It’s a miracle………., you fill in the dot. A too common phrase said with little thought. I have said many times over my life, “It’s a miracle that I was late leaving so I avoided being a part of the accident up the road”. It’s a miracle that some problem was solved. It’s a miracle that I was offered a much sought after job. I can go on and on. This phrase is said so often without real, intentional thought behind it. Then, there are the times “it’s a miracle……….” has significant meaning. It’s a miracle that I survived the car crash. It’s a miracle that I recovered from a terminal illness. It’s a miracle that they found the child when they did. These statement’s are made with intentional emphasis on the meaning of miracle. So why do we quietly place more value on some miracles than others? Or is it that we devalue some miracles? I think we, without thinking, devalue miracles. We are unaware of all the seemingly small yet significant miracles surrounding us 24/7. We tend to place no value on the fact that we ourselves are a miracle. It’s a miracle that I can see, breathe, hear, taste, feel, think, solve problems, create or have a laptop to write this blog on. I need to be more intentional in seeing and celebrating everything as a miracle and not with the think-less thought of “it’s a miracle” but IT IS A Miracle. Honor it, celebrate it, share it, embrace it. I always keep my promises. The best is yet to be.
I have spent hours pondering this question. I first needed to figure out who I intend to be? What does this mean, intend to be? Is this kind of like, what do I want to be when I grow up? Who says I have to grow up? What does this mean? I don’t want to be known as a job title, or a position in a family. I want to be known as me. I want to become the best version of me. Not me modeling somebody else. So now I am back the question of, “What Would The Person I Intend To Become Do Next?” My answer, “the next thing.” It is too easy for me to get hung up on trying to make sure the next step is perfect, or disappointed because I modeled my actions on someone else and wondered why the results were different. It is because I am me and they are they. Neither perfect, neither better then each other. Just different. Getting hung up on all of that paralyzes me from moving forward. Just do the next thing. I always keep my promises. The best is yet to be!
My entire life I have been a “seeker”, always looking for meaning and driving parents, teachers, co-workers, supervisors, friends, husband and anyone listening with my questions of “why” crazy. I looked for meaning in everything. A few years ago I again felt the inner struggle of looking for the “why” of my existence. I was sitting in church and started looking at people, really looking at them and watching them. I observed that we were going through the motions but it didn’t appear that we were really “living” the experience. I then became intentional with watching people everywhere, committees I was in, civic organizations I was an active member of, my Bunco group, people at the coffee shop or theater and I noticed a common thread. They all looked and acted like the “walking dead”. I am not referring to zombies walking dead, instead my definition of walking dead is being alive but not living. And I realized I was “one of them”! Is this all there is to life, to simply exist and settle for what is? Accept that this is as good as it gets? What were the dreams I had as a child that were squashed? What were the challenges that I faced and might have overcome but still identified who I was or wasn’t that were holding me back?
Joseph Campbell’s quote, “People say we are seeking the meaning for life. I don’t think that is what we are seeking. We are seeking the experience of being alive”. That’s it, that is what I was feeling and seeing and calling the walking dead.
I watched my Bunco group, women I was close to, and I finally asked one evening if they felt like they were living or going through the motions. They reacted with confusion and all said they were. I asked if they ever thought, there was more to life than they were experiencing? Over the course of a few months, I asked many “why” questions and “what” questions that seemed innocent enough but part of my research. After a few months I asked the question again, if they felt like they were living or going through the motions and their answer was different, they realized they did have a suppressed yearning of knowing there was more to life and that they were going through the motions and not truly living the life they wanted or were created to have. They had settled and now wanted more. They wanted to live, not exist.
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”, Joseph Campbell. Fear gets in the way of making changes. Being comfortably uncomfortable is too easy. Old blueprints keep us stuck. In finding Joe, there were references to change being precipitated by big, sometimes horrific events forcing us to a different reality plane. Even though I knew what I knew, it was too easy to just keep on keeping on…….. until my husband died. The biggest horrific event I could imagine and I still found myself doing the same thing. I wasn’t ready or willing to give up the life I/we had. No matter how painful it was, I wasn’t shifting.
One day walking through my dining room, I was so angry that the man I loved had been taken from me that I yelled at God, that if his “plan was not to harm me, but prosper me and give me hope and a future, Jeremiah 29:11”, why did He take my husband? And I stood there impatiently waiting for an answer for a few minutes and walked away telling myself “yep, I was right He wasn’t there for me”. The very next day as I was walking through the dining room in the exact spot, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Very audibly I heard a voice telling me, “that his job was done, that I would have never left him or our life to pursue what God’s plan was for me”. I asked, “whose job was done what do you mean I would have never left him”? I heard my husband’s job/role was done in his life as well as in mine. I had learned/experienced all that I needed to move forward in God’s plan for me. That if my husband remained in my life I would have never followed my plan. Wow! Ok, I can live with this. Didn’t change the pain and didn’t help me to see or follow my plan.
So more 2×4 therapy as I call it. More painful events that FORCED me to shift to a different plane of living. Over the course of a few months I lost my new job through job elimination, lost our home because I couldn’t refinance in my name because no job and even had to change car’s because of engine problems to costly to repair. All I had known, taken away from me forcing me, an unwilling participant, to shift to become unstuck. To pay attention to the doors that were opening that facilitated a move to another town with life falling into place. A decision that I had thought of months before but it was too easy to keep on keeping on, existing not living life, not living the plan for me. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”, Joseph Campbell. I wasn’t willing to get rid of the life I had not matter how bad it was, so it took and intervention to force the change. But, I was slipping into the same comfort of doing the same thing only in a different town.
And at the right time, MKE entered my life to “force” me to be willing to continue to bury the life I had planned so I can have the life that is waiting for me. I always keep my promises. The best is yet to be!
I grew up listening to my Grandfather and Father speak of reading the obituaries each day in the local paper to “check and see if they were still alive.” I never gave much thought to their statement. Why is reading an obituary such a curiosity? Several years ago I conducted a workshop titled, “It Is Later Than You Think.” The first assignment was for each attendee to write their obituary. Over the course of the day, their thinking was challenged with stories of people’s lives. One story was of a nurse, business friend who left her corporate Director of Nursing job so that her children would not react to her death the way a patient’s family did upon hearing of their mother’s death, with the statement they were not going to pay their final respects to the mother who was never there for them as children or adults. Instead, my friend wanted her children to react to her death the way the family of another patient did which was to all gather around as their mother was dying and each share special memories of growing up with her and her continued wisdom guiding them through adulthood and all ate their final breakfast together in her room as she took her last breaths. I read obituaries to the group that were a resume of accomplishments but little information regarding their “real” life as they passed each rite of passage except the listing of survivors. I read obituaries to the group that were full of who that person was, full of details so you could almost watch the movie of their life in your mind as your were reading their obituary. We learned about living your dash. What happens between your birth and your death. At the end of the workshop, I asked each to re-write their obituary. What was their dash, what wisdom and legacy did they want to leave? I then challenged them that their second obituary was their life plan, the plan to live the rest of their life by. Live your dash.
Twenty one months ago I had to do one of the hardest things to honor my husband, my best friend and the love of my life. I had to write his obituary and then plan his funeral. Fighting the fight for over four years we had talked about these things but I realized we really didn’t “talk” about them. To “talk” about them would make it real and we were fighting for a different outcome, one that did not involve an obituary. I wanted everyone to know, to really know, the man I loved and lost. Not just his accomplishments but who he was, what he believed in, the footprint left with his legacy. A man who lived his dash. Since this was a second marriage, I was asked by his son who was only 13 when our family joined and who was now a man of 34, how I knew all of this about his Dad. How did I know things from when he was in high school, college or things about his life before we were together? My response was, “because we talked.” I fell in love with him through talking and we never stopped talking and discovering who each of us were. My desire was for everyone attending the funeral to come to know my best friend. I heard family, high school and college friends, current friends and colleagues express that they realized too late there was more to him than they knew or thought they knew. They were now disappointed to not have the chance to have their life enriched by all he was. Why does it take an obituary or a funeral for this to happen?
This has been a good reminder for me, am I living my dash? I need to think about my dash and write my obituary again. The best is yet to be! I always keep my promises.
I have always been a keen observer. My favorite activity is to watch people and wonder about them and the lives they live. I am one that naturally sees patterns and trends and sometimes I think this stagnates me. I am so focused on seeing this and planning for the future that I miss staying fascinated. Fascinated in the now. Enjoying each moment instead of looking for the next or planning for the next possible event. And not just one. I look for all things possible and have contingency plans in place for every possibility so I am prepared and I have missed being in the now. What I would give to go back and collect and enjoy all the “now’s” that I have missed not being present. I will remain an observer, that is who I am but now I am an observer of “now”. Enjoying and appreciating all the little events that are miracles in our lives each day. The best is yet to be. I always keep my promises.
Kindness is easily taken for granted and many times overlooked by the one providing random kindness as a significant event. What I view as normal everyday, common courtesy’s are viewed by others a extraordinary acts of kindness. For example, a pet peeve of mine is finding shopping carts left all over retail parking lots. Sometimes just ONE parking space away from a cart storage area. So I normally will gather up carts and put them in the cart storage on my way into the store, or I will take a cart from outside cart storage, even if I don’t need one, and take it into the store. A friend asked me one time why I did this. My reply was, “that is one less cart for someone else to deal with and I am going that way.”
Picking up litter wherever you see it and disposing of it properly is another good random act of kindness habit to get into. My husband would stop the car (we lived in a very small town with one stop light) and pick up cigarette packs, pop cans, etc. littering the streets and put it in the car to be disposed of at home. I frequently found litter in his pockets he would pick up in his walking travels to and from the car on errands. Helping someone stranded alongside the road. We still get Christmas cards from a family we helped over 35 years ago stranded alongside the road during a snow storm. We just did those kinds of things without thinking. Doing what we can for others where we can.
When I think of random acts of kindness, it involves some level of “hardship” on my part, some “cost”. Paying for someone’s meal, parking, toll booth costs, water bill, car registration, groceries, medical bills, hair cuts, hotel bills, tips larger than the price of the meal, etc. The list can be endless. Watching someone’s kids so they can go to an appointment. Cleaning their house and doing their laundry while they were ill, mowing lawn, shoveling/snoblowing snow. My husband after a snowstorm would load up the snowblower and travel around town finding people outside shoveling that shouldn’t be and send them inside and would snoblow and shovel their driveways and sidewalks. We have done all those things and more, again with little thought of the significant impact this makes on others beyond we do these things because we can.
We have been the recipient of acts of kindness. When my husband was fighting the fight of his life for four years, we had many come forward and offer their assistance and more importantly, not offer just DO. This was a very humbling experience for us. We were used to being the ones doing not receiving. They knew to offer no matter what it was we would refuse graciously, but if they DID we couldn’t undo. We were blessed beyond measure.
The surprise acts of kindness are the most fun to do and to receive, especially in the mail. Everyone of all ages likes to receive cards in the mail. You know it is going to contain something good just because of the shape. So I send out a few cards with the card providing the message and sent out a few that I handwrote a message of admiration, encouragement, support. Some were signed, but most unsigned leaving them guessing. I had to work hard disguising my handwriting.
Leaving notes with messages like “you are worth a mint to many” and an attached mint on their car window to cars in shopping parking lots is a lot of fun especially for a group to canvas the parking lot. How inexpensive when you can buy $1.00 bag of starlite mints from the dollar store.
We were blessed with a volunteer run movie theater in the town I used to live in. I was one of the many regular volunteers and usually worked the Wednesday afternoon matinee, regular job was making the popcorn, when all the retired seniors would attend and their movie ticket price was $1.00. I would show up for my scheduled volunteer Wednesday and tell the cashier to tell them their admission was already paid by an admirer and I would pay all their admissions after the movie started. Or I might pay for their matinee $2.00 special popcorn and small soda for everyone who attended that movie. Sadly, moving to a large city those prices are prohibitive of doing this for everyone watching the movie, so I will prepay for a random senior and I never know who it is. I will tell the cashier to pick a number between 1 and 20 and that number is the senior I am paying for. If it doesn’t appear there will be 20 seniors attending that showing and they picked number 20, they are to pick someone to give it to.
I am smiling remembering all these activities and how it not only made others feel but how we felt helping others. The cheapest and easiest act of kindness you can give to another is your smile. My legacy, helping others. The best is yet to be. I always keep my promises.
When given the assignment in week 13 of writing three things daily I am grateful for, my blueprint said “ugh, you will be out of things to write down in about a week. ” Mark’s emphasis of no matter how small or seemingly insignificant write it down became my focus. Surprisingly, a week later and I am still able to come up with three things daily to be grateful for. The first three were rather difficult because I was critiquing my thoughts, “was I really grateful”, “was it really something that deserved the recognition of being awarded the distinction of being in my grateful list?” Some days my old blueprint comes into play, and I fear using them all up and not being able to come up with 3 daily over the weeks to come. Most days, I now don’t want to stop at three and sometimes don’t. I’ve learned that gratitude is not reserved for really big events. Those big things would not come to be without all those little things along the way. Celebrate the small things. We live in abundance; there is infinite possibilities every day. I’ve learned my definitions of many words have taken on new meanings. And my level of expectation has changed, including for myself. My gratitude entries now also include things I am grateful for regarding me and who I am, flaws and all. I am learning to embrace those “flaws”. Why did I give a definition of a something different to be a flaw? I am who I am and I am grateful that there is no other like me. The best is yet to be. I always keep my promises.