The Choice is Always Yours

Yesterday was my birthday … September 2 … I’m 74 years old.  What an amazing life I have experienced.  I began my life with Plan One … everything awesome and happy.  Now I’m on Plan Six … and still everything is awesome and happy.  Why?  The only difference between a good life and a bad life is your attitude.  The choice is always yours.  One thing I do know is that I’m truly blessed and thankful for the time I have been given to enjoy a full life. 

The Hispano-Roman Philosopher Seneca once wrote:  “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

WOW … What a profound statement. The more I read it, the more I am inspired by it.

The phrases that stick out the most to me are:  “It is not that we have a short time to live… but that we waste a lot of it…” “Life is long enough for the highest achievements if it were all well invested…” “It is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity…” “We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…”

I believe that we have a loving Heavenly Father who designed each of us to achieve great things.  We are each unique in who we are, our abilities, and our talents.  There is also no one else on earth that can live our life and accomplish the good that we can.  You are enough! That’s important … do not forget it.  You are designed to bring some good into this world.  And there are people in your life that you can serve and love better than anyone else.

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It is up to us to decide every day to focus all of our energy on important things with the one life we have been given.  We must let go of all the inessential things in our lives and remove the distractions.  This is not an easy task living in today’s world. 

Your life is too short to be offended all the time. Your life is too short to compare it to others. Your life is too short to not believe in yourself. Your life is too short to not forgive. Your life is too short to regret the past. Your life is too short to live in fear. Your life is too short to be unhappy. Your life is too short to waste time on trivial matters.

I love this quote by Alan Watts:  “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”

I Am Enough

I don’t think Mr. Watts was referring to waking up from physical sleep … I believe he is talking about accepting who you are and accepting that it is enough … which leads to a happy life!  I struggled with this many times throughout in my life … Am I Enough? I grew up with this “perfect idea” of who I should be (at least what my mother thought I should be)! Yes … that was my Plan One!   You know those thoughts … the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect homemaker, the perfect church member … and the list goes on and on in my head.  In reality too many of us have those feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  We get discouraged with the things that we haven’t accomplished in life, the lack of education, the family members we feel that we let down, or the situations that we find ourselves in.  We all have this “perfect idea” of who we ought to be.

Why do we treat ourselves so terrible and relentlessly by comparing our life to other people … no matter how many times someone tells us how good enough or lovable we are? I don’t know about you, but I continue to look for evidence that I am not a nobody, or that I’m living up to my full potential.  I’m sure these feeling come from the pressure our society puts on each of us to “stack up to others.” 

We tend to think that our lives would be better if we had done things differently along the way.  I love the quote from the movie “Clouds of Sils Maria” when the character Christopher Giles says:  “We’re not allowed to regret anything.  If we’re sincere in our actions, then we’re the sum total of our experiences – no exceptions – and that is enough!”  You see … changing the past would change who we are … not make us something better or happier … just different.

Changing our circumstances is not the key to true happiness … It’s embracing who we are and knowing that we are enough that brings happiness.  I remember a great quote from the movie “Jurassic World” … “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.”  We aren’t in control of the things that happen to us, or many times the circumstances that surround us … but we are in control of our attitude.

How long could the hare sleep and still win the race against the tortoise?  | by Krist Wongsuphasawat | Medium

Recently I read a short internet article about the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” It pointed out that living from one milestone to the next often leads us to miss the most important and enjoyable parts of our lives today. You know the story … the slow and steady tortoise won the race.  But this article pointed out that we don’t focus enough on what the tortoise actually gained from the race.  The hare focused solely on his next destination point and he missed everything along the way.  However the tortoise was able to enjoy his journey and everything around his adventure.  Even if the hare had won, the tortoise still would have found joy in his race because he took his time and “stopped to smell the roses” so to speak!

I need to apply this lesson to my own life. I know that my biggest goal in this life is to live a worthy life and return to live with my Heavenly Father and with my family … but I also must have the goal of enjoying the life I have been given … here and now.  I need to realize that “I Am Enough!”  In Thomas Monson’s book “Finding Joy in the Journey” he admonishes us to “relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”

Oprah Winfrey said it better than I could ever say it:  “If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

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So if we’re in this “I’m not enough” rut, how can we dig ourselves out? How can we live our lives and be more present to ourselves? How can we realize that we are enough?  I’ve developed a short list that I try to follow, and it just may help you too:

  • Be thankful for all you have and are. Gratitude is powerful because it helps us recognize all the good things around instead of dwelling on all the good things we think we need to be happy.
  • Read inspiring spiritual messages and blogs. I have several blogs that I follow that uplift me and put me in a thankful state of mind. Sometimes it takes someone else’s words to help you see what you actually have to be thankful for.
  • Remember that there is more right with you than wrong with you. This powerful reminder is inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.”  Remind yourself that you are alive and breathing and able to walk new paths whenever you choose.
  • Enjoy the present! Being present means noticing the thousands of things around us that make life interesting. It also means making time for fun.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the person you are right now, exactly as you are!

As Seneca said: “Life is long if you know how to use it.” … and a key to using it is to realize you are enough! … Who you are right now, flaws and all!  Not only are you enough, your Heavenly Father loves you exactly as you are.  No conditions. No boundaries. Unconditionally!  Our Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us … and we will never be who He wants us to be if we are constantly trying to become what others want us to be!

Yes … I am enough … and so are you!

Just Saying …

I Used To Say “I'm Blessed” Until I Asked These 2 Questions | by Josh  Bocanegra | Josh Bocanegra | Medium

Kindness is Free

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Have you ever heard the phrase “kindness is free?”  I actually have 2 tee-shirts, one short sleeve and one long sleeve, which have the phrase written across the front.  They are my favorite tee-shirts, that’s why I have two of them … so I can wear the phrase year-round.  However, my son Paul disagrees with this phrase.  I love to wear it when I know he’s going to be around … just to share words of disagreement … I didn’t want to say argue.

Let me go back several months.  Back before Convid-19, Paul asked if I would be available to house sit for the family while they went on vacation to Cedar Point, Ohio.  The trip was to celebrate my granddaughter Abby’s 16th birthday.  Of course I said yes! I love being kind and helping others … especially my family.  Now fast forward to August 3rd when I traveled to Wilmington to house sit.  This was not your normal house sitting.  It involved not only the home, but a dog named Millie, a cat named Peaches, a dragon lizard named Elliot, a gecko named Leo and seven unnamed chickens.

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The dog and cat were easy to care for.  The lizard and gecko were different.  I hate worms … and I had to gather worms from a large box and feed them both daily.  Yuck … I absolutely hated this part of the job.  Each day I also had to go into the pen to feed the chickens and then collect the eggs.  Not too bad of a job, right?  Well, the night that they left for Ohio happened to be the night that Hurricane Isaias decided to visit Wilmington.  Sitting alone in a dark hallway, with no electricity, was quite scary.  Listening to tree limbs hit the house was very unnerving.  I survived the night only to endure the next two days without power.  No electricity at Paul’s also means no water … which means no toilets.  Sure brought back memories of Hurricane Floyd.  The morning after the storm I also found a dead chicken in the pen.  Thank goodness for Morgan’s hubby coming to my rescue and bagging it up and disposing of it.

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So, what did I learn from this? Kindness might be free of money but definitely not free of time, patience, and inconvenience.  Maybe Paul could be a bit right in his argument.  However, I still believe that kindness can be given freely.  Maybe that’s the idea behind the phrase.

I have been thinking about my life and how many blessings I have enjoyed and all the kindness from others that has enriched my life!  Yes … there are many!  Let me share a story  …  It’s a story about Fiorello LaGuardia who was once the mayor of New York City during the time of the Great Depression. One winter day as he presided at police court, an officer brought in a shabbily dressed man charged with stealing a loaf of bread. The defendant explained that his family was starving. LaGuardia stated that his hands were tied and that he had to punish the man.  He fined the man 10 dollars. The mayor then reached into his pocket, pulled out 10 dollars and paid the fine for the man. Then, looking around the courtroom, he stated that he was fining everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a man had to steal bread to eat. He ordered the bailiff to collect from everyone and to give the money to the defendant. The stunned man left the courtroom with $47.50. That certainly is not much by today’s standards, but the mayor was not just asking for money … he was asking for kindness, compassion and encouragement for the man and his family.

I find that acts of kindness motivate me to pay it forward as best I can, every single day! We ALL can give compassion, encouragement and hope. We can lift and bless others with our smiles, our hugs, compliments, and kindness. We can be generous with our time, treat others like they really do matter, and be sensitive to their feelings and their needs.   More often than not, these are things that do not cost money … they are free.  Rather, they are gifts of our love, and time. Through these simple actions we can ease the difficulties of our neighbors.

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Let’s think about how kindness from others has helped us.  I love using metaphors! Forrest Gump told us that “Life is like a box of chocolates!”   I like to think of “Life as a Puzzle.” My life is one of those tricky 1,000 piece puzzles. When I began my puzzle I came up with a plan on how to put it together and then started on my journey. The pieces were all very small and looked somewhat alike. So at first, I found myself trying to force certain pieces into the wrong position or place. Even though they appeared as if they should fit, they just weren’t meant for that space. It would be so easy to just pick up a pair of scissors and snip – snip – snip in order to make it fit. But life doesn’t work that way.

Several times in my life when I thought things were looking great and things were fitting together beautifully …suddenly I would come to a piece of the puzzle that I didn’t like or that I didn’t want to fill in the space in which it was intended for.  Pieces such as my husband’s untimely death, or my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the death of my sister Cathy. That’s just three of many pieces that I was not at all fond of! For some of you it might be pieces representing poor health, loss of a friend or family member, loss of employment, or a family or economic crisis. We all have unattractive and unwanted pieces in our life’s puzzle. We may be sad, frustrated, over-whelmed, or feel as though we would rather give up. We mustn’t do that! That’s when kindness from others enters our lives.  We must simply keep putting those pieces together, along with kindness from others, until we see the bigger picture appear before our eyes.

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During our annual family beach retreat to Topsail Island, we gather around the dining room table and work on a puzzle together. It’s so much fun. Family or friends passing by would jump right in to help! Together we learned a great lesson about patience and persistence and the power of teamwork. The puzzle fell into place much quicker with help from family and friends! Smiles, high-fives and jumps for joy were expressed when one of us located and solved a missing piece that was difficult to find. Someone would stop by to help, looking at the puzzle from a fresh perspective or different angle, or just offering help and encouragement. Isn’t this the way life should be? Others passing by and stopping to help or offer kindness and encouragement.  Remember it goes both ways; we must offer help, kindness and encouragement for others who are solving their own puzzles!

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In my journal I have written several times about showing kindness and how important it is in creating happiness.  My notes remind me of the things I should be doing each day. It’s what I will refer to as puzzle pieces that make other pieces fall into place. It’s a list of five things … Sort of like kindness goals! They are things I believe make my life happier and help others too. Here they are:

  • Make every hug last at least 10 seconds longer! Make them feel loved!
  • Give out at least 3 compliments a day! It makes you feel better and definitely makes them feel better!
  • Serve others daily! “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these” …
  • Accept help and always remember to show your appreciation! Makes life so much easier!
  • Never … ever … give up! Jim Valvano was so right!

Abraham Lincoln … “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” To live life to its fullest, you must follow the Savior’s teachings … love one another, service others, and be kind!

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We are all in this together! …So let’s see what we can do! Look around you right now and find someone that needs support, encouragement, hope and above all KINDNESS.  You have it within yourself to give.   If you want to be happy and get your mind off your own problems, do something for someone else!   Real happiness doesn’t come from being selfish, but by being selfless.  Everything you do comes back around.  In life, you get out what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Kindness is free … share it often!

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  Remember life is a puzzle and you really do have the very last piece in your possession to bring you happiness! That piece just might be kindness! …

Just saying …

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