Tag Archives: gratitude

The Illusion of Time & Perceived Guarantees

Simplicity.

It’s something I often lose sight of in the everyday chaos. It’s something I entirely forget in moments of added stress and chaos – in the moments when I need to remember it the most.

Often times I find myself moving through chaos. Through stress from school. Through trying to be a good parent. Through keeping up a household. Through dealing with physical and emotional and financial issues.

I lose sight of the “little things”. I lose focus of what’s really important. What really matters.

And then there are the curveballs that, by all accounts, there is no possibility of preparation for.

The sudden death of a loved one. The realization that your child has a disability. The breakdown of communication and relationships. A life-altering accident.

In the past month or so, my close friend’s (now) fiance was in a near-death accident. He thankfully survived and is currently at a rehab facility with a spinal injury that has left him partially paralyzed.

Weeks after this happened, my brother’s friend who grew up in the same town as me, was also in an accident. He also thankfully survived and is currently at the same rehab facility as my first friend. He too has a similar spinal injury.

It’s not an easy task to make sense of two healthy, active young men from adjacent towns being in similar accidents, with similar injuries, in such a short span of time.

It’s easy to get lost in the flood of emotions, to be gripped with such sadness and the feeling of helplessness. To focus only on the negatives.

However, they both survived. From all accounts, they are in good spirits. Friends, family and the entire community have come together in support. There is an overwhelming amount of people coming together to be there for these people.

It also brings me back to my original point.

It’s so easy to get lost in the stress and chaos, in all the negatives. It’s easy to ignore the amazing things that exist everyday around us. To pinpoint what is important and to savor and place focus on those things.

Thinking about situations like the accidents mentioned above makes me wonder how we can possibly waste so much of our lives not really even living them. We focus on material items. We worry about money. We get upset and dwell on things we have no control over or ability to change. We live in the past and the future, without taking the time to live in the present – the only place in time we can actually live. We don’t take the time to tell the people who mean the most to us what they really mean to us. We don’t say I love you. We don’t say what we mean.

We take forgranted the very nature of life – that life is a finite thing. We act like we have all the answers but fail to acknowledge that often times much of what happens is unpredictable, unfathomable and not “according to plan.”

We live our lives as if we are immortal, as if we are immune from death and will live forever.

We need to live in the present and appreciate all that we have right now.  Time is an illusion in that we assume forever, when nothing is ever guaranteed. Life is fragile. So much more so than we like to admit.

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Is There a Bigger Picture?

Recently it seems wherever I go there are people having a tough time. Having difficulty making ends meet, finding jobs, paying for all the expenses that somehow creep up at the worst possible times. Struggling with sicknesses, addictions, chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, deep depression and other mental illnesses.

People are working their asses off at jobs they don’t enjoy, that they aren’t appreciated in or compensated for. Racking up large debts to pay for secondary educations with the foresight that there may not be careers available to them when they graduate.

Parents who are stressed out from all of these things and still need to find a way to hold it together to be the moms and dads their children not only require but also deserve. Losses of jobs and houses, and lifestyles and dreams. Losses of people, expected and unexpected, but felt just the same.

Religious arguments and politics. Social injustice. Internal feelings of inadequacy; of lacking. And an overwhelming feeling of despair and disappointment.

It all leads to, let’s be honest, feeling like shit. Feeling like the world is on your back. That bad things just keep happening and will just keep happening. That no matter what you do, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It might make you start questioning what the “bigger picture is.”

Is there a bigger picture? What is the point of all of this? And will it ever get any better?

I can tell you this, I don’t have the answers and I won’t try and act like I do.

Or rather, I don’t have the answers for you.

However, I have found the answers for me. Right now. In this moment.

Is there a bigger picture?

Do you want there to be? You are the captain of your life, whether you feel like it or not. In this moment, the bigger picture for me is this: Much of life has been beyond difficult, filled with trauma and tribulations and shit stacked so high against me that at many points I couldn’t see around it.

To be honest, my current life isn’t really any less difficult than it has ever been. But the bigger picture, for me, is that I can’t see having gone through all that I have and survived to just let my life be wasted. For me, the bigger picture is a trap. Looking too far in the future (or the past) blinds me from looking right here in the present, which is the only place I am truly capable of being in.

What is the point of all of this?

You know, I’ve mulled this question over since I was, at minimum, 15 years old. I haven’t ever come up with a definitive answer mainly because there isn’t one. There is no one answer to this question. The point of “all this” is whatever you want it to be.

Do you want to be the wealthiest person in the US? In the world? Do you want to discover an unknown entity or invent the world’s next innovation? Do you want to be the best parent you can be to your children? Do you want to be happy?

The meaning of life is vastly different for each person. For me, in this moment, the point of “all this” is to do the best I can. Right now. With the knowledge and resources and abilities that I have right now. And if tonight when I go to bed I realize that the day didn’t go as I had hoped or planned or even liked, well then tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Will it ever get any better?

At various times throughout my life I have been in places that, regardless of what anyone said to me, I would argue that no, it will never get better. I could point to the current place I was in (which was horrible). I could point to every past place of agony and depression and anger and despair. As if to showcase my evidence of how much everything is shit and always was shit and always will be shit. But, you know what?, complaining and arguing about how much my life sucked didn’t do anything other than allowing myself to sink down into it even more.

So, right here and right now, let’s lay it out. Life sucks. Life is hard and sometimes it seems like horrible things will never stop happening to us. Fair assessment?

Now let it go. Really. Putting the majority of your attention on all the things that are shitty, it doesn’t help you. While you’re busy getting stressed and upset about all the things that, right now in this moment, you can’t change you are missing out on all the wonderful things that are right there.

Sometimes all you can do is keep moving. Just keep waking up and doing the best you can. Just keep swimming as it were, like the fish in Finding Nemo.

Sometimes you need to change your perspective. To acknowledge the bad and let it go. To choose to focus on the positive things you do have in your life. To be grateful.

Are bad things going to keep happening? Yes. And good things too.

Happy New Year!

The holidays were both wonderful and stressful which is, as holidays go, about average. Placing less stress on myself to have the “perfect holiday” and more focus on the things that really matter (my family, the moment), I was able to have a more enjoyable holiday than I usually have.

I know with the new year many people like to make resolutions and wishes for the new year. With that many take the time to reflect on the prior year – myself included. I do a lot of self-reflection (what seems like) almost daily.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to feel bad anymore for doing the best I can. Or feeling like it’s not good enough. It’s what I’ve got and if it isn’t good enough for you, too bad. It’s good enough for me. 2012 is going to be the year where I stop playing the victim. I’ve been the victim, I know the role, so it’s been an easy role to fall back upon. But I’ve also played the survivor and I play it well. I haven’t survived by laying down and giving up.

I am a capable, amazing person who is working so very hard every day to navigate through this life. To try to look on the bright side and see the positive. To try to propel myself further forward towards my goals in education, parenting and personal growth. It’s ok if sometimes I feel sad or angry or frustrated because denying myself feeling those emotions only strengthens their negativity. I can allow myself to feel sad or angry or frustrated and come out the other side.

I’m not perfect. But neither is anyone else. No longer will I be trapped by others negativity and attempts to stifle my achievement and growth. I am strong. I am smart. I am capable of loving and I am capable of receiving love. Not only capable, but worthy. It starts with me. And today I tell myself, “I love you.” And I mean it.

How often do we focus on other’s happiness and well-being, neglecting our own in the process? How often do we give ourselves endlessly – our time, our resources, our love? How often do we do the same for ourselves? Give something back to yourself, everyday, even if it’s as simple as saying a little mantra — “I love you”, “You are capable”, “You are strong”, “You can do this”.

The Myth of the Perfect Holiday

Life has a way of building up, of stacking situations, events, emotions, needs and tasks on top of each other. Until it gets difficult to clearly see what is a priority and what is really important.

The holidays are especially a time like that. Making sure presents are gotten and wrapped. That the decorations go up. That the tree goes up and gets decorated. That you can find where the menorah is. (We celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice). There’s excitement in the air and the kids can’t contain it (often the adults can’t either).

There’s traveling or guests coming to your house. Is your house clean? I better put away the empty bottles from the kitchen. And dust everything. And did I vacuum the floor in the basement where no one will go and that no one will see?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the things we need to do and all the details that we fail to pay attention to the “other” things. Like driving. I’m not certain why, but once it hits the week before the holidays it seems that many people forget how to drive. Blinkers? I know where I’m going! Stop signs and speed limits? I need to get there 10 minutes ago.

And the inattention continues in the stores. People rushing and carelessly bumping into others. Failing to hold the door for the person behind you. Huffing at the long lines at the check out. Even fighting over the last of an item.

How is this beneficial to anyone? We’re all stressed out. Rushed. Anxious.

Everyone would like to have the “perfect” holiday. The perfectly decorated house. The perfect holiday meal. The perfect gifts, for loved ones and ourselves. But not at the expense of others and ourselves.

How about some goodwill towards others? Hold the door for the person behind you. Donate to those less fortunate, with monetary donations, donations of a gift or food, or volunteering your time. Say thank you to those helping you at the stores. Retail is brutal this time of year (and year round!) and a simple gesture such as thank you goes a long way.

Even if your house isn’t perfect. Or your meal doesn’t turn out as planned. Or the presents you give/receive aren’t exactly what was wanted. Be grateful of what you do have. And slow down.

Be kind to those around you in your daily travels. Be thankful of the food you consume. Be present in the moment and enjoy the time you’ve been blessed to spend with those you love.

It isn’t about the food. Or the presents. Or the decorations. Or what you receive. Or what you didn’t receive.

It’s about the moment.

So slow down, take a deep breath and just be here.

Wishing you all happy holidays, whatever you choose to celebrate.

I enjoy taking photographs.

I love taking pictures of my two daughters and capturing their larger-than-life personalities along with their beauty. I love taking pictures of my pets (2 cats, a black lab and a ferret, in case you were curious). I love taking pictures of my partner and my other family members. And pictures of my friends and their families.

I love capturing moments. Frozen in time. That when I look back on those pictures years later I can recall exactly what was happening in that moment long ago.

I love capturing feelings. Of joy. Of surprise. Of happiness. And even of sadness and sorrow. Because those feelings are genuine and, even in sadness, are beautiful in their unique ways.

But perhaps one of my favorite things to photograph is nature. And the tiny details of life that, if we’re not paying attention to them, we miss. These pictures remind me that sometimes all I need to do is slow down, to take the moment and appreciate all of the little things, the beautiful, amazing things, that I might have otherwise not seen.

A very small selection of little things I captured this year:

The “First” Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving Americans across the nation gather with family and friends. Huge, multiple course feasts are prepared, with all the fixings and favorites. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Sweet potato pie. Cranberry sauce. Corn. Green bean casserole. Corn bread. And finishing with desert (if we have any room left in our stomachs!). We give thanks and rejoice at the bounty we have before us.

There’s traditions in each family around Thanksgiving. Special dishes of food. Perhaps viewing the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Or a football game. These traditions are special to each gathering, to each group of people. We take comfort and joy on this day as we reflect on what we are thankful and grateful for.

This aspect of Thanksgiving, of being mindful and aware of our gratitude, is one I support and enjoy. I have much to be thankful for. However, the myth of Thanksgiving is something I strongly disagree with and that I find upsetting. Especially as it’s taught in our public schools.

I wrote about my disdain on how Columbus Day is perceived and taught earlier this year. I am equally appalled by how Thanksgiving is presented, especially in schools.

My oldest daughter, Z,  is in 2nd grade and for the last three years I have needed to “re-teach” her about Thanksgiving. This year she told me her teacher had read the class a book about the Pilgrims coming to America and how the Indians helped them. She told me about “the first Thanksgiving” where the Pilgrims and the Indians sat down and shared dinner on that day. In 1st grade she shared a similar story with me that she had learned in school. And in Kindergarten, she brought home a photocopied book she had made, the first few pages are shown below.

Looks real peaceful. Smiling Pilgrims with a gun and a solemn Native American.


So… what’s so wrong with any of this? Why am I upset over it? Honestly, I’m upset and saddened because what I was taught in school as a child, and what is apparently still being taught to my daughter, isn’t true. When I mentioned to Z this year that what her teacher read the class was a nice story, she defended the story of the first Thanksgiving by telling me that it really happened.

It didn’t. The story of the first Thanksgiving that we have been told is a myth. A legend.  The idea of Pilgrims and “Indians” sharing a peaceful meal is entirely fabricated.  There were many days of thanksgiving, both amongst the Pilgrims and in Native American tradition and these were celebrations of a successful harvest season. Much more of the myth is, well, myth, right down to what the Pilgrims and Native Americans wore or ate.

There’s also many omitted details. Such as  in 1637, when the day of Thanksgiving was a celebration of the return of Pilgrim men who had traveled to Mystic, Connecticut and fought against the Pequot tribe resulting in the deaths of 700+ Pequot people. Or of Pilgrims robbing the graves of  the Wampanoag tribe and stealing their food (information that comes from a Pilgrim’s account of the first year). Rather than these events being altered, they are entirely left out.

My dismay over the Thanksgiving story as it is currently presented isn’t solely based on the omissions on how Native Americans were treated. Or the stereotyped construction of Native Americans being primitive and dumb. It isn’t from the way Pilgrims are presented either, as pure models on which to base our selves. My dismay is that we are teaching our children (and adults) that this story is truth. That the story that has been constructed as the first Thanksgiving is history.

Why do we teach false history? If the idea of the thanksgiving tradition is important somehow, then why don’t we frame it as a tradition? Why don’t we frame it as a story? When we frame it as, “this happened” we aren’t teaching our children anything worthwhile. James W. Loewen wrote in his novel Lies My Teacher Told Me that, “The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history but honest and inclusive history. If textbook authors feel compelled to give moral instruction… they could accomplish this by allowing students to learn both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ sides of the Pilgrim tale. Conflict would then become part of the story, and students might discover the knowledge they gain has implications for their lives today.” (p 97)

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it

History should allow us to learn from it. It’s my hope to raise two confident, intelligent children with the capacity to critically think and examine what is presented to them. And to be able to decide what is truthful based on their own exploration of such, not blindly believing what they are taught or told. It isn’t only the past history of our nation that we are misinformed on. The events that are currently happening in our nation are often misconstrued, censored and even hidden — by the media, by those in power and by the overwhelming fact that most of us aren’t even aware. Try googling ‘UC Davis Pepper Spray’ or ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and see how aware you are of the events happening right now, in our nation.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the teachers and people in my life who taught me to critically think, to question, to examine and seek out the truth in everything.

For One Minute…

You may have seen one of these pictures floating around your town. Or on facebook. Or tumblr. Or twitter.

Or maybe you haven’t.

Either way, I love the concept. Take one minute – where ever you are, whatever you’re doing – and just look at the sky.

In silence.

For that one minute, contemplate how awesome life is.

Right now, as it is.

(Not how it used to be. Or how you wish it would be. Or how it could be.)

Just how awesome life is, right now, in this moment of being alive.

Really. I encourage everyone to do this.

Being mindful in the moment. And grateful, thankful, of just how awesome it truly is.