You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘life-lessons’ tag.

After a heart attack years ago, John Watson had trouble sleeping and fell into a deep depression. His therapist suggested that he listen to relaxing music to help him fall asleep, but obnoxious commercials got in the way.

“Even on the radio you would be listening to relaxing music, trying to get to sleep and, all of a sudden, an advert would come on, yelling at you to buy something,” Watson said. He decided to start his own radio station with ad-free ambient music, Sleep Radio.

Could it be that issues that have plagued us for years are projects in disguise? Maybe the wisdom we’ve gained by going through a challenge can help someone else.

This reminds me of that moment years ago when I was waiting in a doctor’s office to discuss how to correct my macular hole, and a woman sat down in the chair next to me. “I had the surgery,” she told me. “I still can’t see. The doctor said it’s not healing well.” Oddly enough, this woman looked just like me, only twenty years older: red hair, glasses, sensible shoes. “Sorry to hear that,” I said to her, thinking, Well, I’m in my thirties, so I’ll probably heal faster. 

As it turns out, I had the same unfortunate result. I thought, where is the information online for patients considering this procedure? Does anyone get a positive result? 

I realized I was in a unique position and could tell potential patients what to expect, so I started an online support group called “Recuperade.” Since the procedure made my vision worse, I always suggest getting a second opinion, even a third one. The road may be rough while you’re on it, but if you make a map for others, something good might come of it after all.

Advertisements

Photo: Tom Slemmons

Regret is just another word for that thing in life we feel needs fixing. I could be happy, if only I weren’t ______ fill in the blank. Sick. Broke. Too tall. Too short. Too heavy. Too thin. From the wrong side of the tracks. I’ve always wondered where that is, geographically. I know it’s supposed to be figurative, but so many of us have spent time there in our lives, it must actually exist somewhere. Sometimes the wrong side of the tracks is a powerful temptation.

It’s been an appealing adventure for generations, hasn’t it? Taking a walk on the wild side. We all seem to grow out of it and disavow it. Many claim that they just “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Wouldn’t it be refreshing if just one person admitted that they actually were the wrong crowd? That doing all those ill-advised and often illegal things were actually their own idea?

All of those choices, good and bad, led us to the place we are today.

We’ve all invested a lot of time being mad at some part of who we are, and those messages eventually seep into the psyche. It’s like an internal speed bump. You don’t know what it is exactly, you just know you can’t get over it.

There’s a life lesson in the Japanese art of Kintsugi. When a piece of porcelain is broken, it is repaired using gold and becomes more precious afterward. Maybe those broken places are intersections. One part of life ends and a new one begins. Every experience imbues and enriches you with new ways of being. Breaking down can break you open, and that’s not always a bad thing. It might even lead to a breakthrough.

When I was driving my son and his friends everywhere during his school years, I couldn’t wait for him to reach driving age so I wouldn’t have to be their chauffeur anymore. As it happened, soon after he got his license, I had to take myself off the road due to my visual impairment. It turned out to be a tough decision, though, since not being able to drive anymore really limits your — wait for it — autonomy.

As I thought about all of the things taken from me by my MS, I’ve come up with a theory. Instead of calling them deficits, I’m wondering if it isn’t really just the unorthodox method by which my psyche has tried valiantly to protect me.

Trauma from the past we’d just as soon forget getting us down? Inner me waves a wand. Poof! Don’t remember things anymore! Have some memory issues!

Don’t want to feel this bad ever again? Poof! Don’t feel things. Have some neuropathy!

So what if I have to Google “how to hard boil an egg” every time I want to make an egg salad sandwich. I’ve let go of the guilt of not being able. Everyone else can do X. I can’t. Okay, I’ll focus on doing Y. What I can do is tell you my stories and offer encouragement to get through your own hardships. When I’m not sure if my thoughts make sense on the page, I can always rely on Lori and SueBE to proofread for me. Find your team and you’ll find your way. I focus on what I can do, and do it.

We’ve all got our share of dark clouds in life, but the silver lining is this: you’re still you. You’re still here. You’ve got the chance every day to carry on.

In a conversation recently, I had a disagreement with an acquaintance around my age (53), and I was struck by how civil we both were. “If I may,” he interjected, as I made my point, “That’s not the case.” He continued for a moment, and then I interrupted politely, saying, “I’d like to point out…” and I made my argument. At the end of the conversation, we were still cordial.

It made me wonder if civility is actually an extinct language. It may have gone the way of Latin. It still exists, but very few people are fluent.

It can be difficult to remain calm when you’re talking to someone who’s being decidedly uncivil. Being civil doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to say what’s on your mind. Bluntness may even be required, but never belittling, or using pejorative or profane terms.

When I feel angry, hurt or offended in some way, I try to put it into words immediately. My son knows that when I come to him and say, “You know my policy; I have to tell you how I feel about what you just said”,  that’s the time for him to speak plainly as well.

Recalibrating my communication settings to say what I mean freed my soul from the clutches of grudges. That toxic energy only takes up space that’s meant for grace. Once you clear that parking spot, you’ll find you’ve made room for incoming blessings. Who knows? They might be circling overhead right now, waiting for you to wave them into your life.

When my son was younger, one of the kids from the neighborhood came over just as my son and his friends were getting ready to ride their bikes. Landon (not his real name) didn’t have a bike, so I told him he could borrow mine.

When Landon came back he looked guilt-ridden. One of the other kids was saying to him, “You’re in big trouble, man. She’s gonna get real mad at you. She’ll tell your mom, and you’ll be on punishment forever. Nothing you can do about it.”

When Landon finally came up to me on the porch, he apologized. “For what, honey?” I asked. “I broke the bike,” he said. “My mom gets paid on Friday, so I’ll ask her to pay for the bike, and I’ll do chores to pay her back. Might take me a year, but I’ll make it right.”

This was both touching and heartbreaking. What a long ride back it must have been for that young man. Especially with the other kid bending his ear, piling guilt upon fear.

“No need for that, son. That bike was already hinky. One of Cole’s other friends messed it up, and didn’t even apologize. Don’t worry about it for a minute. Come on. We’re having Jiffy Pop.”

I wanted to say to the other child who’d appointed himself chief guilt-inducer, You should be ashamed! But it was too late for that. He already was. Misery loves company, and that’s the only language he knew. Someone had said these things to him, too, in his lifetime. I decided to extend hospitality to him instead. “Popcorn for you?” I asked.

Shame can be contagious, but luckily, there’s an antidote: grace.

Image result for level up video gameA couple of months ago, I changed my diet. Cut out sugar and processed foods. Added fruit, veggies, whole grains. Actually waited until I heard my stomach growl before I headed to the kitchen. Cut out recreational grazing. When I did feel like a nosh, it was blueberries, walnuts, or hummus.

I was feeling better in general.

Cut to: next weigh-in at the doctor’s office. What the? I actually gained five pounds!!! I thought about quitting this healthy eating. What’s the point? Even ate ice cream that night after the weigh-in.

You know what? I enjoyed the ice cream while I was eating it, but afterwards, felt sluggish and bloated. I simply felt better overall when I was eating healthier foods.

Maybe it’s not about the numbers in life after all: weight, height, age, income, grade, credit score, IQ. It’s about your level of contentment. Granted, I could use more money. It’d be nice to have a higher IQ. Better credit score. But obsessing about the numbers can leave you in a constant state of dissatisfaction.

So while I’m not fully content yet, I know I’m doing my level best for the situation I’m in. I have a measure of peace of mind that most people don’t seem to have. They’re always running, doing, buying, tweeting, but no one seems any happier. If I stay in a positive frame of mind and improve what I can, maybe someday, I’ll level up in this game called life.

Well, I’m at that age where I’m looking for magic potions to smooth out my skin. When I was younger, I always said, “Why can’t people just grow old gracefully?” It’s not until you’re older that you realize no one grows old gracefully. They get old and look old, unless they get plastic surgery.

So I bought some anti-aging skin cream, and on the front of the package, it said that “97% of the people who used this cream saw results in two weeks.” Oh, I saw results all right.

Results:

  • I realized I’d just thrown away twelve bucks for no reason.
  • I realized I’d spent five minutes each night faithfully applying glop to my face for no reason.
  • I realized that the sample size of those who had used this cream and seen positive results was exactly three (3) people, all of whom were related to the manufacturer. Joe Wrinklecream’s mother and two sisters said it works like a charm.

Over-Hyped and Under-Performing Broken Promise Potion would be the new name I’d give to that product. But then, does anything live up to its claims these days? Did I really expect a miracle in a jar I got on Amazon?

The true life lesson is that “aging gracefully” is another way of saying “living gratefully.” I’m glad I’m still here. I appreciate my blessings. There’s still much to look forward to, wrinkles, stray greys and all. Living in the present and an attitude of gratitude? That’s what works like a charm.

Due to my visual and memory issues, I’ve asked Lori and SueBE to proofread my posts for me, and for one post, Lori showed me how to use an “em-dash” as opposed to an “en-dash.”

Hold on. There are two types of dashes? How long has this been going on?!? I can’t seem to find that button on my keyboard. Is there one? I don’t remember it from school (insert em-dash here once I find it) eons ago (em-dash again) and, in all my years (em-d) over 50 of them (em-d) have been punctuating incorrectly.

It’s like finding a new/retro toy! How does this thing work? Where can I use it? Let me think of sentences in which I can insert this new (to me) kind of punctuation. Bear with me (em-dash) just for a moment (em-dash) while I collect my thoughts.

Okay, I found the secret code online. To insert an “em-dash” on a laptop, you press the “Alt” key, and on the numeric keypad, type 0151.

The em-dash seems like a parking spot for a pause. It’s longer than an en-dash and more meaty, if you will. Yes. Maybe it stands for the letter “M”, as in “Meaty.”

Or maybe the “M” stands for “Metaphor.” Sometimes, you put your own needs on hold to take care of everybody else. You might fall into the trap of Placeholder Syndrome. The spot you’re in now is a pause in your own life’s sentence, like a jail cell that you carry with you.

You think, I’ll just wait until retirement to pursue my dreams. Or, I’ll wait until the kids are squared away, and then I’ll put myself first.  Maybe that “M” stands for “Me.” So I’d say to you — respectfully, of course — today is the day.

A thank you letter from the residents who escaped without injury because of the local MuslimsImagine that you haven’t eaten much for days. It’s the end of long night, and you’re exhausted. You look up and realize there’s a building on fire! By the time you call for help, it might be too late. What would you do?

A group of young Muslim men who had just left their mosque for Ramadan service ran into a burning building, risking their lives to knock on every door until all the residents were safely outside.

One of the residents told the press, They made sure everyone got out. They knocked on each door until someone opened. If it wasn’t for them we would never have got out.”

I saw this news story on Reddit, and was puzzled as to why I couldn’t find it anywhere else online. It’s a feel-good story with heroes and a happily ever after. People of different generations and faiths coming together in the midst of a crisis.

The conspiracy-theorist in me is wondering: Why isn’t this in the headlines? Is it because it’s a story about Muslims that doesn’t feed into the negative, erroneous view some may hold?

Most people are peaceful and want to do the right thing. If only we’d see each other as relatives in the human family, labels and misconceptions would be a thing of the past.

On Twitter, I only ever followed positive accounts, and one was a website known for heartwarming pet videos. One day, I was shocked when they posted a video of a baby seal being clubbed to death, with the narrator saying sadly, “He never stood a chance.” They’re trying to raise awareness to put an end to the gruesome practice, but seeing it can do psychological damage to viewers. It’s as if they were clubbing us over the head as well. I unfollowed them and eventually left Twitter altogether. Social media can be used for good and for not-so-good.

The whole concept of viral videos is ethically murky at times. If you share footage of someone else’s bad day, aren’t you just making that person’s day even worse?

Last month, a man attacked actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at an event in Africa, and his reaction was laid-back. He said he was fine; in fact, he didn’t even realize he’d been kicked. He thought he’d just been jostled by the crowd. “And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”

He went on to suggest that they post video of athletes from his event instead. Good advice for life, really. Give your attention to what’s good in life. And don’t put a spotlight on the negative.  

Have a Mary Little Christmas

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: