“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor.
The most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances. Joy is mind over matter. How we feel isn’t determined circumstantial. It is perceptual. Our feelings are determined by our subjective focus. How you feel is the result of what you focus on. The same adversity can affect two people very differently. I often wonder how someone else would do in my circumstances, but I have hardly anyone to compare myself to. However, I’ve surmised that what poisons one person to death, sweetens the other person’s spirit. This would explain howsomeone could manage to survive an atrocitylike the Holocaust. When I experienced my own holocaust in the form of a massive stroke, I had to choose. Either let it be a catalyst that began my downward spiral or fight. As it turned out, although I felt hopeless the latter was much more appealing than the former. Although I had plenty of verypatient therapists and encouragement, ultimately I was the only one thatcould do what needed to be done to improve myself.The same goes for many different things in life, it is you that has the power to choose and get better. Therefore, I would encourage you to do what is needed to move forward, no matter how hard. Because, as I have seen some significant physical improvements, it’s well worth it!
“It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.”- Paul Cezanne.
It only took twenty days to upend twenty eight years of progress, now at the age of an adult I was starting over like a child. After waking from the coma(all twenty days of it) and being cleared fora med flight to a rehabilitation hospital I had arrived. Not only was I physically back in the same location I had started from before I moved(to New York) but also mentally starting over. With no job, apartment, car, or social life, I was left with only one thing… rehabilitation. I found myselfso far down in the depths of life I had nowhere to go but up!My view from the bottom was one of complete hopelessness andloss. However, once I was farther along in my physical recovery(walking, eating, and communication skills) I began to see some light, and the burdens of the hospital were no more. I still had(and have) a mountain to climb but it’s much easier with the right tools and attitude. Once I began to shed the weight of piles of pills, a feeding tube, and the discomfort of a hospital bed I was free to breathe again. I quickly came to the realization that material belongings are meaningless, youreap what you sow, and that life is but a blur. Once I regained my determination and strength, it was clear what I had to do. It may have taken but a moment to tear down the life I had built, but now I had a chance to repair it andeven better this time! One can only be so lucky(or unlucky if you will. Now,instead of hanging outin my New York City apartment on a week day night after work, sometimes I hang out with people at a brain injury support group. Is it somewhere I ever expected to be? No, but I can still see the beauty in it. I have enjoyed having conversations with people that are usually invisible in mainstream society and very likely by me too prior to the stroke. Except that I now I see them.It’s not a place I ever wanted(or expected) to be, but I’m going to make the best of it. Because rather then dwell on the past or get stuck, sometimes we just need to tell ourselves “Let’s just get on with it!” Do I suppose I am an injured little bird stuck inmy circumstances? No, because in making the decision to get on with it I have found the hopeto fly again.
“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”- Hans Christian Andersen.
Every time I shed a little responsibility I imagine a pair of scissors cutting the string to a tiny man that’s holding me down. This makes the shedding of unnecessary belongings and responsibilities a lot more fun. My inherited beta fish died, not much sadness there… *snip snip*! One less thing to do. After nearly losing everything(my life included) material possessions suddenly became unimportant. I now view the accumulation of things as a burden. If I’m going to buy something new I get rid of a few old things to counter balance the amount of things I own, simply because you can become a slave to inanimate objects fairly easy. Not to mention, I evaluate each new purchase with one question, “how will this add value to my life?” If it doesn’t, I don’t buy it. Since life is fleeting I’d rather fill it with experiences over things that I have to pay for and then subsequently take care of. Give me a tasty gourmet meal over another tee shirt, an outing to the movies over some more expensive makeup, or a Broadway show instead of a birthday party and gifts. Why? Because lovely memories are a much greater gift then more material belongings. The object of the “game,” is to cut away as many strings as possible.
Granted, this doesn’t mean you should shirk all reasonable responsibilities, just that due to consumerism we add so many more unnecessary ones. In an already over burdened existence I find relief in cutting the strings. I believe you will too, so considerminimalismand find freedom! Get out your scissors,
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him.” positively. -Bob Marley.
Whether you’re considered an artist or not, we all create something. What ever that something is, be it cooking, painting, playing an instrument, taking care of a loved one, or simply doing your menial job well, all of it matters.Ensure the legacy you leave is one of love,hard work, and one that leaves an indelible mark onthose aroundyou. Even the most simple tasks done well cangive a sense of pride. Since I have not been able to work in my busy fast pacedcareer since the stroke, I’ve learned to channel that energy elsewhere.Now I put much more care and effort into everyday tasks. None of which are recognized on a stage, by the public ,or sometimes even my own family. However, when I know I’ve done somethingto the best of my ability or taken extra care, I’m satisfied. Because, whether it’s folding towels, washing dishes, or organizing my desk, I aim to leave a trail of excellence, and that’s how I’ll be remembered. No job is too small,ortoo big.When you start by tackling the “small things,” with ease, the big thingsget a whole loteasier. At one point I struggled to even dress myself, it was utterly exhausting! Afterwards I felt as if I’d just had a work out and be angry at the fact it took so much more effort then it did prior to the stroke.As I lay huffing and puffing on my bed, my Mother assured me with a laugh“It’ll get easier.” And you know what?One sock at a time it did. Now it takes me no more effort then it did before to get dressed. Atone point I balked at therapists who assured me doing the dishes would pay off. Even though I once thought all these menial things made no difference, I was wrong. By starting with washing one dish, putting on one incredibly tight pressure sock(with one arm), foldingthat little washcloth, and organizing a drawer… Those things have now become getting fully dressed with ease, doing full loads of laundry, ALL the dirty dishes in the sink, and organizing an entire office. Since I have discovered this secret of starting small,I’m continually up to something. After all,every Neil Armstrong has had to start training down on earth before they cantake their first steps on the moon.
“Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach.
As with every new year we get a clean hopeful slate on which to scribble our aspirations on. Many resolutions are made, but notoriously not kept. They begin with a vigor only to be abandonedhalf way or later on. Why? Do we have short attention spans, lose focus, get tired easily, or just make goals up for fun?It’s likely a small amount of all of those but mainly what we choose to focus on. Are we keeping our eye continually on the prize and remaining positive or letting fear and doubt creep in on us? Many times in the pursuit of happiness we need to build adefense wall up against fear and doubt. This New Year began with me down in the trenches and feeling hopelessly sad. However, as thenew days of January began to pour in, I shifted my focus and the gloom lifted. I had to consciously choose to look at the bright side of the coming year. Even in the little things like a great upcoming film, phone upgrade(I love new gadgets), or paying down my debts. Those are all good things to look forward to and helped nudge that gloom on it’s way right out of the door. Today, I am hopeful about the future because I’m only seeing the good things. I have eliminated watchingreading or listeningto negative content. Cutting out as much negative(or dark) noise from your reality is crucial. Just like advertising can subconsciously and subtly have an effect on you, so can the negative influences in the world around us. Therefore, keep it light! You may have to cut out a show or certain music, but the resulting clearing of air and your mind is well worth it. The effects of being choosey about what you let in arehuge. Don’t accept those negative things(or thoughts) through the gates of your mind. Be a vigilante! Stop those thoughts from entering before they even begin. Better yet, negate those negative thoughts and give them a dose of their own medicine. When you hear a voice that whispers things like “Your never going to get there.” or “ It’s not going to happen.” and “Why even bother?” Declare out loud the opposite of those statements. After all, even Michelangelo’s masterpiece the David; was formed by diligently chipping away at a massive block of marble. Not to mention, marble is one of the hardest rocks out there. Dare I say it’s difficult just as your circumstances or goals may be. Except, Michelangelo persevered and look what He accomplished? A timeless and breath taking masterpiece! In the same way make your life a David.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”- Confucius.
I’m absolutely positive that had I died, my Mother would deeply regret all the times She turned me away as a child asking Her to play.Because childhood is precious and fleeting, and because many years later that same little girl was nearly wiped off the planet. Surely, looking back onall those missed opportunities for memory making itwould have been painful to recall. Many times we do the same thing to our opportunities.Just because they are not living and breathing creatures, itmakes them no less valuable. When you ignore them or send them away, they can die just the same. How many opportunities have we let quietly slink away and die?Death has a way of making us take things more seriously. However, it is alsobecause of death, that we value life more. Although, it is nearly impossible to recognize all of these opportunities in ourbusy dailylives, luckily they give us many chances to recognize them. Just as sure as the sun will risetomorrow, we will be met with another opportunity.Witheach one is the possibility for making memories, maybe money, generating happiness, or meeting someone you will never forget. Each time we knowingly let one of these opportunities pass us by, it’s a tragedy. Because, ultimately it is us who miss out. As lifewinds down or if it is ever threatened,these opportunities becomemuch easier to spot. Therefore, do not fear the finite amount of time we have on this earth, but instead embrace it!
“In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.” -Les Brown.
Just as the ebb and flow of a river is changed when a large boulder is dropped into it, so are our lives when we encounter the large impact of another human being.Ever since the ebb and flow of my life was radically impacted I’ve been contemplating the effectsthat other people have on the course of our lives.Are wepredestined as if by fate and have everything chosen for us? -or- are we but an energetic pinball bouncing off of different circumstances in an infinite universe? Perhaps it is a combination of the two. However, neither of these take into account the random impact thatothers can have on us. Some people will change your direction while others help spur us forward, and yet some will stop us in our tracks. While the impact from each of these is different they are allequally helpful. Why?Because,each one has brought you to where you are nowor taught you a lesson in some way. Some of these human boulders are extremely helpful while others feel extremely unhelpful(at least at the time) buteach one can teach usa valuable lesson. Besides the rivers of life being changed due to a boulder, we can also become stuck as if a dam was built to stop us. How does one get around a dam when it happens? Simple, you must find a way to open it and let the river flow again.Even rivers start witha small drip(headwaters) until they form a puddle whichwill begin to run down a slope in a trickle and eventuallybecome ariver. Althoughvery small, this is where it all begins.Nature itself hasshown us that bigthings can originate from justa smallaction. As with a river even if you’re going downhill, by beginning with a small (positive)action that accumulates into many, you too can become a mighty rushing river!
“Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.”- Vaclav Havel.
When a horrendous situation is thrust upon us, we often lament “Why me!?” However, abetter question is “Why not me?’ Terrible things happen every dayto guilty and innocentpeople alike.Each of us at birth were not promised a problem free life. In fact quite the opposite as our new Parents worried increasingly as we grew up. Because, at that momentthey knew what we didn’t; that life is difficultand dangerous. Therefore, they sought to protect us as best as they could without confiningus solelyto the house. It’s not a questionof why did it happen,but since it has how will you react to it? What will you do under the circumstances?Will this reveal your character or diminish it?Some people believe in fate, that our lives have been pre-orchestrated for us. This is not so, life is a series of choices no matter how small. The choices we make continuously throughout life culminate into our circumstance. When those choices are taken away and we find ourselves in a bad circumstance, we stillhave choices.When bad things happen it’s easy to give in, but ultimately at some pointwe must choose to get out.You cantake steps no matterhow small(mentally or physically) to escape your bad circumstance.When I first was injured the last thing I wanted to do was get out of my warm comfortable bedfor therapy or a painfully early doctor appointment. Except I pushed through and did it anyway. At that point I had no choice but to get better, because I was starting from the lowest point reached in my life . Each day you make the choice to get better your addingto thebank of your future and making it brighter. Your seemingly small action is priceless and will culminate into better days ahead. So, have heart brave soldier and carry on. I promise you won’t regret it!
“A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
― Theodore Roosevelt.
Every day we choose to move forwardwith hope,with determination, with perseverance, and tenacity we havecasted our vote. Because, not every election is political. Many times we need to vote for ourselves, our future, our dreams, and above all choose life over death. Throughout my recovery I have had to choose between giving up, giving in, or, giving it everythingI’ve got. When faced with insurmountable circumstancesthe struggle and the “race,” is very real. What you decide to invest in or votefor, will determine the direction in which your life goes. However, in order to win or finish the race, you cannot quit running. No matter how you feel it will do you wellto get up and face the day anyway. Whateverplace you’re in there is always a chancefor progress. The gains are not always instantaneous but with diligentwork they will soon become evident. Therefore, have heartand ignore the naysayers! My friends, you’ll blow right past them by maintaining your focus onyour main goal. Whether it be the oval office ortoattain your dream, both are achievable. Just as sure as the sky is blue I believe you can do it. More importantly, do you believe in yourself? The indomitable human spirit is capable ofamazingthings Ipromise you that. Therefore, get out of bed even though you’d like to hide in it because your resolve feels weak.The vote you cast in yourself and for your future, will give your feet a strong reason to hit the floor every morning and get moving.
“I refuse to let others walk thru my mind with their dirty feet.”
I’m a walking contradiction, a conundrum even to myself. For I have everything and nothing at the same time. At the onset of myordeal(the stroke) Imissed out on a few social engagements, a tropical vacation, a raise, my apartment in Astoria Queens was no longer, andI lost the job I had been working when the stroke occurred.Oh, and I woke up back where I started before I moved to New YorkCity and physically worse for wear. To add insult to injury my boyfriend also broke up with me. This all accumulated into a waking nightmare. As if life isn’t hard enough, my blood and brain had conspired against me. I rarely(if ever) have written about how I felt after waking up in the hospital in my home state; but its safe to say complete and utter loss while in a black abyss. Ican recallmyself loudly and randomly letting out screams of emotional pain in the rehabilitation department. However, there’s a catch because, better a delaythan a disaster. Also, it didn’t hurt that Iam surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends; who helped me through my pain, and very often their own. At this point and especially in the hospital, most would concurthat I had lost it all and nothing remains. Even as I am writing this with one hand because my left arm is currently paralyzed, I know I haven’t lost it all. In fact just as the night is darkest before the dawn in nature, so is life sometimes. Indeed the days are getting lighter as time passes. How could they not!?You see I have everything because, I’vebeen instilled with an indomitable spirit, the determination and perseverance to succeed, andthe wisdom to recognize tiny daily miracles. This all adds up to my main goal, numero uno… which is to get back on the tracks my train was derailed from.Each one of us encounter disasters in life, but with the rightglasses on we can still see the light in the darkness. There is never complete darkness in nature or in our lives. Even when we imagineit to be so, the reality is that it is not. I can honestlytell you that it does get better. Except, there is one thing…. No matterthe mountain, you must never give up!