YOU ARE MY HERO

In today’s world it seems a different superhero movie comes out every week. Add to that the countless sports that seem to hold championships. Recently I even saw a video game championship played out in front of a completely filled stadium! I’ve always questioned watching people play poker on television, I can’t bring myself to watch other people play video games on TV, much less stand in a packed stadium to do so.

It would seem the world is in great need of heroes. Guess who my hero is? It is you! The irony of all the hero worship I see is that heroes surround us everywhere and every day. You are one of these heroes!

How can I say you are a hero when I haven’t met a lot of you? I know you’re a hero because we are all struggling to get through this life. You might be a kid in the West Bank trying to get a great education while your country is being torn apartby civil strife. It may be you are a farmer in the Congo trying to make a living. Perhaps you are a single mother working three jobs just trying to support your family.

It is not always life challenges that make you a hero. Maybe from the outside your life looks great, but inside you are battling depression. Today might be another day you gave in to an addiction and you are trying not to lose hope. There are health challenges, financial challenges, social challenges and a mmillion other issues we are all doing our best to make it through.

When you see the employee at Starbucks keep their smile as a customer screams at them because their coffee has 2 ice cubes instead of three. That takes patience and they are my hero.

Whether you are working on keeping your faith or healing a broken heart, keep going because you are my superhero. Remember everyone we meet is working to overcome something. Treat them as the hero they are. That includes you.

WHY BE YOUR BEST?

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with my good friend Russ. We have known each other for roughly 30 years. Whenever we talk I always gain a great amount of inspiration and clarity. Not only on life itself, but on me. A friend who has known you for that length of time can really share some insightful things. I am always grateful for that. In our most recent conversation, Russ noted that I am “always positive and encouraging” While this may be a slight exaggeration, it is indeed my goal.

After some discussion as to why this is I had what can only be described as an ‘A-ha moment’. I told him the reason why I appear to be positive all of the time is because I bring who I am to everything I do. For example, my goal in writing these posts is to share knowledge I have come across in hopes of helping all of us live a more amazing life. Why? The reason is simple. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. When I DJ, my goal is to help every person I come in contact with feel better about themselves or about life in general. Same thing at the post office, when I go out for coffee or grocery shopping.

This can be both a blessing and a curse. Earlier in my life, I brought myself everywhere I went as well. The problem was I was not the best version of myself. This is a very important reason to always be your best. You follow you wherever you go. We can do our best to pretend to be somebody else, but at the end of the day our true persona will always shine through.

There is another very important reason to always do your best to be the best version of yourself. Inevitably we will be faced with challenges and disappointments in life. We will lose a job, a relationship will end or worst of all, we will lose somebody we love. When we are the best versions of ourselves it will save us a good deal of heartache. One of the worst feelings anyone can pile on a bad situation is regret. If we lose a job that is not the time to say to ourselves, “I wish I would have performed better.” If we lose a relationship it is a little too late to say, “I wish I would have been better for that person.” At funerals would you believe loss is not the most painful feeling? It is regret. I wish I wouldn’t have spoke harshly to that person, or I wish I would have said I love you one more time.

Chances are in your life all three things will happen at some point. If they don’t we can certainly practice gratitude, but that is another topic. If we are normal adults these situations will all happen. If we do our best at our jobs and still end up losing them at least we can say, “Well they lost a good employee!” and it will certainly help us land our future occupation. Even if your boss is a jerk, even if you dread going there, do your best. Not for them, but for you. The same holds true in a relationship. You may spend all of your energy and romance on someone and they still might break your heart. It is sad but true. How much better would it be to realize they just lost the best thing they will ever have. Not to mention it will save you years of beating yourself up over “I should have” and “What if…” When it comes to the loss of a loved one there will always be pain. That pain will only be compounded if we honestly did not give our all to that relationship. We will always wish we had more time with that person and did more, but if we did our best we can have peace in our hearts.

I urge you to call that person that needs to hear from you. Give your effort at work. Think of, and act on romantic notions you have with your partner. Even if things end badly, you will have the confidence and inner peace of knowing you did your best.

WHEN THE NIGHTMARE BECOMES THE MIRACLE

Every day as part of my day job I drive several miles. On this daily commute I listen to the country music station. Whether you like that music or not, I would like to share a very interesting thought that was brought to light by doing just such a thing. On this particular day the song Living by Dierks Bentley came on. This song is about the difference between just ‘being alive’ and really living. In the lyrics he references really noticing a tree he has seen a thousand times, stopping to enjoy the rising sun and “Drink it in like whiskey”. There is also a mention of stopping to watch a bird on a branch and watching it fly away.

My favorite part of this song is about his lady. After noticing all of the amazing things in nature he goes back inside to fire up a pot of coffee (nature and coffee can you see why I like this song?) As he is doing so his lady walks in wearing his shirt “Like she always does” the song says. Suddenly he is overcome with love and gratitude for her. He kisses her like it is the first time and tells her he loves her and can’t live without her. He also mentions that he knows he doesn’t express those feelings enough.

 This song reminded me of the countless stories I have read or heard about someone confronting their mortality and suddenly looking around and seeing the beauty in everything. Often when we are confronted with or overcome our greatest nightmare, that is when we begin seeing miracles everywhere. When there is the possibility that this may be your last day on earth suddenly everything becomes a treasure. The smell of a summer breeze, the smile on a loved one’s face or in the case of the song, sunshine, trees and birds. Why does it so often take death to make us appreciate life? The truth is these miracles are around us every day.

I would like to also take a moment to discuss the other verse of the song. The one where his lady walks into the kitchen wearing his shirt and he falls in love with her all over again. When you think about love it really is a miracle. No matter how amazing of a person you are, having another person be able to be around you everyday can present its challenges. To have that person not only tolerate you, but to look forward to see you and enjoy your company is a miracle.

I am grateful through practicing living a life of gratitude and doing my best to be present I have had some amazing gifts bestowed on me. Most obvious is my beautiful Margie. When I look at her and think of how hard she works and the amazing things she creates, the beauty just flows from her. Just this morning in the kitchen she had been up for over 24 hours making cakes and DJing. Her hair was put up she was wearing a shirt she didn’t mind getting full of dye and frosting. As I watched her knowing that she was pushing herself to not only earn income to help our household, but to bring joy to somebody (or in this case multiple somebodies) special day, I couldn’t help but thinking “Damn, I have one amazing and beautiful woman.” I told her that, which is something I wish more men understood to do. She couldn’t imagine after not sleeping, her hair a mess and not being dressed up  how she could be beautiful to me. If she only knew. Actually she will know when she reads this.

The point today is that life and love are two miracles that are around us everyday. There is a difference between just being alive and truly living. It is my suggestion that we use the power of gratitude and living in the present to give us this amazing life. It is difficult to do all of the time, but the more you practice it the more your life will be amazing.

I would LOVE to hear your stories of when you were not just alive, but truly living.

SAYING GOODBYE IS A LITTLE EASIER


Saying goodbye is always a difficult time. It could be the end of a relationship, someone moving away, leaving a job or worst of all someone you love passing away. From 2017 – 2018 I had quite a few people pass away. It began to seem like just a product of getting older. Each one hurt and their leaving left a void in my heart. I searched to find something that would make saying goodbye just a little less painful. What I found is wonderfully displayed in this quote from one of my favorite philosophers, the loveable furry bear Winnie the Pooh.
As I thought of each of the people I cared about who passed away I realized and was taught many things. Not the least of which was this; the reason their loss hurts so much is because you loved them so much. The reason someone is loved has to do with many things. Shared great memories, being there for each other, and many other wonderful moments. How fortunate were you to have a person in your life that you shared so greatly with and loved so deeply? Many people never have that experience. As the years and people continue to pass I am forever grateful for everything they have brought to my life.
This does not make the pain of missing them any less but it does temper that feeling of loss with a feeling of gratitude. How lucky was I to have such amazing people in my life. Recently, I saw a drink that my late aunt Virginia used to love. She passed away at the end of last year. Sure it made me miss her, but it also brought back memories of times shared drinking one of these beverages. As I continued to recall other great memories of my aunt the end thought was the same, “Damn, I miss her but I sure was lucky to have such an amazing person in my life.” My heart may be filled with sadness at missing her, but there is also a smile on my face remembering all of the good times.
These thoughts are not just for those we have lost. They work just as good for those who are still here. When I leave for work in the morning my beautiful Margie is usually still lost in blissful slumber. As I drive to work I am missing the sleep I should be getting, but most of all I am just missing her. I wish I could still be in bed with her arms wrapped around me. Suddenly, I am even more frustrated I am not an independently wealthy, best-selling author….yet. Before these feelings turn my day upside down I have to reflect why I am so bothered by all of this. I have the most amazing and beautiful woman that I would much rather be with. She makes me happy and puts a smile on my face and in my heart. In an instant I go from frustrated to grateful and excited to make it through the day and be back home.
This is also true when it comes to a great workout or walk with my mother, a great conversation with my friend Russ, coffee with my friend Nick or a million other moments I wish would never end. When they are over I just reflect with gratitude on how lucky I am.

DON’T WASTE IT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture really sums things up quite well. Here is something to think about, the hourglasses in this picture could easily be reversed. As I was preparing to write this I learned a close childhood friend of mine passed away on his 41st birthday. It would be nice if we all had hourglasses or some other sign to know when our time was about to expire.  Here is the thing that is rather sad, as people see that your time is drawing to a close they are more likely to tell you they love you, spend quality time with you and share emotionally with you.

Why is that sad? It is sad because we should not wait until the sand in our hourglass is running out to treat each other that way. It is easy to remember when your 80 year-old relative is in the hospital, but like the passing of my friend shows, it can be any time. Treating each other with dignity, compassion and respect should be a daily activity.

Here is another thought to ponder, not only are we unable to know when the sands of time are running low for those we love, but we never know how much sand we have left ourselves. Try asking yourself every morning if today was my last day what would I want to tell those I love? In what ways would I go out of my way to spread love? The crazy thing about asking that question is one day you will be right.

 

 

 

YOUR PRAYERS ON WATER

On June 8th my lovely lady and her daughter took me to the Water Lantern Festival. The idea behind this was a simple one. A sort of communal memorial where one would draw or write their thoughts on a paper lantern and then float them out on the river. What actually transpired was so much more on many levels I wanted to share it with all of you on here.
To begin with the three of us took a ride share down to the festival to forgo the stress of finding parking. The lady who picked us up not only had the same name as my lovely Margie, but was pleasant and a great conversationalist. This by itself helped a great deal to start the evening off right. When we arrived it was much larger than I expected. There were blocks of people by the edge of the river on blankets and lawn chairs.
In addition to the throngs of people participating in the festival there were lots of different stands. Plenty selling food and drink, some selling art and even a stage where musicians performed and later a DJ. The music was soft and thought-provoking. We purchased some delicious steak sandwiches from a place called the Hidden Kitchen and I also got a cup of coffee from a nearby stand as the temperature was very brisk for a June evening.
As we went to the stand to pick up our lanterns and packets and even as we waited in line for our food and beverages, one thing stood out above all else. Everyone involved in this festival was pleasant and courteous of each other. That may not sound like such a big deal, but in today’s world I found it to not only be a redeeming quality, but one that was rather touching.
The three of us put together our lanterns with various degrees of competence. Although my artistic skill fell well behind the two ladies, all of our thoughts and sentiments were proudly displayed. We all had our own unique thoughts displayed in our best artistic fashion. We all worked together but in our own little worlds. I decided to honor all of the people in my life. Those who came before me, those who are sharing this path with me now and those I have yet to meet. As we worked on our lanterns, there was an opportunity for people to come on the stage and share their stories with everyone present. The stories of loss were heartbreaking but at the same time healing. There was a young man who was mentally challenged and did his best to convey his story. When he was done the heartfelt applause he received could soften the hardest of hearts.
Soon it was time to launch our lanterns. Everyone approached the water with what seemed a very humble and supplicatory fashion. You placed your lantern at the top of a slide and down it went into the river. At the end of the evening all of the lanterns were collected and any environmental impact was minimal. To see all of those lit up lanterns floating in the river with prayers and thoughts on them was something really special. I really want to thank my lady Margie for including me in this idea she discovered. It was a example of someone in your life knowing what you need even more than you do.
I would recommend this festival for anyone who has lost someone close, enjoys honoring those who have passed or even just really enjoys a positive experience with a great sense of community. It should be noted after this very emotional experience the three of us had a nice walk to a coffee shop by the lake to diffuse our emotions and enjoy some great beverages and conversation. I hope to do this again next year.

HONOR YOUR HEROES

Today in the United States we observe Memorial day. Originally known as decoration day and started after the Civil War, Memorial day became a federal holiday in 1971. It is a day set aside to honor those who have fallen in the roll of serving our country. From all of us at Secret2anamazinglife.com we send our thoughts, prayers and respect to all of the families who have lost love ones in military service. We thank you all for your sacrifice.

As we pause and reflect on this day, two thoughts come to mind for me. The first thought is how we can best honor those who have lost their lives. If you have read anything I have written before you know that I advocate continuing on what the world has lost with the passing of the individual. My grandfather was a veteran, who did not pass while serving but has sense passed away. I will always remember the respect he earned by showing respect to others. Those in the family would listen when he would speak. He did not often raise his voice because he did not have to. He was generous with sharing his experiences and the lessons he learned. Those are traits, among countless others, that I will carry on in memory of my grandfather.

Today I feel there is another great way to observe memorial day and to honor those who have fallen. That is to reconfirm our respect to those who have served in our country. I do not know what country you may be reading this in, but the point remains the same whether you are in the United States, India, Kenya or any other location. I know a lot of people who read this blog are anti-war. So am I. If you ask most veterans, so are they. They serve their country to defend the principles it stands for. Some are conscripted, some volunteer. They may not always agree with the political actions that send them in harms way, but they faithfully carry out their job. They may raise concerns or even objections to their superiors, but in they end they follow orders. Do not hold soldiers accountable for the actions of the government.

This line of thinking got me pondering my next question. How can we do our part to really honor the day itself. I think the best way to honor memorial day is to do all that we can to reduce the amount of soldiers that are exposed to harm. What I am talking about is encouraging actions that facilitate peace. To make sure those who have given the ultimate sacrifice have not done so in vain. Vote for those you think can solve the world’s problems without resorting to putting the lives of innocent men and women at risk. On a more personal level, do more to grow peace in your personal life. Communicate with those who are different than you, especially those you disagree with. You can always disagree without disrespecting. Start dialogue. Learn about different cultures.

Once again, all of us at this site wish to offer our respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives believing they were doing so to bring peace to this earth. We wish to encourage all of us to work toward peace in their memory and in their honor so each year we may move closer to peace and lose less lives of those we care about.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT GETTING A TATTOO

Let me begin this by saying I have nothing against tattoos. In fact, this is a picture of my beautiful Margie’s arms, tattoos on both. I admire people who have the bravery to get a tattoo. The reason I have never gotten a tattoo is that I cannot think of many things I like on a consistent basis. Even people I admire have changed over the years. My favorite band is Ratt, but as of late they have become the most dysfunctional drama-filled mess. I used to be a big fan of Lance Armstrong. I admired how he overcame his cancer and went on to win several bike races. I could have gotten a tattoo of him. Then he came out and admitted he cheated and used performance enhancing drugs.

This got me thinking about what I do for happiness in my life. If you place your happiness in the hands of other people, no matter how wonderful they may be, they will at some point let you down. People are different and that is just how the world goes. Same with attaching your happiness to material things. Money can come and go. A hurricane can come and blow down your house you invested years and quite a bit a money on. As the saying goes don’t put the key to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.

What, then do we have our happiness depend on? Make it internal. Things like our Faith, our sense of hope and those things that are eternal. In the above example, my lovely lady wanted to place her love for both singing and her mother on her arms. Those are things that come from inside her. It would do us a great service to spend some time on compiling a list of things that bring us joy that come from inside. Those are the things we should put our focus on. If we want true joy in our lives we should enjoy all of what life has to offer, but place our focus on what comes from the inside.

THE GIFT OF GRIEF

The gift of grief? This sounds like one of those cliché book titles you may see as you make your way through the bookstore. If you are reading this while going through a moment of grief,  it may be a sentiment you are tempted to give a middle finger to. What gift could possibly be gained in a feeling of such tremendous loss and pain? What is there to possibly be gained by having part of you forever taken from you? How can we call the loneliness and emptiness that we feel upon waking, or when we are alone in our beds a gift? Is there anything good about those random moments of sadness we experience when we witness something that reminds us of the loved one we lost?

I am not here to tell you grief is a good thing. It sucks. It is not something any of us would choose to feel, nor anything we wish others to feel. What I am here to say is that there are things that only grief can teach us. There are things that our hearts may never know, or at the very least, never fully appreciate without grief. This, in its own way also sucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go through life without ever having to experience loss or grief? Why can’t we all learn everything we need to know without having to experience these emotions? That is not how life works, unfortunately.

While there is no correct way to grieve, or time limit for grieving, there are some things that are universal when it comes to grief. Lessons that grief teaches us all regardless of faith, race or nationality. This was brought home to me the other day. Last year I had lost two aunts in one week’s time. The hospice they were at along with a funeral home, hosted a ‘group memorial’ for everyone who had lost someone. As we pulled up to the building we noticed the parking lot was full. Upon entering we sat in two of the last seats available. You were given a program in which all of the names of the deceased were listed. There were over 100 names. They included every nationality, every race and as they read details of the individuals, it became clear every age as well.

I noticed all of these very different people were experiencing the same thing – grief. We may not have agreed on politics, religion or even what sports team to cheer for, but at that moment all of us could relate to the feeling of sadness and loss we felt. In this way, grief can be a common denominator. No matter where you live in the world, what faith you follow or what sports team you like, death will visit you in your lifetime.

Grief also teaches us humility. In the parking lot you could see there were people who drove very expensive sports cars and those who drove cars that were barely moving. Both of these people had experienced loss. Money cannot save you from grief. It does not matter if you are a CEO or if you work in the mail room, grief will visit you.

Grief, in its own odd way, teaches us the value of life. There were those who were quite young that passed away from auto accidents or perfectly healthy individuals that were suddenly taken from cancer or other terrible health conditions. Loss teaches us to value the lives and times with those in our life. We may never know when we may loose them. It is often after a loss of someone we love that we are tempted to call those we love just to tell them we love them. We go home to hug our children or our spouse and hold them extra tight, grateful we still have them to hold.

Grief also teaches us the value of our own lives. When I was diagnosed last year with several heart problems it made me realize how fleeting life could be. It motivated me to be the best man that I can be. Every night I make sure that the woman in my life knows how beautiful she is to me and how much I love her because I may not have that chance to tell her tomorrow. My second book had been in the works for five years leading up to that point. I was diagnosed in June, it was finished by September. Knowing intellectually that we only have so much time on this earth is motivating, but feeling that emotionally is far more motivating.

Grief and loss suck. There is no arguing that. It is through grief, however, that life becomes so precious. Memories become treasures more valuable than gold. Every blooming flower and song of a bird become a gift to be appreciated. Loved ones and the love we share with them become our most valuable possessions. Our time becomes the most important asset we have.

Grief is terrible. Grief is hard and grief is terribly personal. Still, even in the darkest of times we are given many gifts. Let us not waste our grief, but let it color our life. Not just with sadness, although that will always be a part of our loss, but let it also intensify our love. Let our grief allow us to appreciate the beauty in the little things, and understand they really are the big things. Let us not only treasure our memories of those we have lost, but let us be motivated to create memories with those who are still here so that when we are gone we may leave with them the gift that those who have went before us have shared with us.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

Let us begin this post with a disclaimer. Although the title of this post is “Simple Solutions” I do realize not all problems have simple solutions. Although the picture offers unique and creative ways of addressing the problems listed I realize there are very few ‘one size fits all’ solutions. All this being said, let us take a look at a few of these ideas.

I am going to just talk about a few, but I would love to hear your feedback on any you have tried or any you think may work better. Let us look at the one on grief. Loss, sadness usually is one of the most difficult things to overcome. This takes time and patience. Just as a physical wound takes time to heal, so does a spiritual and emotional wounds. Just like its physical counterparts, the bigger the emotional or spiritual wound, the longer it takes to heal. How can starting a new ritual help? Rituals not only help define who we are, but often determine who we are. When you are stressed if your ritual is to go for a run, that will have an entirely different outcome than if your ritual for stress is to drink yourself to sleep. Rituals can also help keep us present and pay honor to people and beliefs. Starting a new ritual can help us heal by reminding us to enjoy the present while mourning the past. Ritual can serve honor to the loss we are grieving. Rituals can also serve as a great reminder that our life has more to live. That is a very important message to give ourselves.

If you are lonely, calling someone you love just to say “hello” is a great solution for several reasons. One, it is proactive. Loneliness can often be accompanied by or followed by a feeling of helplessness. By reaching out to someone else we are exercising control. The other reason is simple, it will bring them joy. How will it make you feel to bring someone else joy? How will that affect your loneliness? Lastly, who is to say they are not feeling a little lonely themselves? Even if they are not feeling lonely, who would not want to hear a “Hello” from a dear friend? Somebody calling with no agenda other than to share a good conversation.

Lastly, the solution offered for feeling inadequate. Remember your strengths. I feel it is a good idea to keep a list of both your strengths and accomplishments nearby at all times. When I feel that my writing isn’t reaching anyone or making the impact I desire I have a list of people I have helped in the past. I also can look at my Amazon.com review on my book A Happy Life for Busy People. If you want to add to them, I would certainly welcome your contribution. The world is always to quick to tell you what it is you are no good at. It is up to us to often be our own cheerleaders.

Take this list as a suggestion. An even better idea is to create one of your own. After all, nobody knows better what works for you than you. Think of the areas of your life and emotions that always seem to get you down. Create a chart like the one above tailored to you personally. Feel free to leave some of your suggestions to help others get started.