“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”- Abraham Lincoln.
In the ever present stay calm and carry on posters they forget two words, and on. Therefore, they should readStay calm and carry on and on and on! Why? Because we arecreatures of great resolve when we’re pressed against the grind stone. Everyone struggles at some point, and no matter what it it is every struggle feelsdaunting and like it is specifically yours. However, there are many people struggling with the same thing, it is your reaction to that struggle that makes it individual. Not to mention, our struggles have a funny way of making us strong where we once were weak. At times when your looking for answers in the midst of trouble you are met with silence. Yet we mustn’t forget that when you’regoing through something difficult, the teacher is quiet during the test. Even amidst the silence youare not alone. It is within these hardships that our determination and perseverance really shine. I have been asked how I am able to continue and remain so optimistic in a situation many would find bleak. The fact is, I remain optimistic because Ibelieve there is more to this world then only what I can see. There is no solid explanation forour existence, just as there is no solid explanation as to how I survived death.One can only assume that there must be a teacher out there helping me(and you) along the way. It is because of thiswe keep on going and do not faint or crumble at the first signs of trouble. Rather, we buckle down to withstand the storm and reach our goals that lie just on the other side of them.
“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?”
― Scott Turow, Ordinary Heroes.
Stories of triumph, stories of success, and stories of dreams coming true. These are the kinds of tales that keep us alive and keep us going. For me, these stories were a life boat in the middle of a dark and stormy ocean. The stories you and I tell ourselves make a tremendous impact on how we feel and in which direction we go. The difference between a good story and a bad one canput into motion either success or failure When every avenue seemed bleak, I could always pullpositive stories from my memory library to serve as an escape. My current life circumstances(post stroke) were a sinking ship of titanic proportions. However, reaching back into my memory banks, I could pull a story from a happier time. Without these invisible books I was headed for the bottom gasping for air, another casualty of life’sbad circumstances.While these books seem imaginary, the life lines they offer are very real. These stories told me I could accomplish my dreams as I had before, that the impossible was possible(as possible is part of the word itself) and gave me a reason to get up in the morning rather then languish in bed. A good story will motivate you and give you confidence, while a bad one will take away all of your hope. Do you suppose that thelegends of our time told themselves stories of failure?I’m certain it was just the opposite! I posit they reassured themselves that their mountains could be conquered. In this way we need to do the same thing. Whatever your goal, tell yourself that you canand thenpull examples of all your past successes. The longer you ruminate on past or current(perceived or real) failures, the longer you’ll remain in unwanted circumstances. By dwelling you effectively anchor yourself in shallow waters. Therefore, use positive stories toputthe windin your sails and venture to deeper waters. It is there you’ll find more to explore and myriad possibilities. Furthermore, surround yourself with people that add to the positive stories rather than help anchor you in shallow waters.
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”
― Roman Payne.
I am not the sole creator or proprietor of my own life. For example, my Mothergave me a creativenature, my Father a strong work ethic, friends helped me learn some life lessons along the way, and my intelligence was(is) God given. Therefore, I am not merely one thing, but many pieces that create a whole. However, I am certainly responsible for which direction I head in, but I cannot take all the credit. It’s actually difficult to pick one singular direction because life offers so many. It’s as if we’re perpetually at afive way street crossing, or fork in the road. This is compounded by the fact that we have so many different parts to us. This is what happens when you exist in a worldthat contains many different outside influences. It is neither small norclosed off, but in fact it is endless! Since we are made up of so many aspects, why then,do we only live for ourselves?To be selfless over selfish is more rewarding and beneficial. It has even been shown in nature, that the most selfish creatures are less likely to survive. Apparently this didn’t cross over too much into human existence, or so it seems. However, if youpay attention it absolutely did! People and societies that exhibit high levels of selfishness, often don’t do as well, and are least liked. On alarge scaleit would make sense if the world were moregiving(and forgiving) but even more so on a personal level weneed to be more giving(and forgiving) to one another. After all, it has to start somewhere. Not to mention, each large and obvious movement(be it physical or societal) begins as a small quiet seemingly invisibleaction. A sweep of your arm is first triggered by tiny signalsin the neurons of your brain. What you eventually see and feelphysically, starts out somewhere unseen. The sameapplies to social movements, dreams, and hopes that you have for the future.Therefore, go forward with confidence and be the change that you want to see in the world andin your own life.
“I have found adventure in flying, in world travel, in business, and even close at hand… Adventure is a state of mind – and spirit.”- Jacqueline Cochran
We all want control and have visionsof what our future will hold. However, usuallywhile we’re making plans lifejust happens. In these “derailments,” we find things we didn’t know were there. Such as strength, love, purpose, dreams, and new goals. Whatever your vision is, with perseverance, hope,faithand determination that life is definitely possible! Sometimes we fly above these visions to revisit what we thought our life would be, before coming back down to earthto what our lives actually are. When we’re looking down from above timewill reveal it’s perfect timing inour life’s narrative. While some realities seem better than others, none are completely perfect. After all life really is what you make of it.We feel as if we let go of the steering wheel that we’ll crash;but sometimes the opposite is true. Oddly enough, it is when we let go that we’ll find ourselves going in exactly the right direction. While life can certainly be a cruel mistress, She also has the capacity for grace. A grace that lends itself when you feel undeserving, a grace that finds you in your most trying times, and a grace that never ceases to surprise you. In these surprises you may come to find that the fork in the road was a detour youneeded to take, before reaching the final destination. I’d like to believe that my own detour of a massive stroke not only nearly killed me, but also gave me life. Because without it, I would not have discovered my true strength, seen the beauty of true love, and even more so learned what having faith can accomplish.
Stretching out over many miles and through space and time there exists invisible threads that hold us together. What is it that keeps us close despite time and distance? There are those places in the heart reserved for a special unforgettable few. If you’re lucky those few will be many. Itnever ceases to amaze me that even if far awaysomeone can have aprofound emotional impact on us. This holds true foryou too, and forthose of you that have experienced your heart shift inside of your chest, or a tear has welled up in your eyebecause of the impactofanother person on your particular piece of the world. This bond seems to only be strengthened by theshared experience of trauma. When we go through inexorable circumstances, be it with friends or family, those invisible bonds become solidified. Because, when you come acrossthose who willingly(and happily)hold you up duringlife’s disastersyour more then happy to neverlet those storms stealthem away from your heart. In fact surviving a disaster together only brings us closer!Without the darkness and shadows that lifesometimes presents us with, we couldn’t then see the sunshine and lightin life.The shadow proves the sunshine. It is because of those dark moments that our light onesare able to shine even brighter. Within the light we’ll find those unforgettablefew. They inhabit the depths of our hearts, the caverns of our memories, and remain on the other end of our invisible thread.Aftersuffering the event of almost dying and losing it all, I have gained and found more love then I ever knew previously. Nearly all of this love came from the people on the other end of those invisible threads. They were always there it just took an act of darkness to bring themto light. A bigger tragedy than what actually happened is that I didn’t see them sooner, and so many of us don’t. Therefore, even though the threads are invisible, when you slow life down enough to consider it, they will become more clear to you. Don’t go too fast and miss them.
“You can’t get rid of fear, it’s likeMother Nature.You can’t beat it or outrun it, but you can get through it, and find out what you’re made of.”– the good dinosaur(Pixar)
Whether your influence is of the dark or of the light, both really matter. Because likein bumper cars, sometimes life hits usandwe getsent in all sorts of directions, but after the initial impact we can usually choose in which direction we’regoing to go. We all deal with things differently, and over time like butterflies, we experience a metamorphosis. Where one person can turna bad circumstance into good, others mistakenly follow or choosea darker path. The world expertly presents us with things that are“good,”but areactually cloaked in darkness. For example, all that yummy processed food that will eventually kill you, or the allure of tarot cards and the occult.This was pointed out to me in a dream recently.No matter whatyour trialis you have a choice in how to deal with it. Oftentimes our trialschangeus,like water running over rocks and changing their shapes and textures. Not only do trials and time change us, but they also show us what we’re made of.Some of us will be pleasantly surprised by our resilience, while others bitterly disappointed by our brokenness. The fact is, we all have the potential to be either built up or broken down. That’s why it’s so important to choose the paths that lead you intothe light of happiness, faith, love, and hope. Rather thanthe darkness of negativity,hopelessness, and depression.Whatever your going through there are many positive resources available to you, you just have to do some foot work! Not only that, but pay attention to and remind yourself of all the things thatgive life beauty. Whether it be in nature or in human kindness(like the video below )
Florence and the Machine sing to and for a young girl with cancer in Her hospital room that couldn’t attend their concert.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein.
How oftendo you feel the unexpected gaze or stare ofa stranger? Well, I do quite a bit. So much in fact that my usually non-violentcute little cousin spouted off frustrated comments about one such incident. I believe the statement, “ I would kick Her in Her big dumb face,” wasactually used. As mean as that sounds it was very sweet because She was upset about the gawking of one particular Woman. I, on the other hand didn’t even notice it. I’m sure people wonder what in theheckhappened to me, which is fine. It took a good while to feel okay about going out into public after the hospital due to the potential(andactual) gawking. However,I was told to hold my head high no matter what, and haven’t looked back since. Whether you feel particularly goodor awfully different that makes no difference. Because, either way you should carry yourself with esteem.Your story is unknown to a stranger and certainly not their story.This is where unknowingly the Ray Bans tagline of “Never Hide,” is actually brilliant. At some point I decided people were staring because I’m so damn pretty, so there. This allowed any rude gawkers or gawking to quickly fade to black inmygrand play of life. Understandably, my cousin is thirteen years old and has yet to learn this. Yet, people of every age could benefit from such an attitude! You don’t have to resemble a piece of beef jerky and wear stretch band waisted pants, and “special shoes,” before you stop caring what other people think. You can start doing thatright now and it isfreedom!Just imagine it like when kids pick their noses in public, “ We just don’t care people.” Tohave that feelingof freedom is pretty awesome. It means you can focus more on the important things and less on other people. Because, it is extremely likely the rest of the population is far too self absorbed to pay so much attention to you anyway. In those odd moments when they do, whether it’s for something spectacular(I do have Prada on, thanks!) Orsomething a bit embarrassing, it’s totally okay just breathe and move on. Granted, we’d rather be thought of as mostly spectacular the latter happens sometimes too. It is in those moments, whether occasionally or perpetual, we learn to just get back up. Besides, whatsomebody else eats does not give you a stomach ache unless you let it.Therefore, focus on what’s on your own plate. This isn’t to say you should be self absorbed,certainly not. Except, that sometimes what’s on your plate is more important than what they have on theirs. After all, they’re not living your life for you that’s in your hands.
Even crooked trees grow up to be as strong and mighty as the straight ones.
We’ve all felt like the crooked tree in the forest at one point or another, not quite fitting in.
I used towonder how will I (a self professed crooked tree) be remembered?At some point or another we all question how others willremember us after we pass on. Well, I got to find out, except I’m still living. After I nearly diedandthroughout mymiraculous recovery from it, I’ve heard the memories and impressions that people had of me.It’s been a mixture of surprise andincredibly surreal. However, it also bears the marks of sadness becauseas much as I’d like to I cannot revisit and relive the past. Therefore, Ialso can’t go back and change it, but I can change the future. Although, none of us truly have control we do have the power to make choices. In fact we make thousands each day(knowingly and unknowingly) however small they may seem. This begs the question “How would you like to be remembered?” For being strong, tenacious, brilliant, ambitious, or kind? Rather thanunkind, lazy, or at a stand still in life I’m sure. I’ve been more than surprised(and blessed) to hear that the last memories of me would’ve been greatly positive. This confirms that I’ve had a great life and left the kind of mark on it I want to thus far(and I’m not finished! You too can leave the marks you desire, and there’s no time like the present in which to start. Sometimes, life can be daunting and it seems better to take the path of least resistance, but I promise there’s more rewardsto be had from thepath less traveled. You can start today planting seeds for the future(whether straight or crooked) that will grow into trees looming in a forest comprising the memories of you.There are hardly words to describe how truly wild life can be. Since this whole event occurred to me(iethe massive stroke)hardly a day has gone by where I’m not in awe of the things that I’ve seen since. Just as a huge wave of love, and the best came out of New Yorkers after 9/11; I have witnessed much of the same from people after my own disaster. This has left me a better person andwith the conviction, that it shouldn’t require a disaster to bring out the best in us. We canchoose to be our best selves everyday.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”– John F. Kennedy.
You may not be the Captain of a ship, but you still need to know in which direction your rudder is pointing! Except in this instance the ship is your life and the rudder is your thoughts. Your life will go in the direction of your dominantthoughts. However,if you’ve aimed your ship at the cliffside rocks, there is still a way to turn it around. It’s possible to take your thoughts captive and replace those negativethoughts with positive ones. Because, whether you’re aware of it or not we all have an enemy whisperinginto our ears trying to derail us from the greatand fulfilling futurewe have ahead of us. All it takes is a steady stream of “you cant’s,” “ it’s not going to happen,” and“this is impossible,” to derail yourship from reaching its destination. Nowherein your life didanyone ever tellyou that you simply could not do something, besides your Mother when you were a child, yourself, and guess who else? The enemy!The one who comes tokill stealand destroy your dreams. Therefore, we need to recognize when we’re being lied to. Because, if we fall prey to these lies the cost is too great. The cost is the future you were(and are) meantto have. What many of us have not been privy to our entire lives is the truth about who weare.We are beautiful, capable, strong, intelligent, andfirst and foremost LOVED.You see, this enemy of ourswho loves to tell us the opposite of all those things celebrates when we actually believe them. In nearly every instance ofhuman failure you can find a place wheresomeone believed those lies. Because if you believe them howcould you succeed!? By convincing you that you’re weak when your actually strong, you’ll let life and its challenges run right over you. However, once you havethe enemy’stactics on lock down you’ll easily overcome them. Why?Because you’re capable,you’re beautiful, you’re strong, you’re loved, and that’s the truth! Now go out there and make the enemybe scared of you.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas A. Edison
If a little seedlingcan manage to grow through cement, why can’t you do the same with your difficultcircumstances? The world worships at the feet of the God of success, but what do we do with failure and catastrophe? Rather than meet these challenges with a smile, We crumble and fade from them. When you’re going through a hard time keep smiling. Make people wonder wherethat smile came from, and how it got there. Meet life dancing with your hand in the air rather than lying down. Imagine what you’d do if the floor was pulled out from beneath you, because that’s what happened to me actually! In one fell swoop, I lost my high paying job, my apartment, a significant other, and my left arm and leg were paralyzed. I went to bed expecting to go to work and then home to New York City, but instead woke up in a Hospital back where I started with even less than I had as a child. In this situation you can either give up and fall into the arms of a suicidal depression or get upeven when you don’t feel like it. Despite my desire to bury myself under the covers in my bed, Iforced myselfto get up and go to rehab every week. Because, regardless of how I felt, life wasn’t going to handprogress over to meI had to push back to achieve it. I can assure you , that if I can do it, so can you! Just as trout swim miles upstream to spawn, sometimeswe find ourselves swimming upstream as well.Perhapswe aren’t swimming upstream to spawn, butour reasons are not so different from the trouts. That reason is simple,both of us are swimming towardsLife and not away.