We’re beginning to see the subtle signs of spring in the great white north. A few more glimpses of the sun, the drip, drip, drip of ice and snow melting off the eaves, increasing bird sounds and deer venturing out of their hiding places.
And so it goes. Time always comes to the rescue, to use a well-worn phrase, like clockwork. We never trust it during our dark times; we lose faith that change will come and now here it is.
Even a record-setting, brutal winter will pass. Not without consequences to humans, structures and nature, but eventually the renewal begins and we can step out of our closed up dwellings, peel off the down jackets, lose the scarves and mittens and assess the physical and psychic damage of such a challenging season.
This is one of the reasons I’ve made the choice to live in places with four, distinct seasons. To me, these seasons teach us resilience, flexibility and acceptance. They come and go with regularity, but we never quite trust it to happen. And then it does. Another lesson.
It mirrors phases of our lives. Like the seasons, good times roll through, as do bad times and transitional times; life is never static, it is fluid. Like nature.
We humans think that we can control so much; that all will bend to our strong will. We know deep down that we cannot and that makes us angry and scared, which seems to be a national pastime here in the U.S. of A.
So, as the signs of spring grow and as we ‘spring forward’ this weekend, know that we all morph and evolve and change and transform and grow and die and molt and blossom and renew and shine and fade and shrivel and then begin again.
A little confession: I wrote this more as a reminder for me, than for you. But, if it speaks to you, I am happy.
My husband and I were having dinner with good friends the other night. There was lots of laughter and chatter, until one of the couples received a text from their daughter who is away at college. She had shared some bad news.
She did not get into an academic program that she’d been working toward for the past two years. It was devastating for her and by extension, her parents.
We all expressed our sympathies and reviewed everything she had done to ensure her success and acceptance into this program. Her mom told us that getting into this program was all she had planned for. She had no idea how she would move forward.
After the initial shock wore off, we started talking about what we’ve learned from our collective disappointments. Since all of us were over 50, we had quite a stockpile to sift through.
The bottom line: life is a series of disappointments and successes. That’s really what it all comes down to and when you have the luxury of looking back, you can see how many of your most devastating failures or setbacks, were actually pivotal turning points.
We all rebound from losses. ALL of us. Loss may ding us or make us more wary, but eventually we find a way out. That’s how life is set up. Time keeps flowing like a wave to carry us to the beach; sometimes gently, sometimes in a violent crash. But, it happens.
Look back on your most painful losses or failures. Think about a time when you didn’t get something that you wanted so badly. You asked why, felt cheated, repeated to yourself and anyone who would listen that you had done all the right things to make this happen for you. And yet, it didn’t. You cried out that life is unfair.
Yup. It is. And it’s not. Life just is. Life is a series of ups, downs, joy, triumph, pain, suffering, loss, victories, good meals, bad meals, cuts, scrapes, financial losses, financial gains, speeding tickets, death, destruction, natural disasters, treachery, lessons and second chances. That’s what we get when we pop our head (or our ass, which isn’t optimal) out of the womb.
Take a moment to think back, as we did sitting around the table, to those personal moments of loss and failure. What came into your life as a result? The vast majority of these challenges were overcome. So many times when we’re forced to take the fork in the road, it was a great fork. We grew, we learned, we adapted and sometimes, we even bloomed.
Maturity, time and age really help to dull the effects of the inevitable disappointments we face. Events that used to send me into a tailspin barely register anymore. I know that it will work out, that l will adapt and evolve. Yes, there are still things that knock me flat on my ass like the death of my dog, Chili last fall (more on that here). I’m still brushing myself off from that and have not quite processed the take-away. But, I will. With enough time.
Be kind. People live by a lot of mottos or platitudes or moral codes, but really those two words sum it all up, don’t they? Be kind. Period.
Last week on our radio show, we brought up the story of a local 7 year-old who talked his school principal into installing a ‘buddy bench’ on the playground. The idea is that when a kid is lonely or doesn’t have anyone to play with, he/she can go sit on the buddy bench and the other kids will see them and include them. Or maybe they’ll just find another kid in the same situation. It’s sort of a sanctuary and a signal to the other kids to be kind and include the kids on the bench.
As cynical adults, we wondered if kids were really unselfish enough to offer help or companionship to a kid who needed it. So, we asked our listeners to call us and tell us about a time when their child showed kindness and compassion, without any prodding or orders from adults.
The phones were packed; the stories were moving and sweet and inspiring. If you’d like to hear it, click here. Please take the time; it’s worth it.
As I listened to one story after another, I realized that kids get it. They aren’t burdened by political correctness, prejudice or excessive judgment. They don’t zip through their accumulated filters as to who is deserving of kindness. They see a need and they act, whether it’s a physical, emotional or financial need.
As adults, we are jaded. We see someone who is struggling and compose a story. “Well, they didn’t work hard enough…they deserve what they get…maybe if they didn’t drink so much…it’s not my problem…I don’t have time for this…nobody ever helps me when I need it…everyone wants a hand out…”
A child sees someone who is cold and knows they need warmth. They see someone who is hungry and know they need food. They see someone who is lonely or sad and know they need comfort. Kindness. Simple.
I think we’re born with this capacity for empathy. It’s what links all humans together. We all want the same things. We want to be happy and loved and nurtured. For the most part, we get that from our fellow humans. If we’re in touch with our needs, rather than suppressing them or worse, denying them or being ashamed of them, we can connect with those in need. Sadly, we humans also do a great deal of damage to others. That begins the vicious cycle that is adulthood. We were hurt, so we tend to hurt others in return.
Be kind. We don’t have to go out of our way. We can offer a smile during a difficult or embarrassing situation. We can hold the door for a mom struggling with a crying child. We can ask an agitated friend or co-worker if there is anything we can do to ease their pain or their burden. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, but rather just a small step; a starting point.
Become someone’s ‘buddy bench’, even if only for a moment. Be kind. Period.
I’ve been exploring affirmations. I’ve always thought it seemed so silly to tell myself how great I am or how much I love myself, but once I stopped to think about how often I speak negatively to myself, I began to see how turning it around might turn ME around.
Think about how often you find yourself saying, “I’m so stupid/mean/lazy/unorganized/whatever negative thing comes to mind”. That is considered normal self-talk for women. It’s also considered normal to say it out loud, to other people.
On the other hand, how often do you praise yourself inwardly. “I’m really good at my job/my marriage/parenting/spelling/cooking, etc.” And God forbid we EVER actually say these things out loud to others. “Well, isn’t she full of herself…who does she think she is, bragging like that.”
Funny how that works. We are supposed to be developing a kinder, gentler, more PC nation and yet we (sometimes falsely) heap praise on others, while denigrating ourselves. Ladies, I’m talking to you. We’re supposed to be empowered by now.
It seems as if it’s required of women to constantly be too hard on ourselves. Our looks, our brains, our abilities, our hormones; all of them are never good enough. Culturally, we’re branded as crazy and moody and cat-fighty and incompetent and silly.
This time of year, I’m always so annoyed at the Valentine’s Day commercials for teddy bears and pajamas. The spots always feature a leering guy, happily purchasing something that would appeal to a 10 year-old girl (unless she was me at 10; I preferred a new baseball mitt) because he thinks it will ensure some hot sack time with her. The message being “women are so simple and child-like.”
Would any of us consider buying the men in our lives a Tonka truck and Spiderman pajamas for a gift to show our love? Men would feel disrespected and belittled by that.
There are a lot of crazy cultural messages flying around and unfortunately many of us gals embrace them, buy into them, foster them and add them to our self-talking points.
So, here we are. Back to self-talk. What do we tell ourselves about ourselves? And by extension, what do we as a gender, radiate out to our culture? Constantly reiterating what we’re supposedly not good at, becomes ingrained. Men believe it, our daughters believe it, our leaders believe it, marketers believe it and it circles back to us and we believe it.
We are smart, competent, grown-up, reliable, innovative, creative, loving, nurturing and equal. Let’s all start talking the self-talk and walking the walk.
Here’s one to get us started. “I love who I am. I am grounded in my own power. I am secure on all levels.” And I don’t want a giant teddy bear for Valentine’s Day.