Quiet Joy

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.
Nigerian Hausa proverb

Still sleepy and only minutes after rising from bed I was headed to the kitchen to make coffee.  As I walked down the hall a greater than usual sense of gratefulness struck me. Now about ten minutes later I decided to make a list of what readily comes to mind today that I am grateful for: 

I am not just alive, but in good health and able to do most anything.

I have a healthy, curious mind that always wants to learn.

The bed I slept in last night that was so comfortable with covers that are clean and warm.

The house where I live that keeps me safe.

Central heat and air that makes my home cozy.

The comfy clothes I am wearing and the great variety of other things to wear in my closet.

Indoor plumbing that allows me to have a working bathroom.

Electricity for my alarm clock that woke me, for the lights that make the dark, light and power my coffee pot.

The dish washer I unloaded while I smelled the coffee brewing.

The trash pickup that comes today I was reminded of as I took a bag to the curb minutes ago.

The computer where I am writing this now. 

A well stocked refrigerator that allows me a variety of choices for breakfast.

I am decadently spoiled having three cars for just the “one of me”. 

I am in love and am loved.

Caring friends I know I can count on to be there for me.

A good job that is challenging and  I enjoy most days.

A television and more channels than I can ever watch on cable and music of all sorts to enjoy.

A stove to make breakfast on this morning.

The pictures in my office that remind me of my son I am very proud of.

The photographs leaning against the walls in the hall that need to be hung knowing I am lucky to have the equipment to have taken them.

The overall peace of mind I enjoy that comes from facing my demons and doing the hard work necessary.

I can afford a cleaning lady who will come today to make my home squeaky clean.

The books laying all around the house and in my library that have been my greatest educators.

Working senses of taste, smell and touch… seeing eyes and ears that hear.  

The knowing without doubt there is a power beyond me, even if I don’t understand it.   

In the fifteen minutes it took me to type the list above of what quickly bounced into my head to be grateful for, my overall mood improved markedly.  And I was feeling good to begin with!  Although it has happened many times, I am still frequently blown away by the positive impact of openly expressing gratefulness.  The abundance enjoyed is beyond what I could ever have dreamed of as a child.

Life has shown me clearly that gratitude truly is one of the most important ingredients of a fulfilling life.  I am thankful for all my blessings and even more so, for the capacity to know gratitude for them.    

There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.
Ralph H. Blum

So the Present Can Be More Present

Some believe we hold on so tightly to our problems because they can give us a sense of identity. The theory goes that we replay past mistakes over and over again mentally which allows feelings of shame and regret to shape our present. There is a clinging to worry about the future, as if that somehow lends strength.   I am guilty of spinning such self-deception thinking that if I can finally crack the mystery of something in the past somehow the key to the future will be unveiled.

What I have learned is the “key” to the future is “today”.  By living well in the present is how I can best effect what is yet to be.  There are few answers, if any, to be found in the past.  No amount of fretting, pointed thinking or anguish will find sense and logic where none actually exists.  Looking from “now” into the past is sort of like looking through a kaleidoscope:  the view is colorful and interesting, but in no way is an accurate view. My memory of something in the past is actually a story I have spun to remember what I think happened.  It is NOT what actually happened, but only my story about the happening:  factual or inaccurate in what measures is impossible to know.

Even with the knowing my view of the past is no more than partially correct I am still guilty of holding too tightly to some of my delusions about happenings of long ago.  They may even be lies I tell myself, but regardless I know them well.  And in knowing them well I trust what is not trustworthy in the first place.  This is one of the reasons that expressing myself openly and fully to someone I care deeply about is so difficult for me.  All the knowledge I have acquired and tools I have learned for coping with life have not erased the tendency to regulate today based on the past.  The fear of telling my true and deep feelings remains a challenge.

There is someone special in life who I have opened my heart to and found love with.  For years I thought that would never happen again.  In part, I wished it wouldn’t as a way of trying to protect myself from being hurt.  Love, like life, works best when its movement forward is free, but guided somewhat by lessons learned:  signposts created through difficulty dealt with and adversity overcome.  However, the key is the lessons must be viewed in “past tense” with only the wisdom gained being present today.

I have had difficulty expressing my feelings about something specific for several weeks to my special someone.  Hesitation came from reviving memories of the past and making them alive in the present.  Clear in memory is telling one in my past “I can’t tell you my problems because if I do you’ll only make them worse by using them against me”.  That ember of the past floated into the present, blazed brightly and blinded me with its heat and smoke.

After trying for several weeks to speak about what was bothering me, I exercised both courage and cowardness by expressing my feelings in writing.  My preference would have been to speak my thoughts, but they would not form in an audible manner.  So I typed them in MS Word instead.  When I pressed ‘send’ for the email, at least I knew I was being open, honest and caring.  I hoped for the best.

While I had not specific idea how the woman in my life would react, I hoped everything would be OK.  That it would turn out that way could have been seen more easily had I judged our relationship purely by what we have shared.  However, as hard as I try for it not to be a factor my old conditioning from the past jumped up to be a strong force.  My primary mistake is thinking the past was completely past and of little influence on my present.  What has come before will continue to fade as time passes, but will never disappear completely.  This was a wakeup call proving that.  Avoiding getting caught up in my history does not mean blocking it or forgetting it.  Rather I just need to pay some attention to the signposts of wisdom gained along the way and let go of past pain and heartache.

Having not slept well due to concern about how my letter would be received, I was greatly relieved when the woman I love responded this morning with a kind and understanding email.  Yes, there is something to deal with but it exists ONLY due to how we both have been treated in our past.  We will work together to make the past, past, so the present can be more present.  Now that has been recognized a return to living in the present is upon me.  I only hope the same can be said for her and as much as I want to make it so, I can not.  As I must deal with “my stuff”, she must deal with hers.  If we both do so with courage and good intention what we share will strengthen, the present will grow more vibrant and the past less influential.  With hope and gratitude I believe that is what will happen.

The past is our definition.  We may strive, with good reason,
to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it
but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.
Wendell Berry

A Do-It-Yourself Blog

Here today are few words and collage of photos intended for the do-it-yourselfer.  Take in the three word definitions and the photos of people.  Then spend a few moments with reflecting on them.  You are almost guaranteed to feel better!  

Happiness:   good fortune,  prosperity, a state of well-being and contentment, a pleasurable or satisfying experience, a mental state of well-being

Joy:  a deep feeling of happiness or contentment, outward show of pleasure or delight; rejoicing, well-being, success, or good fortune

Bliss:  immense happiness; serene joy, the ecstatic joy of near heaven, serenely joyful or glad, supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment, euphoria

Joy, Bliss and Happiness are catching!  I am very grateful for how good putting this together left me feeling!

If you want to be happy, be.
Leo Tolstoy

Can I Trust You?

Definition of trust:
A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something;
being able to predict what other people will do and what situations will occur.

“Can I trust you?”  Numerous times greater than needles on a pine tree I have faced that question.  Sometimes my response is “yes, I can” and gratefully I am correct more often than not.  But with higher frequency than I wish were true it is my discovery my trust was ill placed.

Wisdom gleaned from living has made me more discerning about who deserves my trust but still at times I will rely on those I should not.  Problem is I really want to trust everyone, but reality keeps showing me I can’t.  Instead I have to be reminded that trust has to be earned even knowing then no certainty is created.

Sometimes my disappointment is small.  I have faith in someone to return a book I loaned them and am let down when they don’t remember borrowing it.  Or, I trust a person to keep a confidence and they tell someone.  Or another will say they will do something and forget their words were ever spoken.  Such is the realm of everyday life.

If honestly is to prevail, I must admit the person who frustrates me most by violating my trust is me!  Let me explain.  I promise to faithfully begin working out once the weather turns cooler and the heat is gone, but the cold comes with me still parked on the couch.  I make the commitment to stop interrupting others while in conversation but find myself still doing it far too often to be considered an occasional mistake.

From John Mayer’s song “I Don’t Trust Myself…”
No I’m not the man I used to be lately
See you met me at an interesting time
If my past is any sign of your future
You should be warned before I let you inside.

Those words describe a warning that once could have been said truthfully about me.  With my best effort I attempt to not go tripping in my past, but being human invariably I do here and there.  Forgiveness is within for the vows of faithfulness broken in two marriages, but just because I forgive myself does not mean I have forgotten those ultimate violations of trust.   I have paid my penance, done my time in therapy and have grown beyond breaching such trust.  I learned from the mistakes made and am a better man now.

There is plenty in my past to regret, but tears and painful, sleepless nights of self-punishment have been paid.  Today I am a faithful man beyond doubt, but I do it for myself.  Being loyal to another is good for me, even more so than for the object of my fidelity.  Being proud of one’s self is a good addiction to cultivate.

One of the most painful aspects of trust is when one is being honest, but viewed as being deceitful.  It took a long time for the realization to come that telling the truth is all that is required.  Whether another believes me or not is their business, not mine.  If I have been honorable and am viewed otherwise the dishonestly is solely in the other person and his or her inability to see the truth when is presented.

Ultimately I have arrived in the here and now to be one of the most trustworthy people I have ever known. I know this to be true for it is with myself I live every moment of every day.  None of my actions or thoughts are a secret from me.  No longer do I need to try the impossible task of outrunning or fooling myself.  The transformation inside has been remarkable as I have learned to live up to my own standards.  Simple?  YES!  Hard to do?  YES, but worth every ounce of effort, sweat and tears!   Living parallel to my beliefs brings a sweet taste to living I have never known before.  I am grateful for the satisfying taste of my life today.

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
Johann Wolfgang von Goeth

If Not Now, Then When?

If life is so short, why do I do things I don’t like and like things I don’t do?  What one thing have I not done that I really want to do?  If not now, then when?

Last evening those quandaries came across my path within a list of ‘stop and make you think questions’.  Those three grabbed my attention strongly enough to made me stop to ponder them at length.  The questions were still fresh on my mind when I woke up this morning.

On a thousand occasions I have tripped over the phrase “You can do anything you put your mind to”.  I believe that is true.  I also know it is easy for me to think all I have to do is imagine what I’d like to accomplish, point my mind in the direction of the goal and wait for success to arrive.

To a some degree this is how dreams and hopes come true. Intention blended with action is a powerful force. But the “you can do anything statement is misleading because it fails to mention the absolute necessity of focusing mentally on a specific goal and leaves out completely how very difficult doing that is”.

Digging deep, if honest with our self, most people don’t know what they want. On the surface we think we do, but in reality we really don’t. Instead we have a laundry list of things we know we don’t want. We don’t want to be a failure.  We don’t want unfulfilling work.  We don’t want a troubled relationship. We don’t want to be poor. We don’t want to disappoint those we care about.  We don’t want…. on and on.

In “Alice in Wonderland” she asks the Cheshire Cat “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”.  The cat replies “That depends a good deal on where you want to go”.  Alice responds “I don’t much care where” to which the cat says “Then it doesn’t matter much which way you go”.  Like a pinball bouncing around a pinball machine I have done lots of going nowhere particular in my life. 

I realize on some levels I have learned to love what I do but under examination the realization comes that learning to love what I do is not the same as doing what I love. The former is a compromise and there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s clear to me now that the latter is the way I define life on my terms, a way to live when survival is not an issue for me.  Have I EVER been at that point? Either I haven’t, have not done so very often or more likely, something has kept me from it.

To pointedly know what I want is far different from knowing what I don’t want.  As long as I know only what I don’t want, my intentions aren’t focused and little will change in my life.  Another issue that has been constant, is what I want, even when I am aware of it, often morphs and changes over time.  Yet, there are a very few things rooted deeply inside me that never falter.

Back to the questions are the top:  the first one quizzes me if life is so limited why do I spend so much of it on things I really don’t like and forsake things I do with such frequency.  Without hesitation a substantial piece of the answer quickly pops into my head:  FEAR of making a bad choice, FEAR of failure, FEAR of lack of money,  FEAR of appearing foolish, FEAR….. Admitting that is progress!

Mark Twain said something that sheds a little light on the subject: a habit cannot be tossed out the window. It must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.  So in an effort to step out of my upstairs room of fear and attempt the slow journey down the stairs I will admit two of my deepest dreams:

1 – To travel the world unencumbered for long periods of time, weeks and months, staying in places long enough to come to know and savor a place, its people and its customs in some sense as a ‘local’ might.

2 – To write and publish a book.  That is the impetus that has driven me to come here every morning for 278 days in a row:  to learn the discipline to write daily and through practice, improve my writing skills.  I believe a book created from the best of what I have written here will be completed by this time next year.

With those two points made, I can apply the 2nd and 3rd question this blog started with today:  What one thing have I not done that I really want to do?  If not now, then when?  Those questions are answered for the second dream, but the first one is still a blur.  However,  just stating it openly is a big step forward.  Realizing that far too soon “that’s all folks” will be flashed for the end of my life, I commit myself to either making firm plans to accomplish dream number one or getting it off my “hope list”.  I am grateful for the wakeup call!

The only way you know you love yourself — or anyone else — is by the commitments you are willing to make and keep.
Dr. Pat Allen

Unruly Children and Childish Adults

Some people spend leisure time keeping up with their favorite TV programs or sports teams.  Others enjoying going out frequently and being on the go.  Some give their available time to volunteering or supporting causes dear to them.  Many have lives so filled with responsibility there is little time except for trying to do what has to be done.  I don’t fit into any of those exactly, but have symptoms of all of them from time to time.

Generally I spent a good bit of time with friends, my son or the love in my life.  Otherwise on any given day I am most apt to spend spare time at home with my nose in a book or reading on-line.  The older I get the more insatiable my desire to learn has become and the greater my yearn to grow as a person has increased.  Those are mostly good things, except when I allow my self-absorption to take over a little too much.

In my daily grazing on the ‘Net’ and looking for inspiration for the writer in me, I came across a blog entry titled “40 Things To Teach My Kids Before They Leave Home” link by a woman only identified as Sherri.  In her article is a good list of admirable behaviors almost all parents hope to teach their children.  Here are four of the lessons Sherri says “I will teach my kids”:

– that they can be happy if they choose to be happy.

– to focus on enjoying what they already have instead of wasting time focusing on what they don’t have.

– that it’s okay to be wrong as that’s how we learn.

– that life is short and that they should make the most of each and everyday. They should do things that make them smile, that make them feel alive and energized. Live.

There are some of us who accept our parents did the best they knew how but also know their parental performance left a great deal to be desired.  There are those who were hard-headed, stubborn, even high rebellious as children who never “got” what parents were trying to teach.  Then there are those who moved through childhood being taught and guided well overall who grew up to be relatively well-balanced and happy adults.  I am one of the first group and was left as an adult to teach the child within some of the behaviors that are most healthy for me.

The four items above from “Sherri” are all ways of behaving I accepted long ago as being wise.  Knowing is a far cry from doing.  Having not been well taught such things nor having any discernible examples to follow, such habits never became instinctive. Consequently, here in the late middle of my life I am growing by being a parent to myself the adults of my youth never were.  John Lee wrote a book titled “Growing Yourself Back Up” whose title accurately describes the process and its content has helped me achieve the title’s premise.

One of the issues of a lack of upbringing in some areas is that childish behavior gets brought into adult life.  To me such things seemed natural as that is the way I had always been.  To other adults some behaviors looked like how a kid might conduct them self.  The scenario is one where the child within me always thought some problems were because of the ‘others’ way of reacting and being, when in fact the problem was me all the while.  I am certain there are two wives in my past and a number of others who would agree completely there where frequent times in my past when I behaved like a child!

There has been no miraculous cure.  No grand epiphanies have arrived.  No self-help book fixed me.  Rather by slowly acquired simple awareness, understanding and forgiveness I have become a kinder and gentler man who treats everyone, including myself, much more appropriately.  A slow and difficult process for certain, but one of the most rewarding of my life.

In the end I don’t believe any of us are ever completely grown up and thinking to the contrary only makes that point more readily true.  For everyone there are places in childhood where we got stuck on something and never completely moved past it.  That’s OK.  It is healthy to admit it.   Acceptance of my shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, failings and imperfections is at least half of the remedy for them.  To know this wisdom and to practice it as best I can each day is a way of living that fills me with gratitude and thankfulness.

In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults.
Thomas Szasz

What’s In a Name?

Who am I?  Often when such a question is posed, it is being asked of one’s self in an abstract sense.  The quandary usually attempts to measure what qualities of body, mind and soul a person is defined by.  Influences like family, work, environment, gender and age are also a frequent consideration in the analysis of  what makes up “self”.

Most men have a limited concept of what it is like for a woman to give up her last name and take her husband’s as is tradition within marriage.  And if one name change’s impact exists beyond the usual grasp of the majority of men, a second or third matrimonial name modification is completely out of most male’s sphere of knowledge.

There are some men who can relate because their name was changed due to divorce, remarriage and/or adoption.  I am one of those.  More than just a little confusion of identity in younger years was rooted there.

I was born James Browning and was named after my dad.  I grew up being called “Rick or Ricky” which is short for my middle name (although it feels strange unless called that by a few family members and old friends).  My parents divorced when I was age seven with my mother remarrying in my tenth year.

My mom’s choice of a second husband may have been alright for her, but it was terrible for my little brother and I.  Our stepfather which we were made to call “Dad” was at the least mentally ill and at worst an evil SOB.  Actually he was both in my opinion.  My brother and I were afraid of him for good reason. One example was seeing him wave a pistol once at my father telling him never to visit us boys ever again or he’d kill him.

The evil stepfather insisted that my brother and I change our last names through legal adoption.  Not wanting to was no balance for the fear we felt and we reluctantly went along.  So in the 5th grade I went to school one day with a different last name, but my teacher refused to use it for over a month.  That was OK.  I hated my new last name anyway.  In the adoption process my birth-father’s first name of James was also eliminated from mine.  At least my nickname was still intact… at least for a while.

At 16 years old with the help of my real father I was able to do a legal name change back to what I was born with.  However, the stepfather I loathe to this day is still listed on my birth record.  Adoptions are very difficult to undo when the birth and adoptive father are deceased.

That may seem a good place for my name game story to end, but there’s more.  At fifteen I landed a part-time job at the little radio station in my hometown and that began a career in broadcasting.  At that time I still wore the adoptive name and used it on the air out of fear of the evil stepfather.

Fast forward a few years.  I am nineteen and have landed an overnight DJ job in Colorado.  I am “Rick Browning” and am all ready to begin using the name I think of myself as.  But I can’t.  The person on the air after me was named Rick Martin and management did not want two “Rick’s” on the air back to back.  A new “nickname” was picked for me in a staff meeting with a show of hands.  Had that new handle been only a temporary thing it would have been no big deal.  Wouldn’t you know while using the new nickame was when my career took off.   Not wanting to start over again I ended up being stuck professionally with the “on-air” name.  Are you confused yet?

Generally today I think of myself as one name professionally and another in my private life.  However, I’d be telling a fib without admission of wondering a little sometimes just who the heck I am.  I find solace, consolation and gratitude in knowing what matters most is inside me.  The label people call me by is, in reality, of little consequence.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
William Shakespeare

An Uncontrollable Force

Falling in love has always seemed to me as something out of my control.  The feeling is one of being swept away without choice or explanation on an unpredictable journey taken toward some unknown destination.  It is near like catching some wonderful virus for which there may be no cure.  Or it may be the sort of phenomenon that like a cold, comes on fast and hard, but passes on given time.  At the onset it is impossible to know how temporary or long-term what has been “caught” might be.

There are those who say romantic love as we know it today can be tracked back to French troubadours of the Middle Ages.  They were traveling entertainers who recited poems, put on plays and performed the popular songs of the time.  Apparently their audiences especially liked romantic tales and songs. Like any good entertainers, they gave their spectators what they wanted and refined and spread the emotional game of love through their performances.

The French Troubadours had no way of knowing the traditions they first brought to human consciousness would become the roots of what we today think of in popular culture as romantic love.  Before the dark ages, some likely experienced the larger-than-life feelings akin to what we now call romance.  However, the sudden, out of no where eruptions of sentiment and attraction did not begin to be the wide-spread passion of the masses until the Middle Ages.

It had been said falling in love is a sort of insanity or at least an altered state of consciousness. It can feel like the heart has been taken over by an uncontrollable force.  When falling in love, everything seems wonderful; most breathtaking of all is the person one is falling for. The sensation is like being pulled by a seemingly spontaneous reaction into a beautiful storm of uncontrollable and overwhelming attraction and desire.

Romantic love is often described as completely blind and brings a time when a person loses most sense of logic or some say, a time of insanity.  Psychology says we are actually responding not only to natures desire to continue our species but also to our own internal fantasies that have been created within by romantic traditions.  A yearning for a dream lover can cause pent-up hopes, desires and fantasies to be aimed toward an unsuspecting person.  Science maintains this is not love itself, but instead mostly about being in love with love.

Psychologists have shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone.  Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather 55% is through body language, 38% is the tone and speed of their voice and only 7% is through what they say.  Kind of takes the romance out of it doesn’t it!

I began to fall in love about six months ago with a wonderful woman.  What is shared has proven not to be the temporary transient sort.  Enough time has passed that the initial insanity has mellowed as emotions have deepened.  If I am to a large degree yielding to traditions started almost a thousand years so, so be it.  If my experience is not atypical and instead just run of the mill, ordinary sentiment and emotion, that’s ok.  It matters not to me if it was mostly her body language and voice that have captured my attention.

I only know “what is, is”.  What “is” within feels genuine and real.  I honestly don’t care where it comes from.  I only care that it is!  I will not concern myself with where love comes from or where it may take me.  Instead for the first time in my life I am content to simply live each day with love within and allow that to be enough.  I don’t have to worry if “this will work out”.  Today, it already works!

I long thought my ability to love was worn out and my heart was too fatigued to ever know love again. This is just one of many times I end up happy with thankfulness for being wrong.

Four thoughts about love from Albert Einstein

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

Life isn’t worth living, unless it is lived for someone else.

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

Enjoy the Ride

Stated in an article I read recently was the premise that science now believes our brain has no dependable ability to accurately predict our emotional reaction to life changes that have not happened yet.  No matter how much contemplation of a subject in advance, a person can not know for certain through anticipation how something is going to feel.

Apparently, in most cases we physically simply don’t know for sure ahead of time what we want and don’t want.  Only when we get it can we find out what makes us happy and what does not.  Again the point is made that experience is where the greatest amount of true knowledge comes from for each of us.

The line of thinking in the article went on to an even more important point:  the act of pondering, wondering, thinking, contemplating and brooding over what our reaction might or might not be to something is what can screw us up!

We live in a time the vast majority of humans before us never had the luxury of. The many generations preceeding had to mostly be obsessed with just staying alive.  When the majority of time was spent gathering berries and running from wild animals there was little left to spend considering what might bring happiness.

Research now shows that things like friendship, love, altruism and religion or spiritual practice help to bring happiness.  In other words, moving the focus away from our self is what creates fertile ground for happiness.  That feels true for me.  When I was finally able to let go, stop worrying all the time and began attempting to live life well one day at a time, my existence became a much better experience.  When I began to enjoy the ride instead of trying to figure out where it was taking me my satisfaction of life took a positive leap forward.

In working a successful 12 step program for codependence and compulsion, these admissions had to be made:  1)  my life had become unmanageable  2) something beyond me could help 3) a choice to accept help and stop trying to do every thing myself.  Summed up I can say this a different way in just a few words:  I stopped trying to be my own God! 

In counseling and recovery the word God is a tricky thing.  For many, words such as Higher Power, Nature or The Universe make more sense.  That is true for me as I believe God is all those things and more.  My convictions say that whatever energy and force there is beyond me is outside my ability to accurately comprehend.  All trying to grasp such a heady concept does is complicate and cloud my mind without any further understanding. By attempting  insight from a limited human perspective I can only put myself further away from the force of life.

I respect all different viewpoints regarding ‘God’ and would never tread on anyone’s beliefs, hoping they will extend to me the same consideration.  Personally I am better off not to try to sort out the ‘God thing’ and make sense of it.  Rather my choice has been to find acceptance.  By embracing a power beyond my capacity to grasp and letting myself fall into it is how I found the freedom to be alive, happy and contented in spite of all my faults, mistakes and imperfections (at least most of the time). 

Oh, I still doubt sometimes.  Bad things still happen.  Life is still painful and difficulties can seem almost unbearable some days.  I just don’t get permanently stuck there any more.  Knowing “this too will pass” makes a huge difference. Once I stopped trying to force my way onto life and instead allowed the power behind everything to take me where it wanted, being alive became a so much better experience.  I am very grateful.

Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking this world
As it is, not as I would have it.
Adapted from original concepts by Reinhold Niebuhr

Without You I Wouldn’t Have Tried

Thank You” Attributed to Jesse Owens

To those of you who laughed at me, thank you.
Without you I wouldn’t have cried.

To those of you who just couldn’t love me, thank you.
Without you I wouldn’t have known real love.

To those of you who hurt my feelings, thank you.
Without you I wouldn’t have felt them.

To those of you who left me lonely, thank you.
Without you I wouldn’t have discovered myself.

But it is to those of you who thought I couldn’t do it;
It is you I thank the most,
Because without you I wouldn’t have tried.

Paul Harvey wrote…

I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car.

And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.

It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your dog put to sleep. I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.

I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him.

When you want to see a movie and your little brother wants to tag along, I hope you’ll let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.

On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don’t ask your driver to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as un-cool as your Mom.

If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like.

May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I don’t care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope, I hope you realize he is not your friend.

I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle. May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays.  I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand.

These things I wish for you – tough times and hard work, disappointment and happiness. To me, it’s the only way to appreciate life. 

All these lessons have not been mine to claim, but the majority has been contained in my life experience.  Only from the vantage point of over five decades can I realize how important and meaningful difficult lessons these lessons are.  My resilience, determination and ability to recover from anguish, heartache and grief are based largely in the simple life teachings above.  By knowing the darkest of dark days my soul was softened, my heart made gentle and my spirit made tender.  My gratitude overflows

 I am learning all the time. 
The tombstone will be my diploma. 
Eartha Kitt