When was the last time you truly felt gratitude for someone or something in your life? Gratitude is more than an obliged gesture of Thank You. It’s a heartfelt feeling that adds depth and breadth to your appreciation. However, when we get too busy it’s easier to forget to be grateful. We can become blind to the wonderful gifts given to us each day. When we forget or forgo showing our gratitude to ourselves and to others, it can quickly drag us down into a rut of ingratitude.
Who doesn’t love birthdays? Okay, maybe for some of us having a birthday is about more mourning than celebrating, but that’s for another article, or is it? I’ll keep writing and if you keep reading we’ll find out together! Why write about birthdays now? February is an amazing month for birthdays, both presidential and preeminent people from the past, present and hopefully the future! When you get the chance look up famous birthdays in February; it’s quite a lengthy and notable list. That’s not to say you have to have been born in February to be fantastic. It’s not the calendar, or the candles that determines your calling, it’s your heart.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone once again. Cupid has retreated to his lover’s lair for another year to refill his quiver, rest his weary wings and hopefully work on his aim for next year’s heartfelt hunt. To those of us whose hearts were not found in Cupid’s crosshairs, or whose hearts were pierced by the painful arrows (or bullets) of rejection, loneliness, or loss, may my words be as an arrow of peace straight into your heart.
The other day I overheard some grumbling Grinches say how glad they were that Christmas only came once a year. I think their cold hearts were standing to close to the warm Christmas Spirit from passing shoppers. I listened at length to so many others who were hustling and bustling that day. One spoke of how they weren’t sure if they’d ever get the house clean enough for visiting family members, or how long it was going to take to make all the goodies. It sounded like they were hoping it would all be over soon so they could go back to relaxing. As if being afraid to say Merry Christmas, or substituting X-mas for Christmas, wasn’t bad enough. Are we going to start spelling Christmas, C-h-a-o-s?
With winter’s wonderland weighing upon us, ‘Chill Out’ may not seem like a fitting phrase for the frozen. Nurse Nature’s yearly chill-pill is always a tough one to swallow, even with a cup of hot chocolate waiting to warm us. While sniveling and shivering shovelers attempt to clear a safe path through the white wasteland, daring drivers attempt to traverse the snow and ice covered roads, where one slip up can quickly lead to a pile up; for snowflakes and no brakes do not a safe trip make.
The great thing about airplanes, if you’re not afraid of heights, or easily get air sick, or enjoy feeling like a soaring sardine, is that they can get you to your destination much faster and more efficiently. Having to find a convenient bush along the highway for a bathroom break isn’t as adventurous, but that’s the price you pay to fly the friendly skies. From those skies, mountains become islands in a sea of clouds and the annoying noises of life are all left behind far beneath and behind you.
What will you wish for this year when you grasp the wishbone with hopeful hand and heart? Will you wish for more time with family, more time off work, or the basic blessings of home, health and happiness? During this season of thanks, I believe that we each have much to be thankful for in our lives. We cherish the special moments and memories that make our lives meaningful, not just memorable. Especially at this time of year when we try to make more of an effort to reconnect and reunite with our friends and family, we should remember that after the thanks are through, the real giving can begin. We can give our time, talents and treasures to show them that they are treasured, not just one day a year, but always.
Last week I wrote about remembering to forget. This week is about not forgetting to remember. Veteran’s Day has passed for another year, but that doesn’t mean we stop honoring those who gave and give their lives in the service of our country and any other country seeking true freedom. They are heroes and their sacrifices and service deserve more than any medal could symbolize. They should be honored every day we are free to wake up and live our lives.
Taking a vacation is a great way to get away from the daily noises that annoy us. We want to get away from the alarm clocks, boring board meetings, rush hour traffic, and unwanted phone calls. We seek the holy grail of getaways, the kind where we find both peace AND quiet. At least that’s the plan. Instead we end up trading one annoying noise for another. We may escape the familiar sounds of our daily lives only to spend our time listening for last boarding calls, taxi cabs, tour guides, room service, crowded lines, raucous restaurants, and of course, traffic. But listening is crucial to our journey. While some sounds get on our nerves, others warn us of danger, or comfort the wounded heart.
Everyone gets sick sometimes and no matter when the sickness strikes it’s never pleasant. It’s miserable and often depressing. Being sick on vacation, however, is not only ironic, but an irritating interruption to your itinerary. You’re supposed to get sick during the work week, not when you’re trying to enjoy resting and relaxing, right? Nevertheless, an untimely illness can unravel the best travel plans in a heartbeat; accompanied by a cough, the sniffles and can turn your skip to the lou into a sprint to the loo.
There are not too many things worse to have happen to you on vacation than not being able to find a place to stay for the night. You’re worn out from a long day of play you need a place to temporarily call home so you can recharge for the next adventure. But what if you couldn’t find a place? What if all the hotels were booked and everywhere you looked you only saw NO VACANCY signs with their glaring lights mocking your unpredictable predicament. Looks like the car may be the most comfortable couch, if you have one with you. True, nowadays this rarely happens with up to date hotel reservations, and discounts to seal the deal. But you can imagine being away from home and not having a place to stay. By the way, there is something worse than not finding a room for the night. It’s finding a room and having to share it with free-loading, hungry, eight legged creatures ready to welcome you. But that’s another story.
When I was a kid, I loved it when anyone in my family went on a trip because there was a chance they would bring back a souvenir for me. Even receiving something simple as a sea shell gave me wonder as I held it up to my ear and imagined I was there on the sandy beach listening to the waves roll in. I hope we never lose our youthful creativity and imagination. It truly is in the small and simple things that great memories are made. Our memories are more precious than anything money can buy. We can buy every thingamajig and whatnots, but still have nothing of value to show for our journey. What are the true treasures of our lives; the ones that can’t be stored on a shelf, or eventually sold at a garage sale?
A few weeks ago I stressed the importance of unplugging yourself from the world and investing more time in YOU. The thought occurred to me on my journey this week that I omitted some crucial counsel. Learning to enjoy the journey more is not only about what you should unplug from, but rather, what you should plug in to. It sounds so simple that we don’t even realize its importance. I was cautioning each of us to stop investing, or rather, wasting our time, talents and treasures in things which do not edify, or energize our lives. Now, I’m talking about learning to recharge our inner batteries. With stress embezzling so much of our hard earned emotional income, if we don’t learn to recharge our inner batteries, we’ll be charging back into our daily battles with nothing more than bold bravado.
The times we live in are stressful, no doubt about it. We each carry heavy burdens that seem to get heavier each day. Some are too difficult to ignore, or escape from. Losing a loved one, failing a test, bad news at the Doctor’s office, Bullies, Illness, Broken hearts, the list goes on. Sometimes the unexpected accident or crazy experience is more than we can bear. Some stresses weigh more than others, and it seems like each week we become weaker. We’re not only running faster than we have strength, we feel like we’re running in the wrong direction! We desperately desire even a piece of peace, but seem to find only tiny crumbs of comfort. How then shall we go on? Where shall we go to renew our strength and restore our courage to keep pressing forward even in the very depths of our adversities?
Stress is no secret. We all have some mess we can trace back to stress. But the secret to your success of overcoming stress doesn’t have to be a secret. How do you get rid of stress then? That’s the secret, you don’t. That may not sound like much of a secret but once you realize stress isn’t going anywhere you can stop becoming a victim and start learning to be a victor. Stress is going to happen no matter how great your life is. Stress is no respecter of status, stock portfolio, family, or friends. Stress seems to be the social stigma of our times. We cringe at the slightest hint of its presence. I’m not saying we have to be best friends with stress and invite it over for dinner, but we each need to realize it’s a necessary part of life, but it doesn’t have to ruin life. When we feel ‘stressed’ we compound the problem because we don’t know how to handle it, or fear that we won’t be able to handle it. It’s our fear of failure, or the precious moments stress will steal, that makes it seem so haunting and daunting. It’s our perception of it that does the damage. We feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with it and then the trauma and drama starts and we begin frantically looking for the oxygen masks, or the EXIT signs, hoping that running away or escaping will solve the problem.
Looks like you’ve packed your bags and are all ready to go on a stress free trip! Excellent! It will be worth it. Now, there’s just one final preparation to make before we leave. Please do me-and yourself-a favor, unpack your bags. That’s right; in fact, you can just leave them behind. They’ll be fine without you. You won’t need them on this trip.
EVERYONE gets stressed. Most of us feel the calloused caress of stress before we even get out of bed in the morning! It’s as if anxiety was waiting patiently for us before we even woke up; if we got any sleep at all! We didn’t even have time to eat breakfast, or even think about it. Before we even put the key in the ignition or punched the time clock we’re already drained from feeling the familiar cycle of cynicism ready to curse and reverse any attempt to be successful that day.