Monday, September 24, 2012

New Year's Resolutions - Part Six

If you happened to read my last five blog posts on New Year's Resolutions (Really, you are quite desperate for entertainment, and I love you for it...truly.), you'll be happy to hear that the end is in sight. Here, forthwith, is my final entry.

Always be there for those you love…especially when it’s not easy
Some people are easier to love than others. Your kids? Pretty easy to love them. Unconditionally. All of your family members? Well, in my case, prescription drugs certainly help. Hear me on this one: you need to start by loving your siblings. No option. You don’t have to be the best of friends with all of them, but you do have to love them and have their backs when times get tough. Period. Love them for who they are, don’t hate them for who they’re not. My parents taught me that you stick it out as a family, for better or for worse. For those of you with children, DO NOT let your kids off the hook on this one. You need to teach them that loving their siblings is not an option. It’s the first vow you learn to take and not break. And if one of your family members lets you down, don’t wallow in self-pity. Speak your truth and move on. A few years back, I read this great quote and it went something like this: When you need to say something that’s difficult, first ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? And is it necessary? You only proceed if you can answer yes to all three questions. I suspect if you answer all three truthfully, you’ll find yourself with a lot more time on your hands. And a lot less arguing with your family.

Find someone to laugh with...
This one could also be called Choose Your Spouse Wisely. When I was young, about 15 or 16, I distinctly remember my parents telling me, “Don’t choose a mate based solely on looks. That’ll fade. Just be sure to find someone who makes you laugh and someone you can talk to about anything.” And I muttered something back, equally intelligent like, “As if. Whatever.” Thankfully for me, it all worked out. I found someone with whom I had instant chemistry in all departments. Are there days I want to throw a crescent wrench at his head? Absolutely. But I’m a farm kid. I happen to have several crescent wrenches at my disposal.

When times get tough, remember what brought you together in the first place. What do you like about that person? Love is the foundation, but like is the day-to-day stuff that builds strong relationships. I know I hit the jackpot because I actually like my husband – if given the choice, I would still choose to spend my day with him. I like hanging out with him. I like what he stands for. I like who he is. Simply put, he’s my best friend.  

And for gosh sakes, have a sense of humour! I believe angels do weep the day you stop laughing. In the past, people have told me that if I ever want to be taken seriously, then I had better stop fooling around. What about the hazards of taking yourself so seriously that you forget how to laugh? I’m not sure who ever decided that you can’t be intelligent and have a sense of humour...likely someone who didn’t have either.

Let me close by telling you this…we’re only here for a short while, so show up for the game. Have faith, be intelligent, be humble, be kind and compassionate, be courageous, earn your keep, persevere, follow your dreams, always be there for those you love and find someone to laugh with.

I've shared this with you before, but I think perhaps Margery Williams penned it best when she wrote The Velveteen Rabbit back in 1922. Can you believe it? This book was written almost 100 years ago, and the message is still relevant, even more so today. In case you aren’t familiar with this childhood classic, two toys are having a discussion in the nursery. Here’s a paraphrased version:

“The poor little Rabbit was made to feel very insignificant and common-place, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse. The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out…and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it. “What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day, “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Above all, remember this. Beautiful people don’t just happen, they become. It’s only after someone has dealt with life’s hardships and trials that they come out shining. Flaws are beautiful – they make you raw, they make you real, they make you human. Don’t ever confuse beauty with what you look like; that’s just genetics. Rather, beauty stems from that inner light that burns brightly. Beauty comes from being the best part of someone else’s day. Beauty comes from being real. And this my friends, is what will make you unforgettable.

I’m going to close by sharing the inscription from the tomb of a bishop in the Westminster Abbey… the inscription on his tomb reads as follows:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits,
I dreamed of changing the world; as I grew older and wiser I
discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights
somewhat and decided to change my country, but it too seemed
immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate
attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.
But alas, they would have none of it!

And now I realize as I lie on my death bed, if I had only changed
myself first, then, by example, I might have changed my family. From
their aspirations and encouragement I would have then been able
to better my country, and who knows, I might have even
changed the world.”

My wish for all of you? May you live a long and joyful life…may you live until most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes have dropped out (well, maybe not entirely dropped out…) and may you live until you get loose in the joints and very shabby. Many, many, many decades from now, when you’re lying on your death bed, don’t be lying there wishing for one more moment to make things right. Because friends, that won’t be your choice. Rather, may you be peaceful knowing that you used every gift you’ve been given, may you find comfort in all the choices you’ve made, and may you have lived your life in a way that let Him know that you fully appreciated the gift.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Year's Resolutions...Part Five

In case you missed my last few blog posts, please refer to the side of the screen where the last few posts are listed. My laziness prevents me from pasting in all the links. I'm having one of those kind of nights, so please forgive me. (And for shame…how dare you not find me endlessly endearing, charming and fun? Where’s your heart?)

For those of you already yawning and making a move to shut this page down, don’t you dare. Haven't you been listening? Be courageous. Be kind. Have faith. It’ll all be over soon.

Earn your keep…and have fun doing it
Here’s the hard facts of life…unless you fully plan on winning the lottery, and if so, please seek help, at some point after you’ve decided what you want to be when you grow up, or until then, you’re going to have to earn a living. Find something you enjoy doing – cause trust me, that’d be a long haul if you’re miserable. The secret to being remarkable and standing out in a crowd is to enjoy what you do, even if it isn’t your dream job. Focus on the task at hand. Adjust your lens on the ordinary. Be present. People that are exceptionally good at what they do make everyone around them feel better.

Work hard and have fun doing it. After all, no one really cares if you don’t want to be there. That’s your choice, not their baggage. And remember this: it’s a basic equation…you’re trading your time for money. That’s all it is. With that said, you might as well be having some fun and getting some fulfillment out of it. Because if you take yourself too seriously, then you’re bound to lose something in the end. As you know, all work and no play is totally missing the point. A few years ago, I completely missed the point - lost my perspective, my sense of humour, my zest for life. Lesson? I'm never going back there.

Most importantly, never make the mistake of confusing your net worth with the numbers in a bank account – you’re not taking any of it with you. I’ve yet to see a funeral hearse pulling a U-Haul (but promise to let you know if I ever do). You are already worth as much as any millionaire out there. And if one day you happen to become one of those people who makes millions a year, remember this – you're worth no more than the person who makes nothing. Don’t ever forget that. A sign of true character is how you treat those who have nothing to give you in return

And now for a fable about a nasty little pony named Satan. No, wait a minute…his name was Sandy. Way back when, my mom enrolled me in Pony Club. This was likely an attempt to bring some culture into my life and keep me out of trouble. It would make sense then, that I hated it. My older sister had this beautiful thoroughbred horse that looked like a mythical creature out of some movie, and I was saddled with Satan, pardon me, Sandy, a Shetland pony who stood about seven apples high. One day, just after brushing the little beast to a high-gloss shine, I was leading him out to the pasture. It was then that my brother came roaring onto the yard in the combine. Unfortunately, at that very moment, I was in complete defiance of the cardinal rule of Pony Club: NEVER EVER hold on to the halter, always hold the rope (which presumably you have tied to the halter). This will give you a chance to let go should something happen. Well, something did indeed happen. Sandy went completely bat-shit at the sound of the combine and took off like his tail was on fire. My sweaty wee hand instinctively grabbed hold of that halter and held on for dear life. As Darwin suggested, it comes down to survival of the fittest. In this case, Sandy won the evolutionary race. They found me just outside the pasture gate, where that terror must have stopped just long enough for my carcass to drop, my body in the grips of rigor mortis.

As fate would have it, I lived. My face however, was one giant scab. I was horrified. As my mom described it: “You’ll be fine. Your face was just dragging on the road for a bit.” A bit? I had gravel shards wedged into my forehead, nose, cheeks, lips and chin. It took months for the whole mess to clear up. And don’t think for a moment that having a scab for a face was a good enough excuse to hide out in my room. Hell, no. My mom told me to quit acting like I’d lost an arm or something. She even made me continue to participate in the circuit of local fairs that summer, where I ungraciously collected a plethora of fifth place mercy ribbons. See photo below.

For the record, what kind of slacks am I wearing?
Should I tuck them in the boots, or out?
Clearly I couldn't decide, both alternatives being equally delightful.
As for the fifth place ribbon, very harsh, as there were only four of us in the class.

For the record, yes, that’s a forced smile. The scabs on my nose, lips and chin prevented my grin from stretching any further. I’m not entirely certain if that’s a large scab on my forehead, or an awkward attempt at bangs. Let’s go with scab. It's one of the few times my brothers went out of their way to make me laugh. Although they weren't being kind. I'm almost entirely certain they did it just to see the scab break, fresh blood pouring down my face each time.

As a child, that was a tough lesson in perseverance. No matter how bad you think your situation is, you still have to get dressed and show up for the game. Don’t expect to get results without being willing to work hard for something. You want to know the secret to getting lots of stuff done? Get lots of stuff done. To do this, be diligent about deciding what requires your full artillery of anal tendencies, and what does not. Some things require complete focus, others don’t. If you’re writing an email that’s going out to 1,000+ employees, then yes, spend some extra time on it. Heck, get a little crazy and double-check it. But baking that pie for the local charity event? Really, as long as it’s edible. Just remember the saying, it’s not so much how busy you are, but what you’re busy doing. After all, the bee gets praised, the mosquito swatted.

You’ll have days when you feel on top on the world...

 And others where you want to mutter, "F*ck this. I’m going back to bed.”

And that’s alright – knowing it may not be your day of crowning glory, just pin on your fifth place ribbon and head out for the day. And sometimes? Sometimes, life just sucks. Sometimes, it’s really hard. But keep your chin up. Cause guess what? Sometimes you need those crappy moments…sometimes you need to hit those walls…cause only then do you find out what you’re really made of.

Follow your dreams…especially the ones others think are impossible
Dream big. And then go out there and get it. What the heck are you waiting for? Someone to do it for you? Yeah, let me know how that goes. I want to share an excerpt from the commencement address that the late Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, gave to a graduating class in 2005. He said:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead some day is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart and intuition…they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

How cool is that?

Promise me something? Never bet your life on somebody else's opinion. In fact, write a letter to yourself. Write down your dreams, what you want to be when you grow up – your passions, the things that make your soul sing. Put it somewhere safe and open that letter ten years from now. It may just surprise you. And I know what you young people are thinking: “Jeez! Ten years from now? I’ll be so old! I won’t even be able to see." Riiiiiiiiight. Let me promise you something. The next ten years will go by in the blink of an eye. So write it down. Your dreams are the most important possessions you hold. They’re yours. They’re what make you, YOU.  And here’s the kicker, no one can make your dreams come true except you. On the flip side, no one can take ‘em away from you either. Not if you don’t let them.

 To be continued...
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