last far beyond our current situation. I received an email this morning from Dean Graziosi and Tony Robbins. The message was delivered with perfect timing. I share the gist of it below and offer it as food for thought in relation to your own life and this opportunity we’ve been given. Yes, I call it an opportunity.

 

The truth is, I’m watching people all around me take two different paths…

Some are watching the news, scrolling social media or catching up on Netflix shows because they’re scared and can only either focus on the worst, or are trying to distract themselves. 

But when I look at my friends who have been successful over years and years no matter what situation comes up, you know what they’re doing?

They’re GROWING. 

Here’s the reality—those who don’t use this as a time of growth are actually self-selecting to be stuck and fall behind when this is over. 

 

And so, my friends, to borrow and bend the famous line from Mary Oliver’s poem:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your opportunity for growth?

Love ya, mean it!

Choose Love

A few weeks ago, I had an idea to post something positive every day, a way to counteract the negative we’re constantly bombarded with. I was busy finishing up a writing class, so I pushed this project to the side. And then COVID-19 came to the United States, impacting our lives in an unprecedented way. These are uncertain times, no doubt, but we’ve been given an opportunity to make significant, constructive changes in the way we live our lives and to reconsider what we deem “important.”

We’re learning we can live, even thrive, without some of the things we once took for granted or considered a necessity. We’re also being reminded that our connection to one another is our top priority. We’re in this together, and together we can and will survive whatever comes our way.

I hope you’ll make the best use of your situation. If you’re at home, use the extra time to get caught up on chores, reading, movies, projects, your email inbox, etc. Use your phone to call and catch up with family and friends. Learn something new via YouTube videos, listen to podcasts, spend time outdoors, dig out old recipes and whip them up for dinner, dance to old CD’s, snuggle with your kids and pets. Many of us have been given the gift of time, so don’t waste it or poo poo it. Embrace it.

And one last thing. There are only two real emotions: LOVE and fear. The two cannot coexist. Period. Choose LOVE. Try to avoid using words like scary, frightening, and afraid. If you find yourself succumbing to fear, find your way back to LOVE. The Beatles summed it up best:

“All you need is love. Love is all you need.”

 

 

 

 

 

Her Hands

Her hands, so tiny and delicate, rested gently on her mother’s breast as she suckled, filling her belly with the sweet, tepid, nourishing elixir of life.

Her hands grasped the soft, squishy cushion of the sofa as she righted herself, tenuously stepping into the next phase of life.

Her hands stuffed the pack she hoisted onto her back as she ambled out the door, skipping towards the bus stop. 

Her hands, now large enough to shield her ears, muffled the horror emanating from within her home as her father used his hands to unleash his rage and fury upon one of her brothers. 

Her hands were splayed over her coffee-colored hair as she cowered, curled into a ball, when it became her turn to bear the brunt of a father’s wrath.

Her hands clasped a bouquet of freshly-cut, virgin-white roses as she fled from one man into the arms of another who vowed to love, honor, cherish, and protect her “until death do us part.”

Her hands caressed the pinkish, pulpy, plump cheeks of each of her boys as they traded the toasty, snug, floaty space of her womb for a chance at life.

Her hands bandaged the bruised and bloody knees of her tow-headed toddler after he tipped his tricycle onto the jagged, unforgiving, gray slab of cement. He sucked in air between sniffles and sobs as her fingers worked their boo boo magic. 

Her hands scrubbed and de-cluttered the rooms of her once bustling home, preparing the walls for a fresh slathering of color. One by one, her sons, now young men, donned their wings and flew the coop, leaving her with an empty nest and an opportunity to reinvent herself.

Her hands wiped the sticky, jelly-stained face of a child who reminds her of a young boy who too, often wore the evidence of a made-with-love, PB&J sandwich. This yellow-haired youngin’ calls her Mamaw.

Her hands clutched a damp, wadded tissue used to soak up the salty tears spilling from her orbs as she retold the story of her tumultuous, terror-filled childhood within the confines of the safe, tranquil, confidential space of a therapist’s office.

Her hands slid across the smooth, shiny, woody grain of the table, grasping the shaky, fidgeting hands of another. She is now the counselor, dedicated to helping other women as they reveal their struggles to her.

Her hands, the appendages of a devoted, faithful follower, have been clasped in prayer umpteen times as she petitioned for grace or peace or forgiveness for the wounded, the sick, the down-trodden, the lonely, the addicted, the bereaved.  

Her hands brushed her stiff, shoulder-length, whitish-gray hair as she marveled at the woman reflected back in the shine of a mirror. The lines etched on her face serve as a roadmap of a life well-traveled.

Her hands gestured a final goodbye to her treasured family and friends as the bell tolled, calling her home…….

Reading Recap #7

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2019 was the Year of the Pig. For me, it was also the Year of the Book. I read sixty-one, a personal record, and found myself locked in a tie with my favorite bookworm, Nick B. I’m blessed and grateful to have the gift of time to pursue this lifelong passion. In addition to providing relaxation and escape, reading also influences my writing. I’m exposed to different styles and voices, and learn from writers who are more experienced, polished, and published. I posted my most recent titles below, but want to mention a question and answer found within one of the selections.

Robert “Robbie” de Villiers was just sixteen when he was diagnosed with leukemia. The year was 1944 and the survival rate was low. Robbie succumbed to the disease. In 1949, five years after Robbie’s passing, his family started a fundraising and education organization in their son’s name. This foundation, in existence for over seventy years, became the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the book containing Robbie’s writing, he opens with a question, “Have you ever considered what the mere ability to read means?” His reply—”Our education, our success in life, may depend on the books we read.”

Here is my list:

Fiction

  • The Uncoupling-Cauvery Madhavan I met the author on Twitter. Her book takes a peek inside an Indian arranged marriage.
  • the next person you meet in heaven-Mitch Albom This is the sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  • Where the Heart Is-Billie Letts After being abandoned in a Walmart parking lot, a pregnant teen takes up residence in the store. 
  • Sourdough-Robin Sloan This quirky, techie, story has a unique main character—a sourdough starter. (Thanks, Nan, for suggesting the last two titles.)

Memoir

  • Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis This book could also fall under self-help.
  • Hello Nobody: Standing at the Door Alone—What To Do When Everything Changes – Janet Haney I met this local, self-published author at a book fair. Our journeys are eerily similar.
  • RAR. de Villiers- A Boy’s Philosophy: Writings of Robert A.R. de Villiers 1927-1944 A tribute addition from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love – Jonathan Van Ness I’ve never watched the Netflix show, Queer Eye, so I was unfamiliar with the author. I always enjoy a glimpse into the life of another.
  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered -Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark This memoir tells the life story of the two authors, true crime fanatics and creators of the Podcast, My Favorite Murder. I highly recommend this selection to my favorite true crime fanatic, Laura Jean.

Self-Help

  • Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who And What You See Before You Die – David Kessler This quick read (160 pages) is full of stories from hospice workers, doctors, nurses, and social workers and the deathbed visions they witness and hear about in their work with the dying. It reminded me of a longtime favorite book, Final Gifts.
  • Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief – David Kessler Mr. Kessler co-authored, On Grief and Grieving, with Elizabeth Kubler Ross, M.D., best known for her Five Stages of Grief theory.
  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter – Margareta Magnusson. I’m working on an essay about clutter, so this selection served as research for me.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope some of the titles resonate with you. If you have any suggestions for me, I’m always looking for my next read. Happy New Year. I hope it’s full of growth, joy, good health, and books!