Life Lessons in Losing and Loss

Steps

Losing and Loss. Both can teach such strong lessons. But what we learn is entirely up to us. How we choose to view these potentially defining moments.

For example, Derek Redmond, a runner in the Barcelona Olympics was supposed to be a shoe in to win the gold, but the unexpected happened….

Imagine training your whole life for this one moment, and then something like that. I remember the first time I saw this… I knew it was a hammy. I’m pretty sure he did, too.

But he also knew he had a choice. What would you have done?

What he did blew my mind and had me in tears, applauding his courage.

His father ran out to him. (Yeah, that was his dad…who, in today’s world would’ve probably landed himself in jail at the very least for interrupting a sporting event.) He asked him what he wanted to do. At that point, there would’ve been no shame in giving up. But he didn’t come to the Olympics to give up! He may not have won, but he finished. And he had his father, who held off all the officials who tried to stop him, and the crowd supporting him.

In my book, that choice he made in what had to be one of the most devastating moments of his life, made him a winner. And someone to look up to.

And when it comes to loss, we have choices, too. Nothing has brought that home, lately, quite the way the attacks on Paris have. And yet, through the fear and terror…people reached out. Despite the danger, people reached out via Twitter to let others who were stranded and with nowhere to go where they could find a safe place, an open door.

The rest of us watched in both horror and heartache, offering what comfort we could by letting Paris know, much like they’ve supported us through some of our hardest times in history, that our hearts and thoughts were with them. We put up pictures and banners on Facebook, hoping to let them know we stood by them.

There was courage and friendship and unity. In that moment, it was all about love and support…as it should have been. (Unfortunately, that didn’t last, but that’s all about hate and politics, which I choose not to give a foot hold on my blog.)

I think we were all praying this sort of prayer for those stranded…. (I thought it appropriate to select a song from Les Miserables).

And in honor of all our French friends and allies… How awesome that this scene in Casablanca was already there for them when we needed a reminder that freedom requires folks to stand up and protect it?

So that’s what’s been on my mind lately… What about you?

H is for Happiness

Happiness

IF.

I truly believe it’s one of the most dangerous words in the human language.

If I had more money… If I had a better job… If insert name here loved me… If I had taken that other path instead…

How many times have you heard people lament their lack of joy in their lives with that little word? If.

It’s tough to live in the now; to see the good things that are happening all around you when your energy is spent focusing on what you don’t have or envying the good fortune of others.

What we often neglect to realize is that every day we make a choice. To see the good in things and people. Or not. To believe in the best in people. To live in the moment. To recognize the things in life that are worth holding on to, believing in, and fighting for….and then doing it.

That’s part of the discovery of all the worthwhile things in life.

What brings you happiness? For me it’s the simple things. A song. An unexpected word of appreciation. A hug. Jokes. Beauty of nature painted across the sky, or in the sway of the leaves, a gentle breeze caressing my cheek. Playing in the rain. Time spent with friend or family (by the way, pets fall into this category).

That’s happiness….and it makes me the wealthiest woman in the world.

What things bring you happiness?

Lessons in Life and Love from Once Upon a Time

I wasn’t the girl who was hooked on Once Upon a Time from the beginning. I’d recorded it with the intent to watch, but somehow, I never did. Until the end of this last season. What I found was brilliant script writing, fairy tale characters I remembered, but spun to be virtually unrecognizable in the coolest way possible….and some awesome lessons in living and loving well if you paid attention.

If you know anything about fairy tales, you know that there are certain inalienable truths.

According to Shakespeare, “The path of true love never did run smooth.” The folks in Storybrooke, Maine would agree with that. In fact, they don’t even know it, but they’ve been trapped by a curse placed upon them by the evil queen to gain her revenge on Snow White, a local school teacher. Yes, when she activated the curse, she moved her world of magic into our world, a place where magic didn’t exist. In this world, no one remembered who they were or got happy endings…well, not until the “savior” arrived and the curse was broken.

Lesson: True love takes a lot of work, faith (both in yourselves and each other), and sacrifice. Problems and challenges don’t just disappear because you’ve found your true love. In fact, there will be times when you will lose sight of what’s important. In those times, the other part of you will rise up to the challenge–to believe and fight enough for you both.

Charming said it best. “I will always find you.”

Then there are the villains, Regina, the Evil Queen, and Rumplestiltskin…and even, to an extent, Regina’s mother, Cora. They’ve made some terrible, hateful decisions in the name of anger and revenge. But they are capable of love…and when they embrace that rarely used part of their souls, amazing things happen.

Lesson: With the power of love, no one is irredeemable. Flaws are there, and seen, but true love is acceptance, warts and all. Love means letting go of hate and anger, sometimes sacrificing yourself, to put someone else’s happiness and well being above your own.

Sometimes people will lose their way, forget who they are. In Storybrooke, this has happened quite literally. Charming lost his memory, for a while the entire town had no memory of their life in The Enchanted Forest, and Belle literally lost all her memories of Rumplestiltskin and their love. Sometimes losing their way can also be metaphoric. Snow lost sight of who she was in her quest for revenge, Pinnochio forgot his path and his responsibilities, even Red (yes, that’s Little Red Riding Hood) lost sight of the true meaning of family and acceptance when she met her mother.

Lesson: Those who love you will remember who you are and hold on to you. They won’t let you stay lost for long. They’ll remind you of just how important you truly are.

In life, we’re all bound to make mistakes. They don’t have to define us. In Once Upon A Time, Emma had given Henry up for adoption, thinking she had nothing better to offer him. He found her, and she fell in love. He was adopted by Regina, the Evil Queen, who had cast a curse of vengeance against Snow and Charming, Emma’s parents.

Lesson: Everyone has an opportunity to redeem themselves if they’re brave enough to take the chance. Love means owning your mistakes and moving forward. They don’t have to define who you are.

And finally, the most important lesson of all– “True Love is the most powerful magic of all.”

Yes, I’ve definitely got a soft spot for fairy tales. Always have. I love the way these ones are being told and blended into this beautiful tapestry. Are you a Once Upon A Time fan? Are there any lessons from the show that you’d like to impart? Is there another show that’s gotten you hooked? What life/love lessons did you catch?

 

Beauty Of The Earth

Happy Earth Day!

How often do we really take time to stop and look around at the natural beauty that surrounds us? Isn’t it funny that often, to see the beauty in nature, we must observe it elsewhere? Many people would tell me I live in paradise. Truthfully, until this last year, it would’ve taken a lot for me to even notice some of the natural beauty that surrounds me.

Scented Jasmine in my entryway

Scented Jasmine in my entryway

A year ago, I doubt that I would’ve noticed the lovely scents my jasmine blooms are releasing as I walk in and out of my house. Or that I finally got my first gardenia bloom of the season while I was in the Bahamas.

Jasmine climbing the post in front of my house

Jasmine climbing the post in front of my house

I would’ve failed to notice how such small, delicate flowers can create such a gorgeous fresh scent. I definitely would’ve missed the sunset on the beach that I posted months ago….and would probably not even have looked up to notice the Florida panther from a while back, either.

Why is that? Why would I have missed those joys, but caught the amazing color of the ocean while I was in the Bahamas? Or ignored the palm trees at home, only to be awed by the ones there?

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to look around us. It’s only when we disconnect from the world we’re used to that our eyes open to absorb the amazing every day beauty that surrounds us…and it’s not even OUR every day.

Maybe it’s everything that’s happening in the world lately that has me a little introspective. Who could blame me? This last year has been full of upheaval, both for me as a person…and for the world. There is so much ugly in the world…too much. But there’s some truly amazing beauty there, too. So what is it about human nature that has us focusing on all the negative stuff? The hurtful? The cruel? Why is the focus so rarely on the beautiful or inspirational? The joy?

To tell you the truth, I stopped watching the news years ago. I couldn’t stand all the negativity and hatefulness. I figured I’d probably hear what I needed to know on Facebook or Twitter anyway. Plus, if I spent too much time watching all the atrocities on the news I may have found myself going the way of Emily Dickinson. It’s one of the reasons I can’t handle most reality TV. Does that mean I watch no reality shows? No. Because technically, shows like The Voice or Dancing With The Stars (my guilty pleasure-Go Team Ingo!) are considered reality shows. The shows that make celebrities out of people for acting ridiculous or that seem to enjoy ridiculing others…? Not interested.

It’s odd, but the same reason I rarely watch horror or gratuitous violence movies has become the same reason I don’t watch the news and rarely read the paper. I don’t want that kind of negativity to have a foothold in my brain. Don’t misunderstand. I’m well aware that there are bad things in this world. You can’t live more than a couple years without being confronted by such hard truths. But like many other things, I’ve come to realize I have a choice: to let all the bad scar or scare me, to become indifferent to the hardships/suffering/pain of those around me, or to look for (and find) the best in people…and let go of the worst.

Why am I talking about people on Earth Day? Because we’re a big part of what makes the Earth beautiful. We’re also a big part of what tears it apart. I’m not exactly what anyone would call a “tree hugger” by any stretch of the imagination. My contributions are limited to cleaning up my own litter and recycling. Well, at least my physical contributions. The contributions I give through my heart and spirit…well, I’d like to think that’s completely different. “Control your controllables”. That was advice a former boss once gave me. She was right. The thing I can control the most? Me. So I choose to maintain a positive outlook. I choose to seek the best in people. I choose to see the love and kindness that were shown to strangers in Boston and in Texas. I choose to see the outpouring of support and friendship sent our way from all over the world.

People can call me foolish or naïve. I’d rather have hope and live with joy in my heart than the fear, bitterness and anger that they allow to take control of theirs… I’d ask if you guys think I’m foolish or crazy, but let’s be honest… even if you did, when it comes to this…I wouldn’t care. Plus, I know I’m not the only optimist…. I would love to know what you guys have been thinking about this last week, though.

It’s hard to believe that it was just a week ago today that I was preparing to board a plane from the Bahamas back to the states only to hear about the tragedy in Boston (and the everyday heroes who went out of their way to help their fellow man simply because they were in a position to do so). Maybe that’s the root of my introspection. Who knows… Either way, I leave you with this… Love life. Love each other. It’s just one more way to love the earth.  It’s our sacred duty…which is why I selected the song at the top. For those of you who’d never heard it before, it’s John Rutter’s “For The Beauty Of The Earth”.

 

Brave

20121203-120215.jpg
Image source Natalinicola.blog

What do you do
When words said
Cut you to the quick
With their forceful
Honesty?

Where do you hide
When life
Barrels through
You?
Just one more pothole
Along the way…

How do you
Cauterize
The gaping slices
Etched on your
Soul?
Oozing thick, red
Tears
With each beat
Of your battered
Heart.

Where can you run?
To lick your wounds,
Curl up,
Fetal position
To protect.

Deep breath.
Look up
Into eyes that see
Through
The outer facade
To joint and marrow.
Feed on that power,
Regain your strength.
Shoulders back,
Head high.
One more challenge.
The answer…
Is you.

Yesterday…the words people say set me off into a ranting blog. As I thought about it throughout the day I realized…our words? They can carry a lot of meaning. They can have huge impacts on people whether we know it or not. The wrong words can be debilitating…regardless of right or wrong intentions.

I thought back to the things that have hurt most in my life… The inevitable conclusion? It was never anything physical…always mental. So if words can tear down… Don’t we, as writers and bloggers, also have the responsibility to build up? To leave someone a little better off? To encourage?

You never know whose will touch a heart. Or when what you have to say may be the difference maker in a person’s life. The thing that makes everything click…and make sense again.

Really, it’s always up to you, the individual, to choose who you want to be today…victim or survivor. Positive or Negative. Lover or Hater. Encourager or Naysayer.

Today I’m making my choice. Life…it’s full of bumps and bruises. Wounds that sometimes never fully heal. But I control one thing. My outlook….the decision to get up every morning no matter how battered yesterday may have left me…and to find the beauty and purpose in my today. Some may call me a sucker. I’ve been told I’m a glutton for punishment, that people will let me down. But you know what I’ve found? More people prove me right than wrong. I can wake up with a smile on my face. I can still appreciate the little things. I can love my life. Those other people? Well…isn’t it kind of sad that they can’t find a single thing to look forward to…except spreading their misery. Is it any wonder they find themselves alone more often than not…and not by choice?

I really believe you get what you put out in the world. What do you think? When was the last time you made a difference and you weren’t even trying? You guys do that for me all the time! So, let those scars become something that gives you character and join me in embracing life. 🙂

Solitude

Sometimes, there’s beauty in loneliness.  In the stillness you have the chance…to reflect, to observe, to appreciate.  I took this picture a few years ago.  The solitary tree standing strong and proud, alone.  The beauty in the stoicism spoke to me.

That lone tree on an island.  What has it seen?  What has it survived?  How does it have the flexibility to bend and not break?  When the storms came through and that beautiful water became choppy and rough, crashing against it’s base, it stood patiently.  It soaked up the water, feeding itself, growing deeper, stronger roots.  And when those tempests calmed, it stood firm, appreciating the beauty, continuing to grow.

And what about us?  How do we look at the challenges life throws our way?  Do we stand firm?  Do we appreciate the challenges knowing in the end we’ll be better?  Stronger?  Do we patiently wait out the storms life throws our way?  Do we appreciate the solitude, realizing that without it we probably won’t recognize the values of friendships made, of bonds built?  Do we love fearlessly?  Or do we just let life break us?

We always have choices, you know…  In how we choose to approach each day.  In how we respond to trials.  In what attitude we chose when taking on the world.  There are too many victims out there.  People who let life walk all over them.  People who are comfortable wallowing in self pity and dispair.  People who have chosen not to pick themselves up and wipe themselves off.

Then there are these amazing, heroic people you meet or hear about.  I know a guy from Haiti.  He works three jobs tirelessly.  He has a ready smile for every person he comes across.  He’s thrilled to be alive.  And if you were to talk to him, to hear his life before he came to the states, you would probably cry.  He’d tell you about being impoverished and orphaned at an early age.  He’d tell you about watching a younger sibling die, unable to afford medical care and unable to find any other way to assist him.  He’d tell you about loading himself onto a little, rickety boat, unsure if he was going to ever make it here.  Unsure of what would happen if he did.  And then he’d tell you the joy of citizenship and freedom and the opportunity to create a life for himself and send money home to his remaining family members.

Some people look at him and wonder how he can smile with everything he’s experienced.  He wonders how he ever became so lucky!

Yep, in solitude you find your challenges, you make your choices.  Most importantly, you decide on the person you will become.  It’s all about the choices.