WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

WHO YOU SHOULD TALK TO

Desmond Tutu has always been a person I admire. Although strong in his faith, he, along with the Dalai Lama, have put differences aside to work together for the greater good. In this single quote I think the reason they do so is summed up rather nicely.

When facing a conflict, the first thing many of us do is run to our friends to vent. Whether that venting is in person, on social media or in some other medium it generally degenerates to gossip and leads to both parties growing further apart on the issue at hand. It also reduces the amount of trust between the two parties. We see examples of this on the world stage between governments. The end result, all too often, results in war. This not only leads to the loss of countless, often innocent, lives, but decades of trust between nations and their people.

This also happens on a personal level. Working as a DJ, and as a bartender for years before that, I have seen this happen far too often. These adults have issues with each other, sometimes legitimate, sometimes petty. Rather than act in a solution oriented manner by approaching the person in a non-confrontational manner to discuss their differences, they begin complaining to others, or worse put things out there on social media. This usually results in name calling, and even others joining in and fueling the anger and hate.

This also happens on an intimate level. At my day job I have overheard men complain about their wives and girlfriends nagging them, or driving them crazy. I have heard ladies complain their husbands are inattentive and ignorant. What happens? The other party usually agrees with them, maybe even adds a story of their own and both parties leave with an even greater angst for their spouse. When they get home a loving resolution is further away then when they left that morning.

Enemies do not always have to be those we are against. As mentioned in the above examples they can be our friends, our coworkers or even those closest to us. No matter how we define those we are in conflict to, it is important to realize the only way to reach a peaceful solution is to confront them in a peaceful manner, while expressing the desire to reach a solution beneficial to all parties.

I am not foolish enough to think that this will be easy, solving conflict generally never is. The reward, if we do pursue this path, will be peace. That peace will not only benefit us, but those around us. We cannot control the actions of the governing bodies of the world, but we can set an example for them and for others by rising above the negative and petty. By doing so we will begin to foster a world full of peace and love.

GO BAREFOOT!!!

I learned a great secret! The other day my lady was cooking up a delicious meal and I decided to sit in the sun and read one of my favorite books. About halfway through my time reading I decided to take off my shoes and put my feet in the grass. I had not done that in years. In our busy lives we can become disconnected with some of life’s simple pleasures.

Between the good book I was reading and the feeling of the grass between my toes I felt amazing. What have you not done in a while? I suggest revisiting different aspects we have gotten away from. I also suggest getting back in touch with nature. Is there a favorite tree you like? Get out and walk up to it. Grab the kids or the one you love and go for a walk in the park. Maybe just go for a stroll yourself noticing nature. Hear the songs of the birds. Feel the wind blowing against your skin. See the trees on the horizon and notice how beautiful they are. Literally stop and smell the flowers.

Please share with us things you haven’t done in a long time that you may enjoy. Take those shoes off and walk around the grass!

WHY WE ARE ALL TIRED 

This quote comes to us courtesy of the movie “The Green Mile”. In todays world of extreme politics and social conflict there has been a fair share of ugliness. On social media everyday we see conflicting opinions which are healthy when presented in a healthy way. We also see our share of name calling, and sarcastic portrayals of those who have a different opinion than that of the person doing the posting.

Let us take a step back and look at what this accomplishes. Some may say it causes the person posting to be a little happier and that may be true, only temporarily. You see in order to post something like that the person has to focus on this conflict and the low opinion they have of that group. How “Stupid” there are or how “Hateful, Racist or evil” they are. Try saying these words out loud three times, “Stupid, hate, racist and evil”. If you are unable to try even saying them to yourself. Do it now, I’ll wait….Ok, how does that make you feel physically? Did you notice an effect? Even focusing on things we strongly dislike and thinking about them make us feel sick. It can even make us feel helpless. Plus, remember what we said about the RAS and how the brain seems to begin to notice more of what we focus on?

So should we ignore all the injustice we see? Absolutely not! What we should focus on is solutions we can think of. Perhaps find examples of people or situations that are the opposite of those that upset us. We will still be victim to reading how wrong we are for feeling what we feel, but understand as much as we may disagree with someone they have a right to feel as they do too. Again going back to the golden rule, we no more want to hear that we have no right to feel as we do or are stupid, evil or any other negative term for doing so than anyone else does. Not to mention by attacking others we only add to the feeling and atmosphere of hate and conflict.

Here is what I suggest. Does racism bother you? Then promote everyone getting along. Does war leave you feeling sad? Then promote peace. Poverty leave you feeling sick and helpless? Promote an atmosphere of giving and everyone having enough. It was this very thinking that caused me to embark on the life path I am on now. It was my disgust at the vast amount of negativity in the world that had me determined to begin to promote positivity and to provide tools to help others do the same.

So next time you catch yourself saying “Did you see what that person/politician/company did?” ask yourself, “What am I doing?”. Sure maybe we cannot make as big of a difference as the president of the United States, or Walmart, but all of us doing little acts of kindness and love can counterbalance those doing that which we disagree with.

I invite you all to share groups that do good or even your own ideas to promote love instead of bashing hate. Let us all work to be a little less ugly to each other and make the world a little more beautiful.

UNLOCK YOUR PRISON

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This is one of my favorite quotes. We hear far to many people bent on “Paying back”  people who hurt them, or worse, they just carry around the anger and resentment from the someone, or the world at large has done to them. What many of us fail to realize is that by doing this we are allowing that very same situation, or person,  to continue to hurt us again and again.

It makes sense to be more cautious around someone who in the past has shown they cannot be trusted to have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you must even do your best to eliminate them from your life. Continuing to harbor resentment or hurt after the fact does little, if anything, to affect the offending party. Quite often they are either ignorant of your discomfort or in extreme cases take pleasure in it.

Nelson Mandela did spent over a quarter of a century of his life in jail for nothing other than belonging to the wrong race. When the people who put him there finally released him if he were bitter, or angry I think we all could understand. What he understand was feeling that way would only affect him.

It was Buddha who said

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”

There is great truth in this statement. Your actions and feelings may eventually cause harm to the one who hurt you, that is you may ‘hit’ them with that coal, but by the time you do so you will already have been burned.

I see two major ways in which this happens. One, the physical way anger or hurt affects your body. Your blood pressure is elevated. You often feel lethargic. Quite often it leaves you feeling sick to your stomach. You can develop a terrible headache. These symptoms are also the same as a body who has been poisoned, and for very good reason. When you harbor a negative emotion it is literally a harmful poison put in your body. So not only can these people affect your emotional state, which you may transfer to others only to compound the problem, if you hang on to those feelings they can affect your health as well! Who would want to say to someone “you have just hurt me emotionally, allow me to help you hurt me physically as well” Sounds crazy but that is just what we are allowing them to do.

I mentioned there is another cost to hanging on to negative emotions. The other being mental focus and production. When your time and energy is spent on revenge, anger or depression it not only steals the joy from that moment, it costs you moments of happiness, productivity and creative creation. Projects you are working on will take twice as long and prove twice as difficult. Nobody wants that.

So do yourself a favor and get rid of all the negativity in your life. It is true what they say about forgiveness, it is not only the gift you give the other person, it is more the gift you give yourself. So give yourself that gift and free yourself from the prison of your own creation.

PLANT TWICE AS MUCH

Rodent

Rodent (Photo credit: thriol)

I am going to share a story with you that I heard listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Tony Robbins. This is a story about his former father in law that he heard at the man’s funeral. The man was asked what he was going to do about the rodent population in the area. He was asked if he had found a way to kill all of the rodents so they wouldn’t eat all of his crops. After a moment of contemplation the man answered “I’ll just plant twice as much” This struck a chord with me because it is often the choice a lot of us face in life. When there is something that bothers us we are focused on how to ‘get rid of the problem’. I hear this a lot in political circles no matter the party. “We need to get that guy out of office” I usually ask who they would like to see in office. After some look of confusion I usually receive answers to the like of “Anybody would be better” or even the occasional “Having nobody in office would be better” These people are so focused on the problem they have spent little or any time on the solution. I have been just as guilty of this. Before I began this blog I was focused on eliminating as much negativity from the world as I could. Sounds noble enough at first blush, but if you notice I am still focused on the problem, the negativity. I am focused on getting rid of something and thus, giving it all my time and energy. What did I really want? I wanted a more positive world. I heard a Mother Theresa used to say she would never attend an anti-war rally, but would be one of the first at a pro-peace rally. There is a woman who understood how the world worked. So instead of trying to eliminate the negative I decided to increase the positive! I started this blog. I began to be more positive in every aspect of my life and began work on my first book “A Happy Life for Busy People” which should be out in the next few days. The ironic thing about this, once I began increasing the positive the negative began to go away on its own! So next time you face a problem, instead of focusing all your energy on solving the problem, work more on creating a solution. A subtle difference, but a powerful one to be sure! Remember to plant twice as much!