ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA?

I love this picture. Two innocent children sharing an umbrella in a storm. As an adult we have an opportunity to share an umbrella every day. To take that thought further, we have a chance to be an umbrella. At this point you may be wondering if I know exactly what an umbrella is for or if I even know what an umbrella is. Why would anyone share an umbrella if it wasn’t raining? Even more absurd, how can a human being turn into an umbrella? Fair questions if I were the one reading this post and not the one writing it.

In its simplest terms an umbrella is an instrument for protecting us in a storm. It is the definition not of umbrella that should concern us here, but that of storm. In life there are many storms. Yes, there are thunderstorms when the winds are blowing fierce and the rain can seem unrelenting. It can be scary to be out in it. We may not want to risk driving if we don’t have to. We may want to stay inside our homes where we are safe.

What we may forget is there are many storms we face every day. There are health storms where the thunder of pain is louder than anyone can imagine. There are financial storms where the debt continues to rain down on us no matter how hard we work. There are the painful emotional storms when the winds of struggle and strife blow us off our path. There are many storms my friends. Storms of addiction, storms of loneliness, storms of depression. They say in life you are either on your way into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. As Eric Thomas said, “Storms are a part of life, but storms are not life.” All of us face storms each and every day.

As you can imagine, the umbrella for all of these storms can be a little different. It can be an umbrella of compassion for someone who has just been hurt or defeated. It can be the umbrella of encouragement for someone who has lost their way. It can be the umbrella of motivation and inspiration for those lost in a storm of negativity and pessimism. There are some umbrellas like love, friendship and listening that seem to work in every storm.

Just like you can walk with a smile on your face through the most intense storm, so can others. Daily, there are those of us who wake up and put a smile on our faces even when we are in the middle of a storm. Just because someone is smiling does not mean the rain is still not falling. Offer everyone you know an umbrella. When given the chance, be the umbrella they do not have. We are all going through storms and we can all use an umbrella.

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.

HOW FULL IS YOUR GLASS?

I’m going to put forth to you, good reader, the age old question – is the glass half full or half empty? As I’m sure most of you can guess my answer is closer to the full side. Your answer to this question is supposed to reflect your overall outlook on life.

Did you ever wonder why they never follow this up with three quarters full or a quarter empty? How about three-eighths verses five-eighths? Would that make you slightly less negative or more positive? I don’t suppose it really matters.

This question is a matter of perspective. It is a reflection of whether you are grateful for what you have or upset about what you don’t have.

My pessimistic friends, or the glass half empty folks, as well as some of my friends that call themselves “realists” will make sure to point out either opinion does not change the reality of the situation. Whether you are happy or sad, the glass still contains half the liquid it could.

If you stop and think of it, that is the beauty of the truth. All of our lives are like that glass, they are not as full as they could be. We have lots to be grateful for, as well as lots to be upset about. There are challenges we get that are just unfair, but if we are perfectly honestly with ourselves, we all have breaks of good fortune that are more than we deserve.

What is the point here? Who is right? The point is this, our lives, much like the glass are both half full and half empty. By virtue of that assessment, both the optimists and the pessimists are right.

Before you think you have just read all of this for nothing let us look at the major difference, one feels good most of the time and one feels bad. Stop and read that again. If both having a cheerful and expectant attitude will mean your life will have its ups and downs, and have a bitter and sour disposition will mean your life will have its ups and downs the only difference is how you feel when you are here.

The only sure thing I know about life, is that you don’t get out alive, so why not enjoy it as much as we can while we are here? One more glaring reason to see the glass half full will be offered next post. Now while I was busy pondering whether the glass was half-full or half -empty, I believe Margie drank my rum.

THE POSITIVE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING…

At first glance this may seem like a paradox.  After all, how can negative thinking be anything but…well negative?  Let’s face it, positive thinking can empower us to do a lot of things.  Being positive minded 100% of the time is not only unrealistic, but not very healthy for growth either.  I would say a good healthy mix is 95/5.  So why are negative feelings so ‘good’ for us.  They can serve to vital and very important purposes.  First, they let us know what is not working.  There is something in our life that is currently not meeting our standards.  Why is this important?  Let me explain it with a situation we can all relate to, going to the doctor.  Why do you go to the doctor?  The answer usually is “because something is wrong”.  Noticing this means you have had bad physical feelings.  Whether they are nausea, pain, or some other not so pleasant feeling it let you know something is not as it should be.  If you are anything like me the very next question to the doctor is “How can we make this go away?”.  That leads us to the second great thing negative feelings can do for us.  They can motivate us into action.  In the case of the doctor visit, to do what actions are necessary to heal our condition.  The same holds true for any condition in life.  If we notice something in our life is causing us a noticeable amount of grief, get excited!  Excited about grief Neil?  Are you crazy?  Well, yes I am crazy, but here is why you should get excited.  Our bodies are designed to use feelings as warning signs.  Such as pain so you don’t leave your hand on the hot stove, or nausea so you don’t keep drinking the expired milk.  These may seem like a pain at first, after all who likes to burn their hand?  Yet if we didn’t have the pain we could leave our hand on the stove until it cooks right off.  Interesting thing is our minds do the same thing.  Ever wonder why certain things make you feel sad or angry.  That is our mind and spirits way of telling us something is wrong with them.  It is a warning sign, just like the burn on the hand.  We must decide what is causing this upset and act to correct it.  Now here is where negative emotions can be a double edge sword.  When trying to discover what would work to eliminate our discomfort we must think in a positive, solution oriented frame of mind.  For example, I had a friend who had recently given her all into a relationship that she felt had true potential, but when push came to shove the man she was in a relationship with did not feel the same.  I heard her utter phrases like “I’m never going to get into a relationship again, that way I won’t get hurt again”  Haven’t we all felt this way at one point or another?  I know I have.  In this situation she was willing to sacrifice all the pleasure a healthy relationship could provide her to escape the pain of another possible unhealthy one.  This may seem like a solution on the surface, but what it really amounts to is giving up.  If there is one thing you don’t want to give up on it is your own life.  So make negative emotions our servants, not our masters.  Let us use them for clarity and motivation, but not dwell in them.  So next time you find yourself upset, remember the positive power of negative thinking!