Beloved Losses

In the past three weeks the world has lost some serious creative talent.

Bassist and lead singer of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister

Singer, Actor David Bowie

Actor Alan Rickman

Actor, Musician and Singer for The Eagles, Glenn Frey

I find it interesting that they came from the same generation. One that believed in work hard, paying dues, and practicing craft instead of hoping to get picked in a game-show lottery.

Why do we grieve public figures and celebrities?

Was it their passion for their art? Their portrayal of heroes and villains? Standing up for their ideals? Going against the grain? Being themselves when it wasn’t cool? Striving to create instead of destroy?

I think it’s because they lived lives that the rest of us only dream of. We love that we were able to see a handful of mortals achieve greatness in a world that seems so far from real. We look up to them because they remind us of what is possible.

They remind me that we all create our own world, for good or for ill. And we can each create our own great.

I raise my glass to the talent who achieved their great. You will all be missed.

Energy Exchange

I’m always leery of panhandlers holding cardboard signs. Once I saw someone offer a man a bag of food. He got irate, waving his arms and yelling. He didn’t want food. I knew a gentleman who had a regular spot on a median near the airport. An amputee in a wheelchair, he didn’t bother with a sign. When he was done for the day, he wheeled himself to a nearby 7 Eleven, where his Cadillac was parked around back. Another man with a sign attacked the car in front of me at a stoplight. Apparently, the driver said something to upset him. Snapped the driver’s window in half.

After Christmas, as I waited in the car for my husband, a woman knocked on my window as if she needed help. She had a cane and a clump of something in her free hand and told me her story in a rehearsed patter.

“Would you be interested in buying a keychain? I’m a widow with twin daughters in need of anything you can spare.”

I’d seen her around the area on other occasions. As I rarely have actual cash on my person, I could only offer some of the quarters I kept in the car for parking meters. I didn’t need a keychain but was impressed that she had something to offer in exchange instead of asking for a handout. The item was simply yarn threaded with colorful plastic beads that many folks might decline or even throw away. But when she asked me what color I’d like, I told her. And it is now on my key ring.

It’s lightweight, so my mechanic won’t fuss about straining the ignition switch, and it’s my favorite color. If it lasts only a week before coming unraveled, that’s fine. Until then, it will serve as a humble reminder that a few needy folks understand the concept of energy exchange or fair trade.

Before currency, we traded whatever we had for whatever we needed. I wonder how many unneeded items were exchanged for medical care, shoes, grain, weapons, anything. Doctors probably had a stockpile of things they never needed but accepted because that was all the patient had to offer. Also, because it helped maintain any dignity the person had left after falling on hard times.

When our exchange was complete, the woman hobbled to a man in the next row. I imagined her repeating her story. He shook his head and got into his car. She limped onto the next. As much sympathy as I had for her, I had equal admiration. Approaching strangers in a parking lot had to be humiliating, yet she seemed to be well over any emotion about it. She may have had little to offer, but she offered what little she had. And that’s all anyone could ask.

 

Right-Minded Resolutions

Not the same

Starting your list already? Oh, how wonderful the new you will be.

Before you set a lot of good intentions that you might fall on in the first month of the new year, you may want to rethink a few. Thinking is the key to any resolution. Going into changes with “right mind” is the surest way to achieve them.

Weight is a whopper. The diet plan ads roll out the moment you put the fork on the plate of your holiday feast.  Every year that I set a weight loss goal, I wouldn’t reach it. I’d get a third of the way and get sick.  Probably because how I thought I was going to do it was not the proper way for my body.  My thinking was wrong. My head would always be thinking about what I couldn’t have, how bad I felt, what I was being denied instead of the good that might come of the change.

Resolutions aren’t all about “the doing” of the action. They begin with the thoughts required to produce the right action. If you get your mind right first, the action becomes secondary.

You’ve heard the old saying, “You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.”

No one mentions where your mind has to be – positive, constructive, and reassuring. Thoughts that are negative and critical will only derail you.

And will you get what you expected from the doing of it?

Figure out the reasons why you want to accomplish something. What will it do for you? Why? Then ask the honest question: Is this true? Will accomplishing this goal give me all that I think it will?

No goal that I ever achieved provided me with the benefits I expected.  Sometimes I would gain totally different gifts. Others I was left disappointed because my expectations were too high.

Think simply. What small action can I do today to get one step closer to my goal, and make me feel good for having done it? And have this thought every day.

Figure out the stepping stones and if you are willing to put the time into master each one (doing the time) while thinking about the progress – not the outcome. We all like the fastest, most direct path to anything. But skipping steps can make for a sloppy result, leaving egg on your face, and regret down the road.

Be honest with yourself about what you want to change in your life, and if the actions you plan will give you what you want.  Take time to think through your resolution list and include the stepping stones to attainment. Do you want to lose weight to look more attractive or to gain self-esteem? Because there other actions that can provide you with both of those things. Do you need to lose weight because your doctor said you had to? Then you need mentally tackle challenge number one: Getting past being told you have to.

Your thoughts become physical things that create feelings. The more “right feelings” you have, the more of a tailwind you’ll catch to take you there.

Energy flows where your thoughts go. If your thoughts go to the Dark Side, so will your outcome.

 

Dashing through the holidays, in too many directions

troublemaker

I had coffee with a friend who had to figure out how divide her holiday too many ways and still honor her own traditions.

In another life, I was married to someone from a broken home like mine. Divorce on one side of the family already creates too many stops for the holidays, but both sides? Holiday Hell.

There is always someone who will take personally the fact that you didn’t choose their gathering as your first stop. There is always someone who will publically recall your most embarrassing moments, want to point out your inadequacies, and grill you on your missteps and bad choices. There is always someone who doesn’t understand why you aren’t thrilled to partake in another meal or special event they waited until you arrived to begin. There is always someone who doesn’t understand that you really have to go to work the next day, and still have a two hour drive to get home. And there will always be hurt that goes unrecognized, mainly yours.

I used to dread holidays. Then I got divorced. That eliminated a couple stops on my route. It also cleaned out my bank account curbing Christmas altogether. But I remember one Christmas night sitting by the cable TV Yule Log with a glass of wine, can of nuts, and the dog at my feet as I waited for a movie to start. It was Heaven.

No racing to the next stop where I had to pretend that I was delighted to be there. No picking at food I really didn’t need, or overeating to the point of serious sickness. No holding my tongue or doing massive quantities of dishes to avoid confrontations. No deflecting sarcasm with humor. No one angry with me for not putting them first. Everyone might have been angry for me not showing up, but hey, I didn’t have to give myself away.

Ever notice how many funerals there are around the holidays? I have seen five this week just in my little corner of the world. Life is short. We are lucky if we live to see eighty. Does that mean we have to give ourselves away to everyone to make it matter? I don’t think so. You never know when you’ll have your last holiday. How do you want to spend it? Miserable? Exhausted?

Do you want to make someone happy on the holidays? Begin with yourself.

Be selfish, you say? But the holidays are about giving to others! Ripples in the pond, I say. You can only spread joy if you are joyful. People can feel when it is genuine. Otherwise, your joy-less presence will not be a gift to anyone. If you’re going to show up all bent out of shape from the last gathering or the argument in the car, it might be best to keep your unhappy act home.

Honor your own traditions first. If you really don’t want to go somewhere, don’t. There, I said it. I just gave you permission. DON’T GO if you can’t bring any good to the occasion. Yes, you’ll probably be talked about, but only in speculation.  Hurt feelings, anger, disappointment are things we all live with daily, but better that they come with your absence than something you said in frustration and can’t take back. Because some people hold grudges and have very long memories that will bleed into every holiday to come.

Isn’t the whole tagline of the season Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men? If you can’t bring peace to your own home, how can you be a bringer of goodwill to anyone else’s?

Give only what you have the resources to give –  time, money, energy, caring, self. And when you’ve run out, stop. Because you can’t give something you don’t have left to give.

What if Someone Believed in You?

A lot of us grew up where dreams were just illusions not practical enough to pursue. And we were encouraged to walk paths not aligned with our desires. Budding artists might have heard weary parents warn “You’ll starve to death” for all the competition. Their advice was often based on their own fears. But the lucky ones are fortunate enough to meet teachers or mentors who encouraged them to believe that they could achieve anything.

What if someone had said, “I have faith in you. Go for it.” What path would your life have taken? Would you have prospered or starved? Would you come away with gratitude or regret even if you didn’t reach the desired out come?

We often dream of doing things our family and friends might not approve of. And sometimes, there might not be a single soul in our corner. So we have to believe in ourselves enough to strike out on our chosen path. Success shouldn’t be viewed as a pot of gold at the end of the road, but the fortitude you build from having faith in yourself to complete journey.  You will never reach the destination if you don’t make the trip.

I’ll leave you with a perfect example of this as being a gift, taken from an article published in McCall’s magazine in December of 1961, by Harper Lee.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/12/harper-lee-my-christmas-in-new-york?CMP=share_btn_fb

The Press vs. The Catholic Church

spotlight

The film Spotlight follows the story of The Boston Globe investigation that verified and published an unthinkable systemic child abuse cover-up by The Catholic Church in 2002. This blow came to Boston just months after the dust of 9/11 settled on New York.

The film was not easy to sit through. Having been raised Catholic, stories of misconduct in the church had many of us leaving the organization, but not the actual faith. The Catholic Church has changed a lot in the time I’ve been alive, yet it clings tightly to its rules – that seemed to go overlooked in regards to its priests.

But thank God for men like Mitchel Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci, an abuse lawyer who, to this day, defends victims like a pit bull. Garabedian didn’t take time to marry “because the work is too important.” He doesn’t wear a collar, but took an oath to uphold the law, and seems to be the only man any abused child in Boston can trust.  In the film, he admitted to remaining Catholic even after all he’d witnessed – Catholic by faith, not by association with the institution of men. To paraphrase one quote in the film, “If it takes a village to raise a child, you can be sure it takes a village to fail a child.”

Think what you will about lawyers, but the world needs more like him. I fell in love with his principles. To know that there are real people like him fighting for the rights of the victims restores some of my faith in men.

It’s important to note that the Spotlight team verified nearly 6% of Catholic priests in the Boston diocese alone had been moved due to abuse accusations. That still leaves 94% of them to be, hopefully, good vow-keeping men who honorably go above and beyond to serve their community.

But that statistic can’t be of consequence to victims.

One victim described that when a servant of God is the abuser, he not only destroys the innocence and self-worth of his victims but their faith in anything.  Because if “God” is hurting them, who is left to turn to?  Abuse breaks any spiritual foundation they had.

Men fail at being human every minute of every day. Catholics believe that if they are truly remorseful and repentant, God will forgive them. But does God forgive repeated offenses? And for men who act as His representatives? I think He’s got some restructuring of “the organization” to do.