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On jury duty years ago, we were given a break during a case so we could stretch our legs. I went to the snack store, picked up some noshes and got in line. When it was my turn, the cashier asked, “What have you got today, ma’am?” In response, I said, “Oh, just a couple of these things,” and absent-mindedly waved toward my snacks. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to be more specific,” he said. “You see, I’m unsighted.”

I apologized profusely — so much so that he realized I didn’t just mean I was sorry for the flip answer. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “No need to feel sorry, ma’am. If the Good Lord had wanted me to be sighted, he would’ve given me sight. I work around it.” 

His strength of character was impressive, but so was the collective moral compass that switched on for those waiting in line. The man could tell which coins he was being given by their weight and size, but the bills all felt alike, so he had to ask what denomination he was being given. 

Suddenly we all had eagle eyes. You say you gave him a twenty dollar bill? Let me check on that. People were craning their necks to keep everyone else honest. It was as if a tiny Community Watch had formed spontaneously.

I think of that day when I lose faith in humanity, or when I think I’ve got it hard due to my own visual impairment, which developed later. That man soldiered on despite the hardship and got it done. And those people in line did the right thing without being asked. The truth is, the milk of human kindness hasn’t yet soured into yogurt. Just under the surface, the still, small voice is speaking loud and clear.

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Kind people, I don’t wish you hardships. If anything, I wish you only softships. Luxury liners, even! 🚢 And, on the road of life, if you stumble here and there, I hope you’ll always have a soft place to land.

But you know as well as I do that hardships are life lessons. It really is where the rubber meets the road. Your “wherewithal escrow” increases during those times you have to take the long way and come up with creative solutions.

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” This nugget of wisdom was on a strip of paper inside a fortune cookie.🥠 When you realize a situation isn’t working, that’s the nudge from your soul to make changes.

The opposite of “hardship” isn’t life on Easy Street. It’s purpose. Community. Working toward a goal. Self-acceptance. Contentment. Kindred spirits. Partnering with Providence.

It’d be great to be able to get ahead of the bills, but you and I both know that if we got more money, we’d spend more money 💰 and we’d just end up with new bills.

All right, so you don’t own a yacht. If you’re lucky enough to have a roof over your head, food on the table and loved ones in your life, you could just fill up your bathtub with water, put a rubber ducky 🦆 in it and call it your houseboat. If you have a place to call home 🏡 and hope for the future, you know as well as I do, you’re truly blessed indeed.

Agitation seems like a negative word in general, but sometimes it’s actually a good thing. For instance, when my washer stopped its agitation cycle, it backed up and water overflowed onto my basement floor. I was able to fix it, but it made me wonder: what about the agitating people in our lives?  

Everybody’s got that one person in their life who believes they’re God’s gift to the world. You know the ones I mean. They’re opinionated and belittling. Utterly insensitive.

One such person finally pushed me too far and I told him exactly what I thought of him, that he was condescending and downright rude. It didn’t faze him at all. “When the Good Lord was handing out brains, I was at the front of the line,” he said. It was his way of saying, you go ahead and have your opinions, little lady. I still know what’s best.

My theory is that God put these people into our lives to teach various lessons. Sometimes it’s patience. Sometimes it’s perspicacity: when to speak up, when to hold your tongue. 

Of course, the best approach to someone contentious is not to engage, since they live to press your buttons. It’s been my experience that they’ll eventually find other people to annoy and waft away. Keep your eyes toward the sun, and you’ll realize how small those dark clouds really are.

What if you had an outfit that brought you good luck every time you wore it? You’d put it on and, instantly, everything in your life would go well. I bet you’d wear it every single day! But here’s the catch: It came to you from Icarus, the farthest star known to man, and it’s got alchemical properties. 

While you get the hang of wearing it, you may randomly:

  • Become invisible
  • Be able to read minds at will
  • Hit all the winning lottery numbers in every state at the same time

On the other hand, you may also:

Would you take the risk?

If only it were as simple as putting on a scarf or tucking in a pocket square!

Well, you can actually create your own personal pocket of grace. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the positive
  • Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  • Stay on the path to the “yes” life

And before you know it, you’ve created your own good vibes. Oh, and it helps to give thanks to the one who made it all possible. No, not some corporate sponsor or mystery philanthropist! The one who made it all: you, me, the sky, earth and sea. Here’s another word for that pocket of grace: Faith.

Is it possible to resolve frustrating situations without feeling like you’re about to boil over or lash out? I wonder if we can turn it around. Make it a habit to flip the channel.

Oddly enough, as I was typing this post, I got annoyed by something and couldn’t stay on the positive frequency I was writing about. As I typed “make it a habit to flip the channel,” my hands typed “make it a habit to chip the flannel.”

Wow! I made my own point to myself. I didn’t stay on the positive channel and it instantly sent a negative impulse from my brain through my hands onto the page.

You see, I’d been arguing with Amazon customer service after they sent me this notification: “your package was left in a secure location.” Look at the picture along with this post. Do you see where they left my package? Yes, friends, it was left on top of my trash bin. Out on my driveway. On garbage day. That would be the opposite of a secure location! 

Could it be that we’re all so wrapped up in our own worlds as we walk through the day that we just don’t realize what we’re doing? Or maybe there’s been something in the air lately. We’ve had a lot of astronomical events recently, including meteor showers and last night’s “Black Supermoon.” Then there’s the extreme weather, including tornadoes, earthquakes, heatwaves and thunderstorms. Maybe Mother Earth is in a mood, too.

Whatever’s going on around you now, there’s a way to get back to center, but it helps to get out of that thought bubble. Give yourself a chance to release it like a balloon. Flip the channel. Tomorrow, the stars will align in a different configuration and things will be back to normal.

Where did the phrase “under the weather” come from anyway? Surely no one is over the weather. Or above it somehow. Maybe there’s a travel agency for millionaires that allows them to exist in a pocket just above the jet stream. They get to bypass any dark clouds that rain on the rest of us.

Of course, that’s not true. Anyone can find themselves “under the weather.” It coincides with that moment when you realize you’re just not yourself. Who are you then? As it turns out, a stranger with bad intentions.

That happened to me last week. I became so consumed by the negative that I forgot there are always good things to focus on. You almost want to give your sad state a name, as if it’s a location on the map: Deep Doldrums, New Jersey. Not a nice place to visit, and you surely don’t want to live there. The roads are comprised entirely of potholes and litter. There are no traffic lights. No sidewalks. No safety features of any kind. Why? It’s designed by your own mind to be a dead-end street with no off-ramp.

The answer is to figure out what’s got you down. For me, it was health issues that seem to have no resolution, along with financial concerns. It took a week to work its way out of my system, but dawn finally broke. Once I shifted my focus to the part of the situation that I can improve and gave the rest over to God, I felt more hopeful. Lori and SueBE let me know they’ve always got my back, which helped more than words can say.  An answer will come along, but in the meantime, dear readers, don’t give up. A new day is on its way.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? It’s not just all in your head. Your experience is valid. Even if no one else shows up to support you, remember to show up for yourself.

Walk out of the room where negative notions gripped you. Keep walking until you find the room you’ve designated as Home Base. A grace-place where all is well, no matter what else is going on in the world. 

Search online for deep breathing techniques and calming music videos.

Watch a live stream from a cat cafe.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. 

Remind yourself: You’re here, not there.

Be here, where that virtual cliff’s edge isn’t. Be where the worst that could happen, hasn’t.

Be in this breath. This breath is blessed.

Do something symbolic, like stretching toward the sky, reaching for the clouds. Light a candle. Watch old sitcoms. Go to Mayberry, or even Petticoat Junction. Everything’s okay there.

Talk to your own mind. Stay here. Don’t go down that dark alley that doesn’t really exist yet. In the peaceful place of yes, you may find the antidote to that no. Shelter in place until the looming doom passes. Keep the faith: The sun will rise again.

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.

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.

After doing a bit of introspection, I’ve decided that I’m an old soul, but I’m young at heart. I feel like I was born old. I’m 53 now, but I’ve always been a homebody. Don’t like to travel. Really don’t like change (in my pockets or in life). Love cats, knitting, classic movies. Love my son with all my heart, and am always coming at him with positive platitudes. “Always do the right thing, son,” I’ll tell him. I know what you’re thinking: That’s so Mayberry!

At 21, I got sciatica. At 36, I got a macular hole. Around that time, I was diagnosed with MS as well. I got the medical issues that normally occur later in life, earlier than expected.

There’s always something hurting, somewhere in my body. There’s always a bill on the counter I can’t yet afford to pay.

If that’s just how it is, I decided, I’ll work around it. I’ll be in a good mood. Not as good a mood as circumstances allow. You can’t make the situation your supervisor. It doesn’t get to decide how you feel right now, in this moment. You do.

When you set down roots in the place where peace resides, you’re safeguarding your own soul. Until you improve a situation, at least don’t make it worse by focusing on that problem alone. Take your mind off it when you can. Give yourself permission to be okay. And in that positive frame of mind, you might just change things for the better.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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