Perspective

There’s no doubt that when we change the way we look at something, we see it in a whole new light; a different perspective, if you will.

For example, if we get stuck in the loop of believing that nothing good ever happens to us – that the only luck we have is bad luck, and the world would be better off without us – we are going to see the world as gray and meaningless.

But once we find that spark of hope that tells us that we have the power to change the way we think, our lives become better. We become empowered to want to do more, be more. 

All we need is a little nudge; something or someone to show us that it is possible.

Let me tell you a little story:

“Once upon a time there lived a little girl who came from a large family. The members of the family were  much too busy with other things to care much about the needs of the little girl. This unhappy little girl decided if no one cared about her, she wasn’t going to care, either. Her once lively spirit diminished, until all that was left was a shell.

As she grew into an adult, she found herself searching for something that would fill the emptiness inside her. But no matter what she did, happiness was always just out of her reach. She looked for it in relationships, her work, and her children, but nothing ever seemed to fill the hole inside her.

One day, she realized she couldn’t go on living that way. The way she saw it, she only had two options; end it all, or do something about it. Fortunately, she choose the latter.

She quit drinking and smoking and joined a 12-Step group. She started hanging around positive people , good examples of who she wanted to be. She  faced her demons and her fears. She began to accept life on life’s terms. And after years of being what everyone wanted her to be, she learned who she really was; a wonderful, caring, generous, socially-awkward basket case. And she learned to love every aspect of who she was.

She learned to let go of her resentments and was finally able to forgive those who had hurt her.  She took chances on love and life, and learned that every little success brought her closer to where she wanted to be. And every setback made her even more determined  to become the person she was meant to be.

Years passed before she was able to look back and understand that the suffering, the pain, and all the heartache she had gone through, had a purpose.  She had to go through the bad to appreciate the good. She learned to look at obstacles, not as something trying to defeat her, but as lessons to learn from, so she could grow as a human being.

And as she contemplated her life, she realized for the very first time she was truly happy. Oh, she’s had happy moments throughout her life, but they were fleeting.  Now she was happy, truly happy, just because. And that is how she lived her life.

And she lived happily-ever-after.”

As you might have guess, this is a true story. This is my story. But it’s not the only one. It’s the one that catapulted me from my simple existence, to become an active participant in life. Not only did my attitude change as a result of my ‘Self’ work, but so did my life. I became more positive, and ambitious. I had more energy and drive to help others.

There was a time when I hated my life. But hard work and determination paid off; somewhere along the way, I learned to love myself, and my life.

Today, I may be a better version of myself, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. I face new challenges every day; whether it is health, work, relationship-related; but I can go to bed with peace of mind and thank God for the opportunity to learn and grow.

I know; it sounds too good to be true. But I am living proof that it can be done.  When I think about where I was, and where I am now, all I can say is that it is truly a miracle.

But it’s not magic. It’s a lot of work, it takes time to unlearn bad habits and develop new, healthier habits. You will have to challenge your beliefs and let go of everything you thought was real. You will have to reach deep inside you and pull out your most painful memories so you can finally resolve them, instead of just pushing them away.

You will cry so much you think you might never ever stop. But then one day, you will wake up and realize how great your life is. You will feel like shouting it to the world and you will want to share it with everyone. And then you will know you have changed the way you look at life.

In My Father’s Footsteps

Tribute

Butterflies

 

I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle; a reminder of the changes I have made in my life. Sounds kind of corny and cliché, I know, but it’s a good analogy of  my life.

Twelve years ago, I was broken. I hated my life. I hated my job. I hated me.  I felt lost and alone, and what hope I had left was quickly diminishing.

But something happened that year. My first grandchild, Thomas, was born April 18, and at the time, I was unaware of the impact he would have on the decision to change my life.

Later that year, in July,  I was climbing the 20-plus stairs to our apartment. It was a hot and humid day; one of those days that Iowa’s known for. I had to stop half-way, because I couldn’t catch my breath. I drew air in air in, but I felt like I was suffocating. My heart began racing, and I literally saw my life flashing before my eyes.

I saw Thomas growing up without me. I saw an empty chair at his wedding. I saw him holding his child, and I wasn’t there to tell him how proud I was of him.

But as fast as the visions came, they were gone, and I was back in the hallway of our building, breathing normally.

The thought that came to me was, “I don’t want to die.”

I immediately opened the door of my apartment, took my cigarette pack out of my purse and threw them into the wastebasket.

I tried to quit smoking before, but it was only a day or two before my willpower gave out. But this was different. I knew if I kept going the way I was, smoking two packs a day, I would die. I was sure of it.

I got through the first day, and then the second, and soon I was celebrating a month without smoking.  I felt great! I could climb the stairs to my apartment without stopping to rest. I stopped coughing up crap from my lungs. I could take deep breaths again, and I knew it could only get better.

I was so proud of myself, because quitting smoking was no easy task. I used the patch for eight weeks, and then graduated to nicotine gum. I used the gum for a year and then switched to mints, which I carried in my purse to curb any lingering cravings.

I quit smoking when I found out I was was pregnant with my first baby, but started again as soon as she was born, kicking myself with every drag I took.  By the time I finally quit, I had convinced myself that I would die with a cigarette in my hand.

That is, until I realized I had two choices; I could continue living my life in the prison I had built for myself, or I could break free and do something with my life.

You see, smoking wasn’t my only problem. I had a drinking problem. I used alcohol to self-medicate, to calm my fears,  alleviate the stress, and numb the feelings of shame and guilt that consumed me.

My intention was to just to have one or two beers, to take the edge off, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I was drinking a 12-pack of beer a night, and that still wasn’t enough to keep those horrible feelings down.

The night of August 31, 2005, I was sitting at the computer, while my daughter was doing homework. She’d had a rough year and was trying to catch up so she could graduate with her class.

The third time she asked me for help, and I said, “Just a minute, I’m busy,” was her breaking point, and she threw her books against the wall.  She had a history of extreme outbursts, but that’s not what this was. I truly believe it was divine intervention, because what she said next blew my mind:

“I’m sorry you have so many problems, and that you’re so unhappy, but I have problems, too. …”

For the first time, I heard her words. She saw my pain and my unhappiness, and I saw hers. She was reaching out to me the only way she knew how.

She taught me something significant that night, something that has made me get out of myself and really look at the world around me:

“We don’t live in a bubble; what we do affects others.”

I had been so busy worrying about me and focusing on how bad my world was, I wasn’t seeing what my own children were going through.  My selfishness and self-centeredness had kept me from being emotionally available for my children, and now I had to take responsibility for it, and do something about it.

I was hurting, and I didn’t know what else to do but to close the world in on myself. All this time, I had been inadvertently killing myself, because I couldn’t face the pain I had caused others. It had gotten so bad, I couldn’t live with myself.

I knew I needed to take control of my life.  That night, when I went to bed, I did something I hadn’t done in years; I prayed. I asked God to help me. I promised Him that I would do whatever it took to have a better life, to be a better mother, a better person. I begged him to show me how to do it.

And he did.

The next day, I threw all the beer away and got rid of all the empty cans.

A few days later I met someone who introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I started attending weekly meetings. A few months later I ran into a friend, who was also in the program, and she became my sponsor.

God was putting people in my life to help me.

But that was just the beginning.

To be continued ….

 

That’s What Friends Are For

One day a woman found herself in a hole. She looked around for a way out, but there was none. Suddenly, a man’s head appeared in the hole.

“Hello! Do you need help?” he called. He was wearing a stethoscope around his neck and holding a note pad.

“Yes, thank goodness! Please, help me, Dr.!”

The doctor wrote something on his notepad, tore it off, and tossed it down to her. 

“Take these pills and call me in the morning.”

She looked at he paper in disbelief. Then she crumbled it up and started to cry. 

“Hello!” she heard from above. She looked up and saw a man with a white collar. “My child, why are you crying?”

“I’m stuck … I can’t get out of this hole!”

The pastor made a sign of the cross, and said, “Bless you, my Child,” and walked away.

Just when the woman began to lose all hope, a shadow was cast across the the hole. She looked up and saw a face, smiling down at her.

“Need some help?”

Before she could answer the man jumped down into the hole with her.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. “Now we’re both stuck down here!”

“Yes,” he told her. “But I’ve been here before, and I know the way out …”