“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 read Stay calm and carry on and on and on! Why? Because we are creatures 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 feels daunting 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’re going through something difficult, the teacher is quiet during the test. Even amidst the silence you are 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 I believe there is more to this world then only what I can see. There is no solid explanation for our 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 this we 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.
reach for the other side,
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” -Louisa May Alcott.
The Jersey Shore is a testament to resilience, community, and triumph. It is a place that was nearly destroyed and its residents run off after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Yet today it still stands strong and as beautiful as ever. Just as the ocean waves rushed in causing destruction, the residents have returned and rebuilt. Within the borders of the beach you’ll find a community of close knit families, tourists, and friends. Just as the towns along the shore have survived and are thriving, so are these relationships. In fact I enjoyed a week in Lavallette New Jersey at the shore because of one of these relationships. It is one that like the shore itself, has withstood the tests of time and the battering ram of a horrific hurricane. In this case it was with long time and much loved friends that have been with me since before the massive stroke. Anything that can withstand such an event deserves recognition. Because, stories of victory are few and far between outside of superhero movies.However, there are plenty of real life superhero stories. They give us hope, they give us strength, and remind us of why we keep on going. Therefore, we need to hear even more stories like these. Surrounded by the newly rebuilt homes and beautiful beach front, I observed a community that rallied together and rose up under the East Coast sun. There was life, laughter, and plenty of love coursing through the streets that were once threatened with total destruction. It reminded me that even though life may put us through unsuspected and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, we can still emerge on the other side of them just as strong. Indeed we can emerge even stronger than before! They refine us like the ocean waves smooth out rough rocks and bits of glass. The relationships that survive the storms with us are like little protective cacoons of love. Just as we become stronger because of the storm, so do they. While it’s difficult to find any thankfulness for these life storms, I am thankful for the aftermath. These storms leave survivors stronger, with wisdom, and highlighting the love we sometimes forget exists.
“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 can put into motion either success or failure When every avenue seemed bleak, I could always pull positive 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’s bad 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 the legends 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 can and then pull 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 to put the wind in 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.
row, row, row your boat,
“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 Mother gave me a creative nature, 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 a five 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 world that contains many different outside influences. It is neither small nor closed 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 you pay attention it absolutely did! People and societies that exhibit high levels of selfishness, often don’t do as well, and are least liked. On a large scale it would make sense if the world were more giving(and forgiving) but even more so on a personal level we need 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 invisible action. A sweep of your arm is first triggered by tiny signals in the neurons of your brain. What you eventually see and feel physically, starts out somewhere unseen. The same applies 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 and in your own life.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”- Marcel Proust.
Memories can be a blessing or a curse to us, or sometimes even a torment.We all have memories of better times in the past than our current circumstances, that can serve as cruel reminders. However, what if we had no recollection of our past at all, but only awareness of the present? This would allow us to remove the usual blinders we have on and see our lives from a new perspective. Not only this, but we would experience a new(even heightened) level of gratitude for what we do have, rather than always compare things to what we had before. Not to mention, the problem many have of constant comparison to others.This doesn’t mean we should forget our past, because we can learn so much from it and use it as a guide.For a good number of months my memories of life before the stroke would torment me. I dared not linger in bed too long and let the negative thoughts traverse my mind. Because, I could remember what it was like not to have so many doctor appointments,be free of braces,run, walk normally, drive a car,live independently, and not have any type of rehabilitation. I surmised that those who had never experienced a “normal,” life had it better because they had nothing in which to compare their current circumstances to. Therefore, they were likely experiencing more gratitude and happiness than I was. However, as life often does, perhaps this was my lesson to learn. Regardless of my circumstance I had to learn to look for the roses among the thorns. Each negative thought needed to be taken into captivity, inspected for helpfulness, and thrown out. Because, if a thought that floats into your head isn’t helpful, it doesn’t deserve to be there. I cannot afford to entertain or accumulate these negative thoughts, and neither can you. They only serve to create sprawling toxic black trees in our brains, rather than healthy green ones. This certainly does not bring us life but only death. We need to practice mindfulness, so don’t hesitate to police your thoughts! Very often what we’re thinking will determine what we’re experiencing.
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” -Steve Jobs
For most of us the moments in our lives blur together like water color and form one large painting. It’s easy to forget that a lifetime is made up of a series of separate moments. It’s within these moments that what makes life worth living can be found. It is also within these moments that we can forget where we are. Not recognizing this, we take a lot for granted. One of my bigger frustrations was the realization that like many of you, I missed my moment. Before my life was inexplicably changed I was letting everything blur together. If I had but for a moment stopped to consider my circumstances I would’ve been filled with enormous gratitude. Not unlike Scrooge on Christmas morning when He realizes He is alive and the value of that life. It’s a wonder that more of us aren’t skipping down the street showering gifts upon everyone we come across. Because, quite simply had I realized the magnitude of blessings that I was living in, I never could justify being sad(or selfish)about anything. In fact quite the opposite, I’d be that annoying overly giving and happy person all the time! How little do we know what a gift our lives are. Even now, though my circumstances are less than desirable I am still blessed. When in times of self pity, I often consider those less fortunate than myself. While I was in my little corner of the world being angry my left arm was paralyzed, there was a young man(I met him) wishing He had an arm to feed himself with. Because by a freak accident He had become quadriplegic. Many years ago I scribbled the quote “The best thing to do with the best things in life, is to give them away,” on my bedroom wall. At the time I didn’t know how true this was. Had I known how truly fortunate I was before the accident, I think I would’ve very well done this! After all, you can’t take all those prized possessions with you. You can always make more money but you can’t aways make more time. Therefore, use your time well, and value experiences over material possessions. While I was bed ridden and trapped in a hospital, my previous life circumstances seemed like a dream. In many ways they still do. Little did I know at the time, that I was living a dream! And somewhere in the world, your life is like a dream to someone else too. Maybe at one point like me(but hopefully not) it will seem like a dream even to you. All I wanted in the hospital was for my life to be the way it was. To think that I ever spent even a day of it depressed or sad was a travesty. Because, in comparison to my current position the girl I had been had everything and then some. She was physically able to do everything, had an incredible job, lived in an amazing place, and most importantly was independent. From where I was standing,or rather, laying She was all I wanted to be. I used to gripe about the traffic, now simply driving at all would be a huge joy. I lived for the weekends when I was off from work, now I’d happily put in extra hours. Sometimes I wished I was somewhere else, but now I’d do nothing but take in my present surroundings. The point is, I had it all and didn’t realize it. Even now, you have it all too, even though you may not think so. I promise you do.
stop to consider!
“If you don’t have wings, create them.”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom.
Today, a new record was quietly accomplished in a corner of the globe rarely heard of. Three once unrelated strangers gathered in friendship, and one amazing personal journey was thrusted ever forward to the “finish line.” While the rest of the world hummed along minding its own business, I was excitedly(and happily) checking one more daydream off my to do list. Just like most personal goals it was of little importance to everyone else, except in this particular case I was accompanied by others that understood the importance of such a day. Many of us are skilled at rationalizing our way out of doing something. When in truth, we need to be rationalizing our way into more things! There is no reason you cannot accomplish what you dream of. As they say, where there’s a will there is a way. By working through seemingly insurmountable circumstances with gritted teeth and a rock solid resolve, I have found that to be absolutely true. You see, what we aren’t told enough growing up is that we can do anything. Be weary of those who tell you any different. Ultimately, the people that believe in you as much as you believe in yourself, will walk right alongside you during the race.
above: My two pillars of support during the race Early on(when I was injured) there were questions of my ability to walk well again if at all, and much less trek a mile! However, with tremendous support and blessings I’ve done just that twice now. Both times were events that originally had been dreamed up in my mind.
above girl in tutu:Tropicolor, color run. the happiest 5k on the planet!
Even if I completed each goal slowly, the point was to complete it at all and soak up the fact that dreams do(and can) come true. Especially when you put your best foot forward and your mind to it. Therefore, be careful of what you tell yourself and who you listen to. Because, whatever words are spoken get eaten up by our heart. Certainly, your heart deserves only the best things that life has to offer, so don’t let it consume words that will harm it! Find wind to carry you where there is none, and fly high even when others want you to stay low.
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” -Confucius.
What value does being pretty really have? Is it financially gainful? In some cases, yes. Is it morally upright? Does it validate your existence? It would appear that in many societies it does. Especially if you’re of the female persuasion. There was a time, when I felt validated only by my pretty face. Coming to the conclusion that if nothing else, at least I was pretty. However, I’d much rather have a functioning left arm than big pretty eyes! Another important question, “What really matters?” I found myself resigned to a wheelchair, a cane,bulky(heavy)braces, and at one point the ugliest shoes I have ever seen in my life. Where there was once freedom of movement, cute little shoes, and fashionable clothes I found myself stuck with the opposite at the time. Being in these unwanted and unfavorable circumstances made me question my self worth and even sexuality as a Woman. I no longer felt attractive. In turn this effected how I felt and perceived the world around me. It brought with it the question of, for many other Women who are(or have become) disabled, how do they feel? Because, until certain aspects of your “normal,” life experience change, there are so many nuances you don’t realize or perceive. Sure, it’s quite nice to be told how pretty you are. But really, in the big scheme of things, what does it matter? I remember one comment I received in particular(though funny at the time) was quite telling of our general attitude towards physical appearance. “Well, at least it didn’t mess up your face!” In regards to the stroke, although I’ll readily admit I’m thankful it didn’t. However, what if it did!? Would I find myself relegated to the forgotten in the world’s population? What a sad truth this is for our society. We place value on things where there isn’t a whole lot and no value on things where there is much. In fact for some time I had to be stopped from giving away all my belongings, because after what I went through, the value of them dropped! At one point in time where I would spend frivilously, I now carefully(and delibrately) saved. We all know beauty is only skin deep, but how often do we act on that truth? If we actually did, the cosmetics industry would plummet, bank account balances would rise, and eating disorders would be arcane. Therefore, take care of your physical health and appreciate the body you have. Especially since it’s on loan and you can’t take it with you!
“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”
― Chuck Palahniuk.
We’ve got to look forward and keep moving, not delving into the past. This is especially hard if you have fears about what the future holds. As a stroke survivor I found that even my worries had worries. It was that much harder to think of the future not only because of fear, but also because my heart was stuck in the past.We must not let our hearts be offended. Why? Because, taking offense(at someone or something) keeps us in a place of pain and inhibits our growth. If we choose to live in a place of unforgiveness we’ll become that much more cold, and hardened, the good things of life cannot grow or flourish in rocky soil! Therefore, we need to let go of the past and of those things that hold us back. For what seems like ages I’ve lived in my past. Because quite frankly, having my independence was far better than my current bleak reality. However, I am no longer the person that I was, in fact none of us are. To remain the same would be to stunt our growth and limit ourselves. No matter what happens to you remember that “ You are not a victim but a victor!” In trying times it’s easy to get stuck in the former “better,” situations of our past. However, you must continue swimming forward or even in some cases treading water. Because, if you stop to consider the past too deeply, the weight of it will not only tie you up but cause you to sink. By remaining in my past I missed the good things in my present. The good news is, it’s never too late to begin moving forward. Indeed the sooner the better, and making a habit of it isn’t a bad idea either. Therefore, do not stop to consider your past for too long or too often. Far greater things lie ahead!
“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 visions of what our future will hold. However, usually while we’re making plans life just 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,faith and 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 earth to what our lives actually are. When we’re looking down from above time will reveal it’s perfect timing in our 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 you needed 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.
fly above and not below!