invisible threads.

10 Oct

 

 

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i’ve been thinking a lot about heart strings, invisible threads, and the ways in which people enter your story for a page or a chapter and change the entire ending. regardless of whether people come into your life by fate or chance, i’ve always been the kind of person that believes our interactions result in a connection. and so by the end of our lives, we could have an infinite amount of threads linked to other people’s lives, memories, and stories. and although it’s been grudgingly so, i’ve come to accept that not all people are here to stay; i’ve learned that the lesson and impact they bring often requires an ending.

because of friday, i’ve been thinking about all of the people that come into our lives for different lengths of stay. i like the idea of an invisible thread that links you to all of the people that shape who you become in this life. perhaps it is a ball of tangled string- sometimes tied complicatedly in knots and sometimes loosely bound together- or an uncountable amount of strings that run parallel to one another. but mostly, i just like the idea of an invisible thread that links one person to another; like somehow, our individual life stories are now part of each other’s. and so i’ve been thinking about the people i am bound to. the thread that taught me not to attach my identity to another person.  the thread from high school that formed from an unlikely friendship between myself and an adult in recovery from substance abuse.  the interwoven threads of kindness from people like the frail Chinese woman who prayed over my body in the parking lot or the nurse who walked across the street to the convenience store to buy me reese’s pieces when i had meningitis because it was the only thing i would eat.  a thread that was a lesson in heartache from the boy who taught me about the strength it requires to put yourself back together.  my college chemistry professor who i spent tuesday afternoons with.  the sheepish grin that taught me about hope and what life can be like when you lose it. the thread to your father- the first person to show me what a mandolin sounds like. i’ve been thinking about my invisible threads stretched out across this world;  the attachment to the Egyptian eye doctor and his Polish girlfriend who found us crossing the nile river and took us out to dinner; the new york city taxi driver who coincidentally ended up being our driver for two consecutive nights; the man from Turkey who showed us his grandmother’s rugs over a hot cup of tea.  and maybe it’s so that i could say goodbye, but i like to think about all of the ways in which our lives are now intertwined. in the ways that i’ll see red converse shoes and deep ocean eyes and think of you.

 

so maybe some people don’t come into your life to stay forever.  maybe we will each go off and do a million separate things and maybe our life paths will never cross again, but the thing about threads is that you can’t undo what has already been formed.  i believe that people stay long enough- even if only for a moment- to impact your existence and to help write out your story. like the strangers in the check-out line that teach you about patience or the ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the corner of their world that teach you about humility.  the child on the airplane with an endless amount of questions that reminds you to wonder.  the people you see on the street or wandering through the town that teach you about strength and acceptance.  and if life has taught me anything, it’s that some people’s stay will never be long enough. i don’t have the answer for that, i don’t know why it is that they sometimes leave before we are ready.  all i know is that maybe you don’t get to decide how they leave, but you can choose which parts of them stay with you.  and so on days like today, i remember how important it is to think about the people who have impacted us- both positively and negatively- and to be grateful for those lessons, those threads.  we can only hope to experience this life in it’s entirety and so we take in the good and the bad and every little thing in between.   love intertwined with heartache.  loss accompanied by strength, hope, and growth.  a million failed attempts and one moment of success. endings that become beginnings. the people that teach you about self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance.   a million words and one set of ears that will listen. and when you think about all of the threads that comprise the person that you are, think about the ways in which you have impacted the people around you.  what lessons have you taught?  what message did you send? and are your threads ones of love and kindness?

 

what i know about invisible threads is that if you give people the chance, they will surprise you.  connections are formed when you put your phone down and  lift your head up.  when you offer a smile or change someone’s day. when you look someone in the eye on the elevator or really listen to what people have to say.  they are formed when you realize that at every given moment, your life is being changed by the people around you.  invisible threads link us to unsuspecting people in the most beautiful of ways. you may not get to choose who comes into your life, when they leave, or what lesson they bring, but you do have a say in the way you link yourself to other people in this world.

 

 

and with all of these words, i guess i’m trying to say that i’ve been thinking about how so many parts of my life are not mine alone-  and i’m comforted by the idea that so many parts of our lives are experienced together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 and so this is for monday mornings and for letting me be a part of your growth.

i like where our stories meet.

a robin williams story.

10 Sep

i can’t remember how old i was, but i remember being in my parents’ room, sitting on their bed with a plate full of snacks.  the moment i started watching the movie, i knew that it had been made just for me. and i’ve always been a little bit selfish when it comes to stumbling across a favorite movie, quote, or  book- of holding on to the stories they contain like treasure- trying to keep all the magic they consist of just for myself.  so i can remember my elementary school self not wanting anyone else to know about “Patch Adams.”  i was going to be him, i remember thinking.  i was going to be  person who brought light to the lives of others, who was attentive to other people’s suffering, and who knew what to do to help make it better. i can distinctly remember not wanting anyone to know about Patch Adams because i thought the world would only need one of him, and i wanted it to be me.  i’ve grown up since then. and i’ve learned that having the tiniest impact on the world is about focusing less on one’s ego and more on one’s understanding of the challenges, solutions, and contributors to a problem. but that movie became the spark that ignited my dream to go to college to become a doctor.

 

like many of you, i have my own Robin William’s story.

 

as you may know, i held tight to the dream of becoming a Patch Adams kind of doctor, until my junior year of college. and as you may also know, i chose to become a social worker instead.  this choice has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the most remarkable and resilient people i could have ever hoped to meet.  and so in the last few years, i have spent time talking with people who are homeless, people who have a severe and persistent mental illness, people who have been diagnosed with other mental illnesses, people who have endured traumatic life experiences, and people who are struggling to make it through the day. i’ve had the opportunity to get to know people whose lives have been very different from Robin William’s, but perhaps similar in their experience of depression and suicidal ideation.

and in the days, weeks, and month following the initial shock over Robin William’s death, i’ve noticed that the conversations about suicide, depression, stigma, treatment, and mental illness have waned. but it has left me thinking about the friends, family members, consumers, Veterans, and people i’ve come to know who have struggled with depression, addiction, other mental health challenges, or thoughts and plans of suicide.  i’ve never personally experienced depression, but i know that it can feel a lot like darkness, like an unexpected blow to the stomach, or like a heavy feeling of dread that you just can’t seem to shake. i know that depression can mean not feeling anything at all, or being numb to everything you are feeling all at once. it can mean feeling withdrawn or withdrawing yourself from the world. and i know that depression can feel a lot like a sinking hole that you cannot climb out of.

what i know is that suicide is often a symptom of major depressive disorder- a  mental illness caused by a number of biological and environmental factors. what i know is that over 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders).  and for people who experience chronic and recurrent symptoms of major depression or other mental illnesses, suicide or thoughts of suicide may come to feel like a comforting solution or viable option to end the pain that no longer feels endurable. depression is not a choice nor a character flaw, and it is not a decision of someone ‘wanting to feel sorry for themselves,’ or not being able to cope with life’s challenges.  suicide is not about being selfish or weak, but rather, it’s about pain. it’s about loss of hope. and i think we forget that it’s human nature to want to end suffering, to find relief.  to be clear, it is not my intention to encourage, promote, or advocate for suicide.   i am however, challenging you to empathize with another person’s experience before making a judgement or criticism about their character.

 

since beginning this profession, i’ve been collecting other people’s stories.  and these stories- their life experiences- have been guiding and shaping my interactions with others. conversations with people who are both chronically homeless and transiently homeless demonstrate to me the complicatedness of poverty, the challenges of locating affordable housing, and the difficulties of maintaing competitive employment while also living with a mental illness and/or addiction. play dates with children in foster care and with children who have been severely abused and neglected remind me of the impact of abuse on cognitive development, emotional regulation, and attachment. and when working with these children when they later become adults, i consider their childhoods and the traumas they’ve endured. i think it’s important to recognize the number of factors that contribute to a person’s behaviors and perception of the world.  i am also aware that some people-regardless of their upbringing, or despite having a ‘healthy’ upbringing- will make poor choices.  and even then, i attempt to understand.  because what i know is that you cannot reduce people to simplistic generalizations based on your limited understanding of their situation.  it is much more complicated than that.

 

and what i know is that there are still so many people in this world who do not understand.  who choose not to understand. and who continue to blame people for the suffering they do not take the time to understand.  and so if your understanding of depression or suicide is one that blames the person who is struggling with the mental illness, i would challenge that your knowledge of their life and experiences is incomplete. i would challenge you to have one conversation with a person who has had thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, or who struggles with a mental illness. i challenge you to be curious rather than judgmental.  open minded and open hearted. i challenge you to seek to understand rather than assume that you already know. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so this post is for you.  for those whose suffering feels unnoticed. for those people who feel quietly stuck inside their mind. for those that feel hopeless. for those whose cries for help are mislabeled or misunderstood as cries for attention or flaws in their being. for the people who feel too tired to continue on.  for people who struggle with depression and for people who don’t.  for people who are having a bad day, a bad season, or a rough stretch of life. and for those people who don’t understand the illness but are willing to try.

 

 

 

It’s okay – whatever you need, wherever you are,  however long it takes – it’s okay.

there is still time.

to ask for help. to grow. to heal. to recover.

there is still time for the sunshine to begin to seep through the cracks. for a flower to grow straight from your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

just in case.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7
  • Talk to someone online through the Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • Teens can get text support from the Crisis Text Line by texting “listen” to 741-741.
  • Veterans in crisis can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Call 911.

…because of roadmaps and treasure chests.

29 Jun

as you may know, i am the kind of person that is easily overwhelmed.  by the kindness of a waitress on an ordinary day or the breeze that blows through the summer air. and on a daily basis, i am overwhelmed by the indifference of the world in light of all the suffering that takes place. i get anxious about small things like passing a licensure exam or an interaction that didn’t go as i had hoped. and i’ve always been the kind of person that can be overwhelmed by how much i have left to do and how little i have done.

so it’s no surprise that i was standing in the hair and make-up aisle when i was suddenly overcome by the number of products i was surrounded by.   hair extensions, highlights, blush, foundation, and mascara.  eye shadow, lip liner, and eyelash extensions. age-defying cream and wrinkle prevention lotions.  there are lotions and sprays and tanning beds. straighteners, curling irons, and hair sprays.  the magazines that tell us what we are supposed to look like, the headlines that call on us to be thin, tan, and flawless. the implications that our outward appearance is a determinant of our individual worth.  and all i could think about was how many products tell us that the way we look- the way we are- is not enough.

 

i don’t watch television and i generally don’t skim through magazines, but i hear the messages all the same.  we tell them to ourselves.  we’ve been trained to become insecure about a blemish on our face, a haircut that’s a little too short, stretch marks on our stomaches, or weight gain in all of the wrong places. to be clear, i wear make-up on a daily basis and i work out as often as i can, i reward myself with new clothes and even bought eyelash extension cream once.  in no way am i suggesting that there is anything wrong with wanting to feel beautiful and confident, i just don’t believe that a flawless outward appearance is the only way to get there.

in high school, someone once told me that it didn’t matter whether or not i understood advanced placement calculus because ‘at least i was pretty.’ while i understand that they were trying to be comforting, encouraging, and nice, i can remember my exact feeling of outrage. the anger that arose because i was supposed to feel relieved by someone’s perception of my outward appearance; of the implication that the way i looked would somehow be enough to help me get a scholarship so that i could go to college.  that somehow the way i looked would help to determine whether i would develop enough self-discipline to finish what i started, that somehow my appearance would help me to further my career. and i remember wondering when ‘being pretty’ began to outweigh our intelligence, capabilities, attitude, and our individual contributions to the world.

i find that sometimes we place so much emphasis on what our body looks like that we forget about the amazing things it does for us. your legs- regardless of their length and width- have carried your body for all of these years.  they have held you up on your weakest days and were there with you to jump for joy in moments of celebration.  they’ve ran through the grass during summer nights of hide and seek and they’ve rooted you to this earth. and your arms, they work. they can bend and they can write. they can pick up a child and hold another’s hand.  they’ve helped you to feel objects and to build things, they are your ability to reach out to the world. your mind, it is a wonderful, magical, and complex tool that continues to guide your perception and understanding of the world.  i could go on, but you get the point- each and every one of your body parts has served you in some way. each and every part continues to do something for your life. let’s not forget that every minute detail of your being is made with extraordinary and intricate capabilities.

 

 

i have always believed in not being attached to something as impermanent as our physical appearance.  of being attached to short hair, long hair, thick hair, or thin.  of what color it is or what color it’s not. of not being attached to the number on a scale or the amount of space between your thighs. the way you look can change.  it will change. and it is always changing. i was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who taught me that what i looked like was not who i was.  it has never been my job, responsibility, nor my dream to be beautiful.  i am not alive for that purpose.  we all have so much more to offer the world than our physical appearance.

 

who you are as a person, that’s what matters. that is what is constant.

are you beautiful on the inside?

 

 

i believe in intelligence. i believe in the ever expansion of your mind through books, travel, and new experiences.  i believe in having conversations with people who have a different point of view than yours and in staying current on world events. of challenging yourself to set higher expectations and to dream bigger dreams. and i believe in health. in eating healthy, nourishing your body, and being good to your soul.  i believe in exercising to add longevity to your life, to add strength to your mental and physical abilities, and to foster self-discipline. i believe in pull-ups, cardio, and strength-training.  i believe in getting adequate amounts of sleep so that you are energized throughout the day. i believe in confidence and beauty in the form of a smile to a stranger, of a hand that reaches out to help without question or reservation.  kindness towards others, determination to succeed, and the courage to forgive; that is beauty.  our internal integrity, our ability to respond with grace, the gifting of our time, and the mark we leave on the world- that is the beauty that should define us.

 

 

i believe in beauty that is real.

in the naturalness that can be observed when you become unapolgetically who you are.

 

 

i believe in our bodies serving as road maps to remind us each where we have been.  that scar on my left leg from the bike crash i had as a second grader, the indentation above my left eyebrow where i ran into a door, and the deep stretch marks on my thighs and around my knees when i went through my first big growth spurt in seventh grade. i believe in growing old and your body having all the proof to show it.  i believe in wrinkles.  i believe in flaws, blemishes, and stretch marks.  laugh lines for a life well lived. greying hair for all of the challenges you have overcome.  extra weight around your midsection from the babies you’ve birthed, from the celebrations you’ve had the opportunity to experience, from those delicious desserts you were able to indulge in. worry lines on your forehead for the uncertainty you felt during troubling days. i believe that your body is a treasure chest holding within it all of the goodness you’ve received, the love you’ve given, and the pain you’ve endured.

 

 

you are more than beautiful.  and you are more than something to be looked at.

 

 

 

you are strong. you are brave. you are intelligent.                                                                                                                                      you are kind. you are funny.                                                                                                                                                                              you are a giver, receiver, a dreamer, and a doer.                                                                                                                                        you are an athlete, a thinker, an encourager, a creator.                                                                                                                            you are as bright as the sun and you are so much more than the simplicity of your outward appearance.

 

 

you are so much more.

doubt it .

17 May

it’s amazing how quickly doubt can settle in. it’s like a question mark at the end of a statement, an uncertainty about what you thought you once knew. a tilt of the head or the raise of an eyebrow. it’s a whisper that makes you wonder if you really knew after all. and it can be a series of dominos that start to fall down if you let it.

while i’ve never really had a low self-esteem, i continue to observe situations in which my self-confidence begins to waver. in my ability to complete tasks, accomplish goals, and make decisions. i can feel when it starts to come and i can see what happens when i start to start to listen- when i start to believe it. the stumbling over words, the second guessing, and insecurities. the questions i start to ask of myself; can i pass this test? can i accomplish this goal? am i capable of more? is this good enough? what if i fail?

and i see the self doubt help me to fall. it opens up the door for excuses to slip in, it welcomes discomfort and feelings of uneasiness. it’s that little whisper that tries to tell you that you’ll never make it, so that you give up before you ever do. and part of self-doubt comes from a comparison of yourself to others, of feeling like you don’t measure up to another person’s strengths. self-doubt convinces you that you won’t get to where the other person has already gotten. and maybe it’s that little voice that tells you that what you do, who you are, or what you’re working towards is not enough. and when you start comparing yourself to other people you might start to notice that you begin putting them down, that you begin basing your accomplishments off of other people’s lack of success.  comparing yourself to others seems to  imply that someone is going to be better and someone is going to be worse.  but really, we are just different.  that’s all. 

 

 

and so what do you do when you feel like you are not enough? that you cannot succeed? that someone is better.stronger.smarter.nicer. more talented. capable. than yourself?

 

 

you persevere.

 

and in persevering, you acquire the right perspective.  you change your thinking from the “i’ll never get there” to an “i’m on my way.”  and through this perspective shift, you remember what you do have, what you are capable  of, and where you are going.   part of this perspective is about remembering that you have enough.  you do enough.  and that you are enough.  perspective is about a willingness to see the situation from a different point of view; it’s about changing your attitude and strengthening your resolve.  i’ve also learned that perspective is about gratitude, about feeling grateful for your individual abilities and experiences and for honoring how other people got to where they are at. and perspective is a reminder that there are other ways to look at the situation.  other feelings to feel, other beliefs to believe. other movements to make.

and when you hear that self-doubt;  perseverance is about trying to understand where it is coming from and what is it saying. and to persevere, you plan.   you develop a plan to overcome it.  and while you may have great intentions to persevere, it may be hard to do so when you haven’t considered how you will.  write down the steps.  list out your personal challenges.  address the ways you will get over road blocks, detours, and bumps in the road. and if your self-doubt is telling tell you that you’ll never reach your physical goals, you write out your health plan.  you list out all of the assignments to complete before you graduate from college. you record all of the bills left to pay before you are debt free.  you plan, and you plan, and you plan.  and then you pursue with consistent dedication. and to persevere, you must decide to work harder than your self-doubt is telling you not to.  

 

in times of self-doubt and in times of perseverance, you surround yourself with people who believe in you and who believe in themselves.  surround yourself with people who challenge you to grow, who push you to succeed, and who hope that you’ll get there.  you’ve probably heard that you become similar to the five people you spend the most time with–  spend time with people that you want to be like.  spend time people that believe in your plans.  spend time with people who’ve chosen to persevere despite their own personal insecurities, challenges, and set backs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

self doubt?

 

doubt it.

 

… the things he built.

5 May

my grandpa carried a picture of me in his wallet.

 

and when we used to go to mcdonald’s for breakfast in that small texas town, he would pull it out and show it to the cashiers.  “she’s going to graduate from college,” he’d say.  and when he had the chance, he would introduce me to the people he knew and and even the people he didn’t. “my granddaughter is real smart,” he would tell them.

and when i graduated from college, he wrote an article about me and had it published in his local newspaper so that his entire town would know.  he (with the help of my family) wrote about what i did in college and where i hoped to go from there. he told his community about my volunteer work and travels abroad.  i didn’t go to any form of schooling in texas and i didn’t know anyone outside of my family that lived there so i remember laughing and half-rolling my eyes when my mom told me what my grandfather wanted to do.

i used to think it was silly, but now i realize that he was proud.

and not just of me, or because it was me, but because that is the kind of person my grandfather was.  forever warming your heart. and forever making you believe that anything was possible.

 

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when my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, i learned that he helped raise the money needed to build the church where his memorial service was held. i learned that he was the called a guadalupano- the first and only male to be included in the guadalupanas, a group of women in the church who dedicate their time to serving their community. because none of the women had drivers’ licenses at the time, he used to drive them around to ensure they made it to where they needed to be. he was a giver, a doer, and a believer that all things were possible.  the absence of my grandfather in the days following his funeral was surreal. a sadness that overtook you in the most unsuspecting of ways; like when i walked into a room and didn’t hear his normal “hallo jesse” greeting. like the silence of my grandmother’s house because my grandfather was hard of hearing and no longer had the television blaring in the background. it was a feeling in your stomach where you knew that something was missing that could never be replaced.

 

and when my grandfather passed away, that picture of me was still there, in his wallet. 

 

my grandpa was my biggest fan and ultimate cheerleader.  he was the kind of person that made it possible for you to see a better version of yourself.  the kind of person that made you want succeed, just so that he would be able to see it.  and the kind of person that knew how to make everybody feel like they were special. so much so that when he looked at you, you knew that you were. he made up ‘rap songs’ and sang them to us just to hear us laugh.  and his life was an example of what it means to serve others in whatever way that you have to offer.  through music, hard work, kind words, and simple actions, his life was one of giving. and his life was a demonstration of daily celebrations; he always wore his nicest suits, shiniest shoes, and little top hat– a reminder that life is now and not the days that have yet to come. 

 

my grandfather showed me what it means to cheer someone on, to believe in someone so much that they start to believe in themselves.  and in your lifetime, you will have the opportunity to be somebody’s cheerleader. and i hope you remember what an honor that could be. i hope you help someone learn that within themselves, they have everything they need to succeed. and i hope you lead by example, that you demonstrate self-discipline, commitment, and hard-work.  i hope you that you celebrate someone’s small successes and that you choose to pull someone forward long after they have wanted to stop.  i hope you walk into the room and make every single person feel noticed, special, and worthwhile.  and i hope you teach others that someday is now. that today is a reason for your best hat and nicest smelling cologne (or perfume).  and i hope that one day, you can be part of the reason that someone decides to keep going.

my grandfather cheered for me in the quietest of ways.  in small interactions that took place at the check out line and in the little flicker of his eyes as he glanced my way. he cheered for me in his smile and in the words he spoke.  and he cheered for me in the way he lived his life.  my grandfather built a family. a church. and a community. he taught me that the things we build will outlive us when we are gone.

 

today was meaningful because i will live out my life through his example.

today was meaningful because even through this terrible sadness, i’ll continue to cheer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what i know is that you never know how much you will miss someone until they are gone.

and what i know is that grandpa, it’s a whole lot.

…because of the shoes we’ll wear

14 Apr

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we’ll wear many shoes in our lives.

slippers on that rainy day when your heart first got broken and you can’t seem to understand where the love went and where to go from here. maybe you’ll wear blue polka-dot rain boots when you get lost walking on campus in a new state and you’re feeling insecure about your ability to see the next four years through. cowboy boots covered with mud when you are driving down a country road at midnight after dancing in red dirt all summer long. flip flops for those summer days when you spend the entire day outside, blisters on your feet and vowing to yourself that you’ll make the most out of these days. black shoes for when you walk across the stage and grab that diploma. the same shoes for your first professional job. first funeral. first formal dinner. your favorite pair of sneakers on the day where you feel stuck inside and not sure of how to move forward.

and along the way, those shoes will pick up pieces from every place you’ve been. they’ll collect the dust, grit, and particles- all of the necessary steps that it took to get there.  but where will you walk and where will you go?  i probably talk about this too often, but it continues to have relevance in my life.  the person you are isn’t where you say you’ll go or all of the things you say you’ll do;  the person you are is where you have been, the direction you are headed, and what you are doing to get there.  action then, not words or promises, is what defines us.  today, right now.  

and so if your new year’s resolution or personal goal is to live a healthier lifestyle, do you have your gym shoes on? are you lacing them up and going on that walk, jog, or run?  are you choosing to go to the gym, take the stairs, drink more water, or eat nutritiously rich foods?  and if your dream is to graduate from high school, college, or enter in to the workforce, do you have on your comfortable sneakers, workbooks, or dress shoes? are you showing up for class?  putting in the time, effort, and self-discipline to get there? and if you want to travel the world, are you saving money now?  are you making the sacrifices needed to get yourself there?  are you reducing your spending and increasing your work? and if you want to be a writer, do you have on your favorite pair of christmas socks while you develop your characters and story line? and if you want to pass that test or get that promotion are your behaviors leading the way? are you elaborating on your dreams and focusing in on your passion, strengths, and talents?

you get the point.

what i’m asking is if you are taking the individual steps to get you to the finish line you hope to cross.  because we all know you don’t make it to the end with just one step.  races are completed and won after a series of continuous, focused effort.  it’s by adjusting your pace, taking deep breaths, and resolving your mind to finish what you started that we ever get there.

and if the answer is no, it might be useful to determine whether your goals match your priorities. i think one of the hardest questions we can ask ourselves is:  if we aren’t working on what we believe to be most important to our individual lives, then what are we trading our goals for?  maybe its  for comfortable nights filled with our favorite reality television, or sleeping in all afternoon.  maybe it’s the satisfaction of getting that extra dessert, buying that new article of clothing, or staying up all night.  and although i believe that sometimes these things are exactly what we need, i also know how easy it is to stop working on a goal before we actually there. and so i wonder how often we set ourselves up for continued disappointment, dissatisfaction, and  stagnation because our short-term needs and wants get in the way. i wonder how often we get pulled off track because our excuses lead us astray.  are we trading opportunity for comfort?  our success for immediate gratification?  what i know is that every action you take is the result of choice– the choice to move forward or the choice to say where you are at.  what are you choosing?

 

 

and so it comes down to this moment.  can you make that first step today?  with or without motivation, can you find the discipline within your self to take one action that will get you closer to your goal?  can you close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and remind yourself that you can do anything that you will yourself to do?  because the truth is, you are full of possibilities.  full of untapped capabilities and unused resources.  and i think life is about utilizing our inherent potential.  now is always a good time to start.

 

whether it be flip flops, winter boots, sneakers, sandals, or high-heels, put on the shoes you’ll need to get yourself where you want to go. it’s not so much the shoes that matter as it is the person that’s wearing them.

maybe you’ll go barefoot.

but what matters is that you put one foot in front of the other until you get there.

 

 

 

in just one day.

13 Feb

my friend and i went to a funeral today.

the sun was shining just right through the stained glass windows, illuminating the church with varying shades of red, green, yellow, and blue.  this funeral was different from other ones that i have been to in that i didn’t know the man or what he looked like.  i didn’t know if he had any kids or what his favorite foods were.  i didn’t know what his laugh sounded like or whether or not he showed his teeth when he smiled.  i don’t know where he last worked or what he hoped to accomplish in his life.  i knew nothing more about Terry expect for the fact that he did not have a home.  that he died as a result of sleeping outside after our last frigid storm.  i know that he was giving; “the first to give out a blanket to other people who were staying under the bridge”– one of his two friends at the funeral told us.

the funeral was attended by two of his friends sitting in the front row- wiping tears from their eyes and leaning on one another for support- and by people from community agencies, participants of this particular church, and by other people in the community who believe that every life should be honored, celebrated, and mourned.

and what sticks out to me was not just that this man died as a result from sleeping outside amidst a severe winter storm, but that he lived years of his life without a home, and assumingly, without some of his needs being met.  maybe he had a long history of substance abuse or a severe mental illness that was not being treated.  maybe he was a veteran that served our country in vietnam or a child who was once in foster care.  or maybe he came from a wonderful home.  maybe he made a few bad choices. and maybe he made some good ones too. i don’t know what his steps were.  and i don’t know that it should matter.  what matters is that people be afforded the opportunity to change their life circumstances, that people be offered a hand when they are down, and that they be understood rather than judged.   my heart breaks a little bit more with every condemning facebook post i read and every judgmental comment i hear regarding the people we cast as ‘others’- the homeless whom we expect to accept less and remain separate from the society in which we participate.

 

i tell you this story for the sole purpose of raising awareness.  of reminding you that yes, those you seeing sleeping under a bridge, standing on street corners, and wandering the streets are homeless.  but first, and most importantly, they are people.  did you know that in 2013, 13 people in oklahoma city died as a direct result of their homelessness? are you aware of the differences between people who panhandle and people who are homeless?  and did you know that there are reasons for homelessness other than substance abuse? in oklahoma city, people who are homeless are most often chronically homeless, living with a severe mental illness, or  are veterans who served our country.  and if you are going to gawk at someone from the comfort of your car, i hope you will take the time to look beyond their appearance and into their heart. and while you are looking, maybe take a look inside of your own heart too.

 

believe that when you have love for all of mankind, you don’t judge other people’s paths or condemn their lives. you don’t put conditions on your love or stipulations on your gifts.  and i don’t think help is about who deserves it and who doesn’t.  i think help is about remembering all of the advantages you’ve had in your life that other people haven’t.  it’s about understanding that we will all walk the earth in different ways and make different mistakes to get there. and when you have genuine concern for others, i believe you care more about where they are going than where they have been.

 

 

 

photo

because it was february 13th, it was also the celebration of “galentines”- a two year tradition my friends and i started doing in conjunction with RAK week.  On this day, we all go out to eat in celebration of our friendship and valentines day and jointly participate in a RAK in honor of random acts of kindness week.

an adorable elderly man sat in the corner of the restaurant; glasses and a little sweater, red wine and a small steak.  we all knew that we’d pick him.  we made him a make-shift valentines day card and told our waitress we wanted to secretly pay for his meal. we sat around the table and attempted to guess his life story.

we ate our dinner and conspicuously watched as his waitress told him that his meal had been paid for.  “people must love you,” we heard her say.  we watched him fold the card, unfold it, and look around the room.  he re-read the card and looked for familiar faces.  we watched him and his waitress talk before he slowly got up and left the restaurant.  he read the card one more time before putting it in his wallet.

and that was it.  except that it wasn’t.

 

his waitress came to our table with tears in her eyes and said, “i just had to let you all know what you did for that man.  he and his wife used to be regulars here, but he hadn’t been back since she passed away last year.  they used to come here and eat together on valentine’s day and he came out for the first time tonight in her honor.”  he ordered cake for dessert and only ate half.  she continued on to explain his wife’s funeral reception had been held at this restaurant and that that was the last time he had been there. she explained that the man kept looking around in disbelief because  ‘it had been a running joke he had with his wife because people were always paying for their meals when they went out to eat together.’

 

“i feel like she was here with me today,” he said.

and maybe she was.

 

 

and i tell you this story because it will forever be a reminder of the impact of a small gesture of kindness. a reminder that we don’t know each others’ stories unless we take the time to hear them. i learned that on an ordinary day, you might have the opportunity to reach out and grab someone else’s hand.  and by doing so, you may have a change in your heart.  an affirmation or a calling. and more importantly, maybe the person you reach out to will reach out to someone else or be changed by it.  and then maybe, just maybe, we’d have ripples of connection and waves of kindness. in an indirect way, i saw love and death in different forms today.  love for a friend, love for a wife, and people being brought together because of it.  i saw death in honoring a man’s life and observed it from a far as an elderly man ate valentine’s day dinner alone for the first time. at a small church and in a quiet restaurant i was reminded of the power of human connection and the universal devastation of loss. and i’ve come to understand that no matter what walk of life you are on, we are all humans who need one another.

i believe in the power of single, unsuspecting moments.  and i believe that there are so many things that can happen in one day.  one late afternoon.  one lifetime.

february 13th was a beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

today was meaningful because i was just a stranger, sitting in on other people’s love.

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