Call to Inspire

Call to Inspire

2019.01.18

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  Going backwards really does not accomplish very much unless we learn from the past.  That just might be the most difficult lesson of all.

 

“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”  He came from what many would call a less privileged heritage and became the most influential man in his country.  This might have been a quote from Gandhi or Mandela but it is part of Barrack Obama’s farewell address as President of the United States of America.

 

In his speech outgoing-President Obama spoke of the American dream that began in 1776 when a group of colonists committed to a certain belief, not just one he shares but one that the entire nation was built upon and a belief that continues to motivate and inspire. 

 

“And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.  It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.”

 

The American dream is about giving people a chance and freedom or, as President Obama defined it,  “The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.  For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.” 

 

His farewell address was not so much about saying goodbye but about inspiring everyone to continue the good fight for all people.  He noted that the path towards that is often bumpy and full of potholes.  “So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.  Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.”

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  That first step of such a life is taken with purpose, with mindfulness.  We must continue the good fight not just for ourselves but for everyone.  Who inspires you?  Who inspires you?  Who do you want to inspire?  I’d love to hear from you because your living is a lesson for us all.

Laughter

Laughter and Kindness

2019.01.02

Twelve Days of Kindness

 

As we reached the end of 2018, statistics came to light about how divided the United States had become.  Living as a minority or a woman, a handicapped individual or in poverty reached good levels in 2016 but in the past two years have fallen to where life as someone in one of those categories has become very hard.  Thus I decided to spend the twelve days of Christmas discussing twelve ways to be kind.  I think we need to spend a bit more time talking about kindness, not just in the USA but worldwide.  Someone asked me a characteristic of being kind and the first thing I thought of was … laughter.  “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever.”  These words were written by J. M. Barrie in his 1904 play “Peter Pan” and included in the novelization of the play published in 1911, “Peter and Wendy.”

 

It is said that someone who is kind to animals must be kind to people and I confess I have always taken in account how a person treats dogs.  I guess you could say my standard of kindness for a person, their breeding if you will, is exhibited by their response and reaction to dogs.  In other words, one of my standards or ways to determine someone’s kindness quotient is their treatment of canines. 

 

 Generally when a breed is recognized, there are certain standards.  Different breeds of dogs must conform to these standards when competing in dog shows.  An English bulldog, for example, cannot compete if the coloring is piebald.  Piebald, not to be confused with merle, is a spotting pattern of an animal found not only in the hair but often on the skin as well.  The word “piebald” is a combination of the word “pie”, derived from the magpie bird which has a distinguishing black and white plumage, and the word “bald”, referring to a white patch or seemingly hairless spot.

 

Many different animals have the piebald coloring.  In horses it is found in the pinto breed although the coloration is usually brown and white.  The national bird of the United States of America gets its name from its white cap of hair – the American bald eagle.  Many birds have this coloring as do dogs, such as the English bulldog.  While a piebald English bulldog may not be allowed to compete, they are adorable animals. 

 

I will admit I have three rescue animals and all are black and white: two piebald cats known as tuxedo cats and one giant dog whose coloring could be called barely merle or piebald.  I like the coloring of the black and white.  It reminds me of the keys on a piano.  However, I also like the symbolism of how the dark and light come together.  After all, none of us is perfect.  We have a bit of dark and light in ourselves.  We go through our life trying to fix the dark and tinker or improve the light in our souls.

 

A tinker was a person who traveled around fixing things.  J. M. Barrie gave his fairy friend of the main character Peter Pan the name Tinkerbell since she tended to “fix” things for Peter and the fairy folk.  In the original musical stage presentation, the voice of Tinkerbell was performed by a percussionist and resembled a tinkling bell although it was actually played on an instrument known as the celesta.  Originally, though, “Peter Pan” was not a musical and Tinkerbell was a darting light that seemed to dance around the stage.  Her voice was a collar of bells that belonged to Barrie himself.  The program, however, listed a Jane Wren as playing the part of Tinkerbell.  Eventually the Inspector of Taxes filed a legal demand that Jane Wren pay taxes for her salary for the play and the truth finally came out.

 

The tinker folk of the British Isles have been portrayed as thieves but generally they were respected for the handyman abilities and cheerful natures.  They moved about seeking work and seemed very content with their lives.

 

The opening quote of this post is said by Tinkerbell who did indeed gain a voice in later productions.  Though Barrie wrote in the death of Tinkerbell a year after Wendy and her brothers leave Neverland, the fairy remains forever a prominent role for children.  Barrie explained her tempestuous nature as being caused by a personality too small for her body.  Sometimes we feel much the same with life.

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever”.  Dreams are forever and one of mine is that we all practice kindness each and every day.  Dreams are the portals through which we imagine and create goodness, greatness, and kindness but action is what makes those dreams become reality.  Victor Borge, a great entertainer and humanitarian once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”  Share laughter and you will share kindness.   Hopefully we will find laughter in 2019 and grow kindness to new levels.

Need

Need

2018.12.31

12 Days of Kindness

 

 

It is an old African folk tale set to music. The father is out in the field and the mother is at the well. The grandmother is at the market hoping not only to purchase but also to sell. A neighbor is watching the children who are playing out in the yard. An old man comes by and stops to tell them a story because he likes to make them laugh. His story has a moral, though, and that is when they are down by the river, they need to look out for the crocodiles. The moral of the song is the unity with which everyone comes together for the children. In Africa, there is an old saying: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

 

In 2014 the town of Ocean City, Maryland celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its Play-It-Safe Ocean City program. Designed for graduating high school seniors, the three week-long program involves area merchants, local volunteers, state and county agencies and volunteers to assist with the free events for the young people. Seniors can come for one week and are given a booklet with free coupons for food and a schedule of events, all designed to help seniors celebrate their high school graduation in a drug-free environment. Free bus passes are included to help those participating navigate the city. Free events available to the seniors include free roller coaster rides, tye-dye t-shirt events, pizza eating contest, dance party, tennis tourney, laser tag mini golf, regular mini golf, dodge ball, Splash Mountain, 3-on-3 basketball tourney, beach volleyball, wind surfing, kayak relays, moonlight bowling, and karaoke.

 

In a world where many feel afraid of their neighbors, Ocean City, Maryland had adopted the African slogan and made it a celebration. During the summer of 2014, as they celeb rated their twenty-fifth year, they had seniors from sixteen states and the District of Columbia attend. Sixty thousand brochures advertising the program were sent out and twenty thousand Passport to Fun Booklets distributed. There were over forty-eight planned drug-free and alcohol-free events for the eighty-three hundred-plus attendees at no charge. This was made possible by the over three hundred businesses, organizations, and individuals who contributed services, money, and prizes. Over three hundred and fifty volunteers, private citizens, assisted as well as the employees of state, county, and municipal agencies. Over two thousand hours, half by volunteers, make this village-sponsored event a reality.

 

During Kwanza, seven candles are lit, the first being the black candle. The remaining candles, three red and three green flank the black candle. The red candles represent the principles of self-determination, cooperative economics and creativity and are placed to the left of the center black candle. To the right are the green candles which represent collective work and responsibility, purpose, and faith. This is to show that people come first, and then the struggle and finally, the hope that comes from the struggle.

 

The program in Ocean City, Maryland, is not simple. I can assure you that there are struggles. Weather delays are just one of the many surprises that life sometimes offers. However, year after year, the people and the agencies of the area continue to do this for students from outside their neighborhood. All this comes from a town of less than eight thousand year-round residents.  These residents and the annual summer residents work together as a village united, serving to provide high school seniors a safe yet fun way to celebrate their high school graduation.

 

The world with all the modern technology has gotten smaller and now it is as easy to travel half way around the world as it was for our parents to travel one hundred miles to a cousin’s house. The celebration of Kwanza is not just for those of African descent but for us all. We all need to remember that we had help getting to where we are and that we need to help others. Television has many so-called reality shows about people who want to live “off the grid” and yet, they are so popular because these people end up needing someone.

 

On this the last day of the year 2018 ACE, people will gather all around the world in crowds to usher in the New Year.  On a remote island in the south Pacific, the first festivities will commence.  They will continue much like a long row of dominoes, one leaning into the other, each needing the other to complete the path dictated by gravity which is shared by all. 

 

It is a fact that we need each other.  None of us are born alone.  Life is a team sport and perhaps, as we take part in the festivities of the season we will remember that we also take part in a greater celebration about the family of man called life. It really does take a village, not only to raise a child but to help an adult in their living as well.  We each play a vital role and not only need but are needed. 

 

You have value.  I hope as we say goodbye to 2018 we will put to bed all insecurities and past griefs.  As we usher in the new year of 2019, may we begin with renewed hope, confidence, and energy to make this new year one in which all people have value and are respected.

 

 

 

 

Respect

 

Respect

2018.12.26

12 Days of Kindness

 

There are five days left in this year and, if you haven’t already been overrun with flashbacks, consider yourself lucky.  It is the time of the year when it seems like everyone and every media outlet are talking retrospectives – the best of the year in everything from fashion to electronics, music to toys, etc.  It is that time of year when it seems As though we should worship “the good ole days”. 

 

We seldom think about the concept of retrospection having anything to do with the word “respect”.    Its history or etymology dates back to the Latin “respectus” which translates as “looking back”.  The more modern definition dates back to the late sixteenth century.  It was probably the result of someone’s retrospection and consideration of another’s past behavior but somewhere around the late 1580’s, the word came to mean a feeling of regard or esteem based upon the actions or attributes of a person rather than a way to look back or reflect on days gone by.

 

The term respect is a subject of great debate among philosophers and psychologists.  A teenage driver respects the speed limit while also respecting his/her parents.  Surely one is not exactly the same as another.  Most agree that how we respect ourselves often determines the lives we lead and the choices we make.   

 

It is most important to have self-respect but it is also important to respect others.  The relationships we have in this world revolve around the respect we show others and how we live is based upon the respect we have for ourselves.  In other words, the kindness we live towards ourselves is mirrored in the kindness with which we treat others.  The person who dislikes him or herself will probably be equally as critical to those around them and being critical does not take one down a path populated with friends.

 

One of the first steps for respecting others and ourselves involves losing assumptions.  When we let life teach us rather than assuming we have all the answers or know what another is thinking, then we open ourselves up to being free and create opportunities to learn.  Sometimes the greatest way to be kind is to let the person be uniquely themselves without insisting they conform to our own ideas or standards.  The lack of assumption usually leads to a heightened sense of dignity.  When we let people be themselves, we give that which they are dignity.  Feeling that you are entitled to have dignity is the foundation for a healthy self-esteem, both in us and in others.

 

When we show dignity to another we are also usually being fair.  Injustices occur every day based upon someone’s assumptions and more times than not, those assumptions are flawed and faulty.  Letting go of assumptions also means fairness will rule the day.  We need to take the time to treat everyone equally and meet out the same justice to all, regardless of their position, race, creed, financial status, etc.  Such fairness and dignity extended to all comes under the heading of good manners and correct etiquette.  The use of derogatory language is again based upon flawed and ignorant assumptions which lead to discrimination.  No one feels dignified or respected if they are the victim of discrimination. 

 

Consideration is also a part of good manners as is punctuality.  Sometimes we think our time schedule is the most important in the world.  Insisting others follow our schedule is permissible every now and then.  It is not respectful to make everyone dance to our own tune and nothing else.  Letting people explain themselves is also a great kindness.  When we listen to others, truly listen to them, we are giving them our attention, our time, and letting them know they are valued.    

 

You might have noticed that nothing I have mentioned as a way to show another person respect costs money.  To show kindness to someone by respecting them requires no financial outlay at all.  It is not only a gift of kindness that we share with others; it might just be the very best gift we can give ourselves.

 

Life coach Steve Maraboli explains it this way:  ““How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”   

 

Yesterday I challenged you to share a smile.  Today’s challenge in this the twelve days of kindness is to live two acts of kindness – one to another person and one to yourself.  It might be letting go of some guilt or simply being on time for a movie date.  Whatever it is, remember that respect is a two-way street.  It is a gift we give ourselves whenever we look back and give respect to another.

 

 

Generosity

Generosity

2018.12.25

12 Days of Kindness

 

Ask someone about nobility and several answers will be commonly given – regal, majestic, rich, entitled (both actually possessing a title and feeling better than others).  Some might even go one step further and start describing coronations, rituals involving the nobility, or perhaps the acknowledgement given to those in the nobility with their titles, curtsies, and bows.

 

What you do not expect and will seldom hear are descriptions of the nobility standing shoulder to shoulder with the poor or outcast.  We picture large castles for the nobility, not simple lean-to huts.  We imagine the nobility wearing the finest and latest fashion designers and not the worn-out jeans or the homeless.

 

This Christmas my blog posts will not follow the Twelve Days of Christmas nor will I select a nondescript, politically correct topic.  I am indulging in the twelve days that fall between Dec 25th and January 6th.  Between mid-November and the second week in January there are roughly twenty-seven, 27, holidays celebrated worldwide.  For many, these next eight days mark Kwanza, a holiday time of community and family with no specific religious connotation or affiliation.  Kwanza is a great holiday, as are the other 27 but I would like to start a new one – the Twelve Days of Kindness.

 

Most of these twenty-seven holidays are not about self…well, not directly.  They reference our individual growth and personal peace by celebrating people, events, and beliefs that all speak to our connectedness.  If you are new to this blog, welcome.  If you are a seasoned reader, then thank you.  Your reading this connects us and strengthens the ties that truly unite us all.  Reading, though, does not get our living done.

 

We all believe in something.  Just believing does us nothing, though.  We have to put that belief in action and every good belief involves at least one other person.  Last night people worldwide celebrated the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  Regardless of what you believe. Chances are you saw a celebration, went to a party, gave or received gifts.  Christmas is pretty hard to escape.

 

Historically and archaeologically, there is more evidence of this man’s existence than evidence he did not live.  For many it is unrealistic to think the baby that people would believe was the son of the Creator would be born in such a humble manner.  The “King of Kings” as this baby would grow up to be called would have needed a noble birth.

 

It was somewhere during the 1580’s that the English word nobility became spoken.  An anglicized form of the French “généreux” (14c.), which is derived from the Latin “generosus”, the word generous translates as “noble birth.”   Thus a generous person was someone born into the nobility.  Surprised? 

 

Today the word generous is an adjective but it doesn’t just mean someone who gives to others.  It literally means someone who gives to others without expecting anything in return.  That bears repeating – It literally means someone who gives to another and expects nothing in return.   Nothing.  Nada.  Nil.  Zero.  So when we give to a charity or drop some coins into a bell-ringers bucket, we should get nothing in return, not even a sense of “well done, self!” 

 

I confess that when I help others, I help myself.  Usually I am not really thinking about that but, in retrospect, I realize that I have probably received twice as much as I have given.  I was taught the habit of generosity through seeing such in the actions of my parents and others.  For some, their giving was more about making themselves feel good, however.  They really gave very little thought to those who would receive their giving.  Many of us are like that.

 

When I was nine years old, a dear family friend gave me a most unusual Christmas present.  She gifted me the sponsorship of an orphan on the other side of the globe.  She paid the monthly sponsorship fee but it was my name on the paperwork and I was the one who received the monthly updates on the boy who lived in deplorable conditions due to the political nature of his home country.  While others were playing with roller skates, I was reading about how the sponsorship fee had helped dig a well so the village could have safe water to drink and for other uses.

 

The next year this friend continued the sponsorship and it was with tears in my eyes that I heard my parents complain to her.  The three adults agreed that this would be the last year of the sponsorship and, true to her promise, the next year the friend gave me a book.  I still have that book but I also still have the spirit of awareness that was the real gift those two years.  Her gift made me realize the nobility of each birth, the awareness of not only how lucky I was in my own life but how similar that child was to me.  She gave me the gift of connectedness to my spirit within and the world around me.

 

Oscar Wilde once wrote “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  I am blessed with friends who follow through on their beliefs by giving to others.  There is always a need, nonetheless, for us to do more.  There are times in which we think we cannot give anything else.  Maybe our own lives are in chaos; maybe we are the ones in need.  We all have something to offer, though, and in that offering, we often find something greater, something we might not have known we needed.

 

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia was speaking about doing for others but it works for us as well. And so, on these twelve days of Christmas, I ask that you not only read but act.  I ask that you spread a little kindness each day, living out one aspect of kindness.

 

 I challenge you today to smile at a stranger.  It will cost you nothing and if you wear a head covering that prevents someone from seeing your smile, then live that smile – let someone go in front of you through the door or marketplace walkway.  Live the nobility of your own birth and presence by being generous. 

 

Perhaps you have some old clothing that you could pass on to someone in need.  Maybe you could advocate for animals or donate an extra box of rice or bag of beans to a food pantry in your area.  These are all great acts of generosity, our characteristic for today, and all are very needed.  However, my challenge for you costs nothing – simply share a smile with a stranger.  If you can do more, then please do so.  First, simply share a smile.

 

Regardless of who we are or where we live, we are connected.  We share a planet.  We share basic characteristics of being human.  Hopefully, in these twelve days we will share kindness.  This is not a new idea.  The Roman Seneca once said “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”  In this the 21st century, we might have lost sight of that just a little.  We seem more interested in what separates us then it the ties that unite us. 

 

Much is spoken and wars are carried out because of those difference.  There is no real number for the varieties of religions that are practiced on the planet today; the numbers keep changing as religions are overtaken by extremists.  The 14th Dalai Lama, the man known as Tenzin Gyatso once wrote:  “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”  Regardless of what you call your religion, today I hope you share a smile.  Trust me, you will get at least one in return. J

Holiday Spirit Goes Both Ways

Holiday Spirit Goes Both Ways

2018.12.13-15

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

As is my custom with this blog, whenever the world has lost souls due to terrorism and hearts cease to beat, I have been silent as a way to honor those whose lives have been lost.  Such was the case the last several days but I believe it is now time to change that habit.  We need to honor those lives taken and irreparably changed forever by such heinous acts but we should not be silent.  We need to speak out against such depravity of conviction, religion, and peace and let our voices ne heard.  It is perhaps the best way we can honor those who have been killed senselessly.  The taking of one or more lives will never make the world a better place for others.  It is only through positive energy that can happen.

 

Today we are discussing holiday spirit and if you are like me, you have received social media posts from people lamenting over the loss of their own holiday spirit.  Yes there is an element of commercialism involved but we have the choice of making the holidays what we want them to be.  Read back through my posts over the last two years and you will find many ways to “pay it forward” which is a great way to find some holiday spirit.  However, in case you still need some assistance, please read on.

 

Holiday anxiety is nothing new and is experienced by most people.  For many, though, it is a bit more than just feeling overwhelmed by social engagements, Christmas shopping, and an influx of family.  Over fifteen million people in the United States alone suffer from social anxiety disorder and this does not improve during the holidays.  “Social anxiety disorder is characterized by the presence of fear or anxiety about social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others,” explained Dr. Kalina Michalska, a research fellow in the Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  “The individual overestimates their likelihood of being rejected and frequently fears that he or she will act in a way that will be embarrassing and humiliating.”

 

There is also seasonal affective disorder.  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  For many sufferers of SAD, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping energy and making them feel moody. However, SAD can also cause depression in the spring or early summer.  In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

 

The holidays offer plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious — the gifts you haven’t wrapped, the pile of cookie exchange invites, the office parties. But for many, the biggest source of holiday stress is family — the family dinner, the obligations, and the burden of family tradition. And if you’re fighting clinical depression, or have had depression in the past, the holiday stress can be a trigger for more serious problems.  “There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated.”

 

All of this means that if you are feeling less like Tiny Tim and more like Scrooge, there may be valid reasons.  We still need to get through this time, though, and hopefully, find a way to enjoy the holidays, even if you celebrate none of them.  Escaping the scent of pine in the air, the red and green decorations that are abundant everywhere, the stockings, the lightly colored trees is not for the faint of heart.  If you do celebrate, the stress may be even greater.  Finding your holiday spirit might be accomplished of you find a way to survive the season with less stress.  The best way to do that might be to take a cue from the jolly symbol of the season, Santa Claus himself.

 

One web site offered several tips to surviving Christmas with such prosaic advice as “Invite your in-laws; just don’t let them in!”  Obviously I am not advocating you do that but the humor might help you through the afternoon.  Chances are, they are having some stress as well.  Keeping your sense of humor is really the best advice there is for getting through this time of the year.  Traffic jams are more common so try keeping a bag of mints in your console to enjoy when stuck in traffic.  As you stand in line at the check-out, do some leg exercises by rolling up to your toes and back on your heels (Your calf muscles will really appreciate this!) or even do assisted knee squats using the handle bar of your shopping cart.  You might get a few strange looks but odds are no one will notice because they are caught up in their own stress-filled moment.

 

Suzanne Kane wrote an excellent piece online for Psych Central about this topic.  Here are some of her tips for not just surviving the season byt thriving during it.  “Think ahead.  Whatever it is about the holidays that’s got you out of sorts, imagine whether that same concern will be bothering you down the road. No matter what it is, you probably won’t even recall the gut-wrenching emotions in one or 10 years’ time. This helps you build a cushion against mounting anxiety and creates a little space you can use to safely navigate the holidays this year.

 

“Celebrate on a different day.  Where is it written that you have to celebrate Christmas on December 25? If you’re intent on entertaining folks, especially family or out-of-town guests, scheduling the event for a day other than the actual holiday might relieve some of the pressure. Two days later, two days before, the weekend after — whatever works will do the trick.  With adult children, this suggestion is one we really take to heart.  Doing Christmas a day or two ahead of time or after the fact does not change the joy at all and allows people to not feel torn between family commitments. 

 

“Stop feeling you have to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be the party of the year. You don’t need to be the host whose event is talked about for months to come. If you can make yourself believe that you don’t have to be perfect, you’ll alleviate a lot of stress and accumulated tension. Your digestion will likely benefit as well, since your stomach won’t be tied up in knots over trying to insist on perfection.

 

“Go away.  This isn’t a recommendation to tell people to leave you alone. It is, however, a suggestion to incorporate something new into the holiday schedule this year. Instead of going whole-hog decorating the house, going to and hosting nonstop parties and get-togethers, why not consider going out of town for the celebration?  A family ski trip would be a wonderful memory and offer a much-needed change of scenery for all involved. Even an out-of-town trip to a national park or to visit friends or relatives will get you in the frame of mind of going after something new, something different, a place that’s away. Perhaps going away is just what the doctor ordered in order to thrive this holiday season.

 

“Create something lasting.  If you’ve lost a loved one and the holidays are too painful, consider creating something lasting for the remaining family members and loved ones in your life. This could be a family scrapbook, a handwritten letter you put in a “time capsule” of sorts, volunteering to bring joy to the elderly, shut-ins or sick children, or surprising your invalid neighbor with a home-cooked meal.  Remember that it’s the thought that counts. If you give something of yourself with love, it will be remembered and appreciated. You’ll also have a warm spot in your heart knowing you’ve helped bring a little joy to others who need it at this time of the year.

 

“Forgive yourself.  Everyone has regrets. You likely have some as well. If you’re beating yourself up for being inconsiderate, not living up to your word, being rude or impatient or mean to others, spending too much money, neglecting your responsibilities, or drinking too much, now is the time for a little self-forgiveness. Your desire to make positive changes actually begins with forgiving yourself. There’s no better time of the year to start than right now.

 

“Watch your diet.  Overindulging in food or drink during the holidays is a surefire way to suffer repercussions later. Not only will you feel remorse, you may have other consequences as a result. By paying mindful attention to what you put into your mouth, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor, now and later. To thrive during the holiday season, exercise discretion and make wise choices in food and drink.

 

“Be grateful.  Finally, this is the season to be thankful. And you’ve got a lot to be grateful for, regardless of how much you’ve thought about it. You’re alive, for one thing. Life is precious indeed.  Every day you are on this earth is another opportunity to make a difference, to celebrate life and the deliciousness of living. It won’t come by this way again, so make the most of today. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and you’ll really begin to thrive this holiday season.

 

“Go small.  Instead of fixating on bigger and larger quantities, make a conscious effort to downsize. This goes for the number of gifts you buy, the number and types of social engagements you accept or invite others to attend, trying to get the very best deal on a much-wanted item and so much more. After all, it isn’t — or shouldn’t be — how expensive or exclusive something is. Concentrate on giving from the heart.”  I would add that giving a gift that keeps on giving is also great.  Donors.org and St Jude’s Children Hospital are two such websites that will help you share the joy and continue the meaning of giving the entire year.  No donation is too small nor unnecessary.

 

We had a rule in our family that family presents had to include homemade gifts.  It could be something as simple as copying a favorite verse from a poem, hymn, or pop song that can be framed, a coupon book for chores or hugs, a jar of spice tea or cider/wassail mix, a kissing ball made of real or fake mistletoe, cloves stuck in an orange as a great scented ornament… the possibilities really can be endless.  These gifts help balance the budget and also tell the recipient that they were worth the time and effort it took on the sender’s part.  That really is the best gift of all, knowing someone cares.

 

While it is emphasized during the holiday season, every day we are alive is a chance to make a difference and share the spirit of living with someone else.  Life is precious and if you are reading this, then chances are, you are alive.  That is one thing you have for which to be grateful.  I am pretty sure there are others and an attitude of gratitude is the first step on the path of holiday and joyous life spirit.

 

 

 

 

A Bi-Polar Holiday, Part One

A Bi-Polar Holiday, part one

2018.12.08-11

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

It is a most contradictory time of the year.  In the Northern Hemisphere temperatures are at their coldest and yet, we celebrate the holidays that are designed to bring out the warmest feelings in us all.  At the very time of the year when Mother Nature is experiencing death, we celebrate birth and rebirth.  For many of us the weather is a bit shifty.  Some days are moderate in temperature and then within twenty-four hours, we can experience a climate change of magnitude proportions.

 

Bi-Polar Disorder is a mental health disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated or happy moods.  During such periods of mania, the individual behaves or feels abnormally or unusually energetic, happy, or conversely, irritable or depressed.  These extreme mood swings create these episodes of emotional highs and lows and can create changes in sleep patterns, thought processes, eating, and other behaviors.

 

The very mention of Christmas or other winter holidays can bring about similar reactions in many people.  Those with a bi-polar diagnosis might experience such episodes during seasonal changes and the winter time in many areas is ripe for such.  For others, though, the holidays represent loss or failure.  Very few people get through the month of December without some type of anxiety or depression.

 

Christmas is a holiday based upon the past events that Christians believe tells the story of the birth of a baby named Jesus.  Hanukah is a holiday celebrating the story of one night’s worth of oil lasting for eight nights.  Both of these have elements of a miracle occurring but perhaps the greatest miracle is that these stories are still with us.  It can be difficult for some to find a bill they believed they paid three months ago and yet, these two stories have lasted over two thousand years.

 

The story of Hanukah does not appear in the Talmud, since it occurred after its writing.  It is, however, referred to in the New Testament when Jesus is described as attending a feast of rededication.  The events that inspired the Hanukkah holiday took place during a particularly turbulent phase of Jewish history. Around 200 B.C., Judea, known then as the Land of Israel, came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. 

 

Led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”), took the helm; within two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics. Judah called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah—the gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night.  There was only enough untainted olive oil to burn for one night and yet, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply of oil.

 

The celebrations of Hanukah for this year have just ended but the message burns brightly, even in the aftermath of the recent terroristic murders of eleven at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue.  Hanukkah is a joyous eight-day Festival of Lights in the Hebrew calendar. It is a time when Jews celebrate the Jewish victory over a tyrant king and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. 

 

We have a choice during this holiday season as to how we respond to the past, our present, and hopes for the future.  We can wallow in depression, lamenting the sins and problems of the past or we can choose to think positively and move forward with hope.  “Every person can be a small light,” said Hayley Miller, Associate Director of Digital and Social Media of the Human Rights Campaign nonprofit organization. “And just as the small quantity of oil that fueled the miracle of light for eight nights, when we are our authentic selves, we can be a beacon of light that shines.”