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Brain Fun Featured Perspective Uncategorized

7 Reasons Your Year Was 10X Better Than You Thought

It’s Confession Time

Let me be up front; I didn’t reach my goals for this year. Yes, I had some big goals. Yes, I had some big setbacks that would make excellent excuses. But, here’s the thing: I don’t need excuses.

I have something better: perspective. And a little bit of science. 

Maybe you are like me and your year doesn’t look so good in retrospect. Maybe you have a friend like mine who, over the past year, started a second business, wrote a book and climbed Mt Everest with Facebook pictures to prove it.

Seriously! Kind of takes the shine off my third place bowling trophy.

I’m kidding. I didn’t even do that. My signal achievement of the year seems to be that I didn’t lose any more hair. Because I didn’t have any. Apparently, my sense of humor didn’t improve either. 

Before this devolves any further, let’s get to this list. Because, I obviously need it.

7 Reasons Your Year Was 10X Better Than You Thought:

1. Your brain is 10X more focused on the negative than the positive

Recent brain science suggests our mind is wired for survival. That means it is far more sensitive to negative things it perceives as dangerous. Ten times more sensitive!

Which is good. Safety first.

But when that negative searchlight gets turned back on ourselves then all perspective is lost. Around this time of year, your brain starts beating you up for things you imagined you might do. The positive wishful thinking you did last year gets converted into a weaponized list of extreme failures!

Not so good!

But, knowing this, you can refocus on the good bits. It might take a minute to adjust because your brain has been set to kill all year long. That means you’ve probably forgotten your good days. And the bad days probably weren’t so bad.

Negative phaser beam power – Off. Now that we can see the good stuff . . .

2. If you can read this, you made it!

Seriously, there were no guarantees. Science also reveals that people who think about the possibility of death are happier with life. Funny, huh?

Historically, most people are dead. You’re not. Congratulations! Which brings us to our next point.

3. It could have been worse

Don’t believe Facebook, even if my friend Mark the Mountain Man actually exists. Somebody had a worse year than you did. Maybe they were on Twitter. 

While you’re at it, don’t compare your life to TV. Or movies. Or video games. Or YouTube. Or pop stars. It’s all made up and the points don’t matter. Plus makeup, lighting, and editing.

They all really look like me. I tell myself.

It’s not about wishing something bad on someone else. You can’t actually do that. It’s about keeping perspective, being grateful for what you have and realizing that perfection isn’t possible. And understanding that . . .

4. Life is in the little things

These giant goals we set for ourselves obscure what life is really about. People won’t remember you for your awards. They will remember the things you said. The things you did. The loads you helped carry.

Life happens in the small moments. That’s the place to make life count. Don’t dismiss them as insignificant.

5. Your big dreams led to progress

Instead of focusing on the superhero goals you missed, think of the things you never would have accomplished without those crazy goals.

Attempting big goals forces you out of your comfort zone into the unknown. You created habits and discipline to deal with your fears. You were an explorer on a great adventure.

Striving for goals is better than reaching them.

6. You learned a lot

Okay, it was mostly from making embarrassing mistakes but still, lessons learned. In the coming year, you won’t make those same mistakes.

You’ll make different mistakes.

Again, with the humor. I’m trying, okay? One of these days I’ll make it to funny. Until then, here’s number . . .

7. There Was A Lot Of Love

Possibly more than your negative brain imagined. Spend some time counting up the people you love. And those who love you.

Whether you deserved it or not.

This is the big one for me. It matters so much more than goals and plans. Efficiency doesn’t come into play here, or talent, or intelligence. The people who love you aren’t keeping score. Love pretty much evens the playing field.

Maybe you helped someone in their moment of need. Maybe someone helped you. That happened a lot to me this year.

If you were loved this year then it was a good year. And you are blessed.

If you don’t feel loved, then take a good, deep breath. Contemplate the process that began 93,000,000 miles away as sunlight and ended in just the right amount of oxygen for you to take that breath.

Someone loved you.

I could preach a sermon here. Christmas songs still ring in our ears. Forgiveness covers resolutions, too. Hope inspires tomorrow.

May your coming year be spent in the peace that comes from God’s love, filled with His Spirit of unending life.

There you have it! 7 reasons your year was 10X better than it appears in the rearview mirror. But the first reason added 10X to the other 6, so we can’t stop there . . .

# 8 – A Bonus! This means the year ahead will be 10X better than you imagine it can be.

So, stop beating yourself up about what you didn’t do and what you have to do. Celebrate a year of life! Dedicate yourself to making the most of the coming one. Then you have a shot at actually having a . . . 

Happy New Year!

P.S. – Feel free to share your major accomplishments, goals, lessons or year-end reflections below. If we have done anything helpful in your life this year, we would cherish the encouragement if you’d like to share. Blessings!

Categories
Adventure Dogs Perspective Pets

The Interruption IS The Plan

I have my plan to write and post a significant piece of the book every weekend and it’s a good plan. It helps motivate me and focuses my energy. It lets others know what to expect. But that assumes I was right in my plan all along, and that’s not the way the best parts of life seem to work. If I am paying attention, the interruptions are often better than the plan.

The God of Surprise

If I had everything figured out in advance, that means I know what I’m doing. Obviously, this is not the case. I have to leave open the possibility that God is trying to tell me something. I have to listen for his voice. I have to admit that I have a lot to learn. This seems like humility, and I suppose it is, but there’s something much more fun about it.

It’s an adventure. It’s a new road that appears over the hill. It’s a new book from my favorite author. It’s a surprise party. It is the unexpected appearance of an old friend.

This last one is, in fact, what happened.

My phone dinged and I checked my messages, expecting another communique of domestic bliss, like, – pick up some milk. Instead, it was a text message from the other side of the world. My friend, who shall remain somewhat mysterious due to his occupation, was going to be in town this weekend and was looking for a place to stay.

I quickly responded and all my well-considered plans were abandoned.

I have been called spontaneous, impulsive and mercurial. I made that last one up. I don’t know anyone who uses the word mercurial in real life but it sounded better than rash or flaky. I might even have earned the reputation, even though I’m generally dependable. But, for all my stalwart reliability, there is one great truth I have learned.

Good Things Happen!

While we have trained ourselves to expect the worst, good things happen all the time. And if I’m not on the lookout for them, they just slip away.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a beautiful sunset or a startling moonrise when I had other plans. When I look around to see who else is sharing this spectacle, I usually find people with their heads down, driving or looking at their phones or sitting in their offices. And then the moment has passed.

Or perhaps my dog whines and nuzzles at my elbow and, against my better judgment and schedule, I relent and take her for a walk.  This one nose-nudge sets in motion a glorious walk on a beautiful day that I had previously ignored. Think about it. How many spectacularly beautiful days does one get in life? And how many have I missed sitting in a darkened studio?

Accidental Plans

What I have discovered is that few people ever end up where they planned. Success awaits somewhere along another way. We back into it or stumble upon it or get nudged toward it by someone who loves us. A friend of mine stumbled upon his extremely profitable career this way.

His wife thrust a paper in front of him and said, “This is perfect for you. If you don’t apply for this job, I’m never cooking for you in this kitchen again!” His answer?

“She’s a really good cook, so I applied and got the job.”

Another good friend of mine changed his life, followed his dreams and started a company all because of an Uber driver he met when his truck broke down. When I asked him what was wrong with his truck he replied, “I don’t know. It was always breaking down.” But this time the breakdown was a blessing.

Someone Else’s Plan?

So maybe our best life strategy will be planned by someone else. Or triggered by a text. Or instigated by some encouraging comment.

While we have our dreams, we honestly don’t know what we easily do that’s valuable to other people. It’s not valuable to us because it’s so easy. Or we devalue it because it’s fun.

In this case, the only way to discover our unique gift is for someone else to tell us. We’re too self-focused to see it. It looks backward in our mirror.

A Great Time

I can’t claim to have had a life-changing, career-starting time this weekend but I know one thing for sure. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

We had long, rambling conversations. We ate good food. We shared old memories. We reflected on the state of the world from an expanded perspective. We had a great time.

We probably won’t see each other for several years, though he invited me to stop by anytime I’m passing by the other side of the globe. I laughed. He laughed. But he repeated the offer when we said goodbye.

Who Knows?

Until that moment, the thought had never crossed my mind. But now I know that it’s a possibility. There’s a tickling in my brain at the prospect. There’s a bit of wonder at what life might bring. Could there be more to it than imagined? Maybe it’s better than I dreamed.

My small ideas in my small room seemed to have stretched themselves and shaken out the kinks. My small idea of God might have enlarged. A beautiful sunset could be waiting outside right now.

But I’ll never know unless I go and see . . .

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Featured Humor Perspective Uncategorized

Why Is There No Grandfathers Day?

Grandfathers Day?

It’s wonderful to have a day to sit back and congratulate myself. Time to think deep thoughts and gain perspective, to enjoy the love of wonderful children and, once again, take credit for my wife’s hard work.

But life is thick with blessings. I have now lived long enough to take credit for my children’s hard work as well.

Having done nothing more than love the most precious people I’ve found on the planet, I find myself the recipient of far more love in return than I ever earned. While there is no justification for it, I thought I might at least document this phenomenon for future generations.

Wisdom Of The Ages?

The trip from child to adult to father to grandfather is a great adventure, as time travel always is. Generational perspective is a profound experience that allows me to enjoy the present through as many eyes as I have years.

Looking back at the arc of love required for our survival is a sight that leaves me pressed for words. Looking forward from here draws my eyes higher to the adventure of being adopted into an eternal family beyond my imagination.

All of this makes the present an even brighter gift. For here is the only moment I can recreate the blessings of the past and foreshadow the blessings of the future by loving presently as Jesus has loved me timelessly.

The Word is . . .

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor. This could also be the secret definition of another word. There are many titles a man can achieve through noble birth, hard work, and courage but there is none that can surpass the unearned joy of hearing a gleeful voice squeal, “Granddaddy!”

This is the reason there are no petitions before Congress to rectify the long injustice that grandfathers have no separate national holiday, having been lumped into the generic “Grandparents Day.” We don’t want the publicity.

We’re secretly afraid that someone will catch on.

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Brain Fun Featured Humor Perspective Uncategorized

Planning My Week: Why Are You Laughing?

Making Plans

Man plans and God laughs. ~ Yiddish proverb.

Whenever people find out you’re planning something this proverb comes out. The joke implies that planning isn’t worth the time it takes, that you will fail, that you can’t be serious. But this is not the last word on planning. How about:

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I can’t plan what happens to me but I can remind myself of my goals. And I can plan how I will respond. I can also practice my values. I can stretch to be my highest and best self. And I can adjust my plans – in case of dragons.

Resilient Planning

In fact, given the nature of life, resilient, gritty, hard-headed, determined plans are the only ones that stick. Because I’m not going to get it all right the first time. Or the second. Or . . . .

How about this from the guy who planned D-Day:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Big Plans

Also, if I’m going to take the time and effort to resiliently plan, they may as well be plans worth having, right? That means big, aspiring, even poetic plans should be the rule. They need to get you going.

Unless you are silly enough to post your plans on the internet, no one is going to know. So, go big!

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Warren Buffett

With this in mind, here goes my plan for this week. (Stop snickering)

The Plan

Today I will concentrate on what I can do, instead of what others did. I will focus on the world I can touch rather than things beyond my reach about which I can only complain.

I will speak truth rather than criticize liars. I will love rather than accuse others of hate. I will lift rather than opine. I will lead rather than point. I will not stand by.

I will take courage by placing my fears in God’s hands. I will fear not living more than dying. I will not carry the fears of others but will make the courageous my companions.

I will ignore the counsel of my own doubts which have not prevented failure but have stopped all attempts at success. Fear of failure is my enemy. Failure is my friend for it teaches the lessons that I need to better try again.

I will not read the news; I will be my own news and live my own life. No one can do it for me.

I will vigorously implement the plan I have rather than chase (a) perfect plan tomorrow. (<<See) No man’s plan survives the day intact. We learn as we go or we don’t learn at all.

The little I can do is not enough, but it is not nothing. I will give all today and hope for tomorrow.

 

P.S.

“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.”
Yogi Berra

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Adventure Endurance Featured Perspective Uncategorized

The Hill

I stand wearily atop the hill and spy the hill beyond
with gratitude I’ve come this far and visions further on.
I’ll sleep the sleep of one who’s done all he can do for now
and wake to promised strength renewed and memories of my vows.

Categories
Blog Encouragement Featured Perspective Service Uncategorized

The Gratitude Attitude – Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving is a great reminder. And we need them. Because whatever we have and see every day becomes less important to us. We have it. There’s nothing to do here. Time to move along.

Finding meaning and using our time means we want to achieve something with the day. We want to have purpose. To matter – to others but, more importantly, to ourselves. We don’t want to get complacent and be less that we think we should be, than we dream of being.

“Be less than you can be!” will never be a lyric in a commercial.

Learning To See It

A quick story: a well-travelled friend once called me rich. I laughed, of course, because I was a broke high school student at the time and my family were never considered wealthy. But then she asked a question.

“Do you have a car?” she asked.

Rather than quibble about the fact that the car I took to school was my parent’s and I was a mooch, I chose the explanation that make me feel better and answered,”Yes.”

“Then, you’re rich,” she said with an I-told-you-so look in her eye. I wisely waited for her to explain.

“Where I grew up no one had cars,” she continued. “We all rode buses or walked and the busses were full to the point of people hanging onto the sides and riding on top.” I knew this to be true.

“Anyone with their own car, no matter how old or wrecked, was very rich.” She ended with this.

“You Have No Idea What You Have!”

The Right Hemisphere

From that moment on I saw my car. Really saw it. I didn’t complain because it wasn’t fast or new or red or impressive. I didn’t slink down and try to wish away the four-door-family-land-yacht shame.

I saw it, for the first time, as a gift, a blessing I hadn’t earned. It was as if I’d been taking a miracle for granted and had suddenly been hit in the eye with the truth – I hadn’t done anything at all to deserve it.

I had done nothing in my short life to earn the right to be born in the hemisphere I occupied.

Parents

It was impossible to deserve the great, hard-working, car-owning parents I had. I didn’t even understand what bad parents were until I hit college and a friend’s dad stole his self-earned college fund. I never saw that friend again.

Best selling author Dean Koontz’s father was an alcoholic sociopath that tried to kill him. Why didn’t I have that Dad? No answer.

Freedom

The freedoms I enjoyed were reserved only for royalty in other times and places. Some of my ancestors were slaves and political prisoners. Arbitrary rule and cruel power are the historical norms.

There are many places where if you can manage to own a car your travel is severely restricted by borders and roadblocks. Why can I drive the length of a continent without fear or passport? No answer.

Love

There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t loved. My wife took over this dubious duty after long service by my parents. My children love me without any logically supportable cause.

I spent Thanksgiving being chased by a crawling ninja of joy who called me Gan Da Da over and over again. Trust me, there is nothing I’ve ever done in my life to merit the overwhelming love I felt when Coraline fell asleep in Granddaddy’s arms after dinner.

You Don’t Deserve It

I’m sorry to be so blunt but if you think you’ve earned your blessings then you’re wrong. So very wrong.

Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve probably just drifted into a dissatisfied habit of seeking the best you can be and always looking for something better. That’s not so bad. However . . .

But do not spent another day on this planet walking around blessing blind – sightless to your obvious unearned graces.

It’s rude, arrogant and the person it hurts the most is you, yourself. It’s like the teenager in my kid’s school who had a $90,000 sports car and was upset because his father, who bought them both, tooled around in the same car customized to the tune of $120,000.

How can you have a car whose value approaches the median home price in the state where I was born and still be unhappy? Apparently it’s easy. Just keep your eyes laser focused on the car you don’t have.

 It’s All About The Attitude

Dean Koontz is a remarkably happy man but it doesn’t have anything to do with the $20,000,000 or so he earned last year. He could always focus on the fact that he was only the 11th highest paid author of last year and remain miserable.

But no. He was happy before last year. He even says he had a happy childhood. With psycho dad.

Instead, he says it’s because he made a decision. His personal mantra is:

Happiness is a choice.

If Dean Koontz was happy as a child, it would be downright ungrateful for me to be miserable. If I have a car, even if it does currently need brakes, then I should see it for the blessing that it is. If I am loved, then I should be deliriously giddy, because who would sign up for that?

If we (currently) live in a country that takes a national holiday off to consider our blessings, then we should consider the outrageous blessing of time to “see” our good fortune and appreciate it. Even McDonald’s is closed!

Black Friday

If, however, you are one of the employees relegated to long hours of abuse and craziness during Black Friday, which now starts at sundown on our national day of gratefulness, then my prayers and blessings are with you.

I beseech you on behalf of all such underpaid, under appreciated souls to be patient – or better yet, stay home.  Or maybe you could take up my mantra . . .

Be nice to Wal-Mart employees.

You could be working there waiting on the likes of you. Trust me, that’s a blessing. Count it.

 

 

 

Photo: Cranberry Candles by Chris Potako via Flickr

Categories
Adventure Blog Connections Dogs Featured Humor Perspective Recovery Success

The Magic In Between

Land of a Thousand Distractions

There are great moments in life, moments they say define you, the celebratory highs of accomplishment, the heroic lows of courageous struggle. But this month I have a little different take on what defines our lives.

I say a person is defined by what they do in between such dramatic and emotional moments. When no one is watching. When the stakes are not high. When one day falls quietly into place behind the last.

These are the times that try men’s souls.

The problem is that it’s easy to see the glory in riding off to rescue the damsel in distress or wresting a continent from the hands of a genocidal tyrant. But it’s hard to see the glory in watching John Wayne shampooing carpets when the puppy threw up because she ate a sock.

No one says Winston Churchill’s finest hour was spent at Home Depot searching for a solution to his dog’s sudden urge to tunnel under fences like Steve McQueen.

Did Hemingway have to kneel by his bedside to blog “For Whom The Bell Tolls” because his chocolate Lab thinks she’s still a puppy yet takes up her master’s entire side of the bed?

Did Lincoln have a granddaughter with eyes so big and blue that they seem to hold the sky within? I think not. Otherwise his mind would have turned to mush like mine and the Gettysburg Address would have sounded like:

Four score and
Das’ my sweet sugar wuggar.
Does her wub her
Granddaddy waddy?

Look! Squirrel!

Somewhere along the way toward changing the world I have become ensnared. Pinned to the beach like Gulliver. Immobilized by ten thousand soft threads of distraction.

All of them seem to be necessary. But definitely not heroic.

I cannot, for the life of me, picture Indiana Jones on his day off waiting heroically in line at Comcast, bullwhip furled, fedora in hand, soundtrack on pause.

Dah, dah dah daaaah! Dah, dah da . . . “Please Take A Number And Wait For The Next Available Associate.”

What is an associate anyway?

Some things shouldn’t be seen.

Imagine Lucy Liu at the DMV. Or Johnny Depp at Wal-Mart picking up word search books for his mother. I can’t. Don’t want to.

These are scenes that should be edited out. Or not filmed at all. And yet, my life seems to be made up entirely of scraps from the cutting room floor.

Outtakes. An adventure-free zone. The stuff in between the good stuff.

If that’s all there were to it then life would be pointless. Tedium. But then . . .

Glimpses Of Glory

Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, like a flicker in a passing mirror, I catch a fleeting glimpse of life as it could be. Or could I be seeing life as it really is?

Could it be that what I do is more significant that it appears? Is it possible?

It always catches me by surprise. Something tickling at the back of my brain makes me look up. An instinct. A hair-raising hint.

Suddenly my eyes are assaulted with a sky-filling blaze of color, a sunset so magnificent that it stops me in my tracks.

Thundering Hooves

Or I’m driving to work with plans filling my head to the brim when a sideways glance captures a field of endless green.

There a herd of horses gallop wildly over rolling hills, manes flying, tails swishing, all for the sheer joy of the wind on their faces.

The grace. The colors. The excitement! And then they are gone leaving me and the morning traffic behind.

Were it not for these moments reminding me of the beauty of life, it would be easy to overlook.

The Moments You Fight For

During Suzie’s year and a half of fighting for life I can remember very clearly a few surprising moments that carried me through. They were not at all what I expected.

Once I was standing beside Suzie drying dishes while the kids watched TV in the next room. The afternoon sun was slanting gold through the back yard. We weren’t talking about anything but I found myself filled with an unexplainable joy.

So much so that I had to question where it came from. I had never felt joy washing dishes before. Never imagined it. It was just something that had to be doe before I got on with the good stuff.

It dawned on me that this calm and tedious moment was such a contrast from the constant shocks we’d endured. It was the very thing we were hoping to get back – a moment of peace and quiet. Something not terrifying.

Something Normal

While chasing bad guys, having hair-raising adventures and being the hero is exciting, the entire point is to get things back to normal.

We do not fight wars for the fun of it. We do not set fires for the rush of dragging children from the flames. We do not rob stage coaches for the camaraderie of riding in a good posse.

What we really want is the crisis to be over so we can get back to our lives. To do exciting things like, well, wash dishes and clean up puppy barf.

The Good Life

So, when I understand my life correctly, the good parts are not dodging bullets, saving continents, preventing nuclear holocausts or surviving tsunamis.

Instead, the good life is the part after the novel is finished, after the movie credits roll, after the treaty is signed, after the horses are back in the barn, after the pistols are cleaned, after the family is reunited, after the fire is out, after the town is rebuilt.

The good life begins after the crisis ends.

And while it may seem boring by comparison, the good life is also cleaning carpets, washing dishes and feeding the dogs. It is the freedom to have your life back, to have time to write a world-changing novel, or hold a grandbaby, or share a meal.

The good life is not being the hero, as much as we love them. It’s being there for the people you love. It’s working to pay the bills. It’s sitting in traffic. Or being an associate. Or maybe even taking out the garbage.

Oh no! I forgot to take out the garbage! I can hear the truck in the distance. Can I beat it? Will trash win or will our hero save the day? Refuse or rescue? Be the man or get canned?

Stay tuned next week. Gotta go.

Now, where’s that bull whip?

Dah, dah dah daaaaaaaaah. Dah, dah daaaaah!

Categories
Blog Courage Emotional Encouragement Endurance Featured Never Give Up Perspective Spiritual

Never, Ever Quit

I sat across the booth from Suzie picking through a shepherd’s pie while my head swam. We  occasionally looked at each other, smiled and shook our heads. I held back tears with difficulty. There’s no crying in restaurants.

“Wow,” was the best I could come up with.

“Yeah,” she answered.

There are few moments in life when perspective is possible, when you can peer down the long corridors of history, when you grasp the true significance of a moment, when you can take it all in.

Becoming a grandparent is such a moment.

The Power Of Beauty

A recent study revealed that people become more spiritual when confronted with awe inspiring scenes of great beauty. There is, inside of us, a need to ask the question,”Why?” At such moments it is easy to see that something far beyond us is at work.

Surely holding your first granddaughter minutes after her birth is a moment of awe.

It’s different from holding your own newborn, another awe filled moment, because of perspective. It’s been twenty-four years since our family held our last newborn.

We now hold in our minds the collective history of two generations that gave birth to this moment. It’s a lot to take in over dinner.

It’s kind of rethinking your life because, looking back, things take on an entirely different meaning.

In the present, life takes your full concentration. It takes everything you’ve got. You don’t have the time or the ability to speculate on where it all leads.

For example:

When Suzie faced her first cancer we never thought about the  years that would follow. If we had, we would not have imagined the blessings and joys our family has given us. We were just hoping for a future at all.

When the second and third cancers popped up unexpectedly we steeled ourselves for a fight. We never considered the joy of seeing all of our children graduate high school. It wasn’t even on our radar screen.

When the fourth cancer robbed Suzie of her ability to speak and we had to argue with doctors and nurses to get seen, we were not thinking of all of the Thanksgiving meals we would share.

When the fifth, sixth and seventh cancers appeared on a wider scan, the future all but disappeared from view. The sight of a doctor crying did not inspire confidence. We would have been thrilled to know for sure that Suzie would make it through the year. Thoughts of school plays, Christmas musicals and college degrees played no part in our determination to fight on.

The long search for “the” prom dress or helping our son pick out his first tux were not on our minds when the eighth cancer was discovered by accident. We were wondering how you  treat a cancer that no one could even identify.

When a cut lung turned a routine breast reconstruction into a life threatening event, we did not dream of seeing our children travel the globe or go on mission trips to desperate or dangerous countries.

During six long months of chemotherapy fog and nausea we did not pause to wonder whether our daughters’ engagement rings would be gold or platinum.

Wedding dresses and color schemes didn’t inspire us when seizures led to heart arrhythmia. We didn’t try to guess the subject of our son’s screenplay or the tempo of his first song.

During the dreadful year of “adjusting” epilepsy medication we never imagined our daughters working in hospitals helping others or envision the endless miles conquered in Relay For Life events.

We had no idea what would happen. We just went on faith that life would be worth the trouble.

Because there’s always trouble.

This we could easily anticipate. It became a powerful motivator. We knew how much help we needed and  wanted to be there for our children whatever trouble came.

And it came. Our children faced a lot of problems. A few of them caused by us. Okay, maybe more than a few. (Sorry about that, kids.)

The stress of growing up in a home with multiple cancers has caused more than one child to run off the rails. Ours did not. While we could be there and listen and pray, the survival of their generation is credited to them. They faced life’s biggest issues from a young age with courage and grit. Including problems we never faced.

Our daughter, over the last six years, lost three babies. Landon was immediately whisked to Vanderbilt Children’s hospital across town. She never even got to hold him. The heartbreak of that cannot be conveyed.

So the moment my brave daughter handed her daughter to my courageous wife was, in a word, glorious.

During the cancer years my wildest imaginings did not include the sight of Suzie, nineteen full years later, holding her first granddaughter.

The hopes and dreams, the struggle and survival of two generations summed up in one tightly wrapped bundle. I can only imagine what my Mom must feel.

When I say never give up, it matters . . . more than you can probably appreciate right now.

Here’s a principle to live by:

Don’t Quit Before God Does.

If God says it’s time to quit, you will quit. You won’t have an option.

So, if you are still here, then you’re not done yet.

You cannot imagine the future. You can rarely gain perspective on the past. No one can. We are trapped in the now.

But if you give your all and never give up, then one day you will reach a moment of perspective and see your life from a larger vantage point.

Trust me on this. It will be awesome.

 

 

Categories
Blog Dogs Featured Mental Perspective Pets

A Puppy’s Perspective

Perspective changes everything.

I’m training Nessie, my six-month-old chocolate Lab puppy, to be a therapy dog. Since she’s in the house with my Mom, who is 85, a big dog like a lab can really cause her problems. Nessie could cause a fall, scratch skin, cause bruises, steal food or a long list of dastardly doggie deeds so she has to be trained.

I ask Nessie to sit at the front door so I can snap her leash on to go outside. It’s a simple obedience command that she has long mastered. But recently she has been walking in circles before she sits down. It’s a long, annoying, unnecessary waste of time instead of simply sitting like she usually does.

I thought she was challenging me as pack leader. I thought she was trying to annoy me. I thought she was being a stubborn teenager.

I was wrong.

Last night I finally paid attention and realized she always circled to sit next to the wall. Why would she do that? Why would she go to that much trouble?

Suddenly things clicked into place. I remembered that Nessie tends to slide on the slick floor of the entryway when she tries to sit, her feet splaying and her behind sliding out from under her. She will try to sit on the carpet away from the door to prevent this.

Click! Nessie wasn’t trying to cause problems. She was sitting against the wall to keep from sliding away. She was problem solving! It was just like learning to open the door.

Good Dog!

In a moment my attitude toward Nessie changed. No longer was she being a stubborn problem. Instead, she was just trying to keep from sprawling on the floor.

I didn’t see it before because I was focused on me and my problems. The rest of the day I watched from her perspective and looked for ways to train her that would make sense to a puppy.

Getting her cooperation is a lot easier than trying to make her do anything. She’s just getting too big.

Nessie and I got along much better for the rest of the day. Training got easier. We had a meeting of the minds.

Getting outside myself.

I spent the rest of the day trying to apply that lesson. If I was missing that much about Nessie by being too focused on me, what else was I missing?

I put myself in Suzie’s place. Then Mom’s. What were they dealing with? The lessons kept coming.

I watched Suzie try to take her daily meds with a mouth that only works on the left side. It was an ordeal but she’s never complained. Her bout with Bell’s Palsy is improving very slowly. We’re still hoping for a complete recovery. But in the mean time she has to tilt her head up and to the side just to take a pill. After all she’s been through, she has a few to take.

I watched Mom trying to read her word search book with progressing macular degeneration. She never complains about it either. I take seeing entirely for granted even if I do wear glasses.

I take pills and read every day without being grateful. Seeing life from their perspective made me appreciate the blessings I have. In fact, there may be no other way to be glad for things you do without any effort or thought.

A deep breath

My son forgot his inhaler last night. His medication makes asthma attacks much less frequent but if he has one without his rescue inhaler he could suffocate on the same air we all breathe every breath. He ran back in, grabbed it and took off for his night without a whine. It didn’t even register on his radar.

You can’t appreciate a good breath until you’ve watched someone you love try and fail to take one. Breathing is automatic, unconscious – until you can’t. Then it’s the most serious emergency an EMT faces. You have a couple of minutes and that’s all.

I took a good deep breath and paid attention. Air may be the most satisfying, life-giving, thing on the planet that we take for granted.

A better day

By the end of the day I had an entirely different attitude. My problems looked smaller and pressure fell away. They were just as large and difficult but they paled in comparison to the difficulties of others.

Even more important, they seemed doable.

Yesterday, I got more done than I do on an average day. I felt better about the work I did even though it was the kind of paperwork that makes my eyeballs burst into flames. I ended up solving some persistent and stubborn problems that we face.

A better tomorrow

It was so powerful that I woke up this morning still energized. I took on the day with satisfying anticipation. I still remember my perspective shift. I’ll work on hanging on to it.

But if I forget, I’ll have a determined reminder. I took Nessie to the dog park for a long run this morning. It was partly to wear her out and partly to thank her for my day of perspective. She is now sleeping peacefully with her head on my sock feet, but sooner or later she will insist on going outside.

When she does her circle dance at the front door I will remember and try to enjoy life from her perspective. Because, through her eyes, the world is a giant chew toy.

 

 

 

Categories
Adventure Blog Connections Creativity Emotional Featured Health Mental Nature Perspective Play Recovery Stress Travel

59 Reasons For A Playcation!

Vacations are recess for adults. It’s playing hooky for people out of school. They are a reward for all your hard work.

You don’t really need a reason to take a vacation. But if you haven’t taken a vacation lately then maybe you need some inspiration.

Without going into scientific studies and thinking too hard, I could only come up with fifty-nine reasons to take one.

I’m sure there are more. I’ll let you know when I get back.

Assuming I come back . . .

  1. It’s fun
  2. It gives you perspective
  3. It reminds you how wide and varied God’s green Earth is
  4. You will renew your spirit
  5. You meet new people
  6. You might eat something weird – and like it.
  7. You see wildlife
  8. It’s fun
  9. You live longer
  10. You have less stress
  11. You are less depressed
  12. You have fewer heart attacks
  13. It’s fun
  14. You’ll hear some new music
  15. You might dance
  16. You reconnect with loved ones
  17. You might just spice up your love life
  18. You are more creative
  19. It makes home look better
  20. It makes you smarter
  21. You will work harder when you get back
  22. The anticipation is as beneficial as the event
  23. You will learn something
  24. You will see new scenery
  25. You will smile
  26. You might pretend to be a secret agent
  27. You will be more flexible
  28. You might try something new
  29. You will see more possibilities
  30. You will solve more problems
  31. You could laugh
  32. You will be more productive
  33. You will be less lonely
  34. It heals emotional wounds
  35. You will see nature
  36. You will remember why you’re working
  37. You might enter the creative flow state
  38. You will come up with new ideas
  39. You will explore new options
  40. You won’t feel your life is slipping by unexplored
  41. You won’t feel left out the next time someone says carpe diem
  42. You will exercise your inner explorer
  43. You could lower your blood pressure
  44. You might take some embarrassing pictures
  45. Your inner child will get some exercise
  46. You could surprise your kids
  47. Or your spouse
  48. It stretches your imagination
  49. It prevents burnout
  50. You could sunburn something
  51. You might ride something fun
  52. It improves your mental health
  53. It relaxes you
  54. You might get wet
  55. You will find muscles you’ve forgotten about
  56. You might have an adventure
  57. You could read that book you’ve been saving
  58. You will be happier before, during and after
  59. It’s fun!!