WHERE DID IT ALL COME FROM?

These last few days have been filled with sadness as we have been mourning the loss of Margie’s mother Ruthanne. I have always been someone who searches for the light in the darkness. There is no more difficult time to do this than when we lose somebody who means so much. If there is anything my faith has taught me is that there is always something to be grateful for.

Of course we would all very much like to have Ruthanne back to hear her sing one more song, laugh one more time with us or even just to put things in perspective the way only she could do. Thankfully we have lots of videos, pictures and memories where those moments will live on. In addition to the great lessons in life that she has left behind, there is another gift I have discovered in the midst of this somber time.

While making arrangements for the celebration of life planned for Ruthanne, there were generations worth of pictures to sift through. I am a big fan of history to begin with, but being able to see first hand the family history of the woman I love is something truly special. Of course we would love to have Margie’s mom present to go through these photos with us, especially to enlighten us as to who some of the less familiar faces may be. Yet, it is through her passing that the gift of discovery and in some cases revelation of many family facts and stories.

On a more personal note, I could not be more grateful and excited to learn more about where the love of my life came from and the people, places and events that help shape her into the amazing woman she is today. Plus, adorable baby pictures like the one above are hard to pass up. I was honored to get to know her mother and see how Margie learned a lot of the traits that make her the woman I love. I am also humbled to be the man she chose to have by her side as she goes through with what is the most difficult time of her life. It is my sincere hope that the knowledge I am gaining by listening to the stories (and Storys) and looking at the pictures will help provide me with more and better ways to help provide her the love she needs as her heart makes the long journey towards healing.

SMILE, IT IS TAX DAY!

Today in the United States it is Federal Income Tax day. Generally, a somber day for most. After paying what seems like the bulk of your earnings out of your paycheck, you have the dubious honor of paying some more today. Even if after paying your required amount every check, you get a small portion back, you still face the prospect of filling out time-consuming paperwork that can often be very confusing. At the least, you are going to pay someone to do this for you or face penalties for not doing so. This time of year we are also supplied with many facts of the not so logical way our government chooses to spend our hard earned dollars. Not very inspiring or motivational.

Before I continue, allow me to let you know I do not work for the IRS, nor am I a fan of tax season. That being said, today I stopped and pondered all that our tax dollars give us. Yes, there is lots of waste and mismanagement when it comes to government spending, but let us focus on what does get done. As I write this mid April has brought my city freezing rain and snow. The roads are currently being plowed and salted. I cannot imagine what it would be like if that were left up to the public to do. We can look at the sidewalks for an example. Some people shovel and clean them off, some do not. Imagine if the roads were the same. How would we get around? How long would we have to wait? How about sanitation? Imagine having to deal with your garbage daily. Would you take it to the dump on your own? Would there even be a dump? How about the public library? Free education for anyone regardless of race, religion or social status.

For a lot of us, tax day will always be a painful experience. By focusing on what we do receive from the money that is unceremoniously taken from us each paycheck, we may ease the pain we feel. If we look hard enough, for every story of the government buying a $200 hammer, we will find one of a young woman who studied at the public library and went on to become a doctor who saved many lives.

Could and should the government do a lot better? Absolutely and we can and should keep voting to make sure they do. In the meantime, let us be grateful that we do not have to bury our trash in our own back yard or clear the snow of the street in front of our house. While we are at it let us rent a movie from our public library and enjoy some of the tax day deals that some companies are offering.

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

SEE THE SIGNS

When people find that I am an advocate for positive living, the same question seems to pop up, “Why bother?” They want to know why you should bother being nice to people. Why is it important to stop and greet strangers with a smile? Why is it important to check in with friends even if you really have nothing else to say? Why is it important to keep courting the love of your life, long after they have agreed to the ‘happily ever after’?

These are all very good questions. Some people who may fit into the pessimistic lifestyle even ask me questions such as “Why bother being nice to people when all they will do is end up taking advantage of you?” No doubt this question has arises from some past experience they have had. The funny thing about that is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you treat people with the forgone conclusion that at some point they are going to take advantage of you or do something hurtful, you withhold certain things. You may not give them the full amount of trust. You may not be completely open and vulnerable with them. Perhaps you may even skip doing the little extra things that may inconvenience you but mean the world to them. After all why would you go out of your way when sooner or later you are going to end up with the short end of the stick?

The ironic thing here is by doing these actions you perpetuate those very circumstances. How? If someone makes you feel like they can’t trust you, how would that make you feel about them? If they never seem to share about themselves and seem guarded would you feel close to them? Trying to keep yourself from getting hurt ends up pushing people away.

Here is another reality – no matter how hard you try at some point you will get hurt. Your paths will cross with some malevolent people, and even good people on occasion do things that hurt us without meaning to. Especially if they don’t know you well enough to know what might upset you.

So why be nice? Why go out of your way to do the things mentioned in the first paragraph? Here’s why. In the picture you see both a sign and a card. The first my lovely Margie left the sign on the mirror while she was shopping with her daughter and I was at the gym. How do you think that sign made me feel as I left for work? Loved? Grateful? Happy? All warm and fuzzy inside? Yes to all the above! The reason she did it she told me was because of how I was making her feel.

The card is an even better story. I shared with Margie how hard it is for me when the Wisconsin State Fair ends. It is not only the end of that festival, which I have loved since a child, but the end of my vacation that year and summer coming to a close. Three things I enjoy coming to a conclusion all at the same time can leave me feeling a little blue. Knowing this the love of my life bought me a ‘get well’  card of sorts. Cheering me up and reminding me of good times to come.

Do you think that would’ve happened had I taken or relationship for granted? Assuming your relationship is ‘handled’ because it is going ok is one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make. Love is one thing you should never put on autopilot. Let me be clear, the reason I put in so much effort in making my lady understand how much she is loved and how beautiful she I find her is not so I can see what creative and wonderful surprises she can leave me. I do it because I am the man in her life and I believe that is what a real man should do. I work as hard as I can to give her a man she can be proud of. I also do my best to not only tell her, but show her how beautiful she is to me and how loved she is. As you can see, the rewards I receive are well worth it.

Here is a wonderful thing I have done with both the card and the sign. I put them inside my laptop and every time I write I open it up to find examples of the love she has shown me. This not only helps on the days when a reminder comes in handy, but each and every time that I see them. It has taken two single very thoughtful moments from my love and made them gifts that give me joy every time I open my computer to write. This not only has me feeling loved it puts me in a great mood to write. It also fills me with gratitude for the amazing woman I have.

How do you think having these reminders serves our relationship? When we are not seeing eye to eye on something, having an example of how great our love can be creates an urge to get back there. When I am away writing, looking over and seeing these reminders helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can come home to the wonderful lady who created them. They are gifts that continue to keep on giving.

Take the time to share with the one you love. The only way for them to love all of you is if all of you loves all of them. That might be tricky to read, but it certainly will make your relationship a glorious source of joy and growth like Margie and I are blessed to have. It also helps to carry reminders of your love with you when you go somewhere.

STAY ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, EVEN IN THE RAIN

This is a picture Margie took of me driving on my way to write. Selfies while driving can be dangerous.

As noted in an earlier post, I have been trying to find things to be grateful for, or things I love while driving. This has not only put me in a better mood, but alerted me to many things on my travel I may have missed. I’ve noticed sounds I love, scents I love. Green lights I’ve been grateful for.

Today on the way to the gym the sun was shinning bright and I was really grateful for that. As I was talking to myself about this (many people probably think I’m on the phone, but really just talking to myself) I noted how everything looks better when it is sunny out. Especially in the Wisconsin winter.

Then I had a strange revelation. The things I were looking at were the same, they were just in the sun. That in itself is not that impressive. As I continued my conversion with the charming author in the car, I realized how much this resembles life. If we bring a positive or sunny attitude you life things look a lot better than if we bring a gloomy or negative attitude. Even if life itself doesn’t change, the way we view it can make all of the difference.

From this point forward I’m going to do my best to stay on the sunny side of the street, even when it is raining.

1 EXAMPLE THAT CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING

A few posts ago I wrote how asking the question, “What do I love about this situation?” can change your perspective. I used the example of my ride to work and the things that I saw to illustrate. If you haven’t read that post there will be a link at the bottom of this one for you to do so.

Since I have written that post another startling revelation has occurred to me – I have 4 more senses! As deep of a thinker as I may be, I am not always the quickest. What I mean is I began I seeing things that I loved and seemed to overlook. Eventually I noticed sounds I loved. Things that came to mind were birds singing, my love laughing and the sound of coffee brewing. I noticed smells I enjoy and take for granted such as pizza baking in the oven, Margie’s perfume or…well…coffee brewing. I also noticed things I enjoyed the feel of. These included, but were not limited to, a soft bed after a hard day, the feel of the woman I love in my arms, and a warm cup of coffee. Perhaps you are seeing a pattern, I really love Margie and coffee.

There is one of the senses that made a huge difference and changed an entire portion of my life. Paying attention to what you love using this one sense can change your life so much for the better, even with no change in outside circumstances. You don’t believe me? Allow me to share my example with you.

Taste, that was really a big one. I am so lucky to live with one amazing cook. Everything she makes is amazing. Before starting this, I never realized how much of this wonderful food experience I was missing. Closing my eyes and really concentrating on each bite and the flavor I was experiencing sent my enjoyment into a much higher level. Try this yourself next time you are enjoying lunch with coworkers, a quick snack or of course a dinner made for you by the love of your life. Asking yourself ahead of time, “What can I love about this meal?” has so many benefits. You engage all your senses. The sound of bacon sizzling in the ban. The texture of the pasta on your fork. The smell of the chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. The bright colors in the salad on your plate. To, of course, the taste we slow down to appreciate. You can also think about what you can be grateful for, which is another way of looking at love. You can be grateful you can afford the ingredients to create the meal. You can be grateful you have a house in which to prepare the meal. If you are as blessed as I am, you can be grateful for a woman whose culinary talents are only rivaled by her beauty.

Practice these things as often as would be enjoyable for you. I can promise you that once you start this practice, you will not want to stop as it makes every experience your own little slice of heaven. This one practice, without any change in outside circumstances, can give you a life you love. I would love to hear about your results if I see you at a seminar, on my website or even if we happen to just bump into each other. Feel free to share them in the comments below as well.