IT CAN BE A GLORIOUS TIME… IT CAN BE A DIFFICULT TIME

Halloween has just past and the seasons are beginning to change. Here in the city I live it they have not only begun to change, it would seem we went right from summer into winter. What this points to is the holiday season fast approaching. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other holiday this season is a time to gather with friends and family to celebrate. It does not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other faith. It doesn’t even matter if you do not follow any particular faith at all. Usually you will be attending some gathering.

These times can recharge our spirit and sense of belonging. It can, however, do the opposite for many. If you find yourself living away from family and friends you can experience a feeling of longing and being left out. Those who have lost love ones can often be reminded of the pain of that lost most around the holidays. While partaking in long-held traditions the feeling of emptiness can be magnified. Maybe you have recently went through the heartache of ending a relationship. Not having that certain someone to celebrate with can cause your heart to break again. Watching one of those fabulous Hallmark movies, or groups of other enjoying their holiday season can leave you feeling down, even though we think it should have us feeling joyous.

There are two points I would like to make with this point. The first is to not only understand, but be compassionate these feelings are what some of those closest to you may be feeling. They may be doing their best to ‘put on a happy face’ and make it through the holiday festivities. They may be worried about bringing everyone else down because of their sadness. There may even be feelings of guilt because they do not feel as happy as they should. We must treat each other with a special kind of compassion and respect during this holiday season. Just because someone is wearing a holiday smile or a silly holiday sweater doesn’t mean there is not some pain and sadness behind that. We must also remember that many times there is nothing we can do to help them, but just be there to listen and even offer a hug.

The second point, what we can do if we find ourselves to be the ones with sadness this holiday season? We can also practice compassion…with ourselves. We must give ourselves permission to experience our feelings. We must be brave enough to reach out to others for help. That could be a friend, a family member or even a grief counseling group. It is a gift we can give ourselves this holiday season. The grief and sadness you feel may never go away, but it is important to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. There are those who can listen. There are those who can help you cope and be with you throughout the process. I encourage everyone to keep these things in mind during this season.

As I write this, it is the final day of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is the celebration of our loved ones who have passed on. It is not a solomn holiday but one filled with joy and a feeling their relatives are still with them in spirit. This is little consolation to some, but may be a helpful way of looking at it for others. Memories, although they can be bittersweet, are gifts from those who have passed on. There are many ways to connect to others. If your sadness stems from having to be away from your family this holiday, try reaching out with a phone call, skype, text, email or even an old-fashioned letter. As you write you are with those you miss. (as a side note this can also work if someone has passed on) Just healing over the end of a relationship? Honor those feelings and discover new and wonderful traditions you can begin. It is a fresh start and the birth of a whole new way to celebrate.

In closing, this holiday season remember to be kind and compassionate to everyone…including yourself. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!

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.

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.

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.

WHO WERE YOU?

We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.

 Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.

Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.

Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?

Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.

Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \

Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.

In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

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.

YOU TOO CAN SEE THE GOOD!

Today’s post is a guest post brought to us kindly from Kathy via her blog See the Good. there will be a link at the end of this post for you to check out more of Kathy’s wonderful blog. It not only helps us shift the focus to one of positivity, but gives us tools and ideas to do so.

A little more about today’s post. Kathy’s words on her personal definition of faith and how it helped her deal with the loss of a loved one close to the holidays is a message I feel could benefit a lot of us this time of the year. I encourage you to learn a little bit more about the author, enjoy the post and then do what I do, check out See the Good for your daily dose of inspiration.

Kathy is a wife, a mother, a friend and a writer. Her interests range from scuba diving and riding motorcycles to staying home with a good book or movie. She also enjoys the rejuvenating effect of time spent in nature with her husband. Writing has always been a passion of hers throughout her careers as a landscape designer, sales or as a laborer. Understanding the power of words to hurt or heal, Kathy is the first to put them into a positive healthy use with the aid of family and friends.

The holiday season seems to be a signal to me that after all of the celebrating there is an end coming. In most cases, it is the end of a year which is followed by an opportunity for a new beginning if we choose to take it. New Year’s resolutions can range from being more fiscally responsible, to personal health goals or working to become more mindful of the world around us. But each person must make the choice to set a goal for the new year and then invest the effort in reaching it. Sadly, many of these goals fall from our minds in just a week or two.

This time of year always makes me think of days gone by and loved ones who I miss a great deal. And it also makes me think about the future, both theirs and mine. I have lost a few very special people close to the holidays, and that always pulls my thoughts to their transition. The folks we lost close to the holidays have been mercifully taken to relieve them of their pain, and the burden that their earthly body had become. I try to look deep into my heart and feel enough joy for them that it blocks out my own selfish pain and sorrow.

During these moments I also begin to evaluate my own beliefs and faith. I say faith because I don’t have another word for it, but many would accuse me of stealing a word that they hold reverent and using it in a blasphemous manner. They look at me and say that I have no right to the term, or any right to expect mercy when my journey comes to an end. I have not lived the life of a good Christian, nor should I expect to be welcomed as if I were one.

And for many years I believed them. I even worked to come to terms with my fate as they described it. I had religion forced on me as a child, teen and even young adult and I just never fit into the mold. I will admit to, and even own, my rebellious nature, my incessant need to ask why and my stubborn nature which were all seen as issues by the church. The older I got, the more clearly I understood that these were a part of who I am and not parts that I was willing to give up to conform to someone else’s description of a good Christian.

But somewhere along the way, I also began to understand that nothing in this world is a one size fits all equation. We are all unique, and we were meant to be that way. If some higher power wanted a flock of replications, then that is what we would all be. But we are not. Now my reflections were focusing more on what I was doing and not what I was not doing. I did believe in some higher being and in heaven. I pictured each of my loved ones in that setting. They were no longer in pain or ill. They were happy, healthy and whole again. I can’t think of any other term for what I pictured, other than heaven.

So as it turned out, I did believe, just in my own way. For many years, I kept this revelation to myself, because a small part of me still thought that I might be doing things all wrong. And that in the end, I would not be going where I thought I was. After my father passed, I had a long talk with my aunt. She is an amazing lady, who can be quite the fireball. But she has a heart of gold, and she always call it like she sees it. Rosemary was never one to be the pushy religious type, and I never recall hearing of her attending church regularly, so I felt we could be kindred spirits in a way.

She told me that she knew exactly where my Dad was, and it was heaven for sure. She knew this because she has a personal relationship with the man upstairs. I must have been very quiet at that point because she paused a moment, and then went on to tell me that she didn’t need any intermediary and neither did I. A church was fine for some people but others could choose to speak directly, and the man upstairs would still hear us. I felt such relief having someone whom I respected and loved so much, finally affirming that I did have faith. And that I was doing it right, or at least right for me.

Many years later another very special person shared her thoughts with me and helped me define what I have, even more clearly. Janet said that in her heart she felt that religion was more oriented to a church or formal relationship with a higher power, while spirituality was a more individual relationship. That thought just seemed to resonate within my heart and soul. And between these two ladies, I have found the comfort and security of knowing where I will be when I find the end of my journey here on earth.

I believe that for me, my faith is a very personal thing. It is a relationship with a higher being that is mine, and mine alone. Because that is what works for me. I have no right to judge anyone else’s relationship, faith, beliefs or spirituality, just as I have no right to judge any of their other feelings or beliefs. For that reason, I very, very rarely will speak of God or how any person should find or relate to God or religion. But every once in a while, I remember how two special people showed me that I should trust my feelings and my own beliefs. And that my feelings are right, because they work for me. And in their honor, I share my story to offer hope, relief, and understanding to others out there who might be wondering if they have made a big mistake. My advice is simple… it is never a mistake to follow your heart. You were created to be a completely unique individual, and that is what makes you special and irreplaceable. Follow your heart, use your gifts and find peace in knowing that they will take you where you are meant to go. You are never alone, you have not been forgotten and your thoughts and prayers will be heard.

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VICTIMS OR SURVIVORS?

Perception and definition, things we have control of. As you are currently reading this I can assume you are alive and kicking. No matter what has happened or is happening in your life you have survived it. You have made it through. You have a 100% success rate at surviving whatever it is life has thrown at you. It does not mean you do not have some scars and battle wounds, but you made it through.

It may have changed you. It may have changed the way you look at the world, but how that happens is a great deal up to us. It depends a great deal on whether we view ourselves as victims of what happened to us, or survivors. As a victim, you may feel like because of a situation you have went through you will never be able to trust anyone again. As a survivor you may decide you will learn for additional behaviors that could lead to deception. As a victim you may feel broken because of a challenge life has put you through. As a survivor you will feel stronger for making it through. Victims are left with a feeling they will never be happy again. Survivors realize although life may never be the same, there is blessings in everything and new ways to discover joy they may be forced to find.

Again, this is not to say you will not have scars. It is not to say that life will not knock you down every now and again. The difference between a victim and survivor is whether you stay down or get back up. When we are sad, hurt or angry and going through some very dark period it may help to lock ourselves in a room with a mirror and yell into that mirror, “I am a survivor! You cannot beat me!” It may sound silly, but it will certainly change your outlook. Couple this with some inspiring music of your choice and it will get you through whatever it is you are going through. It may take a few times and it will take some faith on your time, but before long you will come out on the other side as a survivor and not a victim!