If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

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Hurricanes of Ohio

There is a hurricane brewing in Ohio.

At least that is what my mom is paranoid, restless and consumed with fear about tonight. My mom suffers from several kinds of mental illness. She was diagnosed with Schizophrenia right around her 20’s. Now at 72 she has also been told she has dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Any one of those are pretty terrible. Pile all three – and you have a shit storm of confusion at any given moment.

Looking back, my childhood was very different from most. I just didn’t know it at the time.

But now – as an adult, and the fact that she lives 4 states away – it gives me some space and ability to see things for what they are.

I have had time to heal and forgive from the seemingly personal attacks. The souless look in her eyes as she would hurl insults and physical objects my way. The delusions, the voices, the paranoia, the anger.

So now when I hear she is suffering from another episode, it just saddens me. She is in a rehabilitation center worrying…in great concern that I am about to be wiped off the face of the earth from a hurricane. A hurricane in Ohio.

Her mind is taking her down a senseless track of anxiety and fear and there is no talking her out of it.

I remember sitting in the complete dark and silence – no electronic device allowed of any kind – because in her mind aliens were coming and they would enter through the electrical wires.

I remember trying to see the spiders – the hundreds of spiders that she was screaming about – begging me to get them off of her and her anger at me because I didn’t save her from them.

Pretty scary stuff. Especially as a kid. I remember thinking…she IS wrong…right?! right??

There is a natural tendency as a child to want to believe your parent – but in these cases there was a lot of confusion and internal struggles.

The brain is a mysterious place. It happens so fast – She was just fine, laughing and sounding great last week. But this week there is a hurricane in Ohio.

Living with a person with a serious mental illness is a challenge. It takes an extraordinary person to be able to handle it and understand it with compassion, love, forgiveness – especially in the midst of an episode that could involve personal attacking. I wasn’t always that person and am not always that person even now.

The distance has helped. It has given me the opportunity to focus on my own little family. To be a little selfish. I had not realized just how much of my life, my energy, my thoughts had been focused on caring for mom, worrying about her, or living in a constant underlying state of dread when the phone rings and it is her…needing rescued again from something or someone – which usually involved lots of time and possibly lots of money.

But I will always remember a conversation we had a few years ago that completely broke my heart and changed the way I deal with her and look at her.

She said in a moment of realization, “No one likes me Lee Ann. No one likes the REAL me. The unmedicated me. The raw me. People only like me when I am on drugs that make me something, or someone else”.

That is a sad and truthful statement.

She is locked inside a body and brain that has been failing her for years and is only increasingly fading out. The real, unmedicated her is an unpredictable, paranoid, delusional, angry, unstable person.

And the worst part of it all is that she is aware of it. She knows this truth.

So when I step back, and think about it in terms of pure physical illness…I am able to have compassion, patience. Just the same as if she had a failing kidney or heart. It just happens to be her brain in this case.

It is still exhausting, frustrating. The whole thing is unfair. But life is not fair.

We all have challenges to face. How you face them – THAT is what determines who you are.

I lived the earlier years of my life angry and blaming her for a terrible, scary, unstable childhood. A childhood that left scars, and some really awful exposure to some really bad experiences.

So I became that. An angry person. A victim. Resentful. Naive. Restless. Blind. Making unwise decisions and choices.

But it wasn’t because of her. All that was because I made that choice to become those things. In many ways it was coping mechanisms and I did have a right to be angry to some degree. But when it starts tearing you apart from the inside out…that is a problem.

It took me years and a few hundred miles to finally make peace out of all that chaos.

So. Here I sit in Ohio. No real threat of a hurricane. Just a heart that is sad for a very confused loved one that is fighting a huge storm of her own. And having no way to rescue her from this one.

3 Simple Secrets to a Happy New Year

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

If you are tired of making meaningless New Year’s Resolutions, or worse, making the same old ones every year and never living up to them…try something new this year.

Give yourself the gift of a new perspective.

I did 3 years ago and I am happier, more thankful, and less restless than I have ever been in my entire life.

Here are the 3 simple things that changed my life:

1. Acceptance
Accept that you are who you are, and your life is what it is. Also, accept your friends and family for who they are (hint – you can’t change them anyway).

You are who you are. If you are not happy with that, dig a little deeper to figure out why. There is usually a good reason. Comparing yourself to others is one of the number one reasons people are not happy with who they are. So, you are not the cover girl of a magazine. Do you sit there and compare your friends or family to things like that? Do you pick them apart like you do yourself? Just stop!

Stop comparing yourself to other people – what they look like, what they wear, how they live, what they have, and even what they think of you (or more accurately – what YOU think they think of you – because you are probably wrong anyway). Accept you for you and move on. You are actually pretty freaking great, if only you would stop looking everywhere else for yourself.

Your life is what it is. Get over the fact that your life may be harder than someone else’s, or that you feel you were dealt a losing hand in life. If you can read this, you are not blind, you have technology, and chances are – honestly you are doing pretty ok. So stop comparing your life to that of reality TV shows…because that is NOT reality.

If you are truly unhappy with your lot in life, the great news is that you actually can make some intentional choices to influence and change some of the circumstances if you are truly that unhappy. One of the easiest and biggest changes you can make is accepting your lot in life and learning to be ok with it. Instead of hounding yourself for bad choices, or mistakes or focusing on how your life is not what you thought it would be…just accept it. Then figure out ways to embrace it.

For example. I found myself at a place in life where I had TWO failed marriages! Not just one…TWO! And it got even messier because I had one child with each husband! People…this is a devastating place to be and looks bad on paper…sounds bad when trying to explain it. It is just pretty ugly. How could I ever just accept this and crazier…EMBRACE IT?!?

I had to accept it. Plain and simple. I had to get over the judgment from myself and others. I had to just quietly say…ok. This is what it is. It is not what I had pictured for my life and for my girls, but life happens. It was not easy. It took years and intention to come to a peaceful acceptance, but I can honestly say now that if anyone has an issue with my past or my situation…it is THEIR issue – not MINE! That is incredibly freeing!

Lastly – accept others for who they are. You cannot change other people. I can’t change you by you reading this. You have to make a conscious decision to want to change. So it is with others. You have to accept people at face value for who they are and be very honest about it. Don’t get in relationships thinking you are going to change someone. Don’t think you can change how your relatives live or think. You have to just accept them.

Just because you accept them doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do or who they are or how they treat you or others. It just means – wake up and accept the reality. Don’t feel bad for putting up healthy barriers if needed if their behaviors are unhealthy or a negative influence on you. Once you accept they are who they are – it allows you disengage a little bit and realize their actions are not your responsibility.

They may still drive you nuts – and that in itself just is what it is. You know they drive you crazy, you know their antics…just accept it. This too is very freeing. It makes you kind of just sit back and enjoy the ride a little more instead of erroneously thinking or believing that you can change anyone else.

2 Forgiveness
Forgive yourself and forgive others.

By the way – I put forgiveness after acceptance for a reason. You can’t even get to forgiveness until you honestly master acceptance.

Forgiving myself: I thought that forgiving others would be easier than forgiving myself, but I found out that we are inherently very selfish and ego driven. Even the most humble of us. We have our wounds and we lick them when we are hurt. So what I found, is that I actually had to forgive myself before honestly being able to forgive others.

It’s kind of like that whole airplane analogy. You know – “In case of pressure loss inside of the cabin, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to help others”.

So that’s what I had to do. But strangely enough, I couldn’t forgive myself straight out.

I had to imagine myself as one of my own daughters. Yea…I know, sounds weird, stay with me here. I pictured my own daughters and how much I loved them and how I would never want them to beat themselves up over stuff. I want them to love themselves, thrive, and not be held down by the prison of forgiveness and resentment. So with that mental image, I had to realize I too was a child and that I too deserved forgiveness.

With that simple mental exercise I was not only able to forgive myself, but actually become an advocate for myself over time. Just as I want my own girls to be brave and strong and be able to stand up for themselves…I too had to do that, model that, be that. For me AND them.

Forgiving others: After I took some time to really forgive myself (because this takes work and intentional practice) I started choosing certain people that I would forgive.

And it’s not like I had to sit down with them and have some awkward conversation. In fact – I never even told them. I just forgave them! Because the real truth is that forgiveness is not for the other people…it’s for you! I had some big things to forgive. In my life I have been verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abused. It was a long, ugly list and it took some time. But once I was able to apply actual forgiveness, I felt an incredible burden lift from my shoulders. All the resentment, anger, and bitterness I had been carrying around for YEARS started giving way.

Forgiving someone does not condone what they have done. Let’s be very clear. Forgiveness just releases YOU from the prison of being controlled and handicapped by what they did. It’s your get out of jail free card! And you should keep it handy because this also takes practice. But I promise you will get the hang of it and will start to feel like water rippling down the back of a duck the more you do it.

3. Surrender
Surrender control and expectations.

And yes, I put this last for a reason. You can’t get to this point without mastering the other two.

I was what you could call a control freak. And the crazy thing is that I didn’t even know it! I was the passive aggressive type. I pretended to be humble, meek, a martyr really, and as if I didn’t have any mind of my own, choices of my own or control over anything. But the whole time, I had some hidden agenda of how I thought everything was SUPPOSED to be, and how everyone was supposed to act. It was pure hell.

I had to first accept I was doing this, then forgive myself for acting like that, and then STOP doing it.

Since I have been able to surrender control of everything that happens I have been incredibly peaceful. I guess it was a lot of weight on my shoulders running the world and all.

Life is crazy and unpredictable. People are imperfect. Crazy stuff happens and people are usually the cause of it. But how freeing it is to realize – none of it is really in your control! I was able to sit back and let life happen – and actually enjoy the phenomenal uncertainty of it! Control is a total illusion and I now laugh at people who think they have it.

This is not to say you are an aimless boat on an ocean…you can still have direction and purpose. In fact, you will probably have more after you let go of all the responsibilities of orchestrating every little move and predicting the outcome.

Simplicity:
I could have called this the 4 simple secrets, but Simplicity is the just the BONUS or outcome and result of applying these 3 principles so you can rejoice and embrace the simple things in life.  It’s like the little gift or reward that just happens after you do all the hard work above!!  The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it. Allow yourself to slow down. Now that you are not in a race against time or anyone else, or blinded by anger or depression, you can slow down a little, relax and see the beauty all around!

Life can be a beautiful ride, but it may take some perspective to find it. I can’t guarantee you will be a changed person if you can accomplish all these things because of course – that is up to YOU! However, I can only attest to the fact that these three things were life changers for me.

I am more thankful on a daily basis than ever. And I am still the same twice divorced girl that suffered all kinds of abuse and made some really dumb choices in my life so far, and will probably do more stupid stuff along the way. My life didn’t change as much as I changed how I saw and live my life.

I’m rooting for you in 2014! Take baby steps. This is like working out. You have to start small, and take it day by day. You will slip up and that’s ok. The more you practice these skills, the easier they will become.

Cheers to a new thankful, peaceful, happy you!

Trash to Treasure

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Glass Beach is a unique beach, not because nature made it that way, but because time and the pounding surf have corrected one of man’s mistakes.

In the early 20th century, Fort Bragg residents threw their household garbage over the cliffs above what is now Glass Beach. It is hard to imagine this happening today, but back then people dumped all kinds of refuse straight into the ocean, including old cars, and their household garbage, which of course included lots of glass.

Beginning in 1949, the area around Glass Beach became a public dump, and locals referred to it as “The Dumps.” Sometimes fires were lit to reduce the size of the trash pile, however in 1967, the city leaders closed the area. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleansed the beach, wearing down the discarded glass into the small, smooth, colored trinkets that cover the beach today.

I find this absolutely cool…amazing…profound.

How nature did such a beautiful thing over time with discarded trash.

Maybe it’s because I can relate. I was once discarded. I was replaced. And it felt like I might was well have set myself on the curb for disposal. I felt, for all intensive purposes…like trash. Granted, it wasn’t the most stellar of all marriages, but I just never saw it coming until one day it was clear that I had been replaced. And I came to find out that it happens all the time. Duh…but I was very naïve. Hundreds, no, thousands affairs happen every year. Wives and husbands replaced, discarded…thrown away. Just like a household appliance or junk.

But over time, after years of crashing waves of sorrow, pain, anger and confusion…I started changing. Without realizing it, my rough edges were becoming smoother. Over time, I started letting go of the anger, the pain. I started moving towards forgiveness, acceptance…peace. I couldn’t change the past. I couldn’t control others, make them change their mind, or save my crumbling marriage. But I could make an intentional journey towards hope and eventually even joy.

Yes…over time, I changed from a broken shard of sharp glass…all hard, and pointy and ready to inflict pain on anyone that got close…to a soft, well rounded, balanced, peaceful person. And just like the beautiful pieces of glass on Glass Beach…I feel I have been repurposed. I am no longer what I once was. I am different. I am changed. Because I was discarded and reworked.

Sometimes there is a place in time where you just have to accept, forgive, move on, wrap yourself in grace, dive into mercy, and swim towards joy. For me the result has been my own little peaceful shore of beauty. I had to be there alone for awhile…basking in the sheer wonder of it all. Still working on rounding out those edges. But eventually I found another discarded piece of glass who had also been replaced and thrown out.

And in our repurposed states of mind and heart, we found that love can indeed be found and in more abundance than imaginable when you just allow life to happen. And to prove once and for all that one mans trash is another’s treasure.

Love is As Love Does

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Two of my many Teachers…

 

It just takes some folks longer.  Longer to figure out what love really is…what it really means.  And sadly, it seems that some never really get it.  So it makes me even more incredibly thankful to say – and really mean that I know what love is. 

A week ago as a family we experienced that moment in time – where everything stands still…confusion rules and you hear the unthinkable…Cancer.  Dad has cancer.  What?!?!  Are you sure?!?!  No way…

He spent this last week trying to find out exactly what stage, what his next steps are, what he can expect…just trying to absorb the shock of this grim diagnosis.  And face this monster that also claimed the life of his own father…making it doubly ominous.

My dad is by far one of the strongest men I know.  Not in the “My dad is stronger than your dad” kind of way (but he probably is, so there).  He had a full ride scholarship to UD back in the day as a Linebacker – They even nicknamed him Moose.  And he seems just as strong now as ever.  He was just helping us take down some trees a few weeks ago.

But even bigger and stronger is his sense of loyalty and love.  Like any family – we have had our share of mishaps, misinterpretations and growing pains.  But one thing has remained constant…I have always known my daddy loves me.  So that makes me a lucky girl right there!

Through the years I may have questioned some of his choices…but as is common – when I became an adult and parent myself – forgiveness was granted as I realized – he is human. So I traded my judge gown and gavel for a pair of big girl pants and honest, unyielding smile.

That was only several years ago, sad to say.  It took me nearly 40 years to really get it.  But – at least I did get it.  And ever since then I have had the most honest-open moments with the people I love the most – including dear old dad. 

But, as you may know or have heard…when facing a crisis like this, people become a little more candid…a little more focused on the real…less worried about hurting feelings and just saying what is on their mind.  They don’t have time to waste.  Wake up call time. 

Dad and I were chatting this weekend.  He has never been one to talk on the phone…I would be lucky to get 2 minutes out of him before.  Not this time.

And what he had to say was almost as shocking as the diagnosis…only in the other extreme direction.   Over the course of our conversation he said that I had taught him how to love…how to really love and forgive…and move on…and mean it – unconditionally. 

I had to laugh out loud! I was thinking in my head…Dude – Labrador Reincarnate…you ARE the master…YOU taught ME!  Love is as love does.  I was just doing what he always has taught me – love till it hurts. 

But you see – I have put him through more than his share of worries through my 40 years.  Nearly all of his amazing silvery gray hair (oh how we will miss his unruly Einstein coif) could possibly be attributed to lil’ ol’ me.  Talk about questionable choices…I have made more than my share, again and again…and paid the consequences. 

As a parent – I now understand how you can blame yourself for your children’s pain and struggles.  It is sometimes impossible to separate us from them.  He wishes he could’ve done more, said more, helped more…etc.”. 

So, just as he has some regrets of his own that he has to live with…I have mine.  But, at some point you just have to stop regretting, and start living!  How about I agree to give both you and myself a break, if you do the same?!  Revelation.

Both he and I are Libras.  I don’t put a ton of stock on horoscopes…but I can’t deny some larger character patterns.  We have had our extreme swings from right to left…trying to find our place – weighing all options…yearning for balance.  But it seems we have both found our equilibrium.  How lucky we are to be there at the same time!

He has watched me digging in the dirt, screaming at the sky, grasping for relief from pain and sadness and anger through different times of my life.  But I am so thankful that he also got to watch me transform into this new creature – what I was always meant to be.  Peaceful. 

My name even means peaceful meadow.  5 years ago, you may have thought my name meant something more like hurricane, poisonous porcupine, at war, or tidal wave.  Dad has got to watch me go from prickly, annoying, self-destructive worm to shining (well…mostly), positive and whimsical butterfly…ok – that’s a little much…let’s just settle on goofy moth flying thingy… 

Where I had once harbored resentment and anger, I now focus on forgiveness and contentment. I stopped using my circumstances as a handicap, and shifted my perspective from victim and captive martyr to survivor – free, worthy and full of potential…brand new!   

One of his more questionable moves back in my youth was when he took us all to see the late night showing of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  He loved PF and thought this was a concert footage movie.  He had no idea how horrific the imagery was.  We laugh about this now.  But how ironic…The Wall.  We have crashed through a wall despite ourselves.  The wall that divides has crumbled in peace. 

Both Dad and I agreed.  Peace is found – somewhere between acceptance and forgiveness.  Life is just too short.  Too short to waste on petty disagreements that left unaddressed can become unmovable mountains of resentment.  People die trying to climb those hills alone. 

Also – you don’t have to love till it hurts.  Love shouldn’t actually hurt…until you have to lose that someone – but even then…there are memories, thankfulness, and hope.  But the act itself of loving…and receiving shouldn’t really hurt.  If it does – maybe a few adjustments are in order.  Usually that means self-perspective adjustments…because if you think you can “fix” anyone, you are in for a surprise. 

We also agreed that you can’t make anyone else see that truth…they have to see it for themselves.  Time spent not loving…is simply time wasted.  You have to surround yourself with positive – likeminded people.  Time wasters will only bring you down…because it is exhausting watching them waste away the hours, days, years.  Just like we once did. 

But no more wasted years for us.  Because Love is – as Love Does. It has no choice but to be…and do.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who taught who, because there is probably a little bit of truth in both sides.  I am currently an understudy of my two daughters who are teaching more about love than I feel I could ever teach them.  It is an active, living, breathing two-way street…as it should be and will be for as many days, weeks, months, years, or decades as we have. 

7 Days of Sunshine

I used to live in the dark. Even a completely beautiful sunny day would seem oppressive and annoying to me when I lived in the dark.

When I lived in the dark, I was easily frustrated, short tempered, quick to judge and accuse…because I felt judged, and afraid…of nearly everything. I was a miserable person there in the dark.

I stayed pretty confused when I lived in the dark. Couldn’t see straight. I tripped over things. Second guessed myself. Doubted everything. Made unwise decisions…and then got angry at the consequences of those unwise decisions. “Why was the world always out to get me anyway!?!”, I would cry out in anger.

Read the next line in a loud cheesy game show voice: But thanks to Mr. Clean’s new formula, 7 days of sunshine, I am happy to report that I am now living in the light! Finally!

Ok, that is not exactly how it happened. I do like that new product…but I love the name even more.

7 days of sunshine.

I can honestly say that one day I awoke from my walking slumber and did infact walk into the light. But it took dreadful honesty, humilty, acceptance and forgiveness. It’s not the formula of Mr. Clean’s 7 days of Sunshine, but it is an emotional formula that has proven incredibly powerful and effective in my life.

And the really cool thing is that it hasn’t just brought 7 days of sunshine…it has brought continual sunshine. Because it is all a matter of perspective. An incredibly simple yet complex formula that took me years to discover.

If you can apply those 4 principles (honesty, humility, acceptance and forgiveness) in your life on a daily basis, it is contagious, addictive and very freeing. There is no reason that you can’t apply that formula every day. Just a little spritz here and there goes along way.

It took way too long for me to discover this little secret. I am trying to lead by example and help my daughters live in the sunshine in hopes that they get so used to it there that they never want to stray into the dark.

Whenever any of us start griping, complaining, or being negative, I spray a little perspective in hopes of an attitude clean up. It usually works. But we are human, and sometimes even I have gray and cloudy days. But at least they are not dark days now.

A little matter of fact tough love can go a long way. A day spent complaining or dwelling on negative stuff is pretty much a day wasted.

I have realized I can’t change the world. I have given up on that exhaustive impossible dream. But I can change my little world. I may not smile 24-7 or have a perfect life, but I am absolutely content for the first time ever. All because of that simple yet incredibly complex magic formula.

I’m so thankful it rained on my parade

ImageI had the honor of speaking at a women’s retreat a few weeks ago.  It was the second time I’ve been asked to do this.  Last time I even led and sang some of the music. I am not bragging.  I am in awe of it all, because I almost wasn’t here for any of it.

You see…it rained on my parade.  What does that really mean anyway?  It means you are pissed because things didn’t go the way you planned.  Well…it rained on my parade…for a long time.  And I got more than a little pissed…I got really depressed.  Nothing in my life had turned out the way I had planned.  Nothing.  And because of that…I chose to focus on everything negative and was missing out on the tons of blessings all around me.

But you see…life has a funny way of helping us out.  And sometimes things don’t work out for a reason, and by pouting about it, being mad and resentful…we are only delaying ourselves the joy and peace of what is next.  Don’t waste as many years as I did being a control freak.  You can’t control the weather, a sick mom, a cheating spouse, or anyone else for that matter.

So I had the privilege to speak about some of the hardest lessons I have learned in life, and share them very personally with an overwhelming 60+ women last week.  It was hot, it was crowded…there wasn’t enough chairs, but no one seemed to care. 

I wasn’t nervous really.  I was just hopeful that I would say what someone needed to hear.  I was hopeful that some of the hardest things I have endured wouldn’t be in vain.  I was hopeful that I would be able to articulate, not just the darkest parts of my life…but the victory and transformation that occurred.  I was hopeful that I might instill hope into someone that might have lost theirs, just as I had lost mine at one time.

But the funny thing about hope and inspiration is that…it’s not about the person trying to spread hope as much as the person that has lost it and finds enough courage to grab on to it one more time.  No one can “give” anyone else hope.  Hope is only received by the individual willing to believe in it.

I knew that.  And maybe that is why I was not nervous, but rather…hopeful, yet, realistic and even a little sad.  Because as I sat there in that crowded room looking out at all these women – all so very beautiful in their own unique way, my heart jumped as I saw the faces of women, young and old.   They had all come to hear – How To Take A Compliment And Find Beauty In The Small Things.

That is what my topic was about. 

As I went through a little survey I had devised, I could see that it had already struck a chord.  How hard it is to receive a compliment sometimes.  But the reality is that it is only hard when…you don’t believe the compliment.  And the thing that really sucks is that most of us don’t.

We shy away from compliments.  We may feel awkward.  I did for years.  Admittedly, still do sometimes…but I have been working very hard at believing and receiving the compliments.  Not in an arrogant, vain way like, “Sank you dahlink, yes, I know I am all that and a bag of pretzels too”.  More like in an accepting, grateful and graceful way.  Because grace is what got me this far.

There, in that room, in a matter of 40 minutes or so, I shared years of my own inner struggles, and how I have come to find peace.  How complete chaos turned to calm.  Now…I still have moments of chaos, but I don’t “live” in chaos.

It all came down to Accepting.  Accepting that I cannot change the past, I cannot change people, I cannot control most circumstances, but I can just simply accept things the way they are.  And let it be.

I also had to surrender my pride, which can be masked with self pity.  I had to surrender my control and plans.  I had to surrender and admit I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to.  And just let it be.

I had to make a conscious effort to quiet the noise in my head…all the questions, all the things I wondered about that had no definitive answers…I had to just let it be!

This is not a subliminal message for the Beatles by the way, but they were on to something there.

I said a lot in that hour.  And the really cool thing was that I got to hear from them too.  We shared some really cool things together.  I shared much more than I could write right now and truth be said, I probably wouldn’t even remember all of it anyway.  It was very interactive, and I am so thankful for that.

I wasn’t speaking to them.  I was sharing with them. 

A few came up afterwards and hugged me, we laughed, we cried, we chatted a bit more.  One lady even said it was the best thing she has heard including from professors in college.  Again…not bragging…I was just in awe of it.  I guess there is a difference between reading and regurgitating knowledge, vs. living it.

And one girl stayed after…waiting patiently.  I didn’t even realize she was waiting for me.  Her nonchalant, slouched posture in the corner of the room made it seem she was just bored out of her mind waiting on a friend.

But she was waiting.  Waiting to tell me that she was at the very end of her rope and had been for quite some time. 

We sat and talked for over an hour. 

I honestly don’t know if anything I said sunk in, or made a difference.  I can hope.  But it’s not about me, or anything I said.  It’s all about her, and anyone else that needed to hear it – that hope can prevail.  It’s about whether or not they mustered up the courage one more time to grab hold of something that only they can do for themselves.

To believe.  Believe they are worth it. To see life IS beautiful – even among the chaos.  To believe that there is beauty and freedom in not being able to control anything but your own outlook and perspective.  To believe and understand that only you can break yourself out of your own prison of doubt, confusion and fear.

To believe you can let go, let it be, and find peace in it all. 

I can’t do that for anyone.  I can only show that it can happen…

Here was my trick.  I couldn’t do it for me…or at least the right now me.  I had to see myself as a child.  

I saw my own precious, sweet, beautiful daughters.  I want everything good for them.  Peace, hope, happiness, love…you name it.  They are innocent, beautiful, amazing gifts! 

But wasn’t I once too?  I had to find my inner girl.  And realize that I too, was worthy of such things.  May sound silly, but it was really the only way.  I realized the very best way to give them those same gifts of acceptance, peace, love and joy…was to model it, live it, believe it. 

I’d like to say I succeed at it every day, but why would I need grace then?  And people…I am a walking picture of what grace is all about, let me tell you.  I AM a grace junkie!

Like I said…I wasn’t talking to them…I was sharing with them…and listening, and watching, and learning. 

That’s what we do.  We are not in this alone.  Don’t fool yourself and think you are.

I am very thankful for that opportunity.  It was really amazing.  I am very thankful that some of my very hard and humbling lessons are not in vain.  The one thing I prayed in that hospital room was that my sadness would not be in vain. 

If you are down, or running low on hope…dare to be courageous and grab it up again.  But do yourself a huge favor first.  Free your hands and mind of control.  Hope cannot be controlled.  It can only be received.  And you are the only one that can do that for yourself. 

And if you are too tired or just not able to do it…seek some professional help.  You are not alone and only pride is stopping you.  Let go of that too while you are at it.  You will be so glad you did. 

Because grace and beauty is all around us.  Little encouragements all along our path, just waiting to be found.  But you have to be looking for them.  You can can’t receive it your eyes are closed. 

The next time it rains on your parade…go outside afterwards and open your eyes.  If you let go of the control, and the pride and the anger, that the rain ruined your parade or picnic…you might see something so small and so beautiful that you just may suprise yourself and laugh as you think to yourself…I am so glad it rained on my parade…because I would have missed this!